Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/25/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/25/2009The state of Maine has declared that a mailing by the Christian Action Network about its documentary Homegrown Jihad (concerning Jamaat ul-Fuqra) constitutes hate speech against Muslims. CAN has been fined $4,000 by the state’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, but Martin Mawyer, the president of CAN, has vowed to fight the charge. For more information, see the Pajamas Media report by Patrick Poole in the USA section below.

In other news, a former prime minister of Kosovo was arrested in Bulgaria on war crimes charges.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, LN, Steen, TB, ZZMike, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Economy Dips at Slightly Lower Pace in 1st Quarter
Iran — It’s the Global Economy, Stupid
Obama’s Approach — ‘Welfare-Spending Madness’
8 NYC Children Burned in Homemade Acid-Bomb Attack
Barack Obama — Narcissist or Merely Narcissistic?
Blacks in Survey Say Race Relations No Better With Obama
EPA’s Own Research Expert ‘Shut Up’ On Climate Change
Maine Fines Group for ‘Inflammatory Anti-Muslim Message’
Obama-Odinga Friendship Affecting Iran?
Rick Warren to Speak at Islamic Society Convention
The Government Has a Database for Most Everything.
Top 20 Events Which Prove Obama is a Marxist Communist
Top 7 Marxist Communist Policies Being Implemented by Obama Today
Canada’s Obamacare Precedent
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Defence Forces Get Multi-Billion Kroner Boost
German Neo-Nazis Praise Reelection of Iran’s Ahmadinejad
Italy: Moro Case-Sechi: Craxi Thought Pecchioli Was KGB Spy
Italy: Espresso Group to Sue Berlusconi
Italy: Car of Berlusconi Party Girl Set on Fire
Sweden: Man Raped in Stockholm Suburb
Sweden: Second Man Targeted by Suspected Rapist
Sweden: Animal Rights Activists Force Restaurant Closure
UK Looks to Young Geeks to Secure Cyberspace
UK: Four in Ten Under-20s in London Aren’t White
UK: Jewish School Admissions Unlawful
UK: Muslim Policeman Sues Force After ‘Boss Said He Looked Like Bin Laden’
Where Does the EU Get Its Power From?
Kosovo: War Crimes, Former Premier Ceku Arrested in Bulgaria
Mediterranean Union
EU-Africa: Wade; If You Favour Med Union We Turn to China
North Africa
Islam: Niqab Debate Risks Politicisation, Egyptian Minister
Israel and the Palestinians
Berlusconi Agrees With Palestinian Demilitarisation
Hamas Says Has No Knowledge of Shalit’s Life
Israel Releases Hamas Speaker
Netanyahu in Rome: Berlusconi, Invited to Speak at Knesset
US Actor in Israel Tells Youth to “Imagine” Peace
Middle East
70 Iranian Professors Reportedly Detained
Barry Rubin: Iran’s Crisis and All Quiet on the Western Front
Homosexuals in Turkey: Istanbul Week for Gay Rights
Human Rights: Turkey; Police Brutality Increasing, Report
Iran’s Mousavi Defies Crackdown
Iran: Son’s Death Has Iranian Family Asking Why
Turkey: Semneby, Tactical Step Backward on Armenia Thaw
U.S. Rescinds July 4 Invites for Iran Diplomats
Where’s the U.N. On Iran?
Politkovskaya Murder Acquittal Overturned
Four Killed in Clashes in Russia’s Ingushetia Region-Official
South Asia
Afghan Girl Burned by White Phosphorus Heads Home
Brit Details Claim of Torture in Bangadesh
Maoist Insurgency Can Hurt Industry in India — Experts
Pakistan: Planned Attack on Hungarian Embassy Said Foiled
Pakistan: Embassy Attacks Prevented
Pakistan Taliban Chief Baitullah Escapes US Strike
US General Says Troops Need New View of Aghan War
Video: Pakistan Police Battle Taliban
Far East
N. Koreans Mass at Rally in Capital to Denounce US
Australia — Pacific
Stoned Wallabies Make Crop Circles
Sub-Saharan Africa
Call for Life Sentence for Rwandan Generals
Ethiopia: Holy Ark Announcement Due on Friday
Islamic Court Postpones Amputations of Four Men as ‘Hot Weather Means They Might Bleed to Death’
Somalia: Al-Qaeda Linked Militants ‘Out of Control’
Somalis Watch Double Amputations
U.S. Warns of Threats Against Sudan Government, West
Will Somalia Become the Afghanistan of East Africa?
Latin America
Venezuela Accuses “Imperial Hand” of Iran Unrest
Holidays: Spain Ready for Exodus of North African People
Migrant Stowaways at Calais Triple in Five Years
Culture Wars
Census and Sensibility
Get Back in the Closet
Ihsanoglu Calls for Presenting the True Image of Islam
Iran Expected to Dominate G8 Meeting in Italy
Their God is Not Our God
US, Israel, Russia Absent at Cluster Bomb Talks

Financial Crisis

Economy Dips at Slightly Lower Pace in 1st Quarter

WASHINGTON — The economy tumbled at a 5.5 percent pace in the first quarter, but appears to be doing better now, even though heavy layoffs persist.

The revised reading on gross domestic product, released Thursday by the Commerce Department, showed the economy from January through March didn’t fall as deeply as the 5.7 percent annualized decline reported a month ago. Economists expected the government would stick with its previous estimate.

A separate government report found new jobless claims jumped unexpectedly last week, while continuing claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected. The data show jobs remain scarce even as the economy shows some signs of recovering from the longest recession since World War II.

The main forces behind the small upgrade in first-quarter GDP had nothing to do with an improving job market: businesses didn’t cut stockpiles of goods as much and imports dropped more sharply than previously estimated.

Meanwhile, the rebound in consumer spending was a little less energetic.

Consumers boosted their spending at a 1.4 percent, down from a 1.5 percent growth rate estimated last month. Still, it marked the strongest showing in nearly two years and a huge improvement from the fourth quarter when skittish consumers slashed spending by the most in nearly three decades.

All told, the report showed the economic damage inflicted by the recession, the longest since World War II. The worst financial crisis since the 1930s, a housing bust and hard-to-get credit have eaten into businesses’ sales and profits, forcing them to cut back production and jobs. In the final quarter of last year, the economy plunged at a 6.3 percent annualized pace, the most in a quarter-century.

Many analysts believe the economy isn’t sinking nearly as much now as the recession eases it grip on the country.

For the current April-June quarter, economists predict GDP is sinking at a pace of between 1 and 3 percent. But that’s not nearly as much as it had in the prior six months, the worst performance in 50 years. The government will release second-quarter results at the end of next month.

GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States and is the best barometer of the country’s economic health.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke predicts the recession, now the longest since World War II, will end later this year. President Barack Obama’s stimulus of tax cuts and increased government spending should provide some help, along with aggressive revival efforts by the Fed, including cutting a key bank lending rate to a record low near zero.

Many economists predict the economy will start growing again as soon as the third quarter, although the pace is likely to be plodding as economic recoveries after financial crises tend to be slow. That means unemployment will keep rising.

The nation’s unemployment rate hit a quarter-century peak of 9.4 percent last month and is likely to reach 10 percent by the year-end. The jobless rate could rise as high as 11 percent by the summer of 2010 before making a gradual descent, economists say. The highest rate since World War II was 10.8 percent at the end of 1982.

The Labor Department on Thursday said initial claims for jobless benefits rose last week by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 627,000. Economists expected a drop to 600,000, according to Thomson Reuters. Several states reported more claims than expected from teachers, cafeteria workers and other school employees, a department analyst said.

The number of people continuing to receive unemployment insurance rose by 29,000 to 6.74 million, slightly above analysts’ estimates of 6.7 million. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out fluctuations, was largely unchanged, at 616,750.

Economists expect the number of initial unemployment insurance claims, which reflects the level of layoffs, to slowly decline over the coming months as the economy bottoms out.

The outlook for a shaky job market, which is likely to hinder wage growth, translates into a cautious consumer, another reason any recovery will be subdued.

And other risks abound. Skyrocketing foreclosures, rising interest rates and a worse-than-expected credit and financial conditions could send the economy into another tailspin. Economists don’t think that is the most likely scenario, but it can’t be ruled out.

In the GDP report, businesses’ cuts to inventories ended up shaving off 2.20 percentage points from economic activity. That was less than the 2.34 percentage-point reduction previously reported and factored into the upward revision to first-quarter GDP.

Another helper: imports fell at an annualized pace of 36.4 percent, deeper than the 34.1 percent rate of decline previously estimated. That translated into a bigger boost to first-quarter GDP from trade. U.S. exports fell sharply but not as much as imports.

The government makes three estimates of the economy’s performance for any given quarter. Each estimate of gross domestic product, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within the U.S., is based on more complete information. The third one came Thursday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran — It’s the Global Economy, Stupid

Much has been said, and justifiably so, about the role the poor Iranianeconomy plays in the current Iranian election crisis. Much less attention has been played to the role the global economic recession has already played in the rage sweeping the country and the role it is bound to play in its aftermath. Emad Gad, an Egyptian expert in international affairs, suggests that “Ahmadinejad will concentrate in the economic field to improve living conditions for his population after this crisis.”

The partial recovery of oil prices indubitably aids the Mullahs. But current investor caution coupled with already ongoing foreign and domestic capitalflight is bound to limit the regime ability to revive the economy and the rising global unemployment may just reduce the ability of the regime to export its troublesome youth in the manner it has been doing during the global boom years. Jobs are much more difficult to come by in the West.

Over and over again the mantra is repeated. Iran is a young country. Most of its inhabitants are under 30 years old. Less repeated is the question Mousavi asks in reference toAhmadinejad’s mismanagement of the economy: “Why do all our young want to leave this country?”

The answer is self evident to all Iranians. Their country is unable toprovide jobs for its young people. Azadeh Kian, professor of sociology at the University of Paris VII, reports that youth unemployment is estimated to be between 30% and 50% and no “jobs are being created for the 800,00 young people who enter the Iranian job market everyyear”.

Wikipedia has a special entry for Iran’s brain drain. It begins thus…

[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Approach — ‘Welfare-Spending Madness’

A leading expert on welfare reform says President Obama’s massive increases in every form of welfare spending are designed to be a “foot in the door” for a permanent policy to “spread the wealth and tax future generations to provide larger welfare today.”

A Wall Street Journal survey finds that welfare caseloads have increased from last year in 23 of the 30 largest states, which account for more than 88 percent of the nation’s total population. The article notes that the biggest increases are occurring in states with some of the worst jobless rates — Oregon (up 27% from last year), South Carolina (up 23%), and California (up 10%). “As more people run out of unemployment compensation, many are turning to welfare as a stopgap,” states WSJ.


Rector notes the Obama administration has increased welfare spending for the poor — which includes cash, food, housing, and medical services — by over $300 billion this year and next year combined. That is six times the rate of increase that has ever occurred in any previous recession.

“We are in the midst of a kind of welfare-spending madness in which total welfare spending will approach $10 trillion over the next decade,” says the welfare expert. “We’ve never done anything like that as a nation, and we really can’t afford it.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


8 NYC Children Burned in Homemade Acid-Bomb Attack

2 Williamsburg Kids Hospitalized After Suffering Severe Burns To Their Eyes; Neighbors Cite Tension Between 2 Buildings

Yaakov Frankel, 10, suffered serious burns to his eyes after someone threw a Drano-bomb at him while playing in a courtyard in Williamsburg.

Two children suffered serious burns and six others were injured after someone threw a bottle containing dangerous chemicals at them while they played outside over the weekend in Brooklyn.

The incident happened about 8 p.m. on Sunday at S. 8th Street in the Williamsburg section of the borough. One of the victims, 10-year-old Yaakov Frankel, along with several witnesses told police that someone ran out of a building across the street from the courtyard where children were playing and tossed the homemade device at them. An explosion that released some sort of Drano-type mix got into the eyes of Frankel and a 12-year-old girl, causing them to be hospitalized. Six other children suffered burns and were treated at the scene.

“They were playing and all of a sudden a bottle came in with liquid, and it spins around and exploded into their eyes and [onto] the clothes of the kids,” said Hindy Frankel, Yaakov’s mother. “Everybody ran!”

The two injured children were kept in Bellevue overnight as their eyes were flushed out. What has residents even more upset is that they believe police had a chance to prevent the incident from happening when they called about rocks being thrown at them from the same building.

“They came in, they looked into it and [said], ‘OK, we can’t do anything. We don’t see anybody,’“ said Yaakov’s father, Pincus Frankel.

Members of the predominantly orthodox Jewish community who live on the side of S. 8th Street where the incident happened are clear about who they think was behind the attack.

“From this building over here, #176, there were a few people who came out and were just being very wild,” said Abraham Shaya. “Neighbors over here are suffering very much from this building over here. Very wild, making noise at 12 o’clock in the middle of the night.”

Police say, however, this was not a bias incident. Over on the other side of South 8th, which is heavily Latino, a neighbor was quick to say there were no tense feelings between the two communities and that she hadn’t heard any loud noise.

Meanwhile, one of the mothers from the building where the children got hurt said a year ago, there was a fire in that other building. She told CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman, “OK, look: maybe our children don’t play together; but, we came across the street to help them with blankets, with shoes, with socks. When there’s time of need, we come together,” she said. “So why fight?”

Doctors told the parents it could be at least five days before the children’s eyes are somewhat “normal” again. In the meantime, they are still experiencing a lot of burning and irritation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Barack Obama — Narcissist or Merely Narcissistic?

By Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

Barack Obama appears to be a narcissist. Granted, only a qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and this, following lengthy tests and personal interviews. But, in the absence of access to Barack Obama, one has to rely on his overt performance and on testimonies by his closest, nearest and dearest.

Narcissistic leaders are nefarious and their effects pernicious. They are subtle, refined, socially-adept, manipulative, possessed of thespian skills, and convincing. Both types equally lack empathy and are ruthless and relentless or driven.

Perhaps it is time to require each candidate to high office in the USA to submit to a rigorous physical and mental checkup with the results made public.

I. Upbringing and Childhood

Obama’s early life was decidedly chaotic and replete with traumatic and mentally bruising dislocations. Mixed-race marriages were even less common then. His parents went through a divorce when he was an infant (two years old). Obama saw his father only once again, before he died in a car accident. Then, his mother re-married and Obama had to relocate to Indonesia: a foreign land with a radically foreign culture, to be raised by a step-father. At the age of ten, he was whisked off to live with his maternal (white) grandparents. He saw his mother only intermittently in the following few years and then she vanished from his life in 1979. She died of cancer in 1995.

Pathological narcissism is a reaction to prolonged abuse and trauma in early childhood or early adolescence. The source of the abuse or trauma is immaterial: the perpetrators could be dysfunctional or absent parents, teachers, other adults, or peers.

II. Behavior Patterns

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]

Blacks in Survey Say Race Relations No Better With Obama

(CNN) — African-Americans really like President Obama, but more and more feel that race relations have not gotten better since he took office, a new national poll found.

Ninety-six percent of African-Americans approve of how Obama is handling his presidency, according to a CNN/Essence Magazine/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Thursday.

During the 2008 election, 38 percent of blacks surveyed thought racial discrimination was a serious problem. In the new survey, 55 percent of blacks surveyed believed it was a serious problem, which is about the same level as it was in 2000.

The poll was conducted May 16-18, in telephone interviews with 505 African-Americans and 501 whites.

Blacks and whites had differing opinions of Obama’s performance. More than 60 percent of blacks felt that Obama met their expectations, while 46 percent of whites did.

Thirty percent of blacks said Obama exceeded their expectations, compared with 16 percent of whites. Six percent of blacks said Obama did not meet expectations, compared with 35 percent of whites.

Both blacks and whites gave similar answers to a survey question about whether race relations will always be a problem in the United States. advertisement

Forty-five percent of blacks answered yes, while 42 percent of whites said yes. Fifty percent of blacks said no, while 56 percent of whites said no.

The poll had a sampling error on these questions of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

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

EPA’s Own Research Expert ‘Shut Up’ On Climate Change

Government analyst silenced after he critiques CO2 findings

Environmental Protection Agency officials have silenced one of their own senior researchers after the 38-year employee issued an internal critique of the EPA’s climate change position.

Alan Carlin, senior operations research analyst at the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics, or NCEE, submitted his research on the agency’s greenhouse gases endangerment findings and offered a fundamental critique on the EPA’s approach to combating CO2 emissions. But officials refused to share his conclusion in an open internal discussion, claiming his research would have “a very negative impact on our office.”

His study was barred from circulation within the EPA and was never disclosed to the public for political reasons, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, or CEI, a group that has accessed four internal e-mails on the subject.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Maine Fines Group for ‘Inflammatory Anti-Muslim Message’

The Christian Action Network runs afoul of bureaucratic political correctness.

An organization in the national spotlight recently for producing a documentary identifying several dozen potential terrorist training compounds in the U.S. has offended the sensibilities of Maine bureaucrats, who have fined the organization $4,000, alleging among other things that the group sent out mailings containing an “inflammatory anti-Muslim message.”

The group in question, the Christian Action Network (CAN), received notice of the fines and the fundraising ban in a May 6 letter from Elaine Thibodeau of the State of Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Enclosed in the letter was a prepared consent agreement for CAN to sign agreeing to all of the state’s allegations, waiving all rights to appeal, and agreeing to pay the $4,000 fine. As part of the consent agreement, CAN is required to agree to all of the state’s allegations, including their assertion that their mailing amounted to hate speech.

“These bogus charges and fines the State of Maine has imposed are nothing but an attempt to stifle our free speech and silence our organization from speaking out about the steady creep of radical Islam in America,” CAN president Martin Mawyer told Pajamas Media. “We fully intend to appeal the state’s penalties because if they successfully silence us here, we will quickly find that we won’t be able to speak out anywhere.”

CAN was in the news earlier this year following the release of their documentary, Homegrown Jihad, which details dozens of compounds across the U.S. operated by Pakistani Sheikh Mubarak Gilani, who has previously been identified in State Department reports as a terrorist leader, and his group, Jamaat al-Fuqra. The documentary looks into the past terrorist acts of the group in the U.S., including the assassination of two moderate Muslim leaders, the firebombing of non-Muslim religious facilities, and an investigation by Colorado authorities that led to convictions and lengthy prison sentences. These activities have been covered in several FBI domestic terrorism reports and a more recent assessment by the Center for Policing Terrorism. Other prominent convicted terrorists, including “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid, D.C. Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad, and NYC landmarks bomb plotter Clement Rodney Hampton-El, have been identified as former members.

But what has Maine bureaucrats roiling is a fundraising mailing sent by CAN (a copy of which was provided to Pajamas Media) regarding a public school curriculum used in California requiring students to pray to Allah, dress up as Muslims, adopt Muslim names, and learn the five pillars of Islam. Since Christians and Jews are not given similar accommodations, CAN encouraged their supporters to send a petition to Maine Gov. John Baldacci asking him to prevent such instruction in Maine public schools.

Among the stated allegations in Thibodeau’s letter and the consent agreement is that this amounted to hate speech, claiming:

5. The correspondence contained an inflammatory anti-Muslim message.

In two separate rounds of correspondence with Thibodeau, I inquired what basis the state used to determine that the mailing was “inflammatory,” but she refused to address that question on both occasions…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Obama-Odinga Friendship Affecting Iran?

If Obama intends to pursue direct negotiations with the Ahmadinejad government should the post-election violence fail to produce a new election, the administration may well be advised to contemplate how as series of photographs of Obama-supporting Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Ahmadinejad together might impact freedom fighters in Iran as well as the American public.

To explore this question, WND has taken a close look at Kenya.

Examining the extent to which Odinga and Obama have been willing to pursue direct negotiations with Ahmadinejad, WND continues to see a commonality in the foreign policies of both leaders, despite the Iranian regime’s determination to suppress key freedoms within Iran, including the right to a free election.

Even as post-election protests against the re-election of Ahmadinejad continue in Iran, Kenya’s Odinga, a fellow Luo tribe member, who continues to receive the strong support of President Obama, moves closer to Iran.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Rick Warren to Speak at Islamic Society Convention

Warren will be in some very dubious company in Washington. Another speaker at the conference will be Dr. Dr. Muzammil Husain Siddiqi, the Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County (California), and former Director of Islamic Affairs for the Muslim World League Office in New York.

You have probably seen Dr. Siddiqi before since he was chosen to address the world during the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service held at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC just three days after the 9/11 attacks on Sept. 14, 2001.

As our nation mourned that day, he began with the standard Muslim greeting “May the peace of Allah be upon America.” What most American’s didn’t know then and still don’t know now is that in Islamic beliefs every person is either a member of the “house of peace” (Muslim) or a member of the “house of war” (non-Muslim). In Muslim-speak this means, “you will only be at peace when you convert to Islam — otherwise you are the enemy”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Government Has a Database for Most Everything.

Since January, Congress has introduced bills that call for the creation of nearly 40 new databases and registries, by POLITICO’s count. One of the most recent, the Knee and Hip Replacement Act introduced by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), calls for the establishment of a national registry to track poorly performing prostheses. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has called for states to create a Putative Father Registry, collecting data about men who may be the fathers of children in the adoption process. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants a boxing registry of medical records, denials and suspensions for licensed boxers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Top 20 Events Which Prove Obama is a Marxist Communist

In several Hubs, including How Obama’s Undeniably Marxist Communist Policies Threaten America and How To Nationalize GM, Ripoff Investors, Gift It To The Unions & Deny It’s Communism, I have been challenged by commenters on my classification of Barack Hussein Obama as a socialist, communist, and Marxist. Here are the top twenty points to prove my thesis (all readily verifiable), and please note that I am not including in this list any of the President’s policies such as the socialist nationalization of GM and Chrysler which at the stroke of a pen deprived private investors of billions of dollars of their legitimate property and turned it over to the state and the unions (the proletariat in Marxist parlance).

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Top 7 Marxist Communist Policies Being Implemented by Obama Today

Throughout history Communist leaders have seized power by promoting themselves as populists, and often completely hiding their own ideology. Indeed in a poll taken after Communist Hugo Chavez’ first election victory in Venezuela, only 3% of the electors believed Chavez to be a Socialist, let alone a Communist. Currently 32% of Americans believe Obama to be a Socialist.

The initial stages of Communization of a country invariably begin with seven basic steps:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Canada’s Obamacare Precedent

[Comments from JD: This article is from June 9th 2009, but still pertinent.]

Congressional Democrats will soon put forward their legislative proposals for reforming health care. Should they succeed, tens of millions of Americans will potentially be joining a new public insurance program and the federal government will increasingly be involved in treatment decisions.

Not long ago, I would have applauded this type of government expansion. Born and raised in Canada, I once believed that government health care is compassionate and equitable. It is neither.

My views changed in medical school. Yes, everyone in Canada is covered by a “single payer” — the government. But Canadians wait for practically any procedure or diagnostic test or specialist consultation in the public system.

The problems were brought home when a relative had difficulty walking. He was in chronic pain. His doctor suggested a referral to a neurologist; an MRI would need to be done, then possibly a referral to another specialist. The wait would have stretched to roughly a year. If surgery was needed, the wait would be months more. Not wanting to stay confined to his house, he had the surgery done in the U.S., at the Mayo Clinic, and paid for it himself.

Such stories are common. For example, Sylvia de Vries, an Ontario woman, had a 40-pound fluid-filled tumor removed from her abdomen by an American surgeon in 2006. Her Michigan doctor estimated that she was within weeks of dying, but she was still on a wait list for a Canadian specialist.

Indeed, Canada’s provincial governments themselves rely on American medicine. Between 2006 and 2008, Ontario sent more than 160 patients to New York and Michigan for emergency neurosurgery — described by the Globe and Mail newspaper as “broken necks, burst aneurysms and other types of bleeding in or around the brain.”

Only half of ER patients are treated in a timely manner by national and international standards, according to a government study. The physician shortage is so severe that some towns hold lotteries, with the winners gaining access to the local doc.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark: Defence Forces Get Multi-Billion Kroner Boost

Agreement has been reached on the defence budget for the next five years that will see extra funding provided to those serving abroad

After almost three months of negotiations a historic political majority was reached last night to secure extra funds for the defence budget.

For the first time ever, the Socialist People’s Party joined with other opposition parties and the government in agreeing a defence budget that will see an extra 3.5 billion kroner provided to the armed forces between 2010 and 2014. Only the Red Green Alliance opposed the defence plan.

‘We have many soldiers serving abroad and it will mean a lot for them and their relatives that there is broad majority behind the defence forces,’ said Defence Minister Søren Gade.

The Defence Commission report, published in March, called for increased funding but also highlighted the need for savings within the armed forces.

As a result, politicians have decided to enact a range of initiatives designed to save a total of 700 million kroner, including reducing the number of combat vehicles from 57 to 34 and the number of F16 jets from 48 to 30.

The jet reduction is meaningful as it gives an indication of how many new aircraft will be purchased when the decision is finally made on which manufacturer will be awarded the new air force jets contract.

The issue of conscription was also discussed as part of the defence budget negotiations and parliament will further examine if all 18-year-old women should be forced to attend the military’s draft board reviews in the same way as their male peers.

Currently all men aged 18 must attend the so-called Defence Day where they are examined for their suitability before a lottery system selects conscription candidates to take part in basic military training.

The extra 3.5 billion kroner will be in addition to the annual budget of 20.48 billion kroner. Of the additional funds, 500 million kroner is a one off payment for the security funding pool, which will allow for emergency purchases by the forces serving internationally.

The news was welcomed by Battalion Commander Frank Lissner, who heads the Danish forces in Afghanistan.

‘In the long term it’s clear it will have significance for us. Put it this way, if more funds weren’t given as part of this defence budget, there would have been consequences for soldiers in Afghanistan. For example, we’ve already lost three medical armoured vehicles which were totally destroyed by mines and the army is already stretched to its limit,’ said Col. Lissner.

There are currently around 700 Danish soldiers serving in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. Denmark’s participation in the coalition effort in Afghanistan has seen 26 soldiers lose their lives since 2002.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

German Neo-Nazis Praise Reelection of Iran’s Ahmadinejad

Neo-Nazis in Germany are applauding the repression of protests in Iran and publishing statements supporting the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his hard-line government.

Two extremist parties, the NPD and DVU, have managed to contort their racist thinking to embrace the Iranian leader because Ahmadinejad openly advocates the elimination of Israel — and presumably has no plans to move to Germany.

The NPD website defended Ahmadinejad against what it called a “media attack on the Iranian people’s spirit,” referring to widespread doubts being expressed about the president’s reelection and described him as the “true leader of his people,” according to public broadcaster ARD.

The DVU website carried the message: “Congratulations on your reelection Mr President.”

Censorship in Iran, which makes listening to music a risky business, and outlaws dancing in public, is praised by the NPD, which says the music could be considered decadent and subversive.

The contradiction between this opinion and the complaints the NPD makes when neo-Nazi music containing illegally racist lyrics are banned by the German government does not seem to have occurred to the party’s members.

Germany’s fascists first took to Ahmadinejad when he said he wanted to destroy Israel, and then in 2006 organised a conference for Holocaust deniers.

Meanwhile, the Islam Conference taking place this week in Berlin condemned the violence and abuse of human rights in Iran, with a statement signed by all associations taking part aside from the Central Council of Muslims in Germany.

The council said it had a policy of not making statements about events in other countries, but called for both sides in Iran to come to an agreement and allow freedom of opinion.

“Chain-of-light” demonstrations are planned in cities across Europe on Thursday night to show solidarity with the Iranian people and commemorate those who have been killed recently during demonstrations.

Organisers in Berlin have taken the title, “A light to show hope. Thousands of lights show themselves” for the demonstration which will take place for an hour from 9:30 pm in front of the Gedächtniskirche in the centre of the city. Similar demonstrations are set for Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Paris, London and Rome.

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

Italy: Moro Case-Sechi: Craxi Thought Pecchioli Was KGB Spy

(AGI) — Rome, 11 May. — In the winter of 1993 Craxi asked Spadolini and Napolitano, then Presidents of the Italian Senate and Lower House respectively, to obtain the resignation of Pecchioli, the President of the Parliamentary Committee in charge of the secret service and civil and military security.

Craxi thought he was a Soviet agent, a KGB spy. Was he wrong? Perhaps Giorgio Napolitano and Giuliano Amato, who were in charge of prevention, intelligence and repression as Ministers of the Interior could shed some light on the question. Two letters from Craxi to Spadolini and Napolitano have been published in ‘Le vene aperte del delitto Moro’, a book by Salvatore Sechi, professor of Modern History at Ferrara University, written as part of the ‘Radici del Presente’ series to mark the 31st anniversary of the murder of Moro, former leader of the Christian Democrat Party by the Red Brigades.

Franco Mazzola, former undersecretary to the Council of Ministers along with Craxi and Cossiga, judge Luigi Carli, who sentenced the Genovese branch of the Red Brigades; two experts on the Red Brigades, Marco Clementi and Vladimiro Satta, an expert on Western European history, Fernando Orlandi, historian Richard Drake and two terrorism experts, Gabriele Paradisi and Roberto Bartalli all contributed to the book.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Espresso Group to Sue Berlusconi

Premier asked businessmen to boycott advertising, it claims

(ANSA) — Milan, June 24 — Italy’s Espresso editorial group said Wednesday it would begin legal proceedings against Premier Silvio Berlusconi, claiming he had urged businesspeople to boycott advertising in certain newspapers.

The Espresso group, which owns the left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica and the weekly L’Espresso, said it had decided to sue given the “criminal and civil relevance” of Berlusconi’s remarks, adding that the premier had accused La Repubblica of a “subversive attack” against him.

The premier was addressing a conference of young members of employers’ group Confindustria on June 13 when he said he was the victim of the alleged plot following media coverage of a string of scandals including his relationship with 18-year-old aspiring model Noemi Letizia.

He invited the entrepreneurs “not to give publicity” to those that “every day sing songs of pessimism”.

Berlusconi explained later that he was talking about the centre-left opposition leader Dario Franceschini and those who supported his “defeatist attitude”.

Berlusconi on Wednesday repeated that he was in the grips of a “campaign, fed by hatred and personal jealousy, that certainly isn’t doing any good for the country”. Every day since the middle of May, La Repubblica has been printing a list of ten questions it wants the premier to answer about his relationship with Letizia.

Berlusconi has been at the centre of the media storm since a public divorce spat with his wife Veronica Lario, who accused him of “consorting with minors” after he attended Letizia’s 18th birthday party.

Berlusconi, 72, has categorically denied any “steamy or more than steamy” involvement with teenagers, explaining there was nothing “spicy” about his attendance at the birthday party of 18-year-old Letizia because he had a long friendship with her family.

The premier’s attack on the press on June 13 came shortly before a new uproar over allegations that female escorts were paid to attend parties at his homes in Rome and Sardinia.

Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, got the scoop on the claims last week.

Berlusconi has dismissed the allegations as “rubbish”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Car of Berlusconi Party Girl Set on Fire

Bari, 25 June (AKI) — The car of a young woman who allegedly attended controversial parties at the home of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was set on fire early on Thursday.

Twenty-four year old Italian model Barbara Montereale is one of a numbr of women who gave testimony to prosecutors in connection with parties allegedly held at the prime minister’s residences in Rome and on the island of Sardinia.

She has denied she is a high-class prostitute or escort who was paid to spend time with Berlusconi.

Her car was set on fire in the town of Modugno, near the southern Italian city of Bari where an investigation is being carried out into alleged kickbacks in the local health sector involving an acquaintance of the prime minister, Gianpaolo Tarantini, and his brother.

Authorities said the torching of the car was a criminal act rather than an accident.

Italian police said someone tried to force open the passenger side door of Montereale’s Honda Jazz and then poured flammable liquid inside the car and set it alight.

Montereale (photo) was one of several women including Patrizia D’Addario who attended a party at Berlusconi’s Rome residence Palazzo Grazioli on 4 November last year.

That night, D’Addario said she stayed the night with the prime minister and has supplied prosecutors with audio and video tapes and photos from the visit which she says back up her claims.

Montereale said that D’Addario told her she had had sex with Berlusconi.

D’Addario, in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica published on Thursday, said her apartment was targeted in a break-in last month.

“It was a very strange robbery. It happened in May, a few days after I told a friend of mine that I was in possession of the recordings of my encounters with the president (Berlusconi),” said D’Addario.

She claims the dress she used during the parties in Palazzo Grazioli were stolen, among other things.

“Computers, music CDs, all my lingerie, my Versace dresses including the one I used in Rome. I became very frightened and I began to understand,” she said.

Berlusconi, 72, has strenuously denied the allegations made by a number of young women who claim they were paid to attend parties he threw at his private residences in Rome and on the island of Sardinia.

Montereale has denied ever having worked as an escort or asked for money to visit Palazzo Grazioli or Berlusconi’s Villa Certosa.

She told the British daily The Times, that Berlusconi gave her 10,000 euros “as a present” after attending one of his parties at the premier’s luxury villa in Sardinia in January.

She also told the daily that she received an attendance fee of 1,000 euros which was paid by Berlusconi’s alleged fixer Giampaolo Tarantini, a Bari businessman.

The sex scandals came to light by chance during a three-month investigation by prosecutors into alleged corruption by Tarantini and his brother Claudio to obtain contracts from the national health service to supply hospital equipment.

In tapped phone conversations Tarantini was overheard referring to fees paid to women to attend the prime minister’s parties at his homes in Rome and Sardinia.

Prosecutors are reported to have recordings of “jokey and convivial” phonecalls between Tarantini and Berlusconi in which they discuss arrangements for various parties, dinners and holidays.

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

Sweden: Man Raped in Stockholm Suburb

A man was raped near a metro station in southern Stockholm in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The man, who is 19-years-old, was on his way home from Skärmarbrink metro station at 4am on Sunday morning when he was attacked and raped at knife point by an unknown assailant.

“It has occurred outside. It has occurred at knife point. We have a vague description, but the victim is in shock and has not yet been capable of a thorough interview,” said Hans Wiksten at Stockholm police on Sunday morning.

After the attack the man was taken into the care of South Stockholm General Hospital’s rape unit.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Second Man Targeted by Suspected Rapist

A man who raped another man at knifepoint early Sunday morning may have struck again, according to Stockholm police.

Police received a report from another man who was threatened by a knife-wielding man around 10pm on Wednesday night.

The victim was on his way home from the Skärmarbrink subway station in southern Stockholm when he met a man holding a knife.

When the man with the knife grabbed hold of the victim’s arm, he struck back at the attacker’s head and was able to escape unharmed, according to the report filed with police in Stockholm’s southern district.

The victim of the attack called police, who brought in dogs to help search for the man with the knife throughout Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, but without result.

The course of events and description of the attacker are similar to those given by a 20-year-old man who was raped at knifepoint on Sunday near the same subway station.

Because the victim of the latest attack got a better look at the assailant, police now have a better description of the attacker to aid in their surveillance efforts.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Animal Rights Activists Force Restaurant Closure

Threats and vandalism allegedly carried out by animal rights activists have forced restaurant in Umeå in northern Sweden to close its doors.

In the two years since Michael Hansen opened his Garaget restaurant, which specializes in Texas-style barbecue, his establishment has been targeted by animal rights groups on numerous occasions, the Västerbottens-Kuriren newspaper reports.

In addition to confessing to breaking windows at Garaget, the Swedish chapter of the Animal Liberation Front (Djurens befrielsefront) admitted in December to spraying glue in the locks of the restaurant’s doors.

Nevertheless, Hansen continued to persevere, doing his best to “create a meeting place” where “everyone can slip in and get a well-prepared meal made from quality ingredients”, according to the restaurant’s website.

But after an incident in mid-May which threatened his family, Hansen has finally decided to call it quits.

“When actions include statements about my family’s safety being threatened, I have no choice,” he told the newspaper.

His comments came following an incident which took place on the morning of May 14th outside of Hansen’s home.

As he approached his doorway, Hansen discovered a bottle filled with a clear liquid and stuffed with a rag.

Near the bottle was a message reading, “Close down Garaget otherwise this bottle will come through your bedroom window.”

Shaken by the Molotov cocktail threat, Hansen reported the matter to police, but no arrests have yet been made.

“Obviously I have to take such threats seriously and I can’t just turn a blind eye to it,” Hansen told Västerbottens-Kuriren.

Police have classified the incident as a case of making aggravated illegal threats and are awaiting the results of a forensic examination of the contents of the bottle.

Hansen is frustrated about having to close down after enduring the earlier vandalism.

“It’s obviously disappointing that those who victimized us with all this are going to win,” he said.

“But everything has a price and now things have gone too far. I’ve already sacrificed way too much time and money which I’m never going to get back.”

Hansen plans to keep Garaget open through the summer before handing the restaurant over to a new owner on September 1st.

The decision to close has prompted an outpouring of support from residents and local politicians who were saddened to hear of Garaget’s closing.

Many are calling on police to step up efforts to find those behind the threats and vandalism

“What’s happened is shameful for Umeå,” said local Moderate Party politician Andres Ågren, who encouraged citizens to help police in their investigation.

“There are people out there who know who is behind these attacks. They must come forward and tell — even if they do so anonymously. We can’t accept these kinds of anti-democratic groups.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK Looks to Young Geeks to Secure Cyberspace

LONDON — Britain is hiring former computer hackers to join a new security unit aimed at protecting cyberspace from foreign spies, thieves and terrorists, the country’s terrorism minister said.

Alan West said the technology-savvy staff will join efforts to trace the source of — and prevent — cyber attacks on Britain’s government, businesses and individuals. The country also will develop its capability to wage cyber warfare against the country’s foes, he said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the creation of the unit Thursday as he published an updated national security strategy, detailing Britain’s response to global terrorism and emerging threats.

“Just as in the 19th century we had to secure the seas for our national safety and prosperity, and in the 20th century we had to secure the air, in the 21st century we also have to secure our position in cyberspace,” Brown said.

West said British government systems had probably come under cyber attack but that he did not know of any specific cases where sensitive data had been lost. British telecom BT Group PLC, one of the world’s largest telecommunications providers, estimates it has about 1,000 attempted cyber attacks per day on its systems, West said.

Jonathan Evans, the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency MI5, has previously warned that both China and Russia are using new technology to spy on Britain. Russia is accused of mounting large-scale attacks on Estonia’s computer systems in 2007.

British officials are concerned that some terrorist groups, including those linked to al-Qaida, are likely to soon develop the capability to use cyber warfare to attempt attacks on Western targets. “So far, the terrorists have not been the biggest threat in that area, but they are learning quickly,” West said.

Britain estimates about 52 billion pounds ($86 billion) is lost to the world economy each year as a result of malicious attacks on computer systems. Britons spend about 50 billion ($82.6 billion) online per year.

West said the British government was looking to young computer geeks — including those previously involved in hacking or low-level cyber crime — to help overhaul the country’s defenses.

“You need youngsters who are actually deep into this stuff — and they really get into it. If they’ve been slightly naughty, very often they really enjoying stopping others,” said West, a former head of Britain’s defense intelligence staff.

Hackers often use computer programing skills to test for weaknesses in the security systems of computer networks, steal or delete files, or install malicious programs — sometimes called trojan horses — that can be activated at a later date. Criminal hackers commonly steal banking data such as credit card details.

West said the new cyber security operations unit will be based at Britain’s vast Government Communications Headquarters, a major eavesdropping center in Cheltenham, western England.

He said some staff would likely have colorful backgrounds, but within limits. “I think we have to be a bit careful, we wouldn’t have ultra, ultra criminals who’ve made millions, I’m not saying that,” he said.

But Eugene Spafford, a professor of computer science at Purdue University, in Indiana, said it won’t be easy for all former hackers to become cyberspace police. “Knowing how to break a window is different from knowing how to fix it or to install it,” he said. “They may find flaws, but that doesn’t know they know how to fix the system.”

West also confirmed that — like the U.S. military — Britain has the ability to carry out its own cyber operations. “It would be silly to say that we don’t have any capability to do offensive work from Cheltenham,” West said.

The U.S. National Security Agency has said the United States is developing plans for a new cyber command at a Maryland army facility.

In a report released last month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said the number of cyber threats or incidents reported by federal agencies rose from about 5,500 in 2006 to more than 16,800 last year. Military officials in the U.S. say the Pentagon spent more than $100 million in the past six months responding to, and repairing damage from, cyber attacks and other computer network problems.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Four in Ten Under-20s in London Aren’t White

Four out of ten young people in London are members of ethnic minorities, it was revealed yesterday.

A government report found that more than 700,000 children and teenagers are classed as non-white, around 40 per cent of the age group in the capital.

At present, just over a third of Londoners of all ages are reckoned to be non-white — but the new figures indicate that this share will grow substantially in the future.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Jewish School Admissions Unlawful

Jewish schools may have to change admissions rules after the Appeal Court held that ethnic tests of Jewishness amount to racial discrimination.

A London school, the JFS, rejected a boy whose mother’s conversion to Judaism it did not recognise.

Faith schools may discriminate on religious grounds but the Court of Appeal held that this involved a test of ethnicity — which is unlawful.

The United Synagogue says this will have “a very serious effect”.

In future schools would need to adopt a test of religious practice and guidance would be issued on this — pending a successful appeal or change in the law.

Range of pupils

The state-funded JFS, formerly the Jews’ Free School, is heavily over-subscribed.

It gives preference to applicants whose “Jewish status” is confirmed by the United Synagogue — which requires that the mother be Jewish.

It has pupils from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds including from atheist, Catholic or Muslim families — but whose mothers are, in its terms, Jewish.

The boy — named in court only as M — has a Jewish father. His mother converted to the Jewish faith before he was born but had been a Roman Catholic.

But the conversion was not recognised because it was conducted in a Progressive not an Orthodox synagogue.


The three judges — Lords Justice Sedley and Rimer, and Lady Justice Smith — said it was clear that Jews constituted a racial group defined principally by ethnic origin and additionally by conversion.

To discriminate against a person on the ground that they were or were not Jewish was therefore to discriminate on racial grounds.

“The motive for the discrimination, whether benign or malign, theological or supremacist, makes it no less and no more unlawful.”

They said: “The refusal of JFS to admit M was accordingly, in our judgment, less favourable treatment of him on racial grounds.

“This does not mean … that no Jewish faith school can ever give preference to Jewish children. It means that, as one would expect, eligibility must depend on faith, however defined, and not on ethnicity.”


The United Synagogue said the decision affected any branch of Judaism that defines who is a Jew on the basis of descent (whether matrilineal or patrilineal).

It said Jewish schools of any sort — Reform, Liberal, Masorti, Charedi, Orthodox, Federation and so on — would be prohibited from giving priority to applicants who were a member of the Jewish faith.

It added: “In future, all Jewish schools (whether state or independent) will need to adopt a religious practice test, until such time as the Court of Appeal’s ruling is successfully overturned or a legislative amendment is made.”

“Unless the Court of Appeal decision is overturned on appeal it will have a very serious effect on all Jewish schools and on many of our communal organisations.”

So it strongly supported the decision of the governors of JFS to seek leave to appeal and was consulting its own advisers on what else might be done.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Policeman Sues Force After ‘Boss Said He Looked Like Bin Laden’

A Muslim police officer was told by his boss he looked like Osama Bin Laden because of his long beard, an employment tribunal heard.

Pc Tariq Dost has accused West Midlands Police and the police authority of racial and religious discrimination and victimisation following the remarks made to him from 2007.

Dost, from Small Heath, Birmingham, was working as a recruitment officer for the force when his manager Darren Yates is alleged to have made several discriminatory comments to him based on his race, beliefs and religion.

Giving evidence, Dost told the tribunal how Yates, who runs the recruitment office at the force HQ in Birmingham, pointed at him when looking at a picture of terrorist Bin Laden in a newspaper.

The tribunal also heard how Yates made remarks about the length of his beard on several occasions and also questioned why he tucked his trousers into his boots.

Giving evidence Dost said: ‘I believe he felt uncomfortable with me because of my appearance.

‘I found them (his comments) to be discriminatory and ignorant and embarrassing.’

Dost, 42, also claimed Yates referred to Muslim prayer as ‘shouting and wailing’ when he asked to go to afternoon prayer during a recruitment fair.

Yates is alleged to have laughed at him as he turned up to the fair in Islamic clothing and robes as he was off duty.

‘I found it to be highly offensive and demeaning and discriminatory towards myself and Muslims as a whole,’ Dost said.

‘His actions were racist and Islamaphobic.’

Dost complained to his superiors about the incidents and Yates was later disciplined and found guilty of making inappropriate and offensive comments.

He was given a final written warning for his conduct.

Dost also had disciplinary proceedings brought against him for making comments about Yates’ sexual performance. He denied the claims and said they were ‘preposterous’.

He was found guilty by a disciplinary panel and fined 13 days pay amounting to nearly £3000.

But Dost claimed he was treated differently to his boss during the investigation because his was not ‘white’ or a ‘Christian’ and argued that a pay deduction was a heftier penalty than being given a final written warning.

He added: ‘The manner in which I have been treated by Darren Yates has shocked me. It has left me feeling devalued.

‘I have lost a lot of trust because of his behaviour. It has caused me tremendous hurt and pain and left me feeling very angry and resentful to those involved.

‘I feel that I have been betrayed by the force. Instead of treating me as a victim they have treated me as an offender.

‘They have discriminated against me for no other reason than that I am an Asian and a Muslim. I am ashamed to be associated with West Midlands Police.’

Dost claimed he was moved from his position to Solihull Police Station in 2008 as a result of the investigation, while Yates was reinstated in his original position with all his responsibilities.

The tribunal continues.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Where Does the EU Get Its Power From?

I promised to give some replies to comments on the EU and Jury postings. As usual, there isn’t really room to do justice to either of these vast subjects.

But let me begin with the EU, I’ll concentrate on the contribution from John Davies, which lies outside the usual ‘yes it is’, and ‘no it isn’t’ bit of the debate. He says, rather surprisingly, that the EU is not in fact powerful at all. To justify this, he suggests that the power of the EU can be measured by such things as the size of its budget.

You might as well measure it by the number of people it directly employs, which is (like the budget) comparatively tiny. Much more significant is the number of people who actually abide by and enforce its decrees, and the quantities of national budgets which are devoted to its ends. The EU depends greatly, at this stage in its development, on keeping up the appearance that nations still have their own governments.

This is specially important here [in Britain], where national independence is a treasured possession stretching back for unbroken centuries, and in Ireland where it is a hard-won prize. It is startlingly less important in France, invaded and subjugated twice in the past 150 years, in Germany, which learned that it must follow its national interests in more subtle ways after two attempts to impose them by force, and in Italy which only came into existence as a nation very recently and had (like Germany) a bad experience when it sought to assert itself. As I’ve said elsewhere, Britain is the only virgin in a continent of rape victims. As I haven’t said elsewhere, that is why she needs to be drugged by deceit into acquiescence in the current process. But every so often she half wakes up, like poor Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, to cry out ‘This isn’t a dream. This is really happening!’ And so it is.

The EU’s power is at heart an agreement by the central member states that certain directions will be followed. There is no need for coercion, though an underlying fear of larger neighbours, well-taught during the 20th century, certainly motivates many of the smaller nations. The two key members, France and Germany, formalised their very curious alliance at the Elysee Treaty of January 1963. The smaller and poorer original members, Benelux and Italy, were either economically, militarily or diplomatically overshadowed by the Franco-German partnership, which continues to be the heart of the project. The origin of the EU’s power lies in the joint recognition of France and Germany, and their establishments, that they cannot manage without each other, that Germany can have power if it exercises it through the EU but not if it does so openly, and that France can have standing, prestige (and considerable economic benefits) if it accepts an unstated but actual German political primacy.

This relationship became more one-sided after German reunification, but has survived remarkably well considering the strains it could have imposed. The certainty, among France’s elite, that conflict with Germany in future is futile, over-rode traditional French fears of a united Germany. (Arthur Koestler wrote interestingly about the doomed relationship of the two countries, one a land of bread and wine, the other a land of coal and iron, and their unequal populations, in the opening pages of his extraordinary book Scum of the Earth, which I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in the darker corners of European history).

The absorption of Britain was almost certainly a mistake on the EU’s terms. They were attracted by the access to British markets it offered, by the possibilities of absorbing our military capability into an all-Europe one, by the fishing grounds, by the large net contributions which we were bound to make. Above all, they wanted to end what they regard as annoying British attempts to prevent a single power dominating the continent, the principle of London’s foreign policy since the days of the first Queen Elizabeth. What they didn’t anticipate was the depth and strength of the incompatibility between the Continental approach to law, government and regulation, and British traditions.

It was undoubtedly a mistake on British terms. We gained nothing economically or politically by it, losing what remained of our special Commonwealth trading links, losing our territorial waters, our foreign policy independence and our ability to make our own arrangements for regulating and subsidising our industry and agriculture. We also lost our political independence, and control over our own borders. I could make a longer list if I thought it would help the argument, but most readers will get my point. British establishment enthusiasm for the European idea was rooted in chagrin, and in mistrust of the USA, following our defeat at Suez.

It was in a way a sort of British Vichy mentality, defeatist and self-denigratory. It became clear during the 1980s that we were quite able to recover from the economic and political sickness of the Eden-Macmillan-Home-Wilson-Callaghan era, and were also able to conduct ourselves effectively as a medium sized diplomatic and military power. It was also increasingly clear that the ever-closer union promised in the Treaty of Rome was becoming irksome because of its growing interference with British laws at home and with our freedom of action abroad. Meanwhile, the endless promises of greater access to markets in Europe never seemed to be fulfilled.

It is perfectly true that the EU has no power of any kind to force us to remain within it, and in fact the Lisbon Treaty for the first time codifies the procedure for a country which wishes to leave the EU. We could leave tomorrow, without damage, if we so wished. But the leaderships of all political parties refuse to countenance this. Why? Mr Davies is perfectly correct in saying that the British government and civil service gold-plate EU laws and regulations, because they like them so much and see them as opportunities to do what they wanted to do before. Also on occasion ministers like to claim that the EU is forcing them to do things they wish to do anyway (a very important reason why British politicians, unwilling to reveal or take responsibility for their own real aims, support EU membership so strongly. The Strasbourg Human Rights Court, a non-EU body, often performs the same function, ‘forcing’ British governments to do things they wanted to do anyway, but couldn’t get past the voters. The Strasbourg Court has no power in Britain, except the power the British government wants to give it). But British politicians are not so keen to acknowledge their impotence over such things as Post Office closures, the wrecking of our fisheries, or the current rubbish collection mess, as they don’t like admitting how much power they’ve handed over in return for the general irresponsibility the EU provides.

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


Kosovo: War Crimes, Former Premier Ceku Arrested in Bulgaria

(ANSAmed) — SOFIA, JUNE 24 — The former premier of Kosovo, Agim Ceku, wanted by Interpol for war crimes, was arrested yesterday in Bulgaria at the Macedonian border. The news was announced by a Bulgarian Interior Ministry spokesman. Ceku was entering Bulgaria for high-level talks when arrested. Serbia accuses him of crimes committed in Croatia in the 1991/’95 conflict and in Kosovo in the war of 1998/’99, when he commanded the Albanian guerrilla forces. He was premier of Kosovo from April 2006 to November 2007, shortly before Pristina proclaimed its independence from Serbia. It is not the first time Ceku has been arrested on a Serbian warrant: Colombia expelled him early May and in 2004 he was briefly interrogated in Hungary. A spokesman of his Social-Democrat party in Pristina said that talks on a diplomatic level concerning his release have been in progress “since early this morning”. The Bulgarian solicitor, Nikolai Kokinov, announced that he is considering the extradition request presented by the Serbian authorities, due to which Ceku’s arrest has been prolonged. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU-Africa: Wade; If You Favour Med Union We Turn to China

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 24 — Africa could turn its attention towards China, India and Brazil for its own development, if Europe does not increase its commitment towards the African continent, President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade said today. Wade was giving a press conference in Brussels, in which he attacked Europe for favouring Mediterranean Africa over black Africa, and creating new divisions within the continent. ‘Our biggest concern is that the creation of the Mediterranean Union will isolate Africa”, said Wade. ‘We will not fail to react to this form of isolation” for black Africa, which could react by turning to Latin America, India, China and Brazil ‘to favour a south-south cooperation which will allow us to develop”. Wade, who presented an announcement along with president of the EU Commission Antonio Tajani to reinforce cooperation in transport matters between the EU and Africa, said that ‘Europe is becoming less and less competitive with regard to Africa. I tell you this frankly, I tell you sincerely in friendship, in the hope that it makes you reflect”, he warned, adding: ‘We are very attached to cooperation with Europe and we do not want to throw away 3/4 centuries of cooperation”. (ANSAmed).

2009-06-24 17:07

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Islam: Niqab Debate Risks Politicisation, Egyptian Minister

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 24 — “What I fear is that the debate over the niqab will become politicised and will produce the same effect as that of the hijab, with further pressures on women to make them wear it”, Moushina Khattab, Egyptian Family and Social Affairs Minister, has said. Khattab was commenting on the re-opening of the debate on the veil in France, on the sidelines of an ISAIO conference on the Arab Woman in the 21st Century, currently underway in Rome. “The issue of education for women is the important thing”, added the minister, noting that without this they cannot even gain the right to vote and that only education gives women the tools to react to the pressures heaped upon them. The veil, continued Khattab, implies that a woman “is not a human being, but a seductive creature”, a concept which equally reduces man to “a being incapable of respect in its presence”. Further, the use of the niqab blocks true human interaction, which is also expressed through body language. This has particularly negative consequences, rounded off the Egyptian minister, in the education of children at school and in forming their concept of woman which will be carried into adulthood. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Berlusconi Agrees With Palestinian Demilitarisation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 23 — “I expressed my appreciation for the possibility of a demilitarisation of the Palestinian state, which we believe is a duty, and also for the fact that the State of Israel must be recognised”, said Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Palazzo Chigi, referring to the speech given by the Israeli leader a few days ago. He added that “we discussed the present situation in the Middle East and we have confirmed our support to renew Israeli- Palestinian negotiations and to promote peace in the Middle East”. Berlusconi stated that these two principles — the demilitarisation of the Palestinian State and the recognition of the Israeli State by the other side — are not pre-conditions to starting negotiations, but must be included in future negotiations. The Prime Minister also expressed “appreciation” for the speech given by the Israeli Prime Minister in October, during which he opened up, for the first time, to the possibility of a Palestinian State, on the condition of it being demilitarised and with prior recognition of the State of Israel by the Palestinian side. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hamas Says Has No Knowledge of Shalit’s Life

GAZA, June 25 (Xinhua) — The Islamic Hamas movement on Thursday said it cannot confirm or deny if the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still alive.

“The crazy war on the Gaza Strip wiped out everything so we don’t know if Shalit is still alive or if he has died,” Osama al-Muzini, a Hamas official authorized to speak on this issue, told Xinhua, referring to a 22-day Israeli offensive against the Hamas-controlled territory in January.

Al-Muzini, however, said Israel has to go ahead with talks to exchange Shalit for a number of Arab prisoners “whether the soldier was dead or alive.”

“The Zionist enemy has to pursue negotiations without any signal confirming or denying this argument,” al-Muzini added.

Thursday marks the third anniversary of Shalit’s capture by Hamas-led Gaza militants in a cross-border raid at his military base near the Gaza Strip.

The Islamic Hamas movement wants Israel to free hundreds of Palestinian and Arab prisoners, including all youngsters, women and the elder, in return for the captive.

Moreover, al-Muzini denied reports that Egypt, which mediates between Hamas and Israel, has made some progress in bridging the gaps between Hamas and Israel.

“The issue is still marking time and the contacts are weak, there are no new proposals,” he said, adding that the reports were “trial balloons the Zionist enemy releases.”

He reiterated that Israel has to accept the captors’ demands as the only possible solution to Shalit’s case.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Israel Releases Hamas Speaker

Israel has released the Hamas speaker of the Palestinian parliament after three years in prison.

Abdel Aziz Dweik was among dozens of Hamas politicians arrested after Palestinian militants abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.

Israel detained Mr Dweik, 60, and dozens of other Hamas politicians in the occupied West Bank in 2006 shortly after gunmen from the faction and other militants abducted Sergeant Shalit on the Gaza Strip border.

But Hamas and Israel denied a Palestinian news agency report that Sergeant Shalit’s release was also imminent.

Mr Dweik’s reception at the PLC highlighted the continuing enmity between Hamas and the US-backed Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas, which favours a peace deal with Israel.

The Islamists, shunned by the West for refusing to coexist with the Jewish state, seized control of Gaza in 2007, driving Fatah forces out and prompting Mr Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-led coalition government that was sworn in after a surprise Hamas victory in a 2006 election.

Talks to reconcile the two have yielded no results since Egypt began mediation late last year.

Mr Dweik has been touted by Hamas as a possible replacement for Mr Abbas.

During his imprisonment, he was taken several times to a hospital in Israel, suffering from blood pressure problems and diabetes. It was unclear if his poor health contributed to his release.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu in Rome: Berlusconi, Invited to Speak at Knesset

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 23 — Each year there will be a bilateral meeting held between Italy and Israel, the first of which will be held in Israel, where Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi will speak at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The information was announced by Silvio Berlusconi during a press conference held alongside Benjamin Netanyahu. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US Actor in Israel Tells Youth to “Imagine” Peace

Seinfeld star in Jerusalem meets “Imagine 2018” participants

American Jewish actor Jason Alexander, from the hugely successful television comedy series Seinfeld, was in Jerusalem on Wednesday to attend a OneVoice meeting where he spoke about a project in which Palestinian and Israeli youth “imagine” what would happen if a peace treaty had been signed in 2008.

Alexander was in the American Colony hotel in east Jerusalem to meet with participants of the “Imagine 2018” project, started by the OneVoice international peace movement.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Middle East

70 Iranian Professors Reportedly Detained

According To Mousavi’s Web Site, Professors Taken By Regime Forces After Meeting Opposition Candidate

Seventy university professors were detained in Iran in a widening government crackdown on protesters, according to a Web site affiliated with Iran’s key opposition figure, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who says he was robbed of victory in a rigged presidential election.

The professors were detained on Wednesday, immediately after meeting with Mousavi, said the Kalemeh site, which is affiliated with the opposition leader. The report said it is not clear where the detainees were taken.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Iranian authorities have barred journalists for international news organizations from reporting on the streets and ordered them to stay in their offices. This report is based on the accounts of witnesses reached in Iran and official statements carried on Iranian media.

Hundreds protesters and activists are believed to have been taken into custody since the June 12 vote, in which Iran’s ruling clerics declared hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner by a landslide. The government has also set up a special court to deal with the cases of people arrested in more than a week of unrest and threatened harsh sentences.

Widespread protests erupted after the election, amid allegations of massive fraud. Since then, at least 17 people have been killed as authorities gradually intensified their crackdown.

The state-owned newspaper, Iran, reported Thursday that in addition to the 17, seven members of the pro-government Basij militia were killed in post-election clashes, and dozens more injured by weapons and knives. The report could not be independently verified.

The professors detained Wednesday were believed to be among a group that has been pushing for a more liberal form of government. The detentions signal that the authorities are increasingly targeting members of Iran’s elite.

A flood of security forces using tear gas and clubs quickly overwhelmed a small group of rock-throwing protesters near Iran’s parliament Wednesday, and the country’s supreme leader said the outcome of the disputed presidential election would stand — signs of the government’s growing confidence in quelling unrest on the streets.

As the election showdown has shifted, demonstrators are finding themselves increasingly scattered and struggling under a blanket crackdown. In Wednesday’s clashes, thousands of police crushed hundreds of Mousavi’s supporters.

With no western television cameras left in Iran, shaky cell phone video provides the only images of the protest. And although the pictures show confrontations and casualties, it’s impossible to verify when and where they were filmed, reported CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

The regime seems determined to head off further violence before it starts by flooding areas favored by the protestors with riot police and paramilitaries.

Mousavi hasn’t been heard from in almost a week, Palmer reported. But Wednesday, his wife — who rocketed to stardom during the election campaign — posted a message online reminding protestors they have a legal right to demonstrate and blasting the government for acting as if it had imposed martial law, reports Palmer.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Barry Rubin: Iran’s Crisis and All Quiet on the Western Front

The Iranian crisis is being fought out on three fronts.

The first, and the one properly receiving the most attention, is inside Iran itself. Commentators have now found the perfect phrase for describing the outcome there: As a result of the stolen election, demonstrations, and repression, Iran will be changed forever.

OK. But changed how? If the regime puts down the demonstrations, it will be ruling lots of deeply dissatisfied citizens. Yet overall, not much will change within the country. Presumably, there will periodically other such upheavals until the day the regime is overthrown altogether. But how long will that take? None can say.

More can be said about the other two fronts. The one changing the least is the regional aspect. Events in Iran will not change minds in the Middle East.

On one side are the radical Islamists. These include pro-Iranian forces—Hamas and Hizballah; the Syrian regime, and many in Iraq—won’t have their minds changed by the post-election upheaval. They will go on being radical Islamists and believe that these demonstrations are creations of American intelligence (whether President Obama praises them or not will have no effect) and that the marches represent only a tiny minority of malcontents.

The same conclusion, however, will be reached by the anti-Iran Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, and the much smaller base of al-Qaida. They and their supporters will go on seeking Islamist regimes in their countries, notably Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. They won’t be affected either.

But there is another factor regarding the Islamist side…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Homosexuals in Turkey: Istanbul Week for Gay Rights

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 24 — Eleven have been killed in ‘hate crimes’ against homosexuals in the last six months in Turkey, and so the seventeenth LGBTT (Lesbians, Gay, Bi-Sexuals, Transsexuals and Transgender) Pride Week has kicked off in Istanbul in a climate of sadness and rage. The event was organised by the LambdaIstanbul association, which in January risked being shut down due to accusations of offense to “public morality”. There have been many assemblies, round table discussions and cultural events with a large number of participants — including the Turkish writer Elif Shakaf — to prepare for Gay Pride, the event which on Sunday will start at Taksim Square and end on the banks of the Bosporus via Beyoglu, long known as the centre of Istanbul night life — which many transsexuals have recently been forced to leave after raids carried out by the forces of order. Defending one’s rights in a demonstration has become necessary, Ismail Alacaoglu, one of the leaders of the LGBT Kaos GL association, told ANSA: “violence targeting us is on the rise because our visibility has increased. We were expecting this and are afraid that it will continue, but the time has come for us to take to the streets, since we no longer want to hide.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Human Rights: Turkey; Police Brutality Increasing, Report

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 19 — Instances involving police brutality have increased in the past two years in Turkey after the law regulating the duties and reponsibilities of the police was altered to give them more leeway while using force, daily Radikal’s web site reports quoting a survey released by the Turkey Human Rights Foundation (TIHV). Thirteen people have died in police custody, 53 people were injured by police-fired weapons and there were 416 instances of torture and mistreatment in the two years since police authority was expanded. Regulations in line with European Union norms were introduced in 2005 as part of the new Civil Code but the regulations affecting the police were changed in 2007 after police complained they could not carry out their duties effectively. Since the change in the law regarding police responsibilities and duties, 40 people have been killed and 53 injured in situations when commands to stop were disobeyed, during demonstrations and when weapons were used during house raids. The TIHV said according to international norms, security forces could resort to the use of weapons only in instances when their life or another’s person’s life was in immediate danger. But due to the changes in the law regarding police responsibilities and duties, weapons have been used in instances when there was no threat to anyone’s life. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran’s Mousavi Defies Crackdown

Iran protest leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he holds those behind alleged “rigged” elections responsible for bloodshed during recent protests.

In a defiant statement on his website, he called for future protests to be in a way which would not “create tension.”

He complained of “complete” restrictions on his access to people and a crackdown on his media group.

A BBC correspondent in Tehran says the statement is a direct challenge to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

In another development on Thursday, Iranian state media said that eight members of the pro-government Basij militia had been killed and dozens more wounded in the protests.

The eight deaths were in addition to 17 other people whose deaths have already been reported.

The figures cannot be verified due to severe reporting restrictions inside Iran.

“I won’t refrain from securing the rights of the Iranian people… because of personal interests and the fear of threats,” Mr Mousavi said on the website of his newspaper, Kalameh.

Those who violated the election process “stood beside the main instigators of the recent riots and shed people’s blood on the ground”, Mr Mousavi said, pledging to show how they were involved.

Mr Mousavi, a former prime minister, spoke of the “recent pressures on me” that are “aimed at making me change my position regarding the annulment of the election”.

He described the clampdowns he and his staff were facing.

“My access to people is completely restricted. Our two websites have many problems and Kalameh Sabz newspaper has been closed down and its editorial members have been arrested,” said Mr Mousavi, who has not been seen in public for days.

“These by no means contribute to improving the national atmosphere and will lead us towards a more violent atmosphere,” he added.

Day of mourning

Opposition leaders had called for a day of mourning on Thursday, but some reports say it has been cancelled.

Separately, nearly two thirds of MPs appear to have stayed away from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election victory party.

All 290 MPs were invited to attend the party, Iran’s press reports, but only 105 turned up. An earlier BBC report wrongly reported that 105 did not attend.

One of those who reportedly failed to turn up was Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, a high-profile figure who shares some of Mr Ahmadinejad’s hardline views but has been critical of some aspects of the government’s handling of the protests.

About 50 MPs are reformist and would not have been expected to attend the victory party.

But the high number of MPs who stayed away is another indication that the disputed election has split the nation, says the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen in Tehran.

President Ahmadinejad on Thursday criticised US President Barack Obama for his condemnation earlier this week of the violence in Iran.

“Our question is why he fell into this trap and said things that previously [former US President George W] Bush used to say,” he was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying.

The Guardian Council, which supervises elections, has already said it will not re-run the election.

Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated on Wednesday that he would “not yield” over the election result.


Hundreds of opposition protesters and activists are believed to have been taken into custody and at least 17 protesters have died in the unrest since the election.

The Iranian government has set up special courts to deal with those arrested and has threatened harsh sentences.

Mr Mousavi’s website reported on Thursday that 70 academics who visited the opposition leader on Wednesday had been arrested. It was not clear where they had been taken.

Wednesday’s street protest was smaller than on previous days, as an increasingly heavy security presence took effect.

But there were reports of riot police firing tear gas, shooting in the air and beating demonstrators with batons.

Severe reporting restrictions imposed on foreign media in Iran mean the BBC cannot verify the reports.

Tehran has blamed foreign governments for inspiring the protests, but some Western countries are continuing to criticise its handling of the crisis.

“We stand beside you,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, referring to “all in Iran who seek to demonstrate peacefully”.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the BBC there is a “crisis of credibility between the Iranian government and their own people”.

The Italian government said it hoped Thursday’s meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers would send a “tough” message to Tehran.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran: Son’s Death Has Iranian Family Asking Why

The details of his death remain unclear. He had been alone. Neighbors and relatives think that he got trapped in the crossfire. He wasn’t politically active and hadn’t taken part in the turmoil that has rocked Iran for over a week, they said.

“He was a very polite, shy young man,” said Mohamad, a neighbor who has known him since childhood.

When Mr. Alipour didn’t return home that night, his parents began to worry. All day, they had heard gunshots ringing in the distance. His father, Yousef, first called his fiancée and friends. No one had heard from him.

At the crack of dawn, his father began searching at police stations, then hospitals and then the morgue.

Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a “bullet fee”—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Semneby, Tactical Step Backward on Armenia Thaw

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 18 — “A step back was taken by the Turkish side, but this is not a U-turn”, EU South Caucasus envoy Peter Semneby said about “road map” deal Turkey and Armenia agreed to start last April. “We expect the conversations will continue”, Hurriyet daily news quoted him as saying. Ankara and Yerevan started talks that could lead to the normalizing of ties and the opening of their border, which Turkey closed in a show of support to Azerbaijan in 1993 after Armenian occupation of Azeri territories in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. “The normalization (with Armenia) became the subject of quite widespread and heated discussion in Turkey”, Semneby told. “It seems to me, this discussion became more heated than was expected”, he added. “Fundamentally, the new foreign policy that has been pursued by the Erdogan government, I don’t see that this policy is changing”, EU envoy said. The policy he refers to is the strategy called “zero problems with neighbourhoods” created by new Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Turkish officials, however, have said Turkey will not open its border with Armenia before the neighbouring country ends its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

U.S. Rescinds July 4 Invites for Iran Diplomats

‘Circumstances have changed,’ Clinton says in a statement

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has rescinded an offer for Iranian envoys to attend U.S. embassy Fourth of July parties as the violent crackdown in Tehran continues.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday notified diplomats and other department employees overseas that her earlier invitations had been withdrawn.

“Unfortunately, circumstances have changed and participation by Iranian diplomats would not be appropriate in light of the unjust actions that the president and I have condemned,” she said in her message sent overseas. “For invitations which have been extended, posts should make clear that Iranian participation is no longer appropriate in the current circumstances. For invitations which have not been extended, no further action is needed.”

Clinton had authorized U.S. envoys abroad some weeks ago to invite Iranian diplomats to attend the annual celebration. Her authorization was required because Washington has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran, department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

Invites hadn’t been accepted

Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs noted earlier in the day that the invitations were withdrawn.

“Given the events of the past many days, those invitations will no longer be extended,” Gibbs said.

Postelection protests and violence have rocked Iran since the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The past 10 days in Iran have posed the strongest challenge to that nation’s clerical rule since the system was established in the 1979 Islamic revolution.

President Barack Obama condemned the violence against protesters Tuesday and lent his strongest support yet to their accusations the hardline victory was a fraud.

No Iranian diplomat had accepted an invitation from U.S. diplomatic posts abroad to attend embassy Fourth of July parties, according to the State Department.

           — Hat tip: ZZMike[Return to headlines]

Where’s the U.N. On Iran?

People are being killed in Iran. Where is the U.N.? What institution could be better positioned to relieve President Obama of his worries about America standing up unilaterally for freedom in Iran? The U.N. is the self-styled overlord of the international community, committed in its charter to promote peace, freedom and “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights.”

Iran’s regime is already in gross violation of a series of U.N. sanctions over a nuclear program the U.N. Security Council deems a threat to international peace. The same regime has now loosed its security apparatus of trained thugs and snipers on Iranians who have been, in huge numbers, demanding their basic rights. Surely top U.N. officials such as Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon should be leading the charge for liberty and justice, with the strongest possible criticism and measures against the Iranian regime.

But that’s not happening. While Iranian protesters have been risking their necks to try to rid their country of a malignant despotism, the U.N. has hardly even qualified as voting “present.”

During the upheaval following the disputed results of Iran’s June 12 presidential election, Ban confined himself to a grand total of three public utterances on the matter. In the first, on June 15, with pictures of bloodied Iranian protesters already flooding the Internet, Ban told reporters in New York that he was “closely following the situation.” In words so ritually obtuse that they could have been scripted for him by Iran’s supreme tyrant, Ali Khamenei, Ban added that he had “taken note of the instruction by the religious leaders that there should be an investigation into this issue.”

The next day, June 16, when asked again about Iran, Ban came up with pretty much the same anodyne answer: “taken note … very closely following … just seeing how the situation will develop.” Other than that, for the next six days, Ban had lots to say—but not about Iran. He sent a message to a meeting in Yekaterinburg, Russia, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was attending as an observer, having briefly decamped from the upheaval that his own Ayatollah-blessed, irregularity-fraught “re-election” had sparked in Iran.

To this gathering in Russia, where Ahmadinejad posed for the cameras among a lineup of heads of state, Ban dispatched a message full of buzzwords about poverty, climate change and “combined commitment to a peaceful and prosperous common future.” He made no mention of the “situation” in Iran.

Ban also found time for such activities as addressing a seminar on “cyber-hate.” He paid tribute to Gabon’s late President Omar Bongo Ondimba. He fretted about the effects of desertification on migration patterns by the year 2050. This past weekend, as the world played and replayed the footage of Iranian protester Neda Agha-Soltan bleeding to death on a street in Tehran, Ban was in Birmingham, England, apparently absorbed in accepting an award at a Rotary International Convention.

Not until June 22 did Ban finally return to the subject of Iran. And even then, Ban did not step forth before the cameras himself. At the regular noon press briefing, Ban’s spokeswoman, Michele Montas, delivered a long list of announcements, replete with notices of assorted public service awards, and of the demise of a man who served from 1976 to 1981 as the spokesman for former U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. There was nothing on Iran..

When the announcements finally ended, the first question she got was about the Secretary General’s reaction to the latest news on election oddities and murdered protesters in Iran. She replied only that a statement from Ban was in the works, which she hoped would be ready “in a few minutes.” To a second question on Iran, she said that time was up, and the briefing was over.

Hours later, Ban’s office finally issued the promised response on Iran: a one-paragraph statement, “attributable to the Secretary General.” It turned out that while Iran’s security forces had been spending day after day beating, shooting and arresting demonstrators, Ban had progressed from keeping an eye on Iran to following the situation with “growing concern,” and had become “dismayed” by the violence.

As U.N. diplomat lingo goes, this is phrasing so tepid it could double as old dishwater. Compare it, for instance, to Ban’s statement the next day about the rape of some 20 women at Goma’s central prison in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This was a horrible event, but was it more horrible, or of greater import, than Iran’s government assaulting and slaughtering its own people? In the Congo case—keep your eye on the nuances—Ban was not merely “dismayed.” He was “deeply distressed.”

Or contrast Ban’s lukewarm angle on Iran with his “around-the-clock efforts with world leaders”—as his spokeswoman described it—to produce an immediate ceasefire when Israeli forces went into terrorist-run Gaza last December to try to stop Iranian-backed Hamas from launching rockets into Israel. In that case, Ban declared himself “deeply dismayed,” “deeply alarmed,” and having demanded, urged and condemned, he finally traveled to Gaza.

There, Ban did not wait for any considered inquiry and analysis to unfold. He let fly, condemning Israel for “excessive” use of force, and pronouncing himself incensed that U.N. buildings had been hit—never mind why. He rolled out for the press such phrases as “outrageous, shocking and alarming,” demanded a full investigation and pronounced himself too “appalled” to be able to describe his full feelings.

No such vocabulary or demand has been emanating from Ban’s office over the carnage that Iran’s government, in order to maintain its monstrously repressive grip, has been inflicting on its own people.

To be fair to Ban, in his statement Monday on Iran, he did spell out that his dismay extends particularly to “the use of force against civilians.” But he didn’t mention anything about this force being “excessive.” Perhaps by U.N. lights, the Iranian Basij and rooftop snipers have hit on some eminently proportionate use of force—dismaying to Ban, lethal to an untold number of Iranians, but not worth a denouncement as “outrageous, shocking and alarming.”

Ban, in the second half of his one-paragraph statement on Iran, went on to urge “a stop to the arrests, threats and use of force,” calling on “the government and the opposition to resolve peacefully their differences through dialogue and legal means.” That might be a reasonable notion, were Iran a free society operating with a genuinely democratic system and set of laws. But Iran under the mullahs is a place where they jail women who take off their veils, and hang homosexuals.

Whether disingenuous or simply clueless, Ban, with his morally neutral U.N. mantra, is ignoring the problem that Iran’s regime, since its inception 30 years ago, has been grounded not in democratic rule of law, but in rule by diktat and terror. The arrests, threats and force are part of the government’s “dialogue.”

Beyond Ban, where is the rest of the U.N. on the showdown and brutal crackdown in Iran? Well, last Friday, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, according to the U.N. News Service, “expressed concern” (though apparently not deep concern). With fastidious attention to the small print, Pillay noted that “the legal basis of the arrests that have been taking place, especially those of human rights defenders and political activists, is not clear.” She may be right; the details right now are not clear.. But the big picture certainly is.

What of the 15-member Security Council, which over the past three years has imposed sanctions on Iran, meant to stop its “proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities.” You might suppose that with Iran’s government brazenly violating these sanctions, the Security Council would take an interest in the recent tumult within the Islamic Republic. Perhaps the U.S. would be pushing the issue?

Nope. According to a Western diplomat connected with the Security Council, “Iran is not being discussed at the council right now.”

Nor is the General Assembly exactly seized of the matter (as they like to say at the U.N.). The current president of the Assembly is Nicaragua’s Miguel D’Escoto Brockman, a former Sandinista and current pal of the Tehran regime. In March D’Escoto made a five-day pit stop in Iran, his visit apparently bankrolled by the Iranian regime. This week he’s making use of the U..N.’s headquarters in New York to host a conference on remodeling the global financial system.

What of the U.N. agencies? They have a substantial presence inside Iran, and Iran has a substantial presence inside them. As I’ve written previously in these columns, Iran sits on the governing boards of an array of U.N. agencies, and is currently chairing the 36-member executive board of the U..N.’s flagship agency, the U.N. Development Program—which as part of its brief serves as coordinator for other U.N. operations in the field. In that capacity, as a UNDP official assures me, Iran does not deal with day-to-day management of the UNDP, but merely exercises “oversight.” On the current “situation” in Iran, the UNDP top official, Administrator Helen Clark, has remained silent.

So, as protesters die in Iran while calling for freedom, where is the U.N.? With Ban Ki-Moon and the crew above manning the mother ship of global diplomacy, the best rejoinder I can come up with is, the further away, the better.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Politkovskaya Murder Acquittal Overturned

MOSCOW — Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the acquittal of three men charged with the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist whose reporting directly challenged the country’s most powerful leaders.

A Moscow jury acquitted the defendants — two Chechen brothers and a former policeman — in February after a trial that Politkovskaya’s supporters said was undermined by prosecution errors and omissions.

The acquittal was an embarrassment for the Russian government, which has appeared eager to fend off charges that journalists and Kremlin critics can be murdered with impunity.

The prosecutors appealed the verdict, accusing the judge of making numerous procedural violations.

The Supreme Court agreed there had been a violation of procedural rules, court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said. The court ordered a new jury trial.

Not guilty verdicts are often reversed by Russia’s higher courts.

All three defendants were accused of playing minor roles in Politkovskaya’s shooting death in 2006. Prosecutors never explained who might have ordered the suspected contract killing, and the suspected gunman remains at large.

Politkovskaya was a ferocious critic of former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in particular his conduct of the war against Chechen separatists. She angered officials with her persistent reporting of human rights abuses and corruption in Chechnya under the leadership of Kremlin favorite Ramzan Kadyrov.

One of Politkovskaya’s editors at the newspaper Novaya Gazeta said the main problem with the trial was that it was “just about these extras,” referring to the three defendants.

“We’re more interested in the mastermind and the killer,” deputy editor Sergei Sokolov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. “It’s completely obvious that today’s ruling was based on a political decision, not a procedural one. For the authorities, the most important thing was just to make sure someone went to prison.”

At least 16 journalists have died in contract-style slayings or under suspicious circumstances in Russia since 2000. Many more have been assaulted or threatened. Few of the crimes have been solved.

Svetlana Gannushkina, a rights lawyer, criticized the Supreme Court’s decision, which she said was based on the argument that a defense lawyer had been allowed to put undue pressure on the jury.

“That’s his job if the lawyer is doing a good job,” Gannushkina said on the radio broadcast. She said the defense showed “that the prosecution’s charges were built on sand.”

Karinna Moskalenko, a prominent lawyer who represents Politkovskaya’s family, said the investigators needed to do a better job making their case the second time around.

“We have hope,” she said. “What they did before was unsatisfactory. The children still have hope.”

Defense lawyer Murad Musayev said he had expected Thursday’s decision.

“I’m convinced that if a new court is able to look at the case objectively and properly then our arguments will again be upheld,” he said.

The defendants are former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and two brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov. A third brother is suspected of shooting Politkovskaya five times in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006. He has not been found.

Dzhabrail Makhmudov said Thursday that he was ready to defend himself and his brother in court a second time.

“We’ve never run in our lives and we’re not going to run from this now,” he said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Prosecutors had accused Dzhabrail Makhmudov of driving the gunman to Politkovskaya’s apartment building the day of the crime, while Ibragim was charged with calling to warn his brothers that Politkovskaya was on her way home.

Khadzhikurbanov allegedly planned details of the attack, recruited the Makhmudov brothers and acquired a pistol with a silencer for the shooting.


           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Four Killed in Clashes in Russia’s Ingushetia Region-Official

MOSCOW (AFP)—Four people were killed in clashes in Russia’s southern Ingushetia region, investigators said Thursday, just days after a roadside bombing nearly killed the region’s Kremlin-appointed leader.

The four people, including an officer from an elite police unit, died Wednesday in two separate incidents in the predominantly Muslim region, Russia’s investigative committee said in a statement.

The officer, from a special unit of the Ingush interior ministry, died after an unidentified assailant opened fire with an automatic weapon in the town of Karabulak, the statement said.

The other three were killed in the village of Ekazhevo, outside the region’s largest city of Nazran, in a shootout with security forces. The statement identified one of the dead as a traffic policeman, Zurab Tiboyev.

The three men “put up armed resistance” to the security forces as they were searching the area, the statement said. “In the return fire, Tiboyev and two unidentified [people] received wounds from which they died.”

Ingushetia has become more violent in recent years as government forces have clashed regularly with Islamist militants.

The region’s leader, Ingush president Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was nearly killed Monday in what authorities said was a suicide bombing. President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Yevkurov to lead the region last October in a bid to bring stability.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Girl Burned by White Phosphorus Heads Home

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — A nurse fixed a black wig on Razia’s scarred and disfigured scalp before the 8-year-old took off around the emergency room to bid farewell to the staff who cared for her after white phosphorous scorched her head, face, neck and hands.

When Razia came to the U.S. military hospital four months ago, Capt. Christine Collins didn’t think she would make it out alive. On Wednesday, the little Afghan girl left this military hospital for an arduous journey to her village, a 50-mile (80-kilometer) drive from Bagram Air Base.

“I am fine, I want to go home,” Razia quietly told Collins and a group of other hospital staff who had come to see her off.

Wearing a pair of blue jeans and a pink-striped shirt, Razia was eager to see her mother — who awaited her at a cousin’s house deep in the countryside still rife with insurgents. The two have not seen each other since shells ripped through their home on March 14 just after breakfast, killing two of Razia’s sisters.

It’s unclear where the white phosphorus came from that disfigured Razia for life — burning her face, now marked with permanent scars. Razia’s father, Abdul Aziz, blames international forces since U.S., French and Afghan troops gathered outside his home just before the shells were fired. U.S and NATO troops use white phosphorus to illuminate targets, create smoke screens and destroy old bunkers, but say they don’t use it as a weapon.

A U.S. military spokeswoman with NATO’s security force said military officials can’t be certain whether it was their own round or an enemy round that hit Razia’s house. In Paris, military spokesman Christophe Prazuck said French troops don’t have white phosphorus bombs, and he couldn’t say whether rounds used to create smoke screens or illuminate targets were employed in the March 14 battle.

White phosphorus burns until it’s gone. And with burns over 40 to 45 percent of her body, few thought Razia would survive when she was first airlifted to the U.S. hospital.

“This is kind of dream come true for everybody, for her to be able to go home,” Collins said, while choking back her tears.

“It was a long journey for both her and I. She is like my fourth daughter,” she said.

Collins, a military nurse from Miami, Arizona, and a mother of three girls back in the U.S., was the first to care for Razia, and she slowly coaxed a smile and then a step and finally a recovery from her — over four months and 15 surgeries.

She will be coming back again for treatment at the hospital in Bagram after a couple of weeks, and then also continue with therapy at a hospital in Kabul.

But the scars are there for all too see and the hospital staff quietly worries that Razia may never have a normal life in Afghanistan, where women in the countryside are mostly defined by the marriage they enter.

“I will always wonder and think about her for the rest of my life,” Collins said

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Brit Details Claim of Torture in Bangadesh

LONDON (AFP) — A Brit who claims to have been tortured in Bangladesh with the complicity of MI5 agents said Thursday he was accused of organising the 2005 London suicide bombings, and threatened with rape.

Jamil Rahman, who says he faced repeated beatings by Bangladeshi agents over more than two years, claimed Bangladesh agents tried to force him to say he was an Al-Qaeda militant behind the July 7 attacks.

“They stripped me naked and said that if I didn’t say what they wanted me to say, they would rape me and my wife and burn her and other family members,” he told the BBC.

“They told me to say I was al Qaeda and the organiser of the 7/7 bombings” which killed 56, added Rahman, who is taking legal action against Britain’s Home Office over the alleged abuse.

Rahman says he was arrested in 2005 by police in Bangladesh, where he had settled after marrying a Bangladeshi woman. Over three weeks of interrogation, he agreed to make taped confessions to terrorist offences.

After his release, he was frequently summoned for fresh interrogations by security service MI5 and Bangladeshi officials over the next two years, he told the Guardian newspaper last month.

In the new BBC interview, Rahman said MI5 appeared to be the driving force behind his mistreatment in Bangladesh.

“It was all to do with the British. Even the Bengali intelligence officer told me that they didn’t know anything about me, that they were only doing this for the British,” he told the broadcaster.

The Home Office denied the allegations. “We firmly reject any suggestion that we torture people or ask others to do so on our behalf. Mr Rahman has made a lot of unsubstantiated allegations.

“They have not been evidenced in any court of law,” said a spokesman.

The claims come after British police said in March they would investigate claims that MI5 was complicit in the torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed in Pakistan.

Mohamed became the first prisoner to be released from the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention camp under President Barack Obama in February and has kept a low profile since returning to Britain.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Maoist Insurgency Can Hurt Industry in India — Experts

NEW DELHI (Reuters) — The growing Maoist insurgency in India over large swathes of the mineral-rich countryside could soon hurt some industrial investment plans just as the country suffers an economic slowdown.

The government banned the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on Monday, bracketing it with Islamist militant groups, but experts said the ban would have little impact in the battle against the rebels.

On the ground, police fight Maoist insurgents with outdated weapons and are often outnumbered by rebels, who are skilled in jungle warfare and are well-equipped with rocket launchers, automatic rifles and explosives.

Last week, hundreds of Maoists declared the town of Lalgarh about 170 km (100 miles) from Kolkata, capital of West Bengal, as a “liberated zone”, sparking unease among investors.

While the economic impact may be small compared with India’s trillion dollar economy, the insurgency and the sense that it is worsening signals that India does not fully control its own territory and adds to risks for companies mulling investments.

The Lalgarh incident worried the country’s third-largest steel producer, JSW Steel, which is setting up a $7-billion, 10-million tonne steel plant near Lalgarh.

“We are waiting and watching, so are the others,” Biswadip Gupta, chief executive officer of the company’s West Bengal operations, told Reuters on Tuesday.

“On top of the economic woes, you have the problem of Maoists now. It is very jittery,” Gupta said by telephone from Kolkata.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described Maoists as the biggest internal security threat since independence, and this year more than 300 people, mostly police, have been killed.


The Maoists started their armed struggle in West Bengal’s Naxalbari town in the late 1967, and have expanded their support among villagers by tapping into resentment at the government’s recent pro-industry push.

The rebels, estimated to have 22,000 fighters, operate in large parts of the eastern, central and southern countryside, and officials say they are now spreading to cities and bigger towns.

The Maoists, who are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and the disenfranchised, regularly attack railway lines and factories, aiming to cripple economic activity.

“It is still a law and order problem, but it has not been taken seriously and can have serious consequences if not dealt with properly,” said Anjan Roy, analyst at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, referring to growth of industry.

The effect of the Maoist insurgency has already taken its toll on business.

In mineral-rich Orissa, bauxite production at state-run National Aluminium Co Ltd (NALCO) has fallen by 20 percent since an April attack by Maoists in one of their mines.

The company has now reduced the storage of explosives at its mines, fearing attacks from the rebels.

“We are more vulnerable and we have to remain alert,” said P.K. Mahapatra, the alumina company’s executive director of mines and refinery.

A strike by Maoists in east and central India, against police action in Lalgarh, has hit supplies of iron ore and coal, a senior railway official said.

“Exports have also been hit and if supplies get cut off in this manner, at least three steel plants in the region will be greatly affected soon,” Soumitra Majumdar, spokesman for the South Eastern Railways, said from Kolkata.

Rebels sided with farmers during violent protests by farmers, which forced the scrapping of a Tata Motors’ Nano car plant and a $3 billion chemicals hub complex in West Bengal.

“Existing industry may survive, but new money will not come in very easily and investors will be very scared unless the state does something quickly to control the Maoists,” said Ajai Sahni of the Institute of Conflict Management, a New Delhi-based think-tank.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Planned Attack on Hungarian Embassy Said Foiled

Pakistani authorities have foiled planned attacks on several embassies, including the Hungarian office, in Islamabad. According to diplomatic sources, bomb attacks were formulated against the Swedish, Norwegian, Czech, Italian and South African embassies.

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry confirmed the report, adding that, as the ministry and the Hungarian embassy in Islamabad had already tightened security measures in light of the situation in Pakistan, no further measures were necessary.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Embassy Attacks Prevented

A man with two tons of explosives in his posession has been arrested in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. According to reports the man had planned to blow up the Norwegian and Swedish embassies in the city.

In addition, the Hungarian, Czech and South African embassies were also among the targets for the man’s terrorist attacks, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reports.

The newspaper quotes a central source as saying that the Swedish military presence in Afghanistan was the reason for the planned attack.

Also Norway is participating in the ISAF forces in Afghanistan. The Norwegian Foreign Office has declined to comment on the reports, but security at the Norwegian embassy has been stepped up.

One year ago the Danish embassy in Islamabad was attacked, and six people were killed.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Taliban Chief Baitullah Escapes US Strike

Washington, June 25 (IANS) A US drone strike on a funeral in Pakistan’s tribal areas narrowly missed Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, an American media report said Thursday.

Mehsud was not at the spot at the time of Tuesday’s attack, but had gone to pay his respects to a Taliban commander killed in another American drone strike earlier the same day, a Pakistani security official told the New York Times.

Though the strike on the funeral appeared to have included only two midlevel Taliban leaders among the scores killed, it presented a clear blow to Mehsud’s operation, showing the deadly proximity of the drone attacks to his areas and even the possibility that he was a target, the Times said in a report from Islamabad Thursday.

Pakistani forces have stepped up its operations against Mehsud and his followers in South Waziristan, mostly with airstrikes of its own.

A Pakistani police official said the American drone attack could have been coordinated with Pakistani officials, but could not confirm it. A Pakistani intelligence official, however, said that Islamabad had been coordinating drone attacks with the Americans for several months.

Most drone attacks till recently focused around South Waziristan capital Wana, and were directed at targets that posed an immediate threat to the US, including foreign members of Al Qaeda or Taliban commanders who helped coordinate cross-border attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the report said.

But the drones now have seemed to home in on Mehsud and his men, who pose a growing threat to the security in Pakistan through scores of suicide attacks in the country, it said.

The drones, operated remotely from the US, carried out two strikes in Mehsud’s area in South Waziristan Tuesday.

The first strike hit a compound in Ladha, a village in the mountains of western Pakistan that is Mehsud’s sanctuary, and killed four people including Khwazh Wali, a Taliban leader and close aide to Mehsud.

Later that day, Wali’s body was taken for burial to the village of Zangara, east of Makeen, where people, apparently including Mehsud, went to pay tribute to the Taliban fighter.

The second drone sent three missile to the village when Mehsud was away to the funeral.

There were differing reports on the number of people killed in the second strike. A security official said 80 people had been killed, a resident of a nearby town said the number was closer to 50, and Pakistani television reported that more than 100 had been killed.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

US General Says Troops Need New View of Aghan War

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that U.S. and other NATO troops must make a “cultural shift” away from being a force designed for high intensity combat and instead make protecting Afghan civilians their first priority.

The newly arrived four-star commander said Wednesday he hopes to install a new military mindset by drilling into troops the need to reduce the number of Afghan civilians killed in combat.

McChrystal is expected to formally announce new combat rules within days that will order troops to break away from fights — if they can do so safely — if militants are firing from civilian homes. One effect of the new order will be that troops may have to wait out insurgents instead of using force to oust them, he said.

“Traditionally American forces are designed for conventional, high-intensity combat,” McChrystal said during a visit to Camp Leatherneck, a new U.S. Marine base housing thousands of newly deployed Marines in southern Helmand province. “In my mind what we’ve really got to do is make a cultural shift.”

Because the military is such a big organization, the new message will take “constant repetition,” he said.

President Hamid Karzai has pleaded with U.S. and NATO forces for years to reduce the number of Afghan villagers killed in combat. Karzai has long said that such deaths turn civilians away from the government and international forces and toward the Taliban, a point McChrystal underscored.

“When you do anything that harms the people you just have a huge chance of alienating the population,” he said. “And so even with the best of intentions, if our operation causes them to lose property or loved ones, there is almost no way somebody cannot be impacted in how they view the government and us, the coalition forces.”

Thousands of Marines this spring have poured into Helmand — the country’s most violent province and the world’s largest producer of opium poppies. Southern Afghanistan is the center of the Taliban-led insurgency, which has made a violent comeback in the last three years.

McChrystal, who took command of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan last week, is making his first visits to regional commanders to outline the new combat rules.

He said later that U.S. troops may have been overconfident in the early years of the Afghan conflict after the Taliban regime fell so easily. He said the U.S. may have “oversimplified” the Afghan challenge as a result.

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the Marine commander at Camp Leatherneck, said his forces were already following McChrystal’s new commands.

“Our focus from the very beginning has not been Taliban. It’s been civilians,” he said. “We’ve paid a lot of attention to avoiding civilian casualties. … We have a lot of combat vets, a lot of Iraq vets. And I think we learned early on the importance of trust and support of the locals.”

He added: “There will be plenty of opportunities to kill Taliban, and we’re pretty good at that. Bur the focus here, the reason we’re here, is the people, not the Taliban.”

The Pentagon has asked McChrystal for a 60-day review of the Afghan war, a review that could result in a recommendation to shift troops to new locations in Afghanistan. McChrystal said he didn’t yet know if he would request more troops.

The Pentagon abruptly pulled McChrystal’s predecessor — Gen. David McKiernan — out of Afghanistan one year into a two-year assignment. McChrystal said his deployment did not have a timetable to it, and that he would stay in Afghanistan as long as the Pentagon wanted him there.

He refused to give even an estimate of how long that might be, saying: “My wife would kill me if she read something too long. I do think continuity is key, though.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Video: Pakistan Police Battle Taliban

Police in Pakistan are cracking down on the Taliban in the country’s most populous province, Punjab.

A number of Taliban cells have been broken up, and key figures have been arrested — including a self-confessed bomb-maker, and a would-be suicide bomber.

Orla Guerin reports from Lahore.

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

Far East

N. Koreans Mass at Rally in Capital to Denounce US

SEOUL, South Korea — Tens of thousands of North Koreans shouted slogans to denounce international sanctions at a rally in central Pyongyang on Thursday, as the communist country vowed to enlarge its atomic arsenal and warned of a “fire shower of nuclear retaliation” in the event of a U.S. attack.

The rally marked the 1950 outbreak of the Korean War, which about 5,000 people — mostly American and South Korean veterans and war widows — also commemorated at a ceremony in Seoul.

The anniversary came a day after President Barack Obama extended U.S. economic sanctions against North Korea, saying its arsenal and the risk of proliferation “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States, according to the White House Web site.

The U.S. measures are on top of U.N. sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear test in May. The U.N. sanctions bar member states from buying weapons from or selling them to North Korea. They also ban the sale of luxury goods to the isolated country and financial transactions.

In Pyongyang, an estimated 100,000 packed the main square, shouting “Let’s smash!” in unison while punching clenched fists in the air, footage from APTN in North Korea showed. A placard showed hands crushing a missile with “U.S.” written on it.

The isolated, totalitarian regime often organizes such massive rallies at times of tension with the outside world.

North Korea’s “armed forces will deal an annihilating blow that is unpredictable and unavoidable, to any ‘sanctions’ or provocations by the US,” Pak Pyong Jong, first vice chairman of the Pyongyang City People’s Committee, told the crowd.

State-run newspapers ran lengthy editorials accusing the U.S. of invading the country in 1950 and of looking for an opportunity to attack again. The editorials said those actions justified North Korea’s development of atomic bombs to defend itself.

The North “will never give up its nuclear deterrent … and will further strengthen it” as long as Washington remains hostile, Pyongyang’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

At the rally in Seoul, Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Kim Yang called for North Korea to “abandon all programs related to nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.”

The new U.N. resolution — passed to punish Pyongyang after its May 25 nuclear test — seeks to clamp down on North Korea’s trading of banned arms and weapons-related material by requiring U.N. member states to request inspections of ships carrying suspicious cargo.

North Korea has said it would consider any interception of its ships a declaration of war.

The U.S. Navy is currently following a North Korean ship suspected of carrying weapons in violation of the resolution, but Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday that the U.S. and its allies have not decided whether to contact and request an inspection of the ship.

The Kang Nam left the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago and is believed bound for Myanmar, South Korean and U.S. officials have said. A senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday that the ship had already cleared the Taiwan Strait.

Another U.S. defense official said he tended to doubt reports that the Kang Nam was carrying nuclear-related equipment, saying the information officials had received seemed to indicate the cargo was conventional munitions.

The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing intelligence.

Adding to the tensions, anticipation is mounting that the North might test-fire short- or mid-range missiles in the coming days. The North has designated a no-sail zone off its east coast from June 25 to July 10 for military drills.

A senior South Korean government official said the ban is believed connected to North Korean plans to fire short- or mid-range missiles. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

The North has also been holding two U.S. journalists since March. The reporters, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegal border crossing and hostile acts earlier this month.

Ling’s husband, Iain Clayton, said Wednesday that his wife called him on Sunday night and she sounded scared. He also said Ling’s medical condition has deteriorated and Lee has developed a medical problem. Ling reportedly suffers from an ulcer.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Stoned Wallabies Make Crop Circles

SYDNEY (Reuters) — The mystery of crop circles in poppy fields in Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania has been solved — stoned wallabies are eating the poppy heads and hopping around in circles.

“We have a problem with wallabies entering poppy fields, getting as high as a kite and going around in circles,” the state’s top lawmaker Lara Giddings told local media on Thursday.

“Then they crash. We see crop circles in the poppy industry from wallabies that are high,” she said.

Many people believe crop circles that mysteriously appear in fields around the world are created by aliens.

Poppy producer Tasmanian Alkaloids said livestock which ate the poppies were known to “act weird” — including deer and sheep in the state’s highlands.

“There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles,” said field operations manager Rick Rockliff.

Australia produces about 50 percent of the world’s raw material for morphine and related opiates.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Call for Life Sentence for Rwandan Generals

ARUSHA, Tanzania (AFP) — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday demanded life terms for the former heads of the army and gendermarie for their role in the 1994 genocide.

“For their historic and indelible failure, justice will be done if you condemn them to life in prison,” prosecutor Alphonse Van told the judges at the Arusha, Tanzania-based court in his summing up.

Former army chief Augustin Bizimungu and the former head of the paramilitary police, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, as well as two other senior officers are charged with genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide.

“In 1994, the Rwandan armed forces failed in their duty. They turned against the people, turning their back on the enemy…,” said Van.

“We will never know how many victims there were… What is sure is that a genocide took place quite simply because the Rwandan armed forces wanted it to,” he said.

Van also called for life sentences to be imposed on the other two army officers, Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu.

Defence lawyers will make their summing up on Thursday and Friday.

The trial began in September 2004.

The UN-backed ICTR was formed in late 1994 and is tasked with trying the masterminds of Rwanda’s genocide in which some 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed in the space of 100 days.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Ethiopia: Holy Ark Announcement Due on Friday

( Ethiopian church leader says Friday, June 26, marks the right time to unveil the Biblical Ark of the Covenant, which he says has been hidden in his church for centuries.

Abuna Pauolos, Patriarch of The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was in Rome this week to meet with Pope Benedict XVI. While there, he told reporters that the time had come to reveal before the world the Holy Ark. He said that the holy container has been in the custody of his church for hundreds of years.

Paulous said he would make the full announcement this Friday, June 26, 2 PM local time (3 PM Israel time, 8 AM New York time) at a press conference in Rome.

The claim that the Biblical Holy Ark has been kept at the Church, in the city of Axum, is an old one, but this is the first time that the Church plans to actually reveal the actual container, or news of it. It is not known whether the Church claims that the actual Tablets of the Law are inside it.

Copies of the alleged Ark are kept in many other churches in Ethiopia.

The news of the impending announcement was first reported by the Italian news agency Adnkronos. Pauolos told the news outlet, “Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that G-d delivered to Moses, and the center of searches and studies for centuries.”

Pauolos said “The Ark of the Covenant has been in Ethiopia for many centuries. As Patriarch, I have seen it with my own eyes, and only a few, highly-qualified persons could do the same — until now.”

Back to Earth

Stuart Munro-Hay, author of “Quest for the Ark of the Covenant: The True History of the Tablets of Moses,” concluded that the object in question is definitely not the original Holy Ark.

The building of the Ark of the Covenant — also known as the Ark of Testimony and the Ark of G-d’s Covenant — in accordance with Divine instructions is recounted in the Book of Exodus. The Ark held the Tablets of the Law, and traveled with the People of Israel, leading the way into the Promised Land. It was placed first in the Tabernacle in Shilo, and centuries later in the Holy Temple built by King Solomon. Since then, its whereabouts have been unknown, though one popular legend says it was brought to Ethiopia. Alternatively, it could be under the Temple Mount, in a cave at Mt. Nevo in Jordan, in the Vatican, a hideaway in Utah, or elsewhere.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Islamic Court Postpones Amputations of Four Men as ‘Hot Weather Means They Might Bleed to Death’

An Islamic court in Somalia that sentenced four men to have a hand and a leg cut off postponed the punishment today, saying the sweltering weather could cause them to bleed to death.

The court sentenced the men yesterday in the capital, Mogadishu, after accusing them of stealing mobile phones and guns.

The court is run by al-Shabab, a powerful insurgent group that is trying to topple the U.N.-backed government and install a strict form of Islam.

‘The sentence will be carried out later,’ an al-Shabab official said, requesting anonymity because he was not allowed to speak publicly.

‘It was postponed because of the hot weather and fears that the victims will bleed to death.’

No date was set for the punishments to be carried out.

Amnesty International has appealed to al-Shabab not to carry out the ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments.’

The U.S. considers al-Shabab a terrorist group with links to al-Qaida, which al-Shabab denies. The group, which controls much of Somalia, is boosted by hundreds of foreign fighters.

Somalis traditionally observe Sufi Islam, a relatively moderate form of worship. But in recent years, insurgents have begun to follow austere Wahabi Islam — rooted in Saudi Arabia and practiced by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when the overthrow of a dictatorship plunged the country into chaos. A surge in violence in recent weeks, which diplomats said is a major push by the insurgents to force the government out of its Mogadishu strongholds, has killed about 225 people.

Last week, the national security minister and Mogadishu’s police chief were among those killed.

The country’s lawlessness has spread security fears round the region and raised concerns that al-Qaida is trying to gain a foothold in the Horn of Africa.

Somali lawmakers pleaded this weekend for immediate international military intervention from countries including Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti to help quash the insurgency. But there was no indication reinforcements would be forthcoming.

Nearly 126,000 people have fled their homes since May 7, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The United Nations says an estimated 3.2 million Somalis — almost half the country’s population — need food and other humanitarian aid.

Two years ago, Ethiopia deployed troops to support Somalia’s fragile, Western-backed government, but they were widely unpopular and finally withdrawn in January.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Somalia: Al-Qaeda Linked Militants ‘Out of Control’

Mogadishu, 25 June(AKI) — Somalia is having difficulty controlling a growing number of Al-Qaeda-linked militants inside the country, a source close to Somalian president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has told Adnkronos International (AKI). The source said that militants aligned with the hardline Islamist Al-Shabab militia, or the Young Mujahadeen, were too much for the government to handle.

“I believe that the Somalian government will be able to do something and not be defeated, but the problem is that the Al-Shabab are too many for us,” he said.

The source spoke to AKI as news broke on Thursday that Al-Shabab performed double amputations on four men who reportedly admitted to several robberies.

After their conviction by an Islamic Sharia law court in the capital early this week, each man had one hand and one foot cut off with machetes as punishment for their crime before a crowd of several hundred people.

The government source said the militants were recruiting many volunteers from abroad.

“They have many volunteers from other countries,” said the source.

He said the militants are responsible for many small clashes that take place throughout the day on the outskirts of the capital, Mogadishu.

“Now the Young Mujahadeen and members of the Islamic party have a strong alliance even though most Al-Shabab are not happy to be commanded by Sheikh Hasan Dahir Aweys, who is willing to do anything to become the next leader of the Islamic state.”

The source said there had been a mass influx of foreign volunteers invited by Al-Qaeda to the Horn of Africa to fight with the Young Mujahadeen.

“In reality there are tonnes of them, probably even too many for us and this is the real problem,” he said.

“Young people from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and many Westerners are with them, we even know that there are British and Americans with them. We do not know if there are any Italians, but at this point we cannot exclude anything.”

Despite an announcement that Ethiopia and Dijbouti would not provide troops, the fragile Somalian government still hopes it will be able to defeat the Islamic militants.

“It is not true when the Al-Shabab claim to be two kilometres away from Villa Somalia, the presidential palace,” he said. “For weeks, they’ve been on the perifery, in the area past the football stadium, and have not been able to make any further advance.”

Al-Shabab is an Islamic militant group, which the United States has included on the list of foreign terrorist organisations in 2008.

President Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, took office in January 2009 and introduced Sharia law to the Muslim country, but the move has failed to satisfy the hardline militants in the area.

Al-Shabab and allies have been fighting with pro-government forces since 7 May 2009.

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

Somalis Watch Double Amputