Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/20/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/20/2009The demonstrations continue in Iran, and the regime continues to respond with violence. Ayatollah Khamenei is leading the chants against America, and Mirhossein Mousavi has called for a general strike if he is arrested.

In other news, China announced that it may buy more U.S. Treasuries, but once again has demanded that the United States ensure the safety of other countries’ dollar assets — i.e., promise not to inflate the currency.

Thanks to Andy Bostom, C. Cantoni, Fausta, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
China “May Buy More US Treasuries”
World Bank Sees Faster China Growth, Slower FX Reserve Rise
City Corrals Christians at Weekend Arab Fest
Keith Ellison’s Office Hangs Up on WND
Tank Cars Blow Up in Illinois Derailment, 1 Killed
U.S. Panel: Chinese Imports Hurting U.S. Tire Market
US Judges Can Demand Removal of Muslim Veil
Want a Job? Hand Over Your E-Mail Login
Woman Fined to Tune of $1.9 Million for Illegal Downloads
Europe and the EU
Anti-Free Speech? UK Courts Can Help
British Government Spells End of ‘I Before E’ Rule
Cancellation Would Hurt Turkey’s Image: France
France Moves to Impose Ban on Burqa
Germany: Parade in SS Uniforms Sparks Outrage
Germany: Committee Split Over Steinmeier’s Role in US Invasion of Iraq
Has Historian Finally Discovered Real Reason for Hitler’s Obsessive Hatred of Jews?
Italy: Magistrate Questions Three More Women
Italy: Brambilla Denies Fascist Salute, Just Waving
Lisbon: A Pandora’s Box
The Feeble ‘March’ of Euro-Fascism
The Lives of … All of Us
UK: Brown ‘Plans to Quit Before Next Election to Avoid Humiliating Defeat’
UK: How the Issue of Foreign Workers Has Poisoned Industrial Relations
UK: Racists May Plague Tory Europe Group
UK: Singer Linda Lewis: The Night I Asked My Boyfriend ‘Do You Mind if I Sleep With Cat Stevens?’
North Africa
Christian Coptic Twin Boys Struggle Against Forced Islamization
Egypt Deports Chechen Warlord’s Son
Tunisia: Justice Ministry, Astonished by Guantanamo Inmates
Israel and the Palestinians
Ethiopian Jews, the Difficult Integration
Palestinian WAFA Launches Website in Hebrew
Middle East
Andrew Bostom: Yippee “Hizbullahi” and “Chaadoris”? — some Sad Realities About Irredentist Iran
BBC Enlisting New Satellites to Broadcast in Iran
Iran Council Offers Partial Recount, Police Deploy
Iran’s Mousavi Calls for National Strike if Arrested
Iran: ‘Arab Militias’ Attack Pro-Mousavi Protesters
Iran: ‘The Fear is Gone’
Iranian Opposition Leader: Vote Should be Annulled
Iraq: Suicide Truck Bomb Kills 34 in Northern Iraq
No Britain-Iran ‘Battle’: Miliband
Qatar: Tradition Broken, Private Firms to Clean Mosques
Theatre: Al Achkar, My Lebanon is Losing Its Young People
We Will Reach All Turks, Says Order
Witnesses Report Fierce Clashes on Tehran Streets
World is Watching, Iran Told
Another Su 24 Falls From Sky
Hu Wraps Up ‘Breakthrough’ Visit to Russia
Russia Ready to Reduce Nuclear Arms: Medvedev
Top Official Says Russian Energy Firms Can Go it Alone
South Asia
New York Times Reporter Escapes Taliban Captivity
No Place for Ikea in India
Taliban Gains Money, Al-Qaida Finances Recovering
Far East
China: Free But “Guilty” the Girl Who Killed the Communist Leader Who Wanted to Rape Her
US Destroyer on Course to Search Suspected North Korean Arms Ship
Australia — Pacific
Broken Neck? Take a Panadol
Sub-Saharan Africa
Nigerian Proclaims Amnesty for Militants Next Week: Official
Somali Appeal for Foreign Troops
As Hate-Filled Mobs Drive Romanian Gipsies Out of Ulster, We Ask Who’s Really to Blame?
EU Summit: Special Measures for Malta
Italy Risks Doubling Numbers, Only 5% From Sea
Maroni Says Accord With Libya in Force Soon
Taiwan, US Break Up Human Smuggling Ring
UK: Cost of Keeping Failed Asylum Seekers Has Soared From £4m to £73m in Just Four Years, Minister Admits
Culture Wars
PETA: Murder Boys But Not Flies!
Washington Post Columnist: Christians ‘Pernicious’
Air France Had Nine Airspeed Probe Incidents in Past Year
Cancer: Shock Breakthrough
New Forecast: ‘Mass Starvation’

Financial Crisis

China “May Buy More US Treasuries”

BEIJING (AFP) — China may buy more US Treasury bonds but Washington must take action to ensure the safety of foreign countries’ assets, a former Chinese central bank governor said.

“In the short term, if our foreign exchange reserves rise and the US dollar remains stable, China will probably increase investment in the US Treasury bonds at appropriate times,” said Dai Xianglong in an essay.

“However, the US government should adopt practical measures to live up to its commitment to ensuring the safety of foreign assets,” the essay, published by the China Finance magazine Wednesday, said.

Dai is currently chairman of the Social Security Fund, China’s national pension fund, which had a total asset value of 563 billion yuan (82.3 billion dollars) by the end of 2008.

Dai, 64, was governor of the central bank from 1995 to 2002, helping to steer the Chinese economy through the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

His comments came after China reduced its US Treasury holdings in April for the first time in nearly a year.

According to some local experts, this reflected rising concern that the value of Chinese assets could be battered by a growing US budget deficit.

According to US Treasury data issued Monday, Beijing owned 763.5 billion dollars in US securities in April, down from 767.9 billion dollars in March.

China’s foreign exchange reserves, the world’s largest, stood at 1.95 trillion dollars at the end of March, official data showed.

More than 1.5 trillion dollars in the reserves are held in US securities, including agency and corporate bonds as well as equities, according to the latest estimate by Standard Chartered.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

World Bank Sees Faster China Growth, Slower FX Reserve Rise

BEIJING (Reuters) — Massive policy stimulus should keep China growing at a respectable rate this year and next, but a robust recovery is unlikely given global weakness and soft non-government investment, the World Bank said on Thursday.

In a quarterly update, the bank raised its forecast for gross domestic product growth this year to 7.2 percent, still below Beijing’s official target of 8.0 percent but up from the 6.5 percent it projected in March. Growth in 2010 was likely to be just a bit stronger, at 7.7 percent, the report said.

The bank expects China’s foreign exchange reserves to grow by $218 billion this year, the smallest increase since 2005, after leaping by $419 billion in 2008 and $462 billion in 2007.

That is largely because the bank is now forecasting a whopping capital account deficit of $170 billion this year, driven by a variety of financial outflows including undisclosed transactions between the central bank and financial institutions and a growing stream of outbound foreign direct investment.

These outflows already totaled $109 billion in the first quarter, limiting the increase in FX reserves in the January-March period to just $8 billion. China’s reserves were $1.95 trillion at the end of the first quarter, the world’s largest stockpile.

“There seems to have been an intention to let capital flow out of China in these various guises,” Louis Kuijs, an economist in the World Bank’s Beijing office, told a news conference.

He said such outflows would chime with China’s oft-stated desire to diversify the country’s foreign assets. Beijing is hunting in particular for energy and commodity investments.

“We may well see in future additional such changes in the composition of capital flows … given the perception of risks and returns of different types of foreign assets,” Kuijs said.

The forecast on reserves brings the World Bank broadly into line with those of private-sector economists. HSBC, for example, expects reserves to grow by $154 billion in 2009.


The report welcomed an unfolding surge in government-influenced investment, triggered by a 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus package announced in November.

“However, it is unlikely to lead to a rapid, broad-based recovery in China, given the current global environment and the subdued short-term prospects for market-based investment. China’s economic growth is unlikely to rebound to a high single-digit pace before the world economy recovers to solid growth,” it said.

A boom in bank lending in the first five months of the year would also support growth in coming quarters. While the full-year outcome might not meet the official target, it would be “very respectable” given the global setting, the report said.

“On current projections it is not necessary, and probably not appropriate, to add more traditional fiscal stimulus in 2009,” the bank said.

With its budget deficit set to leap to 4.9 percent of GDP this year from 0.4 percent in 2008, the government should instead keep some powder dry in case it is needed next year.

Policymakers should also have the confidence to emphasize forward-looking policies and structural reforms to promote service-driven consumption and energy efficiency in the world’s third-largest economy, the bank said.


One of the key risks to the bank’s growth forecast, which is broadly in line with private-sector projections, is that market-based investment will be lower than expected in light of excess capacity and poor profit prospects in many industries.

A full 6 percentage points of this year’s projected 7.2 percent GDP growth will come from spending and investment that is either carried out or directly influenced by the government, with additional stimulus from lower tax revenues, the report said.

Government-influenced investment rose 39 percent in the first four months, up from an estimated 13 percent in 2008; by contrast, market-based investment rose just 12.6 percent, much less than last year’s 20 percent increase.

Prospects for the property market were quite good, but the outlook for some other sectors was less favorable as extensive spare capacity was driving down producer prices and profits.

“Thus, market-based investment may remain subdued for a while, particularly in manufacturing, where foreign sales make up between one-fourth and one-third of the total,” the report said.

With net exports set to subtract from growth in 2009, after contributing 0.8 percentage point of last year’s 9.0 percent rise in GDP, the bank forecast that China’s current account surplus would shrink to 8.0 percent of GDP this year from 9.8 percent.

In an illustrative scenario of China’s medium-term prospects, the bank said exports could grow 9 percent a year over the next decade, 10 percentage points less than in the past 10 years.

That in turn would lower GDP growth by 2 percentage points a year.

“This is significant, but not dramatic, compared to average GDP growth of 10 percent in the previous decade,” the bank said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


City Corrals Christians at Weekend Arab Fest

Judge won’t let ministry deliver tracts on sidewalks

A federal judge has upheld a decision by festival organizers in Dearborn, Mich., which is about 30 percent Muslim, to ban a Christian ministry from handing out religious information on public sidewalks.

The ruling came from U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmonds and affects this weekend’s celebration but will not affect the free speech lawsuit over the event, filed by the Thomas More Law Center and the Becker Law Firm.

The case is being brought on behalf of the Arabic Christian Perspective, a Christian group that ministers to Muslims. According to the Thomas More Law Center, Pastor George Saieg and scores of his volunteers have visited Dearborn for the city’s Arab International Festival to hand out religious information several times.

At estimated 30,000 of Dearborn’s nearly 100,000 residents are Muslim.

While there never has been a disruption of the public peace during the five years the ministry has been attending, this year Dearborn police warned Saieg he and his group would not be allowed to walk the public sidewalks to hand out information and instead would be confined to a specific spot, the lawsuit said.

After negotiations in Dearborn failed to restore the Christians’ rights, the lawsuit was filed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Keith Ellison’s Office Hangs Up on WND

Congressman’s Islamic pilgrimage paid by group tied to terrorism

It seems the office of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., is not too eager to respond to questions about reports his Islamic hajj pilgrimage to Mecca this past winter was paid for by a U.S. group tied to Muslim extremists whose institutional material has promoted terrorism.


According to the Anti-Defamation League, MAS-affiliated Web sites have featured articles advocating jihad and suicide martyrdom. The official MAS magazine, “The American Muslim,” previously published outwardly anti-Semitic articles as well as pieces defending Palestinian “martyrdom operations.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tank Cars Blow Up in Illinois Derailment, 1 Killed

ROCKFORD, Ill. — Tank cars loaded with thousands of gallons of highly flammable ethanol exploded in flames as a freight train derailed, killing one person and forcing evacuations of hundreds of nearby homes.

The cars continued burning Saturday morning and officials said they would wait for the “very dangerous” inferno to burn out by itself.

Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten said 74 of the train’s 114 cars were filled with ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, but only a dozen of them were burning.

Officials evacuated the area on the edge of Rockford, about 80 miles northwest of Chicago, Friday night amid concerns about air pollution and the chance that more of the train’s cars might catch fire.

Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia said early Saturday the death was that of a female who was in a car waiting for the train to pass a crossing near the derailment site.

Bergsten said three other people ran from the car when it was bombarded with flying railroad ties and they were severely burned by flaming ethanol. They were taken to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in serious to critical condition, and one was transferred to Stroger Hospital in Chicago, he said.

Two crewmen on the eastbound Canadian National train escaped injury, said company spokesman Patrick Waldron. The engine crew was able to pull 64 cars away from the scene.

The cause of the derailment was still under investigation Saturday but witnesses told the Rockford Register-Star that cars on the Chicago-bound train began hydroplaning in standing water as it approached the crossing. Some of them left the tracks moments before two of them exploded.

Parts of northern Illinois may have gotten up to 4 inches of rain Friday, said meteorologist Gino Izzi of the National Weather Service. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, 40 to 50 miles east of Rockford, measured 3.6 inches, a record for the date, he said.

Kirk Wilson, a fire chief in nearby Rockton, said he expected the ethanol to continue burning until later Saturday.

“We’re letting the product burn itself out,” he said. “We can’t get too close to it. We’re observing everything through binoculars from about 200 or 300 feet away.”

“The situation is not under control, but we are making progress in getting it under control,” said Wilson, whose department was one of at least 26 that went to the derailment scene. “It’s very dangerous. It’s very explosive. We’re not risking any firefighters’ lives.”

Officials evacuated residents of about 600 homes within a half-mile of the derailment, Bergsten said. He said potentially toxic fumes should keep them out of their homes until environmental officials give them the green light to return.

“At first I thought it was a tornado because they always say a tornado sounds like a train coming,” said Jeff Tilley, a Register-Star employee who lives near the scene of the derailment.

Alicia Zatkowski, a spokeswoman for ComEd, said the derailment knocked out power to about 1,000 of the Chicago-based utility’s Rockford-area customers.

The derailment was being investigated by Canadian National and the Federal Railroad Administration. Members of the National Transportation Safety Board were en route early Saturday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

U.S. Panel: Chinese Imports Hurting U.S. Tire Market

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A U.S. trade panel said on Thursday China was unfairly flooding the U.S. market with tires, the first step in a test case of how the Obama administration will handle trade disputes with Beijing.

In a 4-2 vote, the International Trade Commission found that a surge of low-cost tires from China had disrupted U.S. markets. Later this month, it will recommend a remedy to President Barack Obama.

The United Steelworkers union, which brought the complaint arguing that the imports have cost thousands of U.S. jobs, wants Obama to cap Chinese tire imports at their 2005 level.

Responding to the ruling, USW president Leo Gerard said the union hoped Obama would keep “a campaign pledge to crack down on China’s unfair trading practices.”

“Our domestic industries cannot survive unless our government enforces the trade laws that are designed to curb and dissuade anti-competitive practices that cause market disruptions,” Gerard said in a statement.

Lawyers representing Chinese tire producers argue that U.S. companies largely abandoned the low-range tire market before Chinese manufacturers moved in. They also noted that no U.S. tire producers had joined the steelworkers’ complaint.

The U.S.-based Tire Industry Association, an international group that represents all segments of the tire industry, called the USW petition a “protectionist” move.

Vic Delorio, executive vice president of Chinese tire maker GITI, said he was disappointed but did not believe U.S. manufacturers would increase production of low-cost tires.

“Instead, if there is a barrier placed on tires produced in China, we believe that U.S. manufacturers will simply increase importation of tires from other countries, such as Poland and Venezuela,” he said. “We also believe that quotas or tariffs will lead to higher costs for American consumers.”

The commission is expected to recommend a remedy by the end of June. A presidential decision is not due until September.

Trade experts are watching to see whether Obama, who won strong labor support in his bid for the White House, will be tougher on China than predecessor George W. Bush, who routinely rejected petitions for restricting imports from Beijing.

Democratic lawmakers backing the steelworkers’s complaint hope Obama will use the case to chart a new course of tougher enforcement of trade laws, which allow quotas in some cases.

The steelworkers want Obama to restrict Chinese tire imports to 21 million, the 2005 level, with an increase of five percent per year over a three-year period.

The union said some 5,100 U.S. workers have lost jobs because of low-price Chinese tire imports, and another 3,000 jobs were at risk this year. The imports increased 215 percent in volume from 2004 to 2008, hitting 46 million tires worth $1.7 billion in 2008, the union said.

It cited closings of U.S. plants by Goodyear, Continental Tire, and Bridgestone/Firestone, and said more closings are pending.

The case is one of several prickly trade issues between the United States and China, Washington’s second-largest trading partner. Tensions have been exacerbated by the growth in the U.S. trade deficit.

Last month the International Trade Commission voted in favor of a government anti-dumping probe that could lead to steep U.S. duties on an estimated $2.6 billion worth of Chinese steel pipe used in oil production.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing called Thursday’s decision in the tire case “good news.”

“As with so many other manufactured products from China, its tire industry benefits from illegal government subsidies, labor exploitation, lax environmental standards, and illegal currency manipulation. As a result, U.S. producers, who play by the rules, can’t fairly compete,” a statement said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

US Judges Can Demand Removal of Muslim Veil

US court ruling allows judges to order Islamic veil removal

Judges in the United States can now order a veiled woman witness to remove her face covering to testify in court, according to a new court ruling issued last week that has human rights groups worried about its potential discrimination against veiled Muslim women.

In a majority vote of 5-2, a Michigan U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges should “exercise reasonable control” over the appearances of witnesses to judge their body language and facial expressions and to ensure proper identification.

The new ruling was passed following the 2006 Hamtramck case, in which Ginnah Mohammad, a Detroit veiled Muslim woman who wore the face veil, niqab, refused to testify in court after Judge Paul Paruk asked her to remove her facial covering in order to determine whether she spoke the truth.

Mohammed sued Paruk in federal court and her case was dismissed. The Michigan Judges Association and Michigan District Judges Association then requested a court ruling giving judges authority over a witness’s attire.

Suppressing testimony

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) criticized the ruling for giving judges more leeway without guidelines and warned that the ruling could backfire as veiled women may shy away from reporting crime for fear of having to unveil in front of a judge.

“It allows a large degree of leeway for the judges to make their own decisions without clear legal guidance,” Dawud Walid, executive director of the CAIR in Southfield told Detroit News. “There isn’t any clear articulation in regards to what will or will not be acceptable according to a judge’s general discretion.”

Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Michigan agreed, explaining that the ruling prevents religious women from seeking the justice system either by filing a civil suit or a criminal complaint.

“It plainly tilts in the direction of telling judges to require removal of veils,” Laycock was quoted in the National Post. “For the women who are so religiously committed that they won’t remove the veil this ruling excludes them from the justice system. They can be cheated or taken advantage of and they can’t really complain.”

A legal challenge

However Jessie Rossman, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was not worried and said that the language of the ruling was broad enough to not explicitly prohibit judges from allowing women to remain veiled.

“Trial court judges have retained their power to exercise their discretion,” Rossman, who was optimistic that judges would respect religious beliefs, said. “We’re hopeful and encouraging trial court judges to honor women’s constitutionally protected freedom and allow women to testify in the niqab.”

Rossman added that while ACLU cannot challenge the adoption of the new rule, it could challenge its enforcement on a case by case basis if a trial court judge discriminates against a woman because of religious attire.

But Angela Wu, a lawyer with the Washington-based Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, warned that the Michigan ruling could be the start of legalized greater restrictions on religious liberty that may govern behavior in all walks of life.

The face veil ruling is a cutting-edge issue that comes as the latest development in the controversy over the niqab in the U.S. and proper consideration of people’s religious clothing.

The Detroit area is home to one of America’s largest Muslim populations and legal observers as well as Muslim activits warn the veil ruling is bound to arise elsewhere in the country.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Want a Job? Hand Over Your E-Mail Login

Bozeman, Montana Tells Applicants To Provide Facebook, Google “Usernames And Passwords,” Which Some Find A Bit Too Invasive

If you’re planning to apply for a job with the city of Bozeman, Montana, be prepared to hand over much more than your references and résumé.

The Rocky Mountain city instructs all job applicants to divulge their usernames and passwords for “any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,, MySpace, etc.”


An attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group based in San Francisco, questioned Bozeman’s choice to ask for usernames and passwords.

“I think its indefensibly invasive and likely illegal as a violation of the First Amendment rights of job applicants,” said Kevin Bankston, an EFF attorney. “Essentially they’re conditioning your application for employment on your waiving your First Amendment rights … and risking the security of your information by requiring you to share your password with them… Where does it stop? How about a photocopy of your diary?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Woman Fined to Tune of $1.9 Million for Illegal Downloads

(CNN) — A federal jury Thursday found a 32-year-old Minnesota woman guilty of illegally downloading music from the Internet and fined her $80,000 each — a total of $1.9 million — for 24 songs.

Attorney Joe Sibley said that his client was shocked at the fine, noting that the price tag on the songs she downloaded was 99 cents.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Free Speech? UK Courts Can Help

Libel tourism is rife in our courts — and the UK legal system is becoming utterly discredited abroad as result

While various campaigning groups spring up left, right and centre with the aim of reforming Britain’s mangled political system, it seems that our friends abroad have already grown tired of waiting for us to get it right. It is time, they have decided, to take matters into their own hands.

On Monday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill designed to protect American citizens (and others within its jurisdiction) from the effect of libel judgments handed down by the British high court. The US Senate will now consider the legislation.

The bill erects a legal barricade for Americans against the growing problem of “libel tourism”, the phenomenon whereby foreigners sue each other in British courts, sometimes on the most spurious of grounds.

When the concept of a “gentleman’s good reputation”, devised in the 18th century to avoid the problem of duels, is applied uncritically in the globalised and connected 21st century, Her Majesty’s judges are cornered into handing down rulings which amaze her subjects.

We’ve learned that a Ukrainian businessman can sue a Ukrainian news organisation in the British courts, over an article written in Ukranian on a website, all because that site may be viewed in the UK. We find that an Icelandic investment bank can use all the resources of the British system to sue a Danish newspaper over articles published in Denmark.

With laws stacked overwhelmingly in favour of the claimant, the UK has become the jurisdiction of choice for anyone wishing to silence or suppress a journalist working anywhere in the world. We have unwittingly allowed our courts to become an international libel tribunal, and free speech is suffering as a result.

But no longer for Americans. Ever the exceptionalists, they are acting to ensure that at least their investigative journalists are protected. The measures enacted, first by the state of New York and now mirrored at a federal level, seek to end the principle of comity, a legal reciprocity whereby libel damages awarded in the UK can be enforced in the US.

The New York laws were inspired by the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, an academic who was sued in Britain by Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz over claims made in her book Funding Evil. The book was published in the USA in 2004, but 23 copies had found their way onto British soil, via websites such as She was therefore sued in the UK. When the British courts ruled against Ehrenfeld, Bin Mahfouz sought to have his award for damages enforced in the state of New York. It was this act that the American courts found “repugnant”, because in the US, the claims made in Funding Evil were protected by the first amendment.

Why does this matter? First, it signals a sharp divergence in the legal traditions of two countries with strong, shared values. There is no doubting that the US’s approach to human rights is both flawed and inconsistent, but in the case of the freedom to write, our American cousins have chosen a much more open and democratic approach. When the principle of comity is rendered void, yet another sinew of our already strained “special relationship” is severed.

Worse yet, the bill just approved by the House of Representatives has been branded the “libel terrorism bill”. As we found last year when the government froze the assets of Icelandic Banks, calling a friendly country a “terrorist” — even just as rhetoric, or hyperbole — usually provokes some sort of grave diplomatic incident. And yet, American politicians are doing just this. Our legal system is slowly becoming utterly discredited abroad.

The continued passage of this bill must be a clarion call to our own legislators. Reform is long overdue — libel tourism in its current form has existed at least as long as the Labour government. Unfortunately, it is only in this parliamentary session that the eyes of British politicians come to focus on the problem.

The next report of the culture, media and sport select committee, due later this summer, will examine the problem. Committee members such as Paul Farrelly (Labour), Philip Davies and Chairman John Whittingdale (both Conservative) clearly understand what is at stake. However, in recent evidence to the committee, the justice minister Jack Straw said he was “yet to be convinced there was a significant problem”.

To campaigners witnessing the creation of hostile laws in the US Congress, Straw’s view is surprising and disconcerting. We must hope that the CMS select committee can assemble enough evidence to change his mind, and quickly. The publication of their report cannot come soon enough.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

British Government Spells End of ‘I Before E’ Rule

It’s a spelling mantra that generations of schoolchildren have learned _ “i before e, except after c.”

But new British government guidance tells teachers not to pass on the rule to students, because there are too many exceptions.

The “Support For Spelling” document, which is being sent to thousands of primary schools, says the rule “is not worth teaching” because it doesn’t account for words like ‘sufficient,’ ‘veil’ and ‘their.’

Jack Bovell of the Spelling Society, which advocates simplified spelling, said Saturday he agreed with the decision.

But supporters say the ditty has value because it is one of the few language rules that most people remember.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Cancellation Would Hurt Turkey’s Image: France

PARIS — France is continuing with its preparations at full speed to host its Turkey Season as planned between July 1 and March 31, 2010, even though Erdogan has signaled a possible cancellation. The nine-month-long event is set to introduce Turkey, in all facets, to the French people

Amid threats from Turkey to cancel the event at the last minute, France is working at full speed to host its “Turkey Season” as planned. The nine-month-long event is set to introduce Turkey, in all its cultural, social and economic facets, to the French people, Europe’s most vocal opponents to Turkey’s entrance into the European Union.

“Canceling it would be the best present given to the enemies of Turkey and France. Such a thing would clearly hurt Turkey’s image in France and in Europe,” Stanislas Pierret, the commissar responsible for the “Turkey Season in France,” told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review during an interview at his office late Wednesday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week signaled that he would consider canceling the season in response to French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s statements that Turkey should be satisfied with a “privileged partnership” instead of being made a full member of the EU. Erdogan has already canceled a dinner with the sponsors of the season and made clear that he will not be supporting the initiative.

It was also reported that President Abdullah Gül would not be be present during the Turkey Season’s July 4 opening ceremony. Although the Turkish leaders are not expected to participate in the events, the Foreign Ministry and Ankara in general seems inclined to proceed with the implementation of “Turkey Season” as planned.

Pierret said he knew about the Foreign Ministry’s statements denying the cancellation rumors, but was not aware of Gül’s decision and that France is continuing with its preparations at full speed. The season will take place between July 1 and March 31, 2010, and will be officially announced by the two countries’ culture ministers June 30 in Paris. The foreign and culture ministries of France and Turkey are supervising the process.

Leading a young team composed of Turks, French and one Italian, Pierret and top aide Arnaud Littardi are responsible for the coordination of all activities. “You see, it’s a European team,” Pierret said while introducing them. Pierret and Littardi have both served in Ankara at the French Cultural Institute, likely the reason why they were chosen for this hard task. On the Istanbul end of the preparations, Görgün Taner and Nazan Ölçer of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, or IKSV, are the responsible parties.

This year’s event ‘more complicated’

“The difference in the Turkey Season from the [events] held for other countries in previous years is that it will not be concentrated only on one topic,” said Pierret. “Apart from cultural activities, it will have a strong economic dimension and create an environment for cooperation between the universities. It’s not a festival. It’s something much more complicated.”

Littardi said the activities and performances will take place in nearly 40 cities and will not be confined to Paris. Large cities such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille will all host some events during the season.

This is a courageous decision when one considers that Marseille, for example, is home to a strong Armenian diaspora and Strasbourg has many Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin who frequently criticize Turkey’s policies in mass demonstrations.

In fact, some program events will specifically address the members of the Armenian community and Kurds. Aynur Dogan, a Turkish artist of Kurdish origin, will take part in a concert along with Mercan Dede, Rasim Biyikli, DJ Sufi and DJ Yakuza in Nantes, during the July 14 celebrations of France’s Republic Day.

Noting that Istanbul has been designated as the 2010 European Capital of Culture, Pierret said this magic city would be introduced to French public opinion with all its different cultures, including those of the Jewish and Armenian communities.

Pierret said the goal of Turkey Season is to re-introduce the richness of Anatolia to France. “We are just organizers. Turkey will introduce itself: its energy, its reforms, its developments,” he said. “Those who know only clichŽs about this country will have to reconsider.”

Though the Turkey Season primarily targets a French audience, some events will take place in the touristy parts of Paris, so they will also attract international visitors. A traditional Turkish coffeehouse will be set up in the Tuilieres Gardens district of Paris between July 15 and Aug. 15 to serve tea and coffee with traditional Turkish delight to guests. Some 10 million visitors pass through this district during the tourism high season. The Louvre Museum will host three separate expositions during the event.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

France Moves to Impose Ban on Burqa

The French government says it may impose restrictions on wearing the burqa, or face-and-body-covering veil, if a parliamentary probe finds the garment degrading for women. The burqa debate is dividing politicians and the Muslim community.

Government spokesman Luc Chatel became the latest politician to wade into a growing debate over the burqa in France, telling French television on Friday the government may consider curbs on wearing the head-to-toe garment if it is found to be degrading for women.

A group of nearly 60 French lawmakers are asking for a parliamentary panel to consider restrictions on the burqa, which is also called the niqab.

Burqas are not at all common in France, but women can occasionally be spotted wearing them in the streets. And in this staunchly secular country, the garment has sparked a fierce debate, dividing the center right government and even the Muslim community. Many, like immigration minister Eric Besson, are airing their views in a series of radio and television interviews.

Besson is against banning the burqa. He says France already bars female civil servants from wearing veils or headscarves to work and girls wearing them to school. He supports education and dialogue, rather than more laws, to persuade women from wearing burqas.

But Cities minister Fadela Amera — a Muslim of Algerian background — is for legislation.

Amara says it’s important to fight against extremism and she supports banning the burqa in France.

The head of the Paris Grand Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, is also against the burqa.

Boubakeur says that Islam in France must be an open Islam. He says there’s no need for women to hide behind the veil. But France’s main French Council for the Muslim Religion is against a parliamentary inquiry into wearing the burqa, saying it stigmatizes Islam and Muslims.

The debate over the veil is an old one in France. The government’s 2004 ban on headscarves and other religious symbols in public schools was highly controversial. Other European countries are also troubled by the burqa. The Dutch government for one has been pushing for a law to ban it.

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Germany: Parade in SS Uniforms Sparks Outrage

Police are investigating whether marchers in a recent parade in Saxony-Anhalt broke the law by wearing Nazi-era SS and Wehrmacht uniforms. The incident has sparked outrage beyond the borders of the eastern German state.

The state-funded parade last weekend through the town of Thale had over 4,000 participants representing different periods of the state’s history. Over 200,000 people came to watch the parade. The uniformed marchers belonged to a club associated with a Dessau military history museum and wore authentic-looking Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht uniforms.

“From my perspective, it was an entirely knowing provocation,” state Justice Minister Angela Kolb told the news agency DPA on Friday.

Police from the state capital of Magdeburg are investigating the group to determine whether they violated Germany’s strict laws against the display of Nazi symbols.

The club’s members had apparently removed or covered up the forbidden swastikas and SS runes from the uniforms.

“We wanted to illustrate the end of the Second World War,” said Rainer Augustin, the head of the booster club.

Saxony-Anhalt’s Interior Minister Holger Hövelmann said wearing the uniforms was tasteless in light of the devastation and horror of World War II. Wulff Gallert, the head of the state’s Left party’s parliamentary delegation called the incident “a scandal.”

The Nazi-uniformed parade participants were followed by a group of marchers dressed as American soldiers, to represent the US Army’s liberation of the region at the end of the war.

The story was originally reported by the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, which lambasted the affair in a commentary asking whether the state’s residents were really tolerant and open to the rest of the world.

“Saxony-Anhalt is so tolerant that military fans can even wear Wehrmacht and SS uniforms and march in the state parade,” the paper said. “Oh right, the SS runes where taped over. Well, then everything is just fine!”

The commentary noted that Saxony-Anhalt has the most right-wing violence per capita of all the German states and that treating the display of Nazi symbols as an everyday occurrence sent a bad message about the state.

The club’s president issued an apology.

“We regret that our contribution was misunderstand. We didn’t want to hurt or injure anyone,” Augustin wrote in a letter to Dessau’s mayor.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Germany: Committee Split Over Steinmeier’s Role in US Invasion of Iraq

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Social Democratic chancellor candidate and foreign minister, has been criticised by a parliamentary committee investigating Germany’s role in the US invasion of Iraq for the past three years.

Reporting on Friday afternoon, the parliamentary investigation split along party lines over whether Steinmeier had been truthful when he said that Germany’s help to US forces consisted only of intelligence on how to avoid bombing civilian targets.

Steinmeier was chief of staff of the chancellery during the US invasion in 2003 under then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who had built his opposition to the war into his successful reelection campaign. Steinmeier was responsible for the German foreign intelligence service the BND, which had agents on the ground in Iraq.

Christian Democratic Union committee member Kristina Köhler said Steinmeier had broken his promise to not supply the US forces with any military-relevant information. She said of the information supplied to the Americans by the BND, only 9.5 percent covered non-target such as hospitals or schools to avoid during the bombardment. Nearly 75 percent of the information was deemed to have military relevance.

The Free Democrats’ representative on the committee Max Stadler said the then Social Democratic and Greens government had gone way beyond its commitments in supplying such information to the US, meaning it had indirectly taken part in the war..

But Social Democratic committee member Michael Hartmann said this was not true, and that the then government had held true to its principles.

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

Has Historian Finally Discovered Real Reason for Hitler’s Obsessive Hatred of Jews?

lf Hitler’s obsessive hatred for Jews was sparked by his experiences after World War One, according to a new book.

Respected historian Ralf-George Reuth argues the dictator blamed them for both the Russian revolution and the collapse of the German economy.

The claim is a stark contrast to previous theories that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was spawned on the back streets of Vienna when he was a down-and-out in the lead up to 1914.

Historians have even speculated that he was partly-Jewish himself — or even that his mother died at the hands of an inept Jewish physician.

‘Hitler’s Jewish Hatred; Cliché and Reality’draws on numerous archives to pinpoint the reasons behind the Holocaust, which claimed six million lives.

Reuth argues that what was probably lower middle-class bigotry shared by many at the time, morphed into murderous hatred for Hitler after 1919.

At the time almost half of all German private banks were Jewish owned, the stock exchange dominated by Jewish stockbrokers, almost half of the nation’s newspapers were Jewish run as were 80 per cent of chain stores.

It became fashionable to decry the loss of the war on Jewish financiers.

But Hitler, according to Reuth, also blamed Jews for the Russian revolution, citing Leon Trotsky’s faith, as well as that of Marx whose theories he followed and even Lenin, who was one-quarter Jewish.

When a Soviet republic was declared briefly in Munich that year, argues Reuth, the die was cast for Hitler to demonise the Jews as bearing responsibility for the world’s ills.

‘With World War One lost and Germany in financial ruin, with revolution threatening, he came to see the Jews as solely responsible for stock-exchange capitalism, which caused acute poverty and suffering when it faltered, and Bolshevism,’ said Reuth.

‘These two events were pivotal in shaping his views of Jews and his subsequent plan to murder them all.

‘He bought into the rumours and the whispers that blamed Jewish capitalists for stabbing Germany in the back.

The final solution: Millions of Jews died at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, seen here after the war ended in 1945

‘Then he saw that many Jews played prominent roles in the brief Soviet republic founded in Munich in 1919, against everything Hitler the nationalist stood for.

‘The two events, together with the Russian revolution, coalesced to turn them, in his mind, into scapegoats for everything.

‘But it was only after World War One, not before. I show that he had many Jewish acquaintances in Vienna, despite his writing in Mein Kampf that he was sickened by the sight of the Jews he saw there.’

Reuth draws on a wealth of archival material showing how Hitler fed off the intellectuals of the day to shape his belief.

He quotes Nobel prize-winning novelist Thomas Mann who wrote in 1919 that he equated the Bolshevik revolution in Russia with the Jews.

Ernst Nolte, a Berlin historian, expounded this theory over 20 years ago in a paper that was not given much credit at the time.

Reuth is a distinguished Nazi-era biographer who wrote an acclaimed book about Third Reich propaganda master Josef Goebbels.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: Magistrate Questions Three More Women

Ms D’Addario has handed over tapes and videos of her meetings with prime minister

At least three women have made statements that they received payment for attending parties at Palazzo Grazioli and Villa Certosa. Two have been questioned by the public prosecutor in Bari, the third in Rome. The women have given detailed accounts and one has been given permission to leave the country “for a while” claiming to “fear for my safety”. Patrizia D’Addario was also questioned for more than five hours by magistrate Pino Scelsi. Ms D’Addario, a candidate in the local elections with the “La Puglia prima di tutto” [Puglia First of All] list, described the two evenings she says she spent with the prime minister in his Rome residence before handing over audio recordings of the meetings and a video clip she claims she took with her mobile phone. Ms D’Addario declared formally that “I did it so no one can say I wasn’t there”.

Tarantini and the call girls

The man alleged to have organised the women is Giampaolo Tarantini, 35, a businessman from Puglia who, in partnership with his 40-year-old brother Claudio, owns Tecnohospital, a company that deals in hospital technology. Mr Tarantini’s was entered in the register of persons under investigation for procurement for prostitution. Last week, he was questioned in the presence of a lawyer. Senior sources at the Bari public prosecutor’s office confirm that “an inquiry is under way regarding this offence at exclusive locations in Rome and Sardinia”, deriving from telephone conversations during which Mr Tarantini is alleged to have negotiated transfers and payment with the women.

Mr Tarantini was not aware that he was under investigation for corruption-related criminal association. According to the Guardia di Finanza, Mr Tarantini’s company paid out generous kickbacks to obtain supply contracts in the healthcare sector. Three months ago, this line of enquiry involved Alberto Tedesco, the then regional councillor with responsibility for health, who resigned as a result. As well as to the women, Mr Tarantini spoke on the phone to individuals in Mr Berlusconi’s inner circle. When he mentioned the subject of money, investigations began.

The deal with Patrizia

Mr Tarantini is alleged to be the middle man who sent Patrizia D’Addario to two parties with Mr Berlusconi. She was introduced to him by a mutual friend named Max and he told her his name was Giampi. Ms D’Addario confirmed to the magistrate that “the agreement for the first evening was for payment of 2,000 euros, but I received only 1,000 because I did not agree to stay. On the second occasion, which was the night of Barack Obama’s election, I did stay and so I left Palazzo Grazioli the following morning. When I got back to the hotel, the woman friend who was also at the evening asked me if I had been given an envelope, but I told her I hadn’t received anything. My aim was to get some help for a real estate project and Berlusconi assured me that he would give me a hand. Giampaolo told me that if Mr Berlusconi had made a promise, he would keep it”. Ms D’Addario’s account of how the meetings took place coincides with the statements from the other three women. All say they were “contacted by Giampaolo, who asked us if we were ready to leave. Sometimes, it was at only a few hours’ notice and in that case the plane tickets were prepaid”. Magistrates’ enquiries are now concentrating on subsequent movements. The witnesses are also understood to have described how, on arriving in Rome, they were to take a taxi to an agreed hotel, where they would wait for Giampaolo’s driver to pick them up and take them to Palazzo Grazioli. Ms D’Addario said: “Just before we got there, they made us wind up the car windows, which were always darkened. When we got to the hotel, we were told what to wear: elegant clothes and not too much makeup”.

Recordings and video clip

Ms D’Addario handed over to the public prosecutor’s secretariat five or six audio cassettes and a video clip showing her in front of a mirror and then a bedroom. In one shot, there is a framed photograph of Veronica Lario. Magistrates will now have to gauge the credibility of the material with an expert opinion to verify whether the voice on the tape is actually the prime minister’s, and whether the rooms in the photos are at Palazzo Grazioli.

The decision to summon the women to the public prosecutor’s office for questioning was taken after magistrates listened to Mr Tarantini’s tapped telephone calls. The statements were taken and further questioning sessions scheduled for the next few weeks. Magistrates are believed to have on their list several more names of women who said to have been contacted by Mr Tarantini, and other people who may have had a role in the affair. The list includes some of Mr Tarantini’s own collaborators, as well as the politicians who are thought to have included Ms D’Addario on the list for the municipal elections. Ms D’Addario pointed out that she never received any proposals to go to Villa Certosa in Sardinia “but Giampaolo told me that there was some possibility of a holiday abroad, I think in Bermuda”. Allegedly, other women agreed to attend parties at the prime minister’s residence in Porto Rotondo.

Fiorenza Sarzanini

18 giugno 2009

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Brambilla Denies Fascist Salute, Just Waving

(AGI) — Rome, 17 June — “I’m horrified”. Minister of Tourism Michela Vittoria Brambilla stated as much during today’s public meeting in Montecatini. The minister was commenting on an article published today by ‘la Repubblica’, saying that “I’m horrified. But can anyone in good faith truly believe that a picture with a raised arm (as there are for Berlusconi and D’Alema, Obama and Fini, Bertinotti and Cossiga) means that I am the ‘minister with the Roman salute’, especially during an official ceremony attended by the press? And what reason would I have to publicly use this condemnable and unjustified gesture just after becoming a newly appointed minister, with no past trace of such behaviour on my part? Obviously there is only one answer that covers all angles and that is that the picture was taken while I was saluting the crowd. That somebody could misinterpret my gesture never crossed my mind. To those who are still suspicious but not in bad faith (as I believe is the case for those that raised the issue) I can only say that I never made or contemplated making a laudatory gesture for the fascist regime, a regime for which I never gave any sign of indulgence or for which I ever expressed any sympathy”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lisbon: A Pandora’s Box

The latest anguished wrangling — it would be wrong to call it a row — over the Lisbon Treaty sounds obscure and legalistic, about the strength of a protocol versus a legally binding international agreement. Dull, huh? But at heart it is about the raw stuff of politics: fear and failure.

The Irish Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, is frightened he will fail by losing a second referendum. So he wants strong guarantees about what Lisbon does and does not mean to reassure Irish voters.

The other leaders are viscerally fearful about anything, anything at all, that will give people the slightest excuse to reopen the debate on Lisbon. Their fear of failure is heartfelt. They believe a new treaty is needed to run the European Union and they are fed up with the immense difficulty in getting it past the people.

Remember, first there was the European Constitution. That was killed off by voters in France and the Netherlands.. Painfully, slowly, a new treaty, Lisbon, emerged: the Constitution stripped of some of its pretensions and fine words, but with most of the rule changes intact. Then the Irish people voted that down.

In their wisdom the Irish government decided this was down to various (in their view false) fears about what Lisbon would mean, for Irish neutrality, for abortion law, for workers rights. So they want guarantees setting out that Lisbon doesn’t mean any of that.

Most observers think they will win the second referendum, more because of the economic crisis than these guarantees. Perhaps. I would just observe that the Irish government are very, very fixed on this one solution, and are meticulously hammering gold-plated, reinforced, tungsten-tipped nails into one particular stable door which they have identified as the exit route of that fine filly “Lisbon Treaty”. If another stable door, perhaps marked “I don’t like the EU’s current direction” was the real route of “Lisbon Treaty’s” disappearance they could be in very great trouble.

What the other leaders are worried about is that this whole kerfuffle will open the door for others to demand this, that and the other.

You see a protocol, making an agreement part of an EU treaty, is stronger than a mere agreement in international law, which is what today’s form of words would amount to on their own.

The Irish prime minister put the cat among the pigeons by demanding this in a letter to the others, without apparently squaring them or doing any advanced diplomatic work. He wrote to “provide maximum possible legal reassurance to the Irish people… I need to be able to come out of our meeting and state, without fear of contradiction, that the legal guarantee… will, in time, acquire full treaty status by way of a protocol.” This would have to be attached to a new treaty and new treaties need ratification, by parliament or a referendum.

So what gives pro-Lisbon leaders the heebie-jeebies is that there will be a campaign in Britain for a referendum on this, or someone will pop up and ask for their own reassurances, or the Czech or Polish president will find a new reason for not signing off Lisbon, or there’ll be some other democratic diversions.

It slightly puzzles me why Gordon Brown is worried about this. The new bit would be tagged onto the next treaty allowing a new country to join the EU. That would probably be Croatia or Iceland. Perhaps Mr Brown is optimistic enough to believe that he will be prime minister when this happens. But it is more likely it will land on the plate of a Conservative government.

Those in Mr Cameron’s party who hate Lisbon may see this as an ideal opportunity to deliver a retrospective blow to the hated treaty by demanding a referendum and voting down the assurances. It would be poetic, rather than practical, but symbols are important in politics.

But then the guts of this new treaty would be about a new country joining the EU. It has always been Conservative policy to encourage the expansion of the EU: could Mr Cameron happily encourage people to deal a blow to this longstanding approach?

But there’s another consideration. Mr Cameron wants to wring new opt-outs, even a new relationship from the EU. The word is that the fruits of any such negotiation would be made law by attaching yet another protocol to this new treaty. So could the Conservatives end up holding a referendum on the EU and urging people to vote “Yes”?

Or would Mr Cameron be just as keen as current leaders to tiptoe around the whole awkward subject?

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

The Feeble ‘March’ of Euro-Fascism

Paul Wells rips Mark Steyn; corrects fascist hyperbole

Boo! Did I scare you? Good! We like scaring you here at Maclean’s. That’s why we like these rip-roaring cover stories: we hope that you’ll pick us up and read the calmer stuff inside too. That’s what we did last week with our cover photo of generic thugs in camouflage and berets, under the cover line THE RETURN OF FASCISM.

The cover pointed to a column by our Mark Steyn. And Mark’s column—well, it’s a bit of a mess. Here’s why.

The European Parliament’s largest bloc, after the centre-right and the socialists, is the “non-inscrits,” Mark notes. Their number has tripled to “just under a hundred” thanks, he claims, to the European elections of June 4-7. These non-inscrits “include”—handy word—one member of the “True Finns”; one from the Slovak National Party; two from the British National Party; two from the Austrian Freedom Party; and so on. “Many of these lively additions to the political scene,” Mark writes, “favour party emblems that slyly evoke swastikas.”

A hundred brand-new euro-deputies with swastikas? Goodness. Fortunately it’s baloney. There are indeed 93 non-inscrits. But not, for the most part, because of this election. Largely it’s because the 23-member Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty coalition fell apart in 2007.. Fewer inscrits means more non-inscrits.

How many of the 93 are fond of swastikas? Mark’s itemized list identifies 19 out of 736 in the European Parliament. Let me tell you about the rest.

One, Élie Hoarau, is the leader of France’s Alliance des Outre-Mer. He’s a tweedy Communist from Réunion. One, Joe Higgins, leads Ireland’s Socialist Party. One is from Sweden’s Pirate Party, which supports free Internet file sharing. One of the British MEPs is an Ulster Unionist. Another is a Democratic Unionist, which is kind of the same. One, Indrek Tarand, is the host of Estonia’s version of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Three are Austrians who campaign against expense-account abuse. One is a member of Spain’s Union, Progress and Democracy party, which opposes that country’s regional separatists and would have my vote if I were Spanish.

But while it’s fun to match Mark’s fascists against my harmless mavericks one by one, that ignores the party affiliation of the majority of the non-inscrits. Most come from the heart of the European mainstream. Nine are members of the Czech Republic’s governing Civic Democrat party. Twenty-one others belong to Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party. And 25 are members of David Cameron’s U.K. Conservatives.

These aren’t fascists.

Neither, in fact, are all of the 19 that Mark lists. Two belong to Latvia’s Civic Union party. Its leader is Sandra Kalniete. She was born in a Soviet labour camp in Siberia. A leading figure in the Latvian independence movement, she was her country’s ambassador to France, then its foreign minister. She was a European commissioner for agriculture. This magazine’s readership is larger than the population of Latvia, and I really wish Mark hadn’t used our pages to imply she is a fascist.

I count 67 non-inscrits who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called fascists. The rest, whom I can’t vouch for, amount to 3.5 per cent of the European Parliament’s members. Mark says the EU is “filled by ultra-nationalist xenophobes.” A pessimist says the glass is at least 96.5 per cent empty. An optimist says it’s full.

Surely one fascist is too many. But fascism can’t be “back” if it never went away. Steyn says the U.K. “crossed a dark Rubicon” by electing two British National Party members. Must be the same Rubicon it crossed in 1964, when Conservative Peter Griffiths won in Smethwick on the slogan, “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.” In 2002 Mark wrote a column about Austria’s extreme right winning 29 per cent of the vote. This year it was 18 per cent. If that’s the trend line I’ll take it.

But I have to ask. Since Mark is using Kalniete and Cameron and dozens of others to pad his brownshirt tally, perhaps he could define fascism in the modern European context. And tell us what he dislikes about it, if anything.

I ask because he says these groups are “culturally protectionist in a way the polytechnic left most certainly isn’t.” Whatever a polytechnic left is, Mark is clearly no fan. In an apparent reference to newspaper columnists, he complains about “delicate flower[s] shrieking ‘Racism!’ at every affront to the multiculti pieties.” Which ones? Is there a single columnist today for a large Canadian newspaper who shrieks about “racism” as frequently as Mark Steyn shrieks about Islam?

Mark blames the left’s hypersensitivity for driving “more and more of the European vote” to “fringe parties.” As examples he names Dutch documentarian Geert Wilders and the UK Independence Party. Yet he sees “nothing” to consign UKIP to the fringe “other than the blinkers of the politico-media class.” And he has written about Wilders many times, always supportively. Makes sense: they both worry about Muslims. In his film Fitna, Wilders displays a bar graph that shows 54 million “Muslims in Europe.” The number comes from the Central-Institute Islam Archive in Soest, Germany, which notes that only 14 million of those Muslims are in the European Union. Another 25 million are in Russia and 5.9 million in Turkey. When asked whether he wants Turkey in the EU, Wilders said, “No. Not in 10 years, not in a million years.” Yet he’s eager to put Turkey’s Muslims in his bar graphs. No wonder Steyn likes him. They’re both sloppy counters.

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

The Lives of … All of Us

You know what they say about restaurants: there is no such thing as just one rat in the kitchen. It is the same here in Brussels. This week the Irish have finally seen the draft of assurances Brian Cowen’s government want from the other EU members before they make the Irish vote again on the Lisbon Treaty. The draft is a rat, but I’l deal with it later, after I’ve seen what is going to happen to the ‘assurances’ tomorrow and Friday at the European Council. Today I will deal with one of the other rats in Brussels, the Stockholm Programme.

It is unlikely you have ever heard of the Stockholm Programme. It has only just been published. However, a committee known as the Future Group, organised by the justice commission, started planning it in January 2007. The full name of the Future Group is ‘the Informal High Level Advisory Group of the Future of European Home Affairs Policy.’ The British had no representative on it, merely an ‘observer.’

The group’s findings have been bundled up as the Stockholm Programme. Here is how it works. The Lisbon Treaty gives new legal powers to the European institutions over, among other things, cross-border police co-operation, counter-terrorism, immigration, asylum and border controls. The Stockholm Programme outlines how the justice commission will implement these new legal powers for the next five years.

The commission claims the programme covers policy on ‘freedom, security and justice serving the citizen.’ Look closer and you will see it actually covers policy for restrictions on the citizen, surveillance by the European state — yes, your fingerprints, credit card charges, email traffic and health records are now going to be available from Galway to Bucharest — and the destruction of British judicial independence by the European institutions. Stockholm is a rat, and a big one.

If you don’t want to take it from a right-wing libertarian like me, you can take it from a whole pack of left-wing libertarians, the European Civil Liberties Network. The ECLN is made up of groups drawn from across Europe. One of the founders was Gareth Peirce, solicitor for the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, and more lately for one of the prisoners at Guantanamo. Here is what the ECLN have to say about the Stockholm Programme: the policies outlined in Stockholm ‘constitute an attack on civil liberties and human rights.’ The warn against ‘dangerous authoritarian tendencies within the EU.’

They are right to do so. Under EU legislation, state agencies are already implementing comprehensive surveillance regimes and beginning to build up what the ECLN calls a ‘previously unimaginably detailed profile of the private and political lives of their citizens.’ This is often done in the absence of any data protection standards, judicial or democratic controls.

‘The EU has gone much further than the USA in terms of the legislation it has adopted to place its citizens under surveillance. While the Patriot Act has achieved notoriety, the EU has quietly adopted legislation on the mandatory fingerprinting of all EU passport, visa and residence permit-holders and the mandatory retention — for general law enforcement purposes — of all telecommunications data (our telephone, e-mail and internet usage records).’

The Future Group and their Stockholm Programme say they foresee a ‘digital tsunami’ that will revolutionise law enforcement. Add this to the fact that, as the ECLN says, ‘EU data protection law has already been left behind, with surveillance all but exempted. Individual rights to privacy and freedoms are being fatally undermined.’

One of the most rat-like things about these new proposals is the plan to set up a ‘Homeland Security’ industry. Billions of euros may be given as subsidies to European corporations to help them compete with US industries in developing security equipment and technology. If you knew how many thousands of uncontrolled, unregistered corporate lobbyists there are in Brussels, you would recognise the hand of European technology corporations in the drafting of this programme. Brussels will give the military-industrial corporations billions in European taxpayers’ money, and in return the corporations will deliver technology that helps all the new European security forces track every one of us..

What is coming out of this will undoubtedly be an EU identity card and population register. Even Dick Cheney didn’t dare try that one. There will be the power of security forces (forget ‘cops,’ what you are going to be hearing more and more about are ‘security forces’) to search computer hard-drives. But the security forces won’t be coming through your door with a warrant. The searches will be ‘remote,’ online. This will be a particular threat to lawyers, journalists and any politicians opposing these growing EU powers. The policy of remote hard-drive searches was first proposed for the EU by the German government in June 2008. Yes, the German government want a euro-Stasi. It really is so satisfying when politicians live up to their national stereotype.

Statewatch, another organisation monitoring civil liberties in Europe, is also warning against the Stockholm Programme. In an analysis of the Future Group’s report by Tony Bunyan, he writes: ‘European government and EU policy-makers are pursuing unfettered powers to access and gather masses of personal data on the everyday life of everyone — on the grounds that we can all be safe and secure from perceived “threats.”‘

‘There is an assumption, on this and wider issues in the U, that “if it is technologically possible, why should it not be introduced?”‘

He notes that the EU’s Schengen Information System (SIS) is to be upgraded to hold more categories of data (including fingerprints and DNA), access to all the data is tobe extended to all agencies (police, immigration and customs).’ The commission has proposed a system to track the names of all passengers in and out of the EU, but some governments ‘do not like limiting the use of data to terrorism and organsied crime and want to extend the proposals’ scope from just in and out of the EU to travel between EU states and even within each state.’ They want to extend it to sea travel and car travel, too: all those specialised cameras developed for reading car registration plates make it possible.

Ah, but ordinary people will be told that if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. Ordinary people who believe that will then never realise, as Mr Bunyan says, ‘why they did not get a job interview because their employer had access to a criminal record based on a “spent” conviction or why their application for an insurance policy failed because the company had access to their health record.’

The final agreement on all this is due to be adopted by heads of state and government at a meeting in Stockholm in December. Between now and then there is nothing any of us can do to stop it — except force David Cameron to give Britain a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, no matter how many other countries have already ratified the treaty. Remember, the legal powers to establish this new techno-surveillance are only delivered to Brussels by the Lisbon Treaty. So demand a referendum, then vote No: or your secret ballot on Lisbon may be the last secret left to you.

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

UK: Brown ‘Plans to Quit Before Next Election to Avoid Humiliating Defeat’

Gordon Brown may agree to step down as Prime Minister before the next General Election to avoid a humiliating defeat by David Cameron, according to Labour sources.

The possibility of Mr Brown quitting to give a new leader the chance of reviving the party’s fortunes was disclosed after he talked openly for the first time of ‘walking away’ from the job and spending more time with his family.

‘To be honest, you could walk away from all of this tomorrow,’ he said in an interview published on Saturday. ‘I’m not interested in what accompanies being in power.

‘I wouldn’t worry if I never returned to all those places — Downing Street, Chequers … and it would probably be good for my children.’

Under one scenario being discussed by Labour insiders, Mr Brown would announce his resignation in the New Year. A successor would be chosen shortly afterwards, in order to leave several months before the Election — which has to be held by next June.

Mr Brown would quit politics for a new role, probably in international finance or academia.

‘There are many advantages for him and the party in taking this course,’ said an influential Labour MP.

‘Assuming the economy is on the mend, Gordon can say that he has done what he said he would do, which is to get us through the worst of the recession. He should also be able to say that he has sorted out the mess of MPs’ expenses and brought in important changes to the constitution.

‘In that way, his legacy would be intact, regardless of what the polls say. He can also say that he feels it is right to hand over to a new leader who will have time to set out his or her stall for the Election, to win a fresh mandate.’

It would give Mr Brown an unenviable place in history as one of the few Prime Ministers who was neither elected into office — nor out of it. One of the reasons the attempted coup against him earlier this month failed was because Labour MPs believed his successor would be forced to hold a snap Election.

Delaying his resignation until the New Year gets round that problem, since an Election would be certain within a short space of time.

Mr Brown’s survival was credited largely to the key support of Peter Mandelson, promoted to Deputy Prime Minister in all but name.

However, few Labour MPs doubt that if Lord Mandelson believed the party would fare better at the Election under a new leader, he would not shrink from telling Mr Brown to go — and Mr Brown would have little option but to obey.

If Mr Brown resigned in the New Year a new leader could expect to benefit from a ‘honeymoon period’ with voters that could boost Labour’s ratings.

While most Labour MPs accept that the party has little or no chance of victory under Mr Brown, they are convinced that a new leader such as Home Secretary Alan Johnson, Schools Secretary Ed Balls or former Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell could cut the margin of a Conservative triumph, possibly resulting in a hung Parliament.

In that event, Labour MPs believe they could avert the threat of being out of power for a decade or more, as happened to Labour in the Eighties and the Tories more recently.

A Labour leadership contest would also help to fill the black hole in the party’s finances. Candidates are obliged to give part of their campaign funds to party HQ.

The proposal has other attractions for Mr Brown’s allies who fear that his fragile temperament may not be able to endure the shattering impact of a long Election campaign in which he will be targeted ruthlessly by the Tories as Labour’s weak link — and with the strong prospect of a Conservative landslide at the end of it all.

Labour MPs close to Mr Brown admit that he has not coped as well as Tony Blair did with adapting to the role of a modern Prime Minister, where you are judged on how you handle an appearance on YouTube as well as how you handle the economy.

Cynics are bound to claim that any decision by Mr Brown to quit would have less noble motives. He was accused of ‘bottling’ plans to call a General Election shortly after he became Prime Minister. And he ducked out of challenging Mr Blair for the Labour leadership in 1994.

If he does leave before the Election, Mr Brown will not be short of job offers. Despite his unpopularity in Britain, his economic skills have won him international plaudits.

Moreover, if, as many experts predict, Mr Blair becomes the first European Union President later this year, he will be able to find Mr Brown a new job.

Mr Brown struck an uncharacteristically candid tone in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in which he confessed that the past few weeks had been the worst in his political life. But he insisted Labour could win with him in charge.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: How the Issue of Foreign Workers Has Poisoned Industrial Relations

The angry faces of workers protesting outside Lindsey oil refinery yesterday left onlookers with a strong sense of déja vu.

Five months ago, another bitter labour dispute at the Lincolnshire site sparked a series of unofficial walkouts by thousands of workers at more than a dozen oil refineries, gas terminals and power stations across England and Wales. Yesterday, the domino effect of “wildcat” strikes loomed large.

The dispute in January and February began when an Italian contractor brought in Italian and Portuguese workers to build a new desulphurisation plant. Furious staff demanded that Gordon Brown honour his promise to create “British jobs for British workers”, and staged an impromptu walkout. The stand-off only ended after the company created 102 new local positions.

Yesterday’s unofficial action at the Total refinery was not about foreign workers, but that episode still poisons the relationship between shop floor and executives. Many staff at the company feel the issue was never properly resolved.

Picketers gripe that management has treated them with contempt by not consulting about the sacking of 50 workers nine days ago. Then Total refused to negotiate until staff stopped a series of rolling walkouts. Seen in context, it is a classic case of a breakdown in relations between employees and the bosses. Such relations are notably restrained in parts of the construction industry.

The construction industry has been hit hard by the recession. In the UK, workers are in the unique position of having industry collective agreements which standardise minimum wages and entitlements.

“What the unions would like to see, and one can understand their point of view, is European law amended to say you cannot bring people into the UK below the prevailing rights and wages,” said Alistair Tebbit, head of employment policy at the Institute of Directors.

“With a host of vital infrastructure projects under way or in the pipeline, such as new power stations and Crossrail, it is deeply worrying that we are seeing more and more illegal strike action taking place in the construction sector.”

He added: “The law is clear: there must be an official ballot before there can be a strike. We urge the Government to ensure the law is properly enforced.”

The research group Income Data Services says that conflict between companies and their workers has so far been much lower in this recession than in previous ones.

Paul Nowak, TUC national organiser, insisted that the country was not heading for a “summer of discontent” because “our members are sensible enough to know when a company really faces difficulties and needs to make hard decisions — in contrast with profitable companies that are effectively crying recession wolf”. The worry for execs in febrile sectors is that the mood could be contagious.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Racists May Plague Tory Europe Group

Next week, David Cameron will unveil the Conservative Party’s new right-wing allies in the European Parliament. To the dismay of pro-European Tories, they include parties accused of being anti-women, racist, homophobic and in denial about climate change.

The Tory leader insists he will not be aligning his party’s 25 MEPs with extremists. But he has angered Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, by walking out of the mainstream centre-right EPP group, the largest in the parliament, to form a new group of conservative Eurosceptics. It is expected to include the Belgian Lijst Dedecker party, some of whose politicians are former members of the far-right Vlaams Belang part, whose candidates backed a statement saying: “We urgently need global chemotherapy against Islam to save civilisation”, and used campaigning material featuring an ape with the words “I have not forgotten my roots … have you?”

The Tories are also in talks with the Dutch Christian Union, which includes the SGP, a Calvinist party which believes the Bible means that women should not stand for parliament but have a “nurturing role” at home. Mr Cameron’s party is also wooing the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom party, several of whose MPs marched in Riga with veterans of the Latvian SS in March.

These relatively small parties, which have only six MEPs between them, are being courted by the Tories because, under the European Parliament’s rules, an official group needs MEPs from at least seven of the EU’s 27 member states.

The 25 Tories will be the biggest national team in the new group. Its other prominent members will be the Polish Law and Justice Party, which has 15 MEPs, and the Czech Civic Democrats, which has nine. The Polish party, headed by the controversial Kaczynski twins, is anti-gay, and banned gay-rights processions. In talks on EU voting power, it demanded that Poland’s losses at the hands of Hitler be added to its current population so it would have more clout.

The Civic Democrats, one of whose leaders has dismissed climate change as a myth, backed the Lisbon Treaty, which the Tories oppose. Some potential allies also want to include far-right parties such as Italy’s xenophobic Northern League, although the Tories will try to block this.

Labour will seize on the Tories’ new friends in an attempt to undermine Mr Cameron’s credentials as a moderniser. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday: “The British public should be warned: the Tory European group may contain nuts.”

Glenys Wilmot, leader of Labour’s MEPs, said the new Conservative group would enjoy little influence in the parliament. “The Tories will sit in splendid isolation with controversial allies a far cry from the mainstream parties David Cameron is leaving behind,” she said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Singer Linda Lewis: The Night I Asked My Boyfriend ‘Do You Mind if I Sleep With Cat Stevens?’

[quote] “It was late at night and Sammy was in a deep sleep beside me. ‘Sammy, is it OK if I sleep with Cat Stevens?’

There was no reply, so I took his silence as approval and went ahead. Cat Stevens wasn’t his real name, of course — we all knew him as Steve Georgiou.

He lived with his parents in a flat above their restaurant in Shaftesbury Avenue. Cat used to sit in our front room playing the guitar. That’s where he wrote his beautiful song Moonshadow.

Cat, a sensitive and caring man, used to be fun. He always liked to have a muse. His first inspiration was his girlfriend Patti D’Arbanville, for whom he wrote Lady D’Arbanville.

His second was me. We’d talk about our childhood and he wrote Old School Yard for me.

I continued with my music, too, sitting in the kitchen in Hampstead strumming my songs.

A sensitive and caring man: The singer once asked her boyfriend if minded is slept with cat Stevens, who is now known as Yusuf Islam

That’s how a Warner Brothers executive, who was a dinner guest at the commune, discovered me in 1971.

My on-off romance with Cat lasted several years. I was still seeing Sammy at the time, too. It was the Seventies, after all.

But soon Cat began to change. To put it kindly, he was searching for greater meaning in life. To put it bluntly, he was becoming a pain.

We went to an Islamic wedding before he converted and adopted the name Yusuf Islam in 1977.

Cat was clearly impressed with the orderliness of the Muslim faith.

At the reception, I didn’t like the way the women were sent to the kitchen, while the men smoked.

If he didn’t exactly lose his sense of humour, Cat certainly mislaid it for a while.

He started laying down the law when we toured the U.S., instructing us not to smoke joints or drink.

He carried a small prayer mat with him, which we would mock lightheartedly.

Cat responded by saying: ‘You are not here to have fun.’

Strange — that’s exactly what we all thought we were there for. “[end quote]

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Christian Coptic Twin Boys Struggle Against Forced Islamization

By Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — The Egyptian Court of Cassation ruled on Monday, June 15, 2009, in favor of Mrs. Camilia Lutfi, giving her the right to retain custody of her twin boys Andrew and Mario, in spite of their father’s conversion to Islam, thereby ending the 5-year legal battle over the custodial rights between her and her ex-husband, Medhat Ramsis.

Ms. Lutfi summed up her fight for her children’s custody by saying: “My opponent is not only my divorcee; my opponent is everyone who hears this story and wants Andrew and Mario to become Muslims.” The Coptic twin boys resisted their enforced Islamization by using one sentence ‘I am a Christian.’ This has made of them heroes in the eyes of Copts and a role model for Coptic children in similar situations.

The Court of Cassation accepted the appeal filed by the Public Prosecutor against the final ruling of the Alexandria Appellate Court of September 24, 2008, to transfer the custody of the twin boys to their father, who had converted to Islam in 2000 and changed his children’s religion on their official documents in 2006. The Alexandria court had based its ruling on an interpretation of the principles of Islamic law (Shari’a), contrary to constitutional law on maternal custody and the rights of the child.

In its Monday ruling, the Court of Cassation refused the Public Prosecutor’s argument that the Alexandria Court should have given the twin boys the choice to remain Christian or to convert voluntarily to Islam, since they have reached the age of seven, considered as the age of ‘discrimination between religions in Shari’a. The Court insisted on upholding its previous rulings that conversion by one parent must be followed by a change in the children’s religion to Islam, which is considered as the ‘best of religions’, until they reach the age of 15 years.

Ms. Lutfi commented on the ruling: “Thank God, we received an unprecedented verdict to retain custody of the children; however, the judge deprived the children of their right to choose their own religion.”

Human rights organizations heavily criticized this latest ruling upon reading its details, and believe that one hand gave and another took away. Hossam Bahgat, Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said that it was a small step forward, and a great opportunity missed.’ “The Court of Cassation wasted an unprecedented opportunity to stop the discriminatory policy, which currently forces a change of religion to Christian children in official documents when the father converts to Islam.” he said. “We regret that it only addressed the outcome and declined to support the initiative of the Public Prosecutor, who sought to address the root of the problem, which is the non-voluntary change of the children’s religion without paying the slightest regard to their will or the will of their mother.”

Activist Medhat Kelada, spokesman for the European Union of Coptic organizations for Human Rights (EUCHR) told Elyom el Sabeh newspaper that this ruling represents a minor achievement, but is against equal citizenship, and has shown the devotion of the Court of Cassation to the religious State. “The ruling states that since the father converted to Islam, the children automatically follow the ‘better religion’, which is of course, Islam. We should not applaud a flawed ruling.”

The rule of the Court of Cassation, newly emphasized the right of the mother of the “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) to the custody of her Christian child who was converted to Islam due to the conversion of his father in what is called ‘Islamization by dependence’ until they reach the age of 15 years, the age of discrimination and choice. Muslim practice over the past 15 centuries has been to take children away from their Christian mothers as soon as their father converts to Islam, even if they are very young, as well as converting them to Islam by dependence.

Although this ruling was seen by some as a victory in custodial matters, others believe that Christian children are still forced into Islam. Activists see a loophole through the presence of the clause which allows for the denial of custody to a mother “when there is fear over the religious status of the youngster from their mother’s upbringing.” They believe this will open new legal arguments in the family courts and the possible use of this clause against Christian mothers.

Andrew and Mario’s case found national and international support, especially from human rights organizations. The EIPR together with the London-based INTERIGHTS filed a complaint in 2008 to the African Union’s main human rights body against the Egyptian Government, accusing it of human rights violations against Mario, Andrew and their mother. The United Kingdom, member at the European Parliament, Dr. Charles Tannock, submitted their case to the EU Commission in October 2008.

Andrew and Mario’s story caught the attention of the media when, obliged to sit for the Islamic religion test at school in May 2007 — tudents have to pass Religion exams to be promoted to a higher class — the boys answered none of the questions. On his answer sheet Andrew wrote “I am Christian” and Mario wrote: “My religion is Christianity.” They failed the exam and had to re-take it, but again insisted on writing these single phrases. On national television they declared: “We do not want to be Muslims. We are born Christians, will remain and die as Christian.”

EIPR emphasized that the ruling shows the need for the government to remedy this issue in the amendments to the Personal Status Law, which the Justice Ministry intends to submit to Parliament at its next session, taking into consideration the legal view of the Public Prosecutor of giving children the right to chose their religion upon reaching the age of seven years, especially after including an article in the 2008 Child’s Law which provides for the protection of the child against religious discrimination

“I feel very sorry for the 5 years stolen from their childhood, spent in courtrooms, threats to escape or go on hunger strike if forced to go to their Muslim father, not to mention the psychological harm of evading the police arriving to implement the 2008 final court ruling to deliver them to their father,” Lutfi said.

Ms. Lutfi confirmed to El-Yom El-Sabeh newspapers, that she intends to file a case in front of the Supreme Administrative Court to establish the right of her twins sons, who were born on 6/24/1994, in choosing their religion upon reaching the age of 15. “The judge’s insistence on stating that children follow their Muslim father’s religion will cause problems to the children’s education, as was the case in the past,” Lutfi added.

Another massive hurdle awaits Andrew and Mario at the age of 16, when they apply for their identification cards. Their father already changed their religion on their official documents, and since the Ministry of Interior constantly refuses to alter this data, they are only left with the option of going to court to force this change. There are presently hundreds of similar cases pending in front of the courts, leaving the lives of the so-called Christian ‘Returnees’ in limbo. It is worth noting that there has never been one single registered case in Egyptian history where the government allowed a change in the official status of children of Muslim converts.

[Return to headlines]

Egypt Deports Chechen Warlord’s Son

CAIRO (AFP) — Egyptian authorities on Friday deported two Chechen students, including the son of a rebel leader, to Russia where they could face torture.

“Maskhud Abdullaev, the son of (rebel leader) Supyan Abdullaev, was put on an Egyptair flight to Moscow along with another Chechen student,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Abdullaev and his colleague were due to be deported on Thursday with four other Chechen students but a traffic jam prevented police from transporting them to the airport in time.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International warned on Thursday that all six risk “torture or other-ill-treatment” if deported to Russia.

“Maskhud Abdullaev would be at heightened risk because his father, Supyan Abdullaev, is the leader of a Chechen armed group,” Amnesty said.

The students were among dozens rounded up by security services on May 27 for suspected links to an alleged Al-Qaeda cell responsible for a February 22 bombing in a Cairo tourist district that killed a French teenager.

Abdullaev, who had been studying at Cairo’s renowned Al-Azhar Islamic University since 2006, was initially held incommunicado at Egypt’s notorious Tora prison, Amnesty said.

The students all claim to have refugee status in Azerbaijan but the Egyptian authorities insisted they return instead to Russia, Amnesty said.

The predominantly Muslim region fought two wars with Moscow after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but it has achieved a measure of stability in recent years under the rule of strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Justice Ministry, Astonished by Guantanamo Inmates

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, 19 JUNE — “Tunisia is astonished by claims of the violation of human rights that some Tunisian prisoners supposedly could undergo if they are repatriated to their country of origin,” the Tunisian Ministry for Justice and Human Rights said in a statement reacting to the prospects for Tunisian prisoners at Guantanamo who could be sent home. “Such claims, made to justify the transfer of these citizens resident abroad to certain European countries rather than repatriating them, are totally baseless. The Constitution of Tunisia guarantees the physical and moral integrity of any person on its territory and the country has always collaborated with the United Nations and international institutions on such matters,” the statement claimed. “The fact of being detained at the Guantanamo camp is not proof of guilt. The detainees convicted in their absence by Tunisian courts can, when that happens, make use of their right to appeal against such judgements”. The ministry cited the case of two former Guantanamo detainees who were repatriated in 2007 who appealed. “They benefitted from a fair and public trial and their sentences were reduced. They are held in normal conditions and receive regular visits from family members and their lawyers.” “In this context, the repatriation to Canada of Said Jaziri, an Imam of Tunisian origin, should be remembered. It was also said of him, in certain circles, that he would be badly treated in his country. After his arrival in Tunisia, Said Jaziri was not prosecuted, nor arrested or denounced. He currently lives peacefully with his family,” said the statement. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Ethiopian Jews, the Difficult Integration

(by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV/ROME JUNE 16 — This is perhaps the most difficult integration of all for the State of Israel, which was founded on the egalitarian ideals of its pioneers during the last century. The cultural distance between people who until a few years ago lived in a remote African village, and the modernity of Tel Aviv is not something that can be easily overcome, not even over a generation The Falasha, a Jewish people from southern Ethiopia who speak a Semitic language, know this all too well. They emigrated in large numbers to the Promised Land during the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to epic Israeli operation such as the historic “Solomon operation” in 1991, and continue to arrive today, although in fewer numbers than before. The Jewish Agency, a body founded during the British mandate to aid the immigration of Jews into Palestine, also knows all about the issue: it has found the return of not only a million Russian, but also Falasha Jews, to be a source of integration problems and highly inflated costs for the State. The Ethiopian Jews, farmers who could not read or write Hebrew, have quickly become different, even marginalised, condemned to low-skilled work. A problem related to a community grown to 105,000 people, most of them under 20. But integration into Israeli society is a challenge which the Jewish Agency is not yet ready to abandon. It has managed the entry of almost three million immigrants since 1948, and it proudly shows off its reception centres such as that in Mevasseret Zion, the biggest Absorption Centre in Israel, to visitors. It is a city within a city, with low-roofed cottages where 1,200 Ethiopians live, whom Agency workers help tirelessly in their efforts to overcome the culture shock of being in a new country. This is not just about giving them a temporary roof over their heads, explain the centre’s managers, it is much more: there is a “holistic approach” to integration. The African huts which have been set up in some courtyards to make the transition to another way of life less traumatic are impressive, but the image which strikes you the most is the sight of the children in the computer room, using software which introduces them to the alphabet and modernity through play. At the Ono Academic College in Kyriat Ono near Tel Aviv, they are aware that the road to social emancipation lies in education. This is a university which aims not just at academic excellence, explains vice president Doron Haran, but also at supporting the most disadvantaged right through their studies, concentrating on their specific weak points: from ultra-orthodox Jews (50% of whom live below the poverty line, because of the practical conseguencies of their religious beliefs) to young Ethiopians. Originally a pilot project in 2002, the programme now includes around 180 students, 26 of them already enrolled on postgraduate courses. The course allows them to not only reach the final objective of a degree, with the help of student grants, but also professional opportunities, thanks to the help of College staff. One female student, Orit-Itzhak-Yasu, describes the drama and strain of her family’s ‘aliah’ when she was still a child: the escape from their village in the night, the weeks of forced marching with parents and brothers to the refugee camp, and the long wait for the rescue plane. Her story is that of a thousand other young Israelis of Ethiopian origins, whose future now has to change. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinian WAFA Launches Website in Hebrew

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, JUNE 17 — The Palestinian press agency WAFA has opened a news website in Hebrew ( in an attempt to initiate dialogue with the Israeli public. “We believe that peace and coexistence are inevitable,” said Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in his congratulatory message. “We believe in dialogue with the Israeli public opinion, based on high credibility, objectivity and accuracy.” On today’s page, WAFA focussed on the problems of the Arab minority in Israel: from the protests against an anti-Arab remark made by Israel’s Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, to the riots in Galilee between Druse and Christian inhabitants and the transfer of a famous Arab-Israeli football player. In the past also the Palestinian press agency MAAN (independent) had dedicated a news page to its Jewish readers. But after a few months the initiative was reconsidered due to a clear lack of interest.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Andrew Bostom: Yippee “Hizbullahi” and “Chaadoris”? — some Sad Realities About Irredentist Iran

Mousavi, during a Saturday June 20, 2009 speech to his faction of jihadists in southern Tehran stated [1], “…he was ready for martyrdom and that he would continue his path.” Now if only Ahmadinejad could be persuaded to martyr himself as well, and the movements of both men were then disempowered, if not dissolved, by whatever means….Hope springs eternal…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

BBC Enlisting New Satellites to Broadcast in Iran

LONDON — The BBC said Friday it is using two extra satellites to broadcast its Farsi-language service after days of jamming it blamed on Iran, as several Western broadcasters seek to overcome obstacles to transmitting coverage of the country’s political turmoil.

The British state-funded news organization said the move was meant to help it reach its Iranian audience as the crisis over their country’s disputed election deepens. It is also a challenge to Iran’s religious government, which has accused foreign broadcasters of stirring unrest, singling out the BBC in particular.

“This is an important time for Iran,” BBC World Service Director Peter Horrocks said in a statement. “We hope that by adding more ways to access BBC Persian television, Farsi-speaking audiences can get the high quality news, analysis and debate they clearly desire.”

As huge protests have followed the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran has moved to deprive people of independent sources of news.

BBC Farsi, Facebook, Twitter and other sites have been blocked. Text messaging has been cut off for the past week, and cell phone service in Tehran is frequently down. The BBC said the Hot Bird 6 satellite — which it and other broadcasters use to broadcast to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe — has been subject to aggressive interference.

The BBC has covered the protests extensively. Its Farsi service, like that of U.S. broadcaster Voice of America, is followed by many Iranians.

The BBC said it was making its Farsi-language service available on satellite Eutelsat W2M, which it said Iranians could tune into by making a small adjustment to their satellite dishes. The BBC also said the service would soon be available on Egyptian satellite Nilesat and it was increasing the length of its Farsi radio program.

Joan Mower, Voice of America’s director of public relations, said VOA began to see some jamming about a month ago and had added three new satellite paths, or channels, that allow transmission. VOA has a total of five paths. She said the VOA was still broadcasting to Iran despite intermittent jamming.

VOA broadcasts eight hours a day of TV programming on a 24-hour loop and began a new, hour-long morning show last week. Mower said VOA had been inundated with e-mail, videos and phone calls, and traffic to its VOA Persian sites rose more than 200 percent between June 10 and June 15.

U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, based in central Europe, is also working to step up its satellite program, according to spokesman Julian Knapp. He said interference had increased “on all fronts” but said the service used a variety of ways to stream content into the country, including stepping up shortwave broadcasting.

Even before the presidential election, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blasted foreign broadcasters for their coverage of the campaign, accusing them of demoralizing voters and trying to drive down turnout.. Shortly after Ahmadinejad’s victory, he accused international media of waging a “psychological war” against the country.

Ahmadinejad has bristled at the coverage. His supporters were shown earlier this week wielding signs with “BBC” crossed out in red, and Britain’s ambassador was summoned to hear complaints from Iranian officials. In a nationally broadcast speech Friday, Khamenei accused Western broadcasters stirring up chaos.

“Some of our enemies in different parts of the world intended to depict this absolute victory, this definitive victory, as a doubtful victory,” Khamenei said. “It is your victory. They cannot manipulate it.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran Council Offers Partial Recount, Police Deploy

TEHRAN (Reuters) — Iran’s highest legislative body said on Saturday it was ready to recount a tenth of the votes in a disputed presidential election and riot police were deployed in force to foil another planned protest rally in Tehran.

EDITORS’ NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.

Police blocked off an area near Tehran University where supporters of opposition candidates had aimed to assemble at around 4 p.m (7:30 a.m. EDT), a witness said.

A police commander said earlier that his forces would deal firmly with any further street protests over the June 12 vote.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told protest leaders on Friday that they would be responsible for any bloodshed if rallies continued against the election, which he said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won fairly by 11 million votes.

The Etemad-e Melli party of losing candidate Mehdi Karoubi said plans for the rally had been scrapped for lack of a permit.

“Because of not obtaining permission, the rally today has been canceled,” a party spokesman told Reuters.

Election runner-up Mirhossein Mousavi, whose supporters have held huge unauthorized protests in Tehran and elsewhere in the past week, has demanded the election be annulled and held again.

At their last rally in Tehran on Thursday, his followers held banners saying they would gather again two days later. But an ally of Mousavi said the moderate politician had not urged people to demonstrate on Saturday or Sunday.

His supporters may show up anyway, as they did in their tens of thousands on Tuesday, even though Mousavi had told them to stay home. The protests have been the most widespread expression of anti-government feeling since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.


The 12-man Guardian Council, which must certify the result of the election, announced plans for a partial recount.

“Although the Guardian Council is not legally obliged … we are ready to recount 10 percent of the (ballot) boxes randomly in the presence of representatives of the three (defeated) candidates,” a council spokesman said..

The council had invited Mousavi, Karoubi and a third candidate, Mohsen Rezaie, to raise their complaints at a special session. But only Rezaie, a conservative who is a former Revolutionary Guard commander, attended.

Khamenei’s warning on Friday was reinforced by a senior police commander who said: “Beginning today, any gathering critical of the election would be illegal and police will deal with it firmly and with determination.”

“The organizers of these protests who have deceived the public will be prosecuted and dealt with legally,” deputy national police commander Ahmadreza Radan added.

Witnesses said they had seen Basij Islamic militia deploying across Tehran and one resident saw at least three buses full of Basij heading for the capital from the nearby city of Karaj on Saturday, as well as four trucks full of the motorcycles used by Basij militiamen during previous demonstrations.

“If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible,” the white-bearded Khamenei told huge crowds thronging Tehran University for Friday prayers.

State media have reported seven or eight people killed in unrest since the election outcome was published on June 13.

Scores of reformists have been arrested and authorities have cracked down on foreign and domestic media.

President Barack Obama condemned the violence carried out by security forces and believed Iranians should be free to protest, his spokesman said on Friday after Khamenei’s speech, sharpening the White House’s rhetoric over the post-election events.

In a sign of defiance, Mousavi backers took to Tehran rooftops after nightfall on Friday to shout Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), a deliberate echo of tactics in the 1979 revolution.

Khamenei called for calm in his country, a major oil exporter embroiled in dispute with major powers over its nuclear program, which the West suspects could be used to make bombs. Tehran says its nuclear work is peaceful..

He also attacked what he called interference by foreign powers who had questioned the result of the election.

Britain said it had summoned the Iranian ambassador to complain about Khamenei’s speech, in which he also called the British “the most treacherous” of Iran’s enemies.

Asked about the call by Khamenei for street protests to end, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday: “He (Obama) believes that those who wish to have their voices heard should be able to do that without fear of violence.”

The election result showed Mousavi won 34 percent of the votes to Ahmadinejad’s tally of nearly 63 percent.

Iran’s national security council dismissed a complaint Mousavi had written earlier this week about plainclothesmen using sticks and metal rods to attack protesters.

“Your national duty and responsibility would require that instead of raising charges against police or army forces … to try to avoid such illegal gatherings and not support them,” Fars News Agency quoted its secretary Abbas Mohtaj as saying.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran’s Mousavi Calls for National Strike if Arrested

TEHRAN, June 20 (Reuters) — Iran’s defeated presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi urged Iranians to stage a nationwide strike if he was arrested by the authorities, a witness said.

“In his address to his supporters in Jeyhun (a southwestern district of Tehran) Mousavi called on people to go on a national strike if he gets arrested,” the witness told Reuters.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran: ‘Arab Militias’ Attack Pro-Mousavi Protesters

Tehran, 19 June (AKI) — Supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi have reportedly claimed that pro-government Arab militias attacked protesters in Tehran following last week’s presidential elections. According to witnesses quoted by pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, undercover security agents gave the militias orders in Farsi while one of them translated the phrases in Arabic.

Witnesses claim that only after hearing the orders in Arabic would the militias begin attacking the demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them.

The witnesses claim Arab involvement the murder of at least eight protesters allegedly by pro-government Basij militias.

Unrest has grown in Iran since hardline presidential incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner in last Friday’s election — a vote the opposition claims was rigged.

According to official Iranian media, Ahmadinejad received 62.3 percent of the vote, or 24.5 million votes, compared to Mousavi’s 33.7 percent or 13.2 million votes.

Tens of thousands of people were reported to have taken to the streets of the Iranian capital Tehran following the election results.

Figures on the number of people killed in the unrest are impossible to verify as the Iranian government has imposed a ban on foreign media coverage.

However, rights group Iran Human Rights quoting ‘reliable sources in Tehran’ as saying earlier this week that least 32 people had died in clashes with security forces since the opposition protests began last Saturday.

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

Iran: ‘The Fear is Gone’

Editor’s note: The following are firsthand accounts that were solicited by Journal assistant editorial features editor Bari Weiss. Some were translated from Farsi. Surnames have been omitted to protect the writers.


At Ahmadinejad’s “victory” ceremony, government buses transported all his supporters from nearby cities. There was full TV coverage of that ceremony, where fruit juice and cake were plentiful. At most, 100,000 gathered to hear his speech, including all the militiamen and soldiers.

We reformists have no radio, no newspaper, and no television. All our Internet sites are filtered, as well as social networks such as Facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication were also cut off during the demonstrations. And yet we had hundreds of thousands, if not millions.


Older people compared Monday’s gathering to the demonstrations of 1979 which marked the downfall of the Shah’s regime. They even said that this event was larger.


Until a few days ago most people believed that this protest was just the voice of suppressed students and youngsters. But now we know this isn’t true. “No fear, no fear: We are together.” This is what we heard today from millions of people from different generations in Tehran.


“The fear is gone. Nothing seems to be an obstacle anymore. They can filter all the Web sites and shut down the Internet, SMS service, and mobile phones, but they cannot shut our mouths.” This is what I hear all the time.


I have never seen such a huge number of diverse people protesting in Iran. People are really angry and refuse to be patient. Ahmadinejad’s government challenged our honor. How can we trust anything when the government perpetrates such a big lie?

They don’t have pity on anyone. Some of the police cannot speak Farsi. I saw one of them beating a man as he cursed in Arabic. People say they are from Hezbollah.


The regime is also using psychological warfare to keep people in their homes, calling protestors “hooligans” and constantly warning parents to keep their sons and daughters inside so they don’t get killed.

But we are nonviolent. It is the Basij who attack protestors and set cars on fire. They do this so that the security forces have a pretext for using harsher tactics on the demonstrators. The security forces have knives, body armor, tasers and mace. It’s as though Iran is under invasion by a foreign government. They have killed many university students in the past few days.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iranian Opposition Leader: Vote Should be Annulled

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is repeating his demand that Iran’s presidential vote must be annulled.

A letter addressed to the country’s highest electoral authority was published on one of Mousavi’s official Web sites Saturday night as eyewitnesses reported clashes between his supporters and security forces.

Mousavi renewed the demand in unprecedented defiance of Iran’s supreme leader, who has effectively declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of the June 12 and ordered an end to protests by demonstrators who say Mousavi was the winner.

In the letter, Mousavi lists several allegations of voter fraud that calls proof the election should be held again. He didn’t mention Khamenei by name or say whether he supported ongoing street protests.

The letter was the first comment by Mousavi since Khamenei addressed the country during Friday prayers.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Police beat protesters and fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands who rallied Saturday in open defiance of Iran’s clerical government, sharply escalating the most serious internal conflict since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Eyewitnesses described fierce clashes after some 3,000 protesters, many wearing black, chanted “Death to the dictator!” and “Death to dictatorship!” near Revolution Square in downtown Tehran. Police fired tear gas, water cannons and guns but it was not clear if they were firing live ammunition.

Some protesters appeared to be fighting back, setting fire to militia members’ motorcycles, witnesses said. Helicopters hovered, ambulances raced through the streets and black smoke rose over the city.

Police and militia were blocking protesters from gathering on the main thoroughfare running east from Revolution Square to Freedom Square, the witnesses said.

A massive rally in Freedom Square Monday set off three consecutive days of protests demanding the government cancel and rerun June 12 elections that ended with a declaration of overwhelming victory for hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi says he won and Ahmadinejad stole the election through widespread fraud. Mousavi has not been seen since or issued public comment since a rally Thursday.

Web sites run by Mousavi supporters had said he planned to post a message, but there was no statement by the time of the planned street protests at 4 p.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT, 1130 GMT). Some pro-reform Web sites called for people to take to the streets.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sternly warned opposition leaders Friday to end street protests or be held responsible for “the bloodshed, the violence and rioting” to come. The statement effectively closed the door to Mousavi’s demand for a new election, ratcheting up the possibility of a violent confrontation.

As reports of street clashes became public, Iran’s English-language state TV said that a suicide bombing at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of central Tehran had killed one person and wounded eight. The report could not be independently confirmed due to government restrictions on independent reporting.

The channel also confirmed that police had used batons and other non-lethal weapons against what it called unauthorized demonstrations.

Amateur video showed dozens of Iranians running down a street after police fired tear gas at them. Shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” _ “God is Great” _ could be heard on the video, which could not be independently verified.

The witnesses told The Associated Press that between 50 and 60 protesters were hospitalized after beatings by police and pro-government militia. People could be seen dragging away comrades bloodied by baton strikes.

Police clashed with protesters around Tehran immediately after the presidential election. Gunfire from a militia compound left at least seven dead, but further force had remained in check until Saturday.

Eyewitnesses said thousands of police and plainclothes militia members filled the streets to prevent rallies. Fire trucks took up positions in Revolution Square and riot police surrounded Tehran University, the site of recent clashes between protesters and security forces, one witness said.

Tehran Province Police Chief Ahmad Reza Radan said that police would “crack down on any gathering or protest rally which are being planned by some people.” The head of the State Security Council also reiterated a warning to Mousavi that he would be held responsible if he encouraged protests.

Tehran University, which sits in the heart of downtown Tehran, was cordoned off by police and militia while students inside the university chanted “Death to the dictator!” witnesses said.

Shouts of “Viva Mousavi!” also could be heard. Witnesses said protesters wore black as a symbol of mourning for the dead and the allegedly stolen election, with wristbands in green, the emblem of Mousavi’s self-described “Green Wave” movement.

All witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared government reprisals for speaking with the press. Iranian authorities have placed strict limits on the ability of foreign media to cover recent events, banning reporting from the street and allowing only phone interviews and information from officials sources such as state TV.

“I think the regime has taken an enormous risk in confronting this situation in the manner that they have,” said Mehrdad Khonsari, a consultant to the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies.

“Now they’ll have to hold their ground and hope that people don’t keep coming back. But history has taught us that people in these situations lose their initial sense of fear and become emboldened by brutality,” he said.

Mousavi and the two other candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad had been invited to meet with Iran’s Guardian Council, an unelected body of 12 clerics and Islamic law experts close to Khamenei that oversees elections. Its spokesman told state TV that Mousavi and the reformist candidate Mahdi Karroubi did not attend.

The council has said it was prepared to conduct a limited recount of ballots at sites where candidates claim irregularities but Mousavi’s supporters did not withdraw his demands for a new election.

Both houses of the U.S. Congress approved a resolution on Friday condemning “the ongoing violence” by the Iranian government and its suppression of the Internet and cell phones.

The government has blocked Web sites such as BBC Farsi, Facebook, Twitter and several pro-Mousavi sites that are conduits for Iranians to tell the world about protests and violence.

Text messaging has not been working normally for many days, and cell phone service in Tehran is frequently down.

In an interview taped Friday with CBS, Obama said he is very concerned by the “tenor and tone” of Khamenei’s comments. He also said that how Iran’s leaders “approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard” will signal “what Iran is and is not.”

A spokesman for Mousavi said Friday the opposition leader was not under arrest but was not allowed to speak to journalists or stand at a microphone at rallies. Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf told the AP from Paris it was even becoming difficult to reach people close to Mousavi. He said he had not heard from Mousavi’s camp since Khamenei’s address.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Suicide Truck Bomb Kills 34 in Northern Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) — A suicide truck bomb killed at least 34 people leaving a mosque on Saturday, hours after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged Iraqis not to lose faith if a U.S. military pullback resulted in more insurgent attacks.

Almost all U.S. soldiers will leave urban centers by June 30 under a security pact signed by Baghdad and Washington last year, and the whole force that invaded the country in 2003 must be gone by 2012.

“Don’t lose heart if a breach of security occurs here or there,” Maliki told leaders from the ethnic Turkmen community, reiterating a warning that insurgents were likely to try to take advantage of the U.S. pullback to launch more attacks.

Analysts warn there may also be a spike in violence by mainly Sunni Islamist insurgents, including al Qaeda, and other violent groups ahead of a parliamentary election next January.

Hours after Maliki spoke, a suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with explosives as worshippers left a Shi’ite Muslim mosque near the northern city of Kirkuk, a city contested by Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds and which sits over vast oil reserves.

Thirty-four people were killed, including women and children and about 150 civilians were wounded as dozens of clay homes in the area were flattened. Many people were feared trapped under the rubble, and the death toll was expected to rise.

There was chaos at Kirkuk’s main Azadi Hospital, where ambulance sirens wailed as workers rushed blood-splattered civilians, including several children, into the wards.

Outside, security officials brandished assault rifles to stop traffic as pick-up trucks raced through the gates carrying more victims of the blast at the al-Rasul Mosque.


Such attacks, including a string of devastating bomb blasts in April, have cast doubt on the ability of Iraqi security forces to take over after U.S. troops leave.

The bloodshed diminished significantly in May, and June has also seen fewer large-scale attacks.

It is not clear if that is due to the efforts of Iraqi police and soldiers, or if it means that insurgent groups, beaten back over the past two years in most of Iraq, now lack the organization and support to keep up the momentum.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf said al-Qaeda was resorting to paying people to fight for it. It had also turned to criminal activities to raise funds.

“It is a very important development. It shows al-Qaeda is starting to loss its impact,” Khalaf told reporters. “Instead of recruiting people through faith or ideology, as it was in the past, now they are paying money to recruit people.”

The sectarian bloodshed and insurgency unleashed by the invasion peaked in 2006/07, but volatile and ethnically mixed cities such as Mosul and Baquba remain dangerous.

Baghdad has also continued to see a steady stream of bombings and shootings and Kirkuk is viewed as a potential flashpoint for a broader conflict between Arabs and Kurds.

Maliki, a Shi’ite, said the start of the U.S. withdrawal was a “great victory” for Iraq over foreign occupation.

“I, and you, are sure that many don’t want us to succeed and celebrate this victory,” he said. “They are getting themselves ready to move in the dark to destabilize the situation, but we will be ready for them, God willing.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

No Britain-Iran ‘Battle’: Miliband

LONDON (AFP) — Foreign Secretary David Miliband insisted that he would not allow Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to turn the Tehran protests into a “battle” between Britain and Iran.

Iran’s supreme leader singled out London for meddling in the disputed presidential elections, denouncing Britain as he handles the regime’s biggest crisis since the 1979 revolution.

But Miliband said the outcome of Iran’s presidential election was for the country’s people alone to decide.

“Dignity has been shown by the protesters on the streets of Tehran,” he wrote in The Sun.

“Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tried to blame the unrest on the West.

“But we will not allow anyone to turn scenes on the streets of Tehran into a battle between Britain and Iran. My message to the Iranian people is simple: the future of your country is for you to decide.

“But we need to know whether Iran is prepared to work with us to restore confidence in its nuclear intentions.

“We need to know if it is prepared to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Our generation is not going to meddle in their affairs. But we are seeking respect for basic human rights.

“What is happening in Iran will be resolved by Iranians — but it matters to the world.”

European leaders and US lawmakers have condemned the crackdown on protests in Iran after Khamenei rejected foreign criticism of post-election violence

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Qatar: Tradition Broken, Private Firms to Clean Mosques

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, JUNE 16 — Tenders have been issued for the hiring of private companies to carry out the cleaning of mosques in Qatar. The Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf) has taken the move in relation to mosques in Doha city and its suburbs, an official has said. In the past, cleaning of mosques was either carried out by the imams of the mosques or by volunteers and this is the first time private companies have been asked to do the job, The Peninsula reported, citing comments from Saad Omran Al Kuwari, General Service Director at Awqaf. “Six private cleaning companies will be selected for cleaning 500 mosques across the country,” he said in comments first published by Al Sharq. As a pilot project, Awqaf has hired two cleaning companies, one of which started cleaning 158 mosques in February, and the other started this month and is in charge of cleaning 97 mosques. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Theatre: Al Achkar, My Lebanon is Losing Its Young People

(by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 18 — “It’s sad to see the young people leave. And it’s sad to see that if they return, they find out that nothing has changed, that there’s no place for them in Lebanon” said Nidal Al Achar, the Lebanese director who tonight will present his play “In front of the Embassy gate, the night was long” in Naples. The play is about the long wait of a group of young persons waiting for a visa to leave the country. The Naples Theatre Festival Italy — 250 shows in 33 theatres and other places in the city, from June 4 to 28 — hosts the European debut of the play which made its debut in Beirut in October, where it was performed for 3-4 months before starting its international tour. The first stop was Bahrain, the second is Naples and then France and other countries will follow. Emigration is part of Lebanon’s history — Nidal Al Achkar continues — during the Ottoman Empire, the period of the country’s independence and the bloody wars of the past decades. An estimated one million persons left the country between 1975 and 2007, out of a total of four million inhabitants. People often leave to join the millions of relatives and friends, the director specifies, who live in America, Europe and the Gulf Region. Her sons Omar and Khaled have followed the same road, as well as most of their friends. Nidal Al Achkar has had the plan to make a play of the issue for ten years. With Issa Makhlouf and the cultural association Al Madina which she founded, she has finally succeeded in her goal. Outside the gate of the embassy where the 12 characters spend the night waiting, the young people start to feel a certain nostalgia for the old Lebanese songs and the “stories of the emigration of their fathers and grandfathers”, Al Achkar continued, but also a spectacular enthusiasm, reflected in the rap music “which embodies the obsession of these youngsters and their feelings”. Some of the emigrants may find a better life, the director added, some may become “better people, and this is the positive part of migration, but if they want to return they’ll find no place for themselves in Lebanon”. Because the problem with this country, she underlined, is that “hate and sectarianism” continue, “founded on religion and money. We need a radical change. If we don’t separate State from church and mosque we will always have a sectarian government and community. Lebanon needs a secular state, a civil society, modern laws and a change of mentality”. Of course, the Palestinian problem has a negative impact on the country, made worse, she underlines, by the “fanatics” in the new Israeli government. There was also an influence from countries like Syria, and in the most recent elections “the interference of foreign embassies, like those of the USA and Saudi Arabia. I was hoping for free elections, but they were not free at all”. The pro-Western ‘14 March’ coalition that won “still includes the same persons, who pretend to be democratic, but they don’t fool us, they keep the country in a stalemate”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

We Will Reach All Turks, Says Order

ANKARA — ‘Our goal is to put every Turk in contact with our movement,’ says Houston-based Gülen Institute Chairman Alp Aslandogan. He says the Gülen Movement developed as a result of distrust in governmental institutions.

With an alleged military plan targeting Islamist Gülen movement and the ruling party dominating political discourse this week, a representative from the Gülen community said their goal was to include every Turk in the movement. “Our goal is to put every Turk in contact with our movement,” said the Houston-based Gülen Institute Chairman Alp Aslandogan, speaking to daily Milliyet on Thursday.

“The movement developed as a result of the public distrust in the government’s other institutions,” he said. “The public realized that the movement wouldn’t abuse their money. Everybody is a potential target, and our door is open to everybody.”

‘Secret plan’

Turkey’s political agenda has recently been occupied with the alleged military plan that contains efforts to end the activities of religious movements, particularly the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the Gülen movement, which are accused of trying to undermine Turkey’s secular order and establish an Islamic state. The Gülen movement, an international network of people and groups sharing the ideas of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, who resides in the United States, shares Islam Sunni beliefs and promotes a life based on religious beliefs. The order runs dozens of schools, especially in Africa.

In response to a question on the financial situation of the order, Aslandogan said all who take part in the movement donated some amount of money in line with their incomes.

“A worker can donate $500 a year, but a businessman can donate $1 million per year,” he said. “There is no rule for it.” Noting that the donation tradition began during cordial home visits, he said every invited person was encouraged to bring people along for these visits. “This movement develops with such momentum that it will soon cover the majority of Turkey’s population,” Aslandogan said.

In response to claims that there were some partisan appointments, especially in the Education, Health and Justice ministries and that the staff are mostly chosen from the Gülen movement, he said partisan appointments occurred under every government. “In former administrations, however, our staff was excluded,” he said.

The remarks coincided with the meeting of the Abant Platform, a convention claimed to have links with the Islamic Gülen movement. The meeting is being held in Bolu’s Abant district with the participation of top government officials, Turkey’s chief EU negotiator Egemen Bagis and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç. Speaking at the convention, Arinç said the alleged military plan implied a kind of treason to the public. “This is a kind of treason to the public, the Constitution and democracy,” said Arinç.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Witnesses Report Fierce Clashes on Tehran Streets

TEHRAN, Iran — Witnesses said police fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands of protesters who rallied in Tehran Saturday in open defiance of Iran’s clerical government, sharply escalating the most serious internal conflict since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Eyewitnesses described fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protesters chanted “Death to the dictator!” and “Death to dictatorship!” Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, the witnesses said.

English-language state TV said a blast at the Tehran shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had killed one persona and wounded two but the report could not be independently confirmed due to government restrictions on independent reporting.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned opposition leaders on Friday to end street protests or be held responsible for any “bloodshed and chaos” to come.

Eyewitnesses contacted by The Associated Press said thousands of police and plainclothes militia members filled the streets Saturday to prevent rallies. Fire trucks took up positions in Revolution Square and riot police surrounded Tehran University, the site of recent clashes between protesters and security forces, one witness said.

Web sites run by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi said he planned to post a message, but there was no statement by the time of the planned street protests at 4 p.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT, 1130 GMT). Some pro-reform Web sites called for people to take to the streets

Tehran Province Police Chief Ahmad Reza Radan said earlier in the day “police forces will crack down on any gathering or protest rally which are being planned by some people.”

English-language state TV said the country’s highest national security body had ordered security forces to deal with the situation. It did not elaborate.

The government statements were the most explicit warnings yet of force against protesters who gathered in massive rallies last week to demand the government cancel and rerun elections that ended with a declaration of overwhelming victory for hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mousavi says he won but Ahmadinejad stole the election through widespread fraud.

Khamenei sided firmly with Ahmadinejad Friday, saying the result reflected popular will and ordering opposition leaders to end street protests or face the consequences.

The statement effectively closed the door to Mousavi’s demand for a new election, ratcheting up the possibility of a bloody confrontation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

World is Watching, Iran Told

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has warned Iran that “the world is watching” after its Supreme Leader ordered protesters to stop post-election demonstrations.

His warning came after Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Friday that further mass protests could end in “bloodshed” as demonstrators planned another rally for yesterday.

Ayatollah Khamenei issued the thinly-veiled threat in an uncompromising speech in which he said the result of the election would not be decided on the streets.

He used a speech during prayers at Tehran University to attack the West, especially Britain, and declare strong support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardliner who was declared the winner of the poll.

“Street demonstrations should end,” he said. “If they don’t, leading politicians will be held accountable for the chaos.

“The result of the election comes out of the ballot box, not from the street.

“The candidates in the election should be very careful what they say and how they behave. If they want to break the law, they will be responsible for the bloodshed, for the riots taking place and for any form of unrest.”

Ayatollah Khamenei blamed the street protests on foreign powers intent on destroying the Islamic regime. “Observe the hands of your enemies,” he said. “There are hungry wolves ambushing us and removing the diplomatic cover from their faces. They are showing their real faces. And the most evil of them all is the British Government.”

The attack prompted the Foreign Office to summon the Iranian ambassador in London for a dressing down.

President Obama told US broadcaster CBS: “I’m very concerned, based on some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made, that the Government of Iran recognise that the world is watching.

“And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and is not.”

Previously President Obama has said he did not want to be seen to be meddling in Iran’s affairs. But in a clear change White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the protests were “extraordinary” and “courageous”.

The US House of Representatives and Senate voted overwhelmingly for a resolution condemning violence directed at supporters of former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Protests began a week ago after officials announced that Mr Ahmadinejad had been re-elected as president with 63 per cent of vote. Mr Mousavi, who came second in the official tally, disputed the result.

The President’s stance was backed by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has vowed to speak out against abuses in Iran.

“I believe it is right for us to speak out for human rights, to speak out against repression, to speak out in condemnation of violence, to speak out where a free media is prevented from doing its job and we will continue to do that,” he said after an EU summit in Brussels.

On Tuesday Iran summoned British and Czech ambassadors to the foreign ministry in Tehran to protest against the reaction from London and the European Union to the post-election unrest.

“We are not the only country who is speaking out, the whole of the world is speaking out,” Mr Brown said. “It is for Iran to show the world the elections have been fair.”

Officials in Tehran took a cue from the Supreme Leader and made it clear that further dissent would be crushed. It remained uncertain if Mr Mousavi would climb down following a threat that the regime would unleash the Basij militia, a thuggish force set up to defend clerical rule

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Another Su 24 Falls From Sky

Russians ground all SU 24s

From our source in the Caucasus:

Reportedly, another SU-24 has fallen from the sky. This one happened in Rostov oblast (the previous one fell two days earlier in Murmansk oblast). Accordingly, Russia has taken the full SU-24 fleet off service pending investigation.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Hu Wraps Up ‘Breakthrough’ Visit to Russia

MOSCOW (AFP) — China’s President Hu Jintao on Thursday wrapped up a visit to Russia that has seen the two powers vow to beat the economic crisis and reverse plummeting trade by bolstering their strong ties.

After the talks Wednesday with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Chinese delegation met with Russian business leaders before heading to Slovakia on a two-day visit.

The leaders have been keen to play up the importance of gas and oil from Russia to energy-hungry China, including a loan deal worth 25 billion dollars for Russian oil supplies over the next 20 years through a new pipeline.

“We have started a complex cooperation in the oil sphere and reached an important breakthrough in the energy sphere,” Hu said.

This deal alone means China surpassed Germany and the Netherlands as Russia’s biggest trading partner in the first quarter of 2009 but volumes have fallen sharply, according to Kremlin figures.

China’s economic growth, which now far outpaces that of Russia, is another trend that will increasingly weigh heavily on the two countries’ relations, said Sergei Lusyanin, an expert with Moscow’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies.

“The weak link in their relations is the imbalance between Russian and Chinese trade. Russia exports raw commodities while China exports machinery and manufactured products,” he said.

Medvedev, however, cited bilateral trade with China worth more than 55 billion dollars in 2008, making no mention of the gloomier outlook for 2009.

Russia remains the main supplier of arms to China since the two countries normalised their relations in 1989 — the same year that Washington imposed an arms ban on Beijing — though those sales have slowed in the last five years.

But even as the two giants hailed their growing energy relations, trade in the sector is evolving only slowly, after the first talks on oil and gas cooperation were initiated in the 1990s.

Russian energy monopoly Gazprom said Wednesday a planned gas pipeline to China had been delayed until after 2011 after Beijing and Moscow were unable to agree on a price for the gas contract.

“This experience can be used in spheres other than the energy sector,” Medvedev said. Hu added: “In the midst of the global financial crisis, we are actively developing a practical cooperation in every sphere.”

The warming relations are a marked change from the Cold War era when the Soviet Union and China clashed for supremacy in the Communist world.

Both countries have taken great strides to put old rivalries behind them, ending just last year a decades-long dispute over their 4,300-kilometre (2,700-mile) border after a preliminary accord reached in 2004.

The joint declaration issued by Hu and Medvedev after their talks emphasised the two powers’ shared view on many issues, including a call to increase the voice of emerging economies on the world financial stage.

The two countries’ stances on how to battle the financial crisis are “close or matching,” the joint statement said.

China and Russia also agreed to boost the use of their domestic currencies in bilateral trade — a move which could lessen the dominance of the US dollar.

“The financial crisis is pushing the two countries toward new decisions, such as the plan to switch to their national currencies for bilateral projects,” Lusyanin said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Russia Ready to Reduce Nuclear Arms: Medvedev

AMSTERDAM (AFP) — Russia is ready to significantly reduce its nuclear arms, President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday ahead of scheduled talks on the topic with US President Barack Obama.

“We are ready to decrease the number of our strategic defence arms several times compared to START 1,” Medvedev told journalists in Amsterdam, referring to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Russia is re-negotiating with the United States.

The number of warheads should be “lower than in the Moscow agreement” he said, referring to a 2002 treaty that requires each side to limit its arsenal to a maximum of 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads by 2012.

Medvedev was speaking through an interpreter after meeting Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende on the last of a two-day official visit.

The president said he was looking forward “very optimistically” to the July US-Russia summit, hopeful of a revival of ties that “in previous years corroded quite a bit”.

“We want new, binding agreements” on the START treaty, Medvedev said, adding that international security “depends on relationships between states with nuclear potential”.

“We want a verifiable and real reduction of such arms.”

The 1991 US-Russia treaty, which limits the deployment of each country’s nuclear arsenals, is due to expire on December 5.

But negotiations on replacing or renewing the pact have hit several snags, including disagreement over US plans to deploy elements of a global missile shield in eastern Europe.

A third round of talks between officials of each side will take place in Geneva on June 23 and 24, the Russian foreign ministry said on Thursday.

“The talks are proceeding in a constructive and businesslike tone. We are working from the assumption that at the July summit the presidents will be able to announce the interim results,” a ministry spokesman told reporters in Moscow.

Medvedev and Balkenende said they had discussed issues of economic cooperation, particularly in the field of energy. Both countries are big natural gas producers.

“We discussed energy security and how this should be strengthened in Europe,” said Medvedev.

“We agreed to do that by strengthening the legal framework,” he added, without elaborating.

Later, the Russian president was to meet Dutch Economic Affairs Minister Maria van der Hoeven and the chief executives of several Dutch companies, including airline KLM, bank ING, electronics giant Philips, natural gas provider Nederlandsche Gasunie and oil concern Shell — some of the biggest investors in Russia.

The president would be flanked at these talks by Viktor Zubkov, vice prime minister and chairman of energy giant Gazprom.

The Netherlands is the biggest foreign investor in Russia as well as Moscow’s biggest export destination — at 11.9 billion euros (16.6 billion dollars) about eight percent of the global total in 2008, mostly petroleum products.

Moscow imported 6.6 billion euros worth of goods from the Netherlands in 2008, mainly vehicles and specialised machinery.

“Our important task is to maintain the same level of trade despite the economic crisis,” said Medvedev.

The Russian president and Dutch Queen Beatrix on Friday inaugurated the revamped Hermitage museum in Amsterdam, a satellite of the Saint Petersburg-based original.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Top Official Says Russian Energy Firms Can Go it Alone

MOSCOW (AFP) — Russian energy firms can develop the country’s immense oil and gas fields on their own, a top official said Friday, declaring that the era of production-sharing agreements with foreign companies was over.

The comments by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin were the latest sign that Russia is determined to maintain tight state control over the energy sector even as its development has been slowed by the global economic crisis.

“Current Russian production-sharing agreements will continue to go ahead but the system of production-sharing agreements will not have such importance in the future,” Sechin said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

“Our companies are able to develop on their own. They have sufficient experience and technical capacities,” added Sechin, a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who oversees the country’s energy sector.

Sechin was speaking at the annual general meeting of Russia’s biggest oil firm Rosneft, where he is also chairman of the supervisory board.

In the 1990s, the government and foreign companies signed numerous production-sharing agreements, or PSAs, giving Western oil majors access to vast untapped fields at a time when Russia was in a deep economic slump.

Under a PSA, the government guarantees a company stable conditions in exchange for a profit-sharing arrangement.

However, the company keeps all the profits until the point when it has recouped its costs in developing the field and only afterward does it begin sharing the gains with the government.

In recent years, an increasingly assertive Russia has turned against PSAs and made a series of moves to wrest control of energy projects from foreign companies.

In one well-known case in 2007, a consortium led by British-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell sold a majority stake in its Sakhalin-2 project to Russian state-run gas giant Gazprom after running into major legal difficulties.

Russian authorities had accused the consortium of environmental violations but analysts said the real target of Moscow’s anger was the PSA signed in 1994 that allowed Shell to reap profits from the immense oil and gas project.

Many of Russia’s energy reserves are in frigid and remote locations lacking basic infrastructure and are expected to cost billions of dollars (euros) to develop.

Sechin’s optimistic assertion that Russian firms can develop fields on their own comes at a time when the global economic crisis has slashed the profits of Russian energy companies and threatened their investment plans.

In one sign of slowing investment, Gazprom said Friday that it was delaying the launch of the huge Bovanenkovskoye gas field in the Arctic from 2011 to 2012 because of slumping demand.

“The global economic crisis has caused a negative influence on demand for gas in Russia and abroad, as well as on forecasts for its consumption in coming years,” Gazprom said in a statement announcing its decision.

Bovanenkovskoye, estimated to contain 4.9 trillion cubic metres of gas, is part of Gazprom’s multibillion-dollar “megaproject” on the Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic. The project is eventually expected to supply gas to Europe.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

New York Times Reporter Escapes Taliban Captivity

A New York Times reporter known for making investigative trips deep inside dangerous conflict zones escaped from militant captors after more than seven months in captivity by climbing over a wall, the newspaper said Saturday.

David S. Rohde was abducted Nov. 10 along with an Afghan reporter colleague and a driver south of the Afghan capital, Kabul. He had been traveling through Logar province to interview a Taliban commander, but was apparently intercepted and taken by other militants on the way.

The Times reported that Rohde and Afghan reporter Tahi Ludin on Friday climbed over the wall of a compound where they were held captive in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan.

The two then found a Pakistani army scout, who led them to a nearby base, the Times said. On Saturday, the two were flown to the U.S. military base in Bagram, the Times reported.

A U.S. military spokeswoman, Lt. Cmdr. Chrstine Sidenstricker, said the military had not been involved. She could not say whether the State Department or CIA had flown the two to the military facility.

Rohde, reported to be in good health, said his driver chose to remain with their captors and join the Taliban.

Afghan officials confirmed the kidnapping in the days after the abduction, but The Associated Press and most other Western news outlets respected a request from the Times to not report on the abductions because the publicity could negatively affect hostage rescue efforts and imperil Rohde’s life.

“From the early days of this ordeal, the prevailing view among David’s family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several governments and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages. The kidnappers initially said as much,” Bill Keller, the Times’ executive editor, said in a story posted on the Times’ Web site.

“We decided to respect that advice, as we have in other kidnapping cases, and a number of other news organizations that learned of David’s plight have done the same. We are enormously grateful for their support.”

The Times said there had been “sporadic communication” from Rohde and his kidnappers during the last seven months but that no ransom money had been paid.

Kristen Mulvihill, Rohde’s wife, told the Times that the two had been married for nine months, “and seven of those David has been in captivity.” She thanked the Times, the U.S. government and “all the others” who helped the family during the kidnapping.

Rohde was on leave from the Times when he was taken. He had traveled to Afghanistan to work on a book about the history of American involvement in Afghanistan when he went to Logar to interview a Taliban commander. Before setting out, he notified the Times’ bureau in Kabul on whom to notify if he did not return, the Times said.

Logar province, where Rohde was seized, has seen an influx of militants over the last two years. Residents last year said the government had little control outside the provincial capital and that Taliban and other militants frequently set up checkpoints on highways.

In January, the U.S. military deployed more than 3,000 troops to Logar and neighboring Wardak to combat the insurgent safe havens near Kabul’s doorstep.

It was not clear who took Rohde captive, and the Times did not reveal his abductors. Logar province has militants loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Omar but also to renegade warlord Siraj Haqqani, whom the U.S. has accused of masterminding beheadings and suicide bombings.

Violence has risen steadily across Afghanistan over the last three years, and Rohde was taken during a period when attacks against Westerners spiked. A Canadian journalist, Mellissa Fung, was kidnapped in Kabul and a Dutch reporter was taken just outside Kabul around the time Rohde was abducted.. Both were released within a month.

The militants who kidnapped Rohde transferred him about 100 miles (165 kilometers) southeast to Pakistan’s North Waziristan region. The Pakistan government said in a statement earlier this year that Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, had asked for its help in obtaining Rohde’s release.

Rohde’s father, Harvey Rohde, told the Times that he regretted that his son had made the trip but that he understood his motivation “to get both sides of the story, to have his book honestly portray not just the one side but the other side as well.”

Rohde was part of the Times reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize in May for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan last year.

He also won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting while working for The Christian Science Monitor for reporting on the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.

During that time, Rohde was taken prisoner by Serbian officials and held for 10 days, during which he was deprived of sleep and interrogated relentlessly, according to a Web page on Rohde created by journalism students at Columbia University. Serb officials accused him of being a NATO spy, the page says.

The Columbia site says Rohde knew the reporting trip would be dangerous and that his editors would likely not allow him to make it. So he sent his editors an e-mail that he knew they would receive too late to stop the trip, the site says.

When he was released, he was greeted by many cameras at the airport, which he did not like, his older brother, Lee Rohde, told the Times.

“The last thing he ever wants is to be the story. He’s supposed to be the storyteller,” Lee Rohde said.

Rohde is the author of “Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

No Place for Ikea in India

The plans of the Swedish giant to enter the Indian market failed. The norms for foreign investments that obligate at least a 49% investment by a local partner has forced them to postpone their plans for the opening of what would have been the first of 25 outlets, to an undefined future.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — IKEA, the Swedish giant, has decided to postponed its entry in the Indian markets to better times. They started off in this Asian country by hiring 25 people and they were planning to open their first outlet in a location between Delhi and Gurgaon. It would have been the first of 25 showrooms all over India. They were encouraged by the perspective of a new stable government. However the existing laws (Foreign Direct Investment — FDI) are very restrictive regarding foreign investments; the country’s norms on foreign investments in retail sectors stipulate that the foreign company can hold no more than 51% stake and must have an Indian partner. Unfortunately IKEA was not able to find an Indian partner with that much capital to put at stake and the Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, gives no hopes regarding changes in the FDI in the near future.

So IKEA has no other option than to wait for better times.

IKEA’s distinctive and sprawling show rooms require high investments and this multinational has been unable to find an Indian partner who sees the need of investing in this sector. The Management staff of IKEA hoped that rules would less restrictive with the coming of the new government, but now knows that these norms are not likely to be changed soon.

IKEA has already been sourcing many materials from India and employs around 11,000 people in this Asian country, added to which are other 60 thousand that it employs indirectly in related activities. The outsourcing business generated by IKEA in India is estimated to be around 350 million Euros.

Last year IKEA achieved a turnover of over 21 billion Euros, sells furniture and products for homes, has more 300 outlets in around 40 countries. Founded in the year 1943 in Sweden by Ingvar Kamprad and is owned by a Dutch-registered foundation controlled by the Kamprad family. IKEA is an acronym comprising the initials of the founder (Ingvar Kamprad), the farm where he grew up (Elmtaryd) and his home parish (Agunnaryd).

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

Taliban Gains Money, Al-Qaida Finances Recovering

He moved his finger slowly across his throat, to show that the Taliban kills truckers who don’t pay for safe passage through large swaths of territory near Afghanistan.

“The situation is very dangerous for us. We give them money or our fuel, or they kill us,” said Ghadr Gul, a middle-aged trucker, who reluctantly spoke to The Associated Press outside his oil tanker. Along the road, storage depots are piled high with the burned-out hulks of vehicles destroyed by the Taliban.

As the Taliban gains power in Afghanistan and Pakistan, its money is coming mostly from extortion, crime and drugs, the AP found in an investigation into the financial network of militants in the region. However, funding for the broader-based al-Qaida appears to be more diverse, including money from new recruits, increasingly large donations from sympathizers and Islamic charities, and a cut of profits from honey dealers in Yemen and Pakistan who belong to the same Wahabi sect of Islam.

“With respect to the Taliban, the narco dollars are a major if not majority of their funding sources, and I think add in there as well extortion and kidnapping,” said Juan Carlos, a former U.S. National Security Council adviser on terrorism who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “With al-Qaida I think it is a mixed bag. They draw benefits from the Taliban but they are not relying wholesale on narcotics. They still rely on sympathetic donors and to a certain extent charities.”

Afghanistan produces more opium than any other country in the world. The Taliban charges drug kingpins to move the opium through its territory, for what the United Nations estimates could run upward of $300 million annually.

The Taliban euphemistically refers to extortion money as tolls, taxes or even zakat, the 2.5 percent of donation to charity that Islam requires. A kidnapped Pakistani businessman had to pay more than 10 million rupees ($125,000) in ransom. When his Taliban captors freed him, he said, they told him, “Think of this as your zakat. Now your place in heaven is guaranteed.”

Money from drugs and criminal gangs make up roughly 85 to 90 percent of Taliban revenue, estimates John Solomon, a terrorism expert with U.S Military Academy’s Counter Terrorism Center. In Pakistan alone, Owais Ghani, governor of northwest Pakistan, puts the Taliban’s annual earnings at roughly four billion rupees ($50 million).

Taliban foot soldiers are paid $100 a month, almost $20 more than the average Pakistani policeman. A Taliban commander makes upward of $350 a month, or nearly a third of the average annual salary of most Pakistanis.

The money also goes a long way because explosives are available locally and cheaply, said a senior Pakistani security official. The explosive devices that kill U.S., NATO and Pakistani troops cost less than $100 each to make, said the official, who asked not to be named to avoid compromising his job. The training to make, place and detonate the devices likely comes from al-Qaida, he said.

The informal money transfer system known as hawala or hundi is also still flourishing in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe and the United States. During his tenure that ended in 2007, Pakistan’s former prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, said upward of $5 billion went out of Pakistan every year through this system, which operates without regulation and moves money with just a phone call. Mostly it’s corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen getting their ill-gotten windfalls out of the country, but terrorists also piggyback onto the system, say financial investigators.

In three of the last five years, the No. 1 source of money into Pakistan through this hawala system has been the United States, according to the Pakistani security official. He couldn’t say how much of the money went to terrorists and how much was sent from Pakistanis abroad to their families.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the financial crackdown closed some of al-Qaida’s most lucrative sources of funding. But with the help of the hawala system, al-Qaida has since re-established its money line, latching onto Taliban crime while making a modest comeback on illicit business and donations after the American-led invasion of Iraq, according to interviews with jihadis, traders, security officials and terrorism experts.

In the last two years, al-Qaida has turned up the call for donations, told new recruits to bring money with them, and shown signs of being more frugal. For analysts, that adds up to one of two things: Either al-Qaida is saving up for another 9/11-style attack, or the crackdown of the last nine years has curbed its fundraising abilities. It could mean both.

“Al Qaida has conserved its funding to allow for continued high-value training and plotting,” said Carlos, the terrorism adviser. “I think to a certain extent al-Qaida will find ways of funding more things that are important to them. And to a certain extent it might explain a lot of questions of why we haven’t seen another major attack on the scale of 9/11 __ in part because of the disruptive effort, part of it is luck and part of it is financing constraints.”

Estimates of al-Qaida’s annual budget needs vary wildly from $300 million to as low as $10 million.

Carlos, who estimates al-Qaida’s needs as “modest,” said its big expenses are payments to families; food and shelter to maintain operations; travel and logistics; money for cells engaged in plots; bribes, and expenses for longer-range plans such as an anthrax program.

Some Islamic charities with known al-Qaida connections have quietly renamed themselves and continued to operate. In Pakistan, charities with links to terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Qaida, but operating under new names, have cashed in on natural disasters such as the devastating 2005 earthquake and the current refugee crisis from the Swat Valley to replenish their finances. In Kuwait, the Revival Islamic Heritage Society, believed by the U.S. to heavily finance al-Qaida, still operates.

Because of demands from the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan has removed restrictions on the amount of money that can be brought into the country, said Pakistani financial intelligence director, Azhar Quereshi. But Pakistan has limited to $10,000 the money that can leave the country, cracking down on some of the biggest hawala dealers.

“Once the money is inside the country, it is difficult to locate it. Smugglers and transporters help finance the Taliban either out of sympathy for their cause or because they are being forced to give a share,” said the Pakistani security official who asked not to be identified.

Militants also said a cartel of Pakistani honey dealers is back in business, laundering money and moving drugs to support al-Qaida. The scale is smaller than in 2001, but revenues to the terrorists are steady.

A former fighter with Afghanistan’s wanted guerrilla leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said honey is sent from Pakistan with an inflated price tag to markets in the Middle East _ mostly Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Kuwait. The profits are returned and sent by courier to al-Qaida.

Honey dealers in Peshawar who didn’t want to be identified for fear of harassment by the authorities said that there is no al-Qaida link to their sales. One honey dealer said the outlawed Al Shifa Honey Press still operates in Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province but said he knew of no al-Qaida affiliation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Free But “Guilty” the Girl Who Killed the Communist Leader Who Wanted to Rape Her

According to judges she used “excessive force” during the rape attempt. The sentence seeks to please both communist authorities and public for whom the girl is a hero.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Deng Yujiao, the girl who stabbed to death a man who was trying to rape her has been released, but judged “guilty of excessive force”.

Deng, 21, a hotel waitress from Hubei, killed 44 year-old party official Deng Guida, with a fruit knife on May 10 when he forced himself on her in a hotel bathing area. She injured another official who tried to assault her. She then turned to the police for help.

Police detained her for murder, but her story spread and brought an outpouring of support and sympathy on the internet from people all over the mainland, who and criticised the dead official for being immoral and Badong police for what many saw as an unjust charge. As a result the police released her under house arrest.

Yesterday a Badong court sentenced her for “excessive use of force”, but freed her because she acted out of self-defence and also because — according to court officials — the girl suffers ““a certain level of mental disorder”. Judges maintain the fact she turned to the police belies her guilt.

Activists who support the girl are happy she was not arrested but describe her sentencing “in just”. The charge aims to please both the authorities in judging the girl guilty; and the general public who view Deng Yujiao as heroic.

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

US Destroyer on Course to Search Suspected North Korean Arms Ship

Tension was growing in the Pacific today as the US navy prepared to intercept a North Korean cargo ship suspected of carrying weapons in defiance of a United Nations ban.

The US navy has been tracking the Kang Nam since it left a North Korean port on Wednesday.

It would be the first ship to be intercepted since the UN last week imposed sanctions on North Korea as punishment for conducting an underground nuclear test last month. The sanctions ban the import and export of nuclear material, missiles and all other weapons other than small arms.

A destroyer, the USS John McCain (named after the father of the Republican senator and failed presidential candidate, who was an admiral), was awaiting orders to intercept the ship off the Chinese coast. The UN sanctions allow the US to hail a North Korean ship and demand to be allowed to conduct a search, but not to forcibly board it.

North Korea has said a forcible search would be regarded as an act of war.

Reflecting heightened tension, the US yesterday began moving radar systems and ground-to-air missiles to Hawaii. The Pentagon said it fears Pyongyang could test-fire an intercontinental missile in the direction of Hawaii over the next few weeks in retaliation for the UN sanctions.

US officials designated the Kang Nam as being of “special interest” soon after it left port.

If the North Koreans refuse to allow a US crew to search the ship, the US could order it into the nearest port. Failing that, the John McCain could closely follow the ship until it reaches port. The US would then be entitled to demand, under the UN sanctions agreement, that that country inspect the ship.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters at the Pentagon: “Without going into specific details, clearly we intend to vigorously enforce the UN security council resolution.”

Republicans, including John McCain, have criticised the UN resolution for being too weak because it does not make such searches at sea mandatory.

McCain on Tuesday described interceptions without mandatory searches as “a half measure” and called for a tougher response. “Those ships should be stopped and searched if there is probable cause,” he said.

But Mullen said the US would first try “hail and query” and if that failed, direct the ship to a port where the country would be required to inspect the vessel. He refused to confirm that the Kang Nam was the ship being tracked or to say what the ship might be carrying.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, sitting alongside Mullen, told reporters he was taking seriously the possibility of a North Korean missile launch in the direction of the US. “We’re obviously watching the situation in the North, with respect to missile launches, very closely,” he said. “And we do have some concerns, if they were to launch a missile to the east, in the direction of Hawaii.”

Gates has ordered the deployment of anti-ballistic missiles to the islands. The THAAD (Theatre High-Altitude Area Defence) missiles do not carry warheads but are intended to collide with incoming missiles. He has also directed that an array of floating radars be positioned round Hawaii, to track incoming missiles.

“So, without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say, we are — I think we are — in a good position, should it become necessary to protect American territory,” Gates said.

In contrast with Iran and other foreign policy hotspots where the Obama administration is pursuing a softly-softly approach, it is toughening its position towards North Korea, frustrated that Pyongyang rebuffed diplomatic overtures and incentives offered by the Bush administration.

Washington wants Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table to discuss the decommissioning of facilities aimed at creating nuclear weapons.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Broken Neck? Take a Panadol

A MAN who broke his neck in a freak accident was sent home and told to take Panadol after hospital staff failed to diagnose his life-threatening injury.

Paul Curtis, 31, endured two days of increasing pain and fear after a doctor in the emergency department at Sydney’s Ryde Hospital sent him away without ordering an X-ray.

He went back to the hospital where another doctor ordered tests. He said Mr Curtis was lucky to be alive or not in a wheelchair.

The Carlingford man went to Ryde Hospital late on Friday May 29 after he and a friend cracked their heads during a church youth group activity.

“I drove home but I didn’t feel right and my housemate, a nurse, thought I wasn’t looking very good,” he said.

“I told the hospital staff I had had a serious head collision and the nurse noticed a mark on the back of my neck.

“After 2 hours I saw the doctor and told him my neck was sore. He told me I couldn’t have an X-ray because the X-ray unit was shut and told me I would be fine.

“He told me to go home and take some Panadol.”

By Monday his condition had worsened and he returned to the hospital where another doctor ordered an X-ray and a CT scan.

With the break detected, he was put in a brace and sent by ambulance to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he later had surgery and a plate inserted in his spine.

“I was crapping myself when they told me my neck was broken — I had been walking around like that for two days,” Mr Curtis said. “There was a chip out of my spine and the doctor said it was lucky it hadn’t severed my spinal cord.”

A Ryde Hospital spokeswoman said Mr Curtis had not complained of a loss of consciousness and told emergency staff he had taken Panadol for the pain.

She said hospital records from the Friday night did not show any discussion about an X-ray but said radiologists could be called back to the hospital after 11pm if required. Hospital records showed he returned to Ryde at 9.08am on the Monday, and was in an ambulance en route to Royal North Shore at 9.21am.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said: “It was nothing more than luck that saved this man from sustaining further damage as a result of not being treated properly — quite frankly the fact he was sent home with the injuries he had is enough to send shivers down the spine.

“The Rees Labor Government has failed to provide Ryde Hospital with the resources it needs to deal with cases like this.

“Ryde Hospital clearly doesn’t have enough funding or staff skill mix to deal with cases like this, and that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Health Minister John Della Bosca and his incompetent area health services.”

Ryde MP Victor Dominello, a Liberal, defended hospital staff, saying it was not their fault they did not have sufficient resources to treat patients properly.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigerian Proclaims Amnesty for Militants Next Week: Official

ABUJA (AFP) — Nigerian President Umaru Yar?Adua will next week proclaim an amnesty for Niger Delta militants who surrender their arms and embrace peace, a presidential spokesman said Thursday.

The announcement came shortly after a meeting between Yar’Adua and members of the presidential panel on the issue.

“After much deliberation, it was decided that the president holds a meeting with the National Council of State next week Thursday after which the proclamation of the amnesty will be made the same day by the president,” his spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi told reporters.

The meeting, which discussed “the roadmap” for the granting of the amnesty, was attended by leaders of the senate and the lower house of parliament, the service chiefs, the ministers of defence and internal affairs and some state governors from the Niger Delta.

The National Council of State comprises former heads of state, senate president, speaker (head) of the lower house of parliament, state governors and chief justice of the federation.

Yar’Adua had on Tuesday in Abuja made a fresh amnesty offer to militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta and promised that an amnesty centre would be set up.

It was the second time this month that Yar’Adua had repeated his offer after it had been rejected by the rebels.

“I make bold to say that it will be a great pleasure for me to personally accept the first militant leader who takes advantage of this amnesty, to encourage others to do so, so that they can have confidence that we are sincere, honest in granting of this amnesty,” he said.

“I welcome any leader and all its members who are ready to accept the granting of amnesty by government,” he added.

Dozens of soldiers and militants have been killed in the past six weeks in clashes as security forces stepped up action against militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

The armed group claims to be fighting for a larger share of oil wealth for impoverished communities in the Niger Delta.

The MEND has been accused of being behind a spate of abductions, mostly of foreign oil workers, the theft of crude, extortions and destruction of oil installations and facilities in the region.

The delta unrest has reduced Nigeria’s daily output to 1.76 million barrels compared with 2.6 million barrels in January 2006.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Somali Appeal for Foreign Troops

The speaker of Somalia’s parliament has called for neighbouring states to send troops to the country within 24 hours.

Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur made the appeal as fierce fighting that has spread to the north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, continued for a second day.

Islamist forces battling the country’s transitional government briefly took over a police station and other key buildings in Karan district.

Thousands are fleeing the area, previously a refuge for the displaced.

“The government is weakened by the rebel forces,” AFP news agency quoted Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur as saying.

“We ask neighbouring countries — including Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Yemen — to send troops to Somalia within 24 hours.”

Somalia has been without a effective government since 1991. Its UN-backed, transitional government controls only parts of Mogadishu, and little of the rest of the country.

High-profile killings

Several thousand Ethiopian troops left Somalia in January after a two-year intervention in support of the transitional government.

There are some 4,300 African Union troops deployed in Mogadishu, but they lack any mandate to pursue the insurgents.

Reuters news agency quoted a spokesman for militant Islamist group al-Shabab as warning Kenya not to intervene.

“If it tries to, we will attack Kenya and destroy the tall buildings of Nairobi,” Sheik Hasan Yacqub told reporters in southern Somalia.

Kenya had said it would not stand by and let the situation in Somalia deteriorate further because it would destabilise the region, Reuters reported.

Pro-government forces have been fighting radical Islamist guerrillas in the capital since 7 May.

On Friday, gunmen killed Mohamed Hussein Addow, a politician who represented Karan.

It was the third killing of a high-profile public figure in as many days.

Somalia’s security minister — an outspoken critic of the militant Islamist group al-Shabab — was killed in a suicide attack in the northern town of Beledweyne, and Mogadishu’s police commander was also killed this week.

Militant groups including al-Shabab, which is accused of links to al-Qaeda, have been trying to topple Somalia’s government for three years.

A moderate Islamist president took office in Somalia in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the guerrillas.

Some four million people in Somalia — or about one-third of the population — need food aid, according to aid agencies.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


As Hate-Filled Mobs Drive Romanian Gipsies Out of Ulster, We Ask Who’s Really to Blame?

On a piece of waste ground poisoned by toxic chemicals, a group of teenagers were indulging in an age-old ritual this week.

They were making a giant bonfire from old crates and timber stolen from derelict buildings.

When a huge pyre had been erected, the youths retired to admire their work from the ‘den’, a hut they’d built for their gang from scrap and furnished with sofas found dumped on the street.

There were even broken venetian blinds at the front of the hut, which twisted and moaned in the wind.

Next month, on July 11, the night before the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne — when Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James in 1690 — the bonfire will be set ablaze.

Along with hundreds of other bonfires lit across Belfast that night, the flames are meant to remind the Catholic majority of that historic Protestant victory, and serve warning that Loyalists will still fight fire with fire if any attempt is made to separate them from British rule.

Yet, as they prepared their fire to coincide with Ulster’s ‘marching season’, it transpired that this generation of young men had also been involved in a sinister, disturbing new ritual: mounting racial attacks on the ‘foreigners’ in their midst.

With swastikas daubed on the walls of their den, these youths — aged from 14 to 20 — admitted they had been present during the attacks on Romanian immigrants this week that made headlines around the world.

‘So what if we were?’ said one, curling his lip. ‘They had it coming.’

To cries of anguish from politicians and citizens alike, the tumultuous events of the past week have again thrust Belfast to the forefront of world attention, after more than 100 Romanian gipsies, known as Roma, were forced to flee in terror when gangs armed with bottles and rocks drove them from their homes.

In echoes of the sectarian violence at the height of The Troubles, when those from the ‘wrong’ religion were burned out of their homes, these attacks happened in an affluent, liberal part of the city, home to Queen’s University and countless trendy bars and bistros.

Violence flared when more than 30 youths gathered outside the homes of about 20 Roma on Sunday night, taunting and jeering and smashing their windows.

They came again the following night, hurling rocks and bottles at the windows and making Nazi salutes.

The Romanian families, including a five-day-old baby girl, cowered inside as the mob shouted and swore that the foreign gipsy ‘scum’ should pack up and go — or face the consequences.

After police were called, the mob was dispersed and about 20 Romanian families emerged from their damaged homes. Clutching old suitcases and blankets, and looking terrified as the cameras recorded their every move, they were given shelter in a local church hall.

But their numbers grew. By Wednesday morning, 115 Roma had congregated, telling the authorities that they did not feel safe in their own homes. As one man lugged an accordion past the waiting photographers, and women sobbed, pictures of these pitiful scenes went round the world.

After being moved into a leisure centre, where mattresses were spread out on indoor tennis courts and local people donated soup and sandwiches, the few Romanians who could speak English claimed that some of the attackers had been armed with guns, although the police later said they had no evidence to support this.

‘They made signs like they wanted to cut my brother’s baby’s throat,’ said Couaccusil Filuis, who’d come from a

village near Bucharest, the Romanian capital. ‘They said they wanted to kill us. We are very scared. We have young children. We could go back to Romania, but we have no money. We have to stay here.’

Strugurel Teglas, another Roma, who had been selling newspapers and washing cars in Belfast, said: ‘No money for food in Romania.

‘Romania no job. Belfast job. But ten persons come. They drink. They broke in the house. They no good.’

Understandably, the scenes of foreigners being evacuated with their belongings were received with horror.

This, after all, is a city still nervously emerging from decades of violence and bloodshed. The last thing anyone wants to see is new fissures in Ulster’s tragic history of ethnic hatred.

Indeed, so appalled was Naomi Long, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, that she was in tears when she was asked about the violence.

‘A minority of people in this city have brought shame on us and I urge the good people of Belfast, the overwhelming majority, to co-operate with the police and bring the perpetrators of these racist attacks to justice.’

As Gordon Brown called on the authorities to take all possible action to end the violence, and former IRA terrorists now sharing power condemned those involved in the violence, Mrs Long pledged to do everything possible to persuade the Romanians to stay in Northern Ireland.

‘If they go back to Romania, the thugs will think they have won,’ she added. ‘That is the last thing we want. We must find them permanent new homes.’

Not everyone shares her sentiments. There was fury in The Village, a rugged working-class area a mile from the attacks, some of whose residents joined the mob wanting to drive the Roma out.

With murals of the Queen painted on walls and Union Jacks fluttering from virtually every window, the people of The Village are incensed at the ‘special treatment’ they say immigrants receive, while they themselves live in grim terrace homes with outside toilets.

‘These people are sly,’ said Annie Johnson, a local woman. ‘It’s all just a racket — they put on their sad faces and get moved to the top of the queue for housing.

‘Politicians are full of cr*p. They leap into action at the first mention of racism — but what about the poor people who have lived here all their lives?’

Opinion has been inflamed not only by the crimes the police and locals agree some of the Roma commit — but also by the fact that no one has even been able to debate the issue of their presence in the city without being accused of racism .

Ian Magill, 45, runs the only shop in The Village, which was once a stronghold for Loyalist terrorists. He is a calm, intelligent man, whose greatest wish is that his three sons do not get into trouble with the law.

Dominic, his youngest son, was adopted from Croatia, so Mr Magill can hardly be described as someone with a hatred of foreigners.

But he is under no illusions about why people from his area were involved in the violence.

‘People feel like they are under siege because of all the immigrants coming in,’ he said. ‘It’s getting to the stage where people just don’t care any more.

‘You get branded a racist if you speak out about the issue of immigration. But I think I’m being a realist, not a racist, when I say that this is something we must address.

‘Most of the Polish immigrants work — but these people [Romas] don’t,’ he added.

‘They are pretty uneducated and they seem to think that the only way they can survive is to bend the rules.

‘But when you are doing this, and carrying out crimes against local people, it becomes a problem. They shouldn’t be here.’

Not all Mr Magill’s fellow citizens are as considered as he is.. At a nearby off-licence, a young, welldressed man of about 30 erupts in anger.

He says all these ‘foreigners should be burned out of their f****** homes. All we hear about are their problems. For once, why don’t you write about the problems these people cause to us locals’.

He is referring to a wave of petty crime that has swept Belfast over the past two years — the period in which the Roma have arrived.

The crimes, confirmed by police, range from ‘mobbing’ elderly ladies at cashpoint machines, distracting them while they steal cash, to using razor blades to slice the straps of handbags and disappear with possessions before anyone knows.

Roma have also been linked with prostitution and people trafficking. But it is the petty crimes that are causing such fury.

Countless people I spoke to in The Village reported clothes being stolen from their washing lines — one man claimed to have seen a Roma wearing his distinctive jeans, which had disappeared while hanging out to dry, only for the thief to laugh in his face — and children’s bikes being taken from back yards.

Of course, no one is suggesting that every Roma in Belfast is a criminal. And it’s also true that many in the province are deeply troubled by the presence of any foreigners, however law-abiding they might be.

Northern Ireland during The Troubles was hardly an ideal destination to start a new life — with more than 3,000 murdered during the decades of bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants.

Things changed after the 1998 peace agreement, however, and as Britain’s borders were thrown open by Tony Blair, Ulster became a popular destination for immigrants from Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The British government, of course, insisted that only 20,000 people would come from Europe. In reality, a staggering 600,000 poured into the United Kingdom, putting a huge strain on health services, housing and jobs.

But it was the admission of Romania to the EU in 2007 that caused the gravest problems.

Interpol has since warned that organised criminals among the Romanian immigrants are stealing from indigenous populations on the orders of gangsters back home.

British police said last year that they were struggling to cope with a staggering 800 per cent increase in crimes, such as pickpocketing, committed by Romanians since they started coming to Britain in large numbers.

Forces in Germany and France have also reported more crime, some of it violent. In Italy, murders, rapes and kidnappings have been blamed on the newcomers.

Inevitably, there is a danger that Roma are unjustly blamed for the crimes of others. But acts of retaliation are taking place everywhere.

Marian Mandache, of Romani Criss, a group dedicated to helping the gipsies, says the violence in Belfast follows a disturbing trend of assaults on the Roma across

Europe. ‘Starting in Italy, there have been waves of attacks — as well as in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, everywhere.’

Racial tensions are rising throughout Europe as the pace of immigration intensifies and economies deteriorate. In Italy, the authorities have started fingerprinting Roma immigrants and repatriating them after their alleged crimes led to waves of brutal, retaliatory attacks by locals.

More than 1,000 Roma have arrived in Northern Ireland.

Few speak English and ‘begging gangs’ now operate throughout Belfast.

Local tourism websites are clogged with comments about aggressive beggars, pickpockets and con artists — though clearly they are not all Roma.

‘The fact is, we’ve seen a lot of things change here — foreign people selling the Belfast Telegraph on the streets, something you didn’t see before,’ said Jolena Flett of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities.

‘They are easily identifiable. When people are looking for a fight, as a lot of people are now, just because of frustrations in their own lives, anything will spark it off.’

Of course, no right-thinking person can condone the attacks that have seen the Roma families moved this weekend to a new, secret location.

Yet it is the lack of debate (or action) on immigration by politicians that has contributed to these festering frustrations, just as it has led to the appalling spectre of two seats for the British National Party in this month’s European elections.

In The Village, people are taking the law into their own hands. There are countless derelict, boarded-up homes after people have been ‘put out’ — slang for driven from the area.

But it’s not just immigrants: many white Northern Irish families have been sent packing as well; anyone, in fact, caught indulging in ‘ antisocial behaviour’ — from having late-night parties to stealing or dealing in drugs.

Back at the Loyalist ‘den’ on wasteland, the youths say they are simply doing what their communities have done for years: policing and punishing the criminals among them. ‘Putting them out of their homes’ can even involve petrol bombs being thrown through the windows.

‘We see them [Roma] sneaking about, looking in our dad’s car windows and eyeing up our bikes,’ said one of the youths, none of whom would give their names. ‘There were fights with some of them a few weeks back.

‘We just can’t be having them doing these sorts of things. We need to stand up and be counted.’

Tragically, it doesn’t occur to them that they are now visiting on these newcomers to Belfast the same mindless prejudice, hatred and violence that was once inflicted on them by the IRA.

Perhaps the last word should go to 39-year-old Belfast delivery driver Anton Bremner. ‘In 1969, people were chased out of their homes because of religion,’ he said. ‘Now it’s because of race.

‘The last thing anyone needs here is more division and conflict. For God’s sake, after all the bloodshed over the years, can’t we all just live peacefully alongside our neighbours, whatever religion or race?’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

EU Summit: Special Measures for Malta

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Heads of state and government have agreed on a “determined” response to illegal immigration “based on resoluteness, solidarity and shared responsibility”. In the written conclusion of the EU Council they underlined the need to develop this approach “with special attention to the countries of origin and of transit”. Regarding the reallocation of those enjoying international protection, the Council asks for a coordination of voluntary measures “in the member states exposed to specific and disproportionate pressure”, adding that it “recognises the intention of the Commission to undertake initiatives in this respect, particularly for Malta”. In the meantime, a boat with 76 migrants on board, sighted yesterday 29 miles south of Lampedusa in waters where Malta is responsible for search and rescue operations, has been intercepted by a patrol boat of the Italian Coastguard. According to Maltese military sources, the non-EU citizens on board, including women and children, have been handed over to a Libyan patrol boat and taken back to Tripoli. The boat was spotted yesterday afternoon by a private Maltese aircraft which was flying over the Strait of Sicily. A German military aircraft of the joint Frontex patrol mission in the Mediterranean, stationed at the Maltese airport of Luqa, was also sent to the area. According to the same sources, the immigrants were handed over this morning to a Libyan military unit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Risks Doubling Numbers, Only 5% From Sea

(by Orlando Piantadosi) (ANSAmed) — NAPLES — According to Gian Carlo Blangiardo, lecturer in demographics at Milan-Bicocca State University and head of the Ismu Foundation’s statistics department, “If the increase recorded over the past two years continues, we will find ourselves in a situation where we may see Italy’s population of foreign-born residents double every five years. At the moment there are more that 4 million people of foreign origin living in Italy with legal permits, however there are also around 650 thousand illegal residents present. Thirty-five to thirty-six thousand people, around 5% of the total, arrive on Italy’s shores from the Mediterranean, while the other 95% come from the East, often carrying tourist visas. The “tough action” undertaken by the government, such as turning back and repatriating those 5%, is therefore of questionable value as a policy, apart from being damaging to human rights. Although “easy for a government trying to control illegal immigration to rationally justify,” this action manages to stop only a small number of the illegal immigrants who try to reach Italy. Most immigrants choose to remain in Italy, while others travel to other European countries or claim political asylum. Most find a job on the black market while waiting for a permit enabling them to work legally. Blangiardo observed that the exponential growth in the number of paperless migrants arriving in the country, coupled with the lack of access to services, could trigger “a war between the poor” and that containment measures must be implemented “in the interest of the foreign population.” Immigration can be positive for a country for three fundamental reasons: immigrants increase the birth rate, make welfare contributions and help balance out supply and demand on the job market, although these are factors that “have to be analysed correctly, and not dramatised.” Blangiardo continued, “Increasing the birth rate in a country whose birth rate is currently at zero is important, but we must also remember that this will not solve the problem on a medium or long-term basis.” Another, more controversial, topic is the drop in the available workforce in Italy, which could be compensated for by using immigrant workers. By 2030 there will be 4.5 million fewer potential Italian workers and 2.7 million more potential foreign workers. “All this is based on forecasts such as those carried out by ISTAT,” the Italian statistics agency, “who expect a net yearly influx of 200 thousand people, just slightly less than half the number of immigrants who entered in country in the last two years.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maroni Says Accord With Libya in Force Soon

(ANSAmed) — LE BOURGET (FRANCE), JUNE 18 — “Over the next few days we will be deciding on the actions needed to bring the Italy-Libya accord into force as concerns the system for border control in southern Libya, with Finmeccanica directly involved, having developed a radar-satellite surveillance system.” These were the words of Italian Interior Minster Roberto Maroni, who added that it is “a fundamental step to continue collaboration.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Taiwan, US Break Up Human Smuggling Ring

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan and the U.S. have broken up a multimillion dollar ring responsible for smuggling scores of young Chinese women into the United States, an official said Friday.

Gilbert Chen of Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency’s Border Affairs Corps said the agency has turned over 74 people to prosecutors in connection with the case, following a joint investigation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Chen told The Associated Press that over the past two years, the smuggling ring obtained Taiwanese passports with U.S. visas for more than 40 Chinese women _ most of them 17-19 years old _ who are now in the U.S. Authorities are trying to determine if they are working as prostitutes, he said.

The ring _ led by three Taiwanese and one Chinese _ used biographical information fraudulently obtained from young Taiwanese aboriginal girls as a basis for its scheme, Chen said, exploiting the fact that the U.S. does not conduct visa interviews for people under 14 years of age.

“The group then used the information together with photos of the Chinese women to apply for Taiwanese passports,” he said, adding that each woman paid the traffickers $60,000-$70,000, or a total of more than $3 million.

Chen said that the ring recruited around 30 Taiwanese women to masquerade as the Chinese women’s legal guardians on the trip to the U.S. The escorts were given free plane tickets, food and accommodation _ along with a $1,000-$1,500 fee.

The discovery of the ring could undermine recent Taiwan efforts to enter the State Department’s Visa Waiver Program, which would allow island nationals to visit the U.S. on tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa.

The visa waiver has been a top priority of President Ma Ying-jeou, but some American officials have complained about the lack of due diligence in issuing Taiwanese passports.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Cost of Keeping Failed Asylum Seekers Has Soared From £4m to £73m in Just Four Years, Minister Admits

Taxpayers are paying £73million to house and feed failed asylum seekers who should have been deported — a huge leap from the £4million spent just four years ago.

Ministers have admitted the increase is due to the huge backlog of failed claimants, who cannot be removed despite judges ruling they have no right to stay here.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has now blamed lawyers for the rise, saying they were ‘frustrating’ the Government’s efforts to deport failed asylum seekers.

He said many were ‘paralysing’ the asylum process by arguing that their clients cannot be returned to their homelands because of conflict or because they are unwell.

But the Refugee Council, which provides advice to asylum seekers, has hit back, saying the Home Office was running a system that is ‘under-resourced’ and plagued with ‘administrative problems’.

The shocking Government figures were revealed by Mr Woolas in a parliamentary answer to Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather.

They show that, in the financial year 2007/08, about 9,365 failed asylum seekers received £73million in accommodation and food allowances — about £8,000 a year or £150 a week for each claimant.

A spokesman for the Home Office admitted that the number of failed asylum seekers claiming assistance had more than doubled from 5,180 in 2004/05 to 10,850 by the first quarter of this year.

But he insisted the rise was due to failed claimants becoming more aware they are entitled to receive benefits under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

It states that those who can prove they are destitute can claim free accommodation and £35 a week in food vouchers.

Although the support is meant to be temporary, in reality most who qualify will continue to receive it as their lawyers engage in protracted legal battles against their removal.

Mr Woolas said: ‘A large proportion of those on Section 4 support have exhausted all rights of appeal and should return home, but their lawyers are continuing to frustrate and delay removals, playing the system and offering false hope.’

However, a spokesman for the Refugee Council said: ‘The Home Office asylum process is extremely under-resourced and it has real administrative problems that have caused the backlog of removals.’

Damian Green, Tory immigration spokesman, said: ‘It’s simply not good enough for Ministers to blame lawyers for the shambles in the whole system. The Government needs very urgently to do something about the rising cost.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

PETA: Murder Boys But Not Flies!

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Graphic description of Che Guevera’s execution squad and their pet dog.]

“Human beings often don’t think before they act,” laments PETA while explaining their reaction to President Obama’s unthinking fly “execution.” “We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals.”

Close on the heels of their consciousness-raising campaign for fly compassion, PETA has launched a vegetarian campaign using Che Guevara’s 24 year-old granddaughter, Lydia, dolled up in commie beret and topless, though strategically covered by twin bandoliers of carrots. “Join the Vegetarian Revolution!” reads the campaign’s slogan, which will debut in Argentina (no less, where lamb is considered a vegetable) this fall, then goes international.

“Revolution runs in my blood,” chirped Lydia in a recent interview with Spain’s El Mundo. “I will never soil the great things achieved by my grandfather.”

“It’s a homage of sorts to her grandfather,” explains PETA publicity chief Michael McGraw about the organization’s ad.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Washington Post Columnist: Christians ‘Pernicious’

Uses review of gardening book to deliver missionary dig

A columnist at the Washington Post has used a column about a gardening book to deliver a dig at Christians, calling the missionaries who traveled to the Hawaiian Islands while the region still was a kingdom “pernicious.”


Columnist James P. Pinkerton at Fox News raised the alert about the insult.

“Are Christian missionaries ‘pernicious’? The Washington Post seems to think so,” he wrote today.

“In a review of a book about a botanical garden in Hawaii, Carolyn See, a longtime contributor to the Post’s ‘Style’ section, includes this nasty little aside about newcomers who changed the ecosystem of Hawaii: ‘then white people and their pernicious missionaries,’“ Pinkerton wrote.

“Needless to say, no other group was similarly saddled with an insulting modifier. Only missionaries are ‘pernicious.’“

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Air France Had Nine Airspeed Probe Incidents in Past Year

PARIS — Air France Airbus jets experienced at least nine incidents in which airspeed probes iced over in the past year, says an internal company report obtained by AFP.

A probe into the June 1 crash of AF 447, in which an A330 jet flying from Rio to Paris plunged into the Atlantic with the loss of all 228 people on board, has focused on contradictory readings from its “pitot” speed probes.

French aviation investigators as well as the companies Airbus and Air France have each said there is no firm evidence so far linking speed monitors and the crash.

Nevertheless, Air France has upgraded all sensors on its long-haul fleet as a precaution after protests from pilots.

In an internal note sent to Air France pilots on Thursday, the company said it informed the planemaker Airbus and Thales, which makes the pitot probes, of eight incidents on A340 jets and one on an A330 over a year-long period.

An earlier report seen by AFP recorded five airspeed probe incidents last year, two of which caused triggered alerts.

The latest report, obtained on Friday, says the first incident occurred in May 2008, involving temporary loss of speed data, followed by a second in July 2008 and three others in August 2008.

There then followed two operational incidents in September and October 2008, all on A340s.

Airbus and Thales were given a full briefing on the incidents, and asked to resolve the problem, according to the Airbus note.

“Numerous exchanges took place with the technical teams at Airbus,” it said, noting: “No incident of this kind had been signalled previously.”

Airbus replied to Air France, saying: “The supposed origin of the incidents was icing over, due to the formation of crystals inside the airspeed probes,” according to the report.

“Faced with our insistence on finding a solution, Thales and Airbus (will) carry out studies” on a new generation of probes, the Air France report says.

It said two further operating incidents were recorded at the end of 2008, one on an Airbus A340 and one on an A330.

“Airbus is contacted again several times” and “replies by confirming that it presumes the probes had iced over,” Air France said.

According to the report, Airbus wrote to Air France on April 15, 2009, to inform it that tests carried out by Thales on new-generation probes showed a “much better response than the older model” to icy conditions.

In response, Air France asked Thales to accelerate the delivery of speed probes that were to be supplied from May 26, 2009, at a rate of a dozen a week.

French investigators probing the June 1 Air France crash have said the airspeed sensors, or pitot probes, had been feeding inconsistent readings to the cockpit.

Conflicting airspeed data can cause the autopilot to shut down and in extreme cases the plane to stall or fly dangerously fast, possibly causing a high-altitude break-up

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Cancer: Shock Breakthrough

Patients with inoperable prostate disease recover after single dose of drug

Two patients with inoperable prostate cancer have made dramatic recoveries after receiving one dose of an experimental drug that is creating excitement among cancer specialists.

The results were so startling that researchers decided to release details of the two cases before the drug trial — in which the patients took part — was complete. Doctors said their progress had exceeded all expectations. The men were treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in the US, one of the top medical centres in the world.

Dr Eugene Kwon, the urologist who was in charge of their treatment, compared the results to the first pilot breaking the sound barrier.

“This is one of the Holy Grails of prostate cancer research. We have been looking for this for years,” he said.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men — 34,000 new cases and more than 10,000 deaths are reported each year in Britain, where rates of its occurrence have tripled in the past 30 years, mainly due to improved detection. The US has the highest incidence of the disease.

Rodger Nelson and Fructuoso Solano-Revuelta were diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and sought treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

They were told the disease had spread beyond the prostate. Mr Nelson’s cancer was encroaching on the abdomen and Mr Solano-Revuelta’s tumour was the size of a golf ball. Patients in such condition are told they may have only months to live, and are normally only offered palliative care. But after one infusion of the drug ipilimumab, a monoclonal antibody that stimulates the immune system, given with conventional hormone therapy, their tumours shrank enough to be surgically removed. Both men have since made a full recovery and returned to their businesses.

The pair were part of a trial involving 108 patients, half of whom received the experimental drug. The trial is ongoing but the improvement of the two patients was so dramatic and unexpected that they were removed from the study so they could undergo curative surgery.

Dr Kwon said yesterday: “Halfway through the trial we began seeing remarkable responses. Some patients had dramatic shrinkage of their tumours so practically all traces had disappeared. We had thought we might get some incremental delay in the progression of the cancer. It had not dawned on us that we might go from an inoperable tumour to an operable one. That just doesn’t happen.”

The surgery would not have gone ahead if Carol Nelson, Mr Nelson’s wife and a former nurse, had not challenged the surgeons to attempt it.

“The idea of surgery on an ‘inoperable’ tumour had not dawned on us. It is often disappointing and not advisable. But she is a tough lady — and having been a nurse she knew how to control the doctors. We said we didn’t think surgery would work, but we would try,” Dr Kwon said.

The outcome was better than any of them could have anticipated. From having an enlarged prostate gland riddled with cancer which had spread, Mr Nelson was found to have a shrunk prostate gland with tiny pockets of cancer that were “very hard to find”.

Michael Blute, the surgeon who operated on Mr Nelson, said at one point doctors feared they might have the wrong patient: “I was cutting away scar tissue trying to find cancer cells. The pathologist was checking samples as we proceeded and sent word back asking if we had the right patient. He had a hard time finding any cancer. I have never seen anything like this before. The pathologists were floored.”

The procedure was repeated, with the same result, on Mr Solano-Revuelta. A third “inoperable” patient underwent surgery last week.

Dr Kwon said: “These were patients for whom there was no hope. The course of their disease has been altered in a dramatic fashion. We have a major finding which we never expected to stumble across but we have to complete our studies.”

He said the findings had to be confirmed in further studies and the results published in a peer-reviewed journal. A larger trial is due to begin in the autumn. The cases are described in the Mayo Clinic’s research publication, Discovery’s Edge.

Professor Malcolm Mason, a Cancer Research UK prostate cancer specialist, said: “These case reports are extremely interesting and encouraging. Ipilimumab might potentially be a strong stimulator of the immune system, and it seems logical that it might also be effective in prostate cancer.

“But caution is needed, as earlier trials with this drug in other types of cancer were less successful than reported here, and its true value can only become clear through large-scale, randomised clinical trials, two of which are already under way. The other cautionary note is that both men received hormone therapy, which in some instances causes dramatic reductions in tumour size by itself.”

Ipilimumab: How it works

*Ipilimumab is one of a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies, which stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight disease. The experimental treatment is being developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Medarex, a US biotech company. The drug is being trialled on malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, lung cancer and prostate cancer. Studies are most advanced in melanoma, where it has been shown to prolong survival in patients with advanced forms of the disease. In the Mayo Clinic study of prostate cancer, researchers say that standard hormone treatment ignited the immune response, and adding ipilimumab was like “pouring gasoline on the pilot light”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

New Forecast: ‘Mass Starvation’

Commodity analyst says crop failure would shock more than $150 oil

A commodities expert has launched a warning that the next major crop failure around the world could be a bigger shock than $150 oil and result in “mass starvation.”

The forecast comes from Chicago-based Don Coxe, a leading agricultural industry expert, in a report in the Commodity Online publication.

“When we have the first serious crop failure, which will happen, we will then have a full-blown food crisis, which we will not be able to get out of because we will still be struggling to catch up (as a result of diminished crop yields),” he told the publication.

He suggested that even could happen this year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Baron Bodissey said...

A reader who had difficulty with the comment window asked me to post this comment:


I before E except after C

And when sounding like “A”, as in “neighbor” and “weigh”.

Let’s see... “veil”... sounds like “A”... “their”... sounds like “A”...

It seems the only problem the U.K. gov’t officials have is forgetting the end of the ‘poem’!

That’s like saying, “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November...” and leaving out the important information about 31 days, and, oh, yeah! February’s 28!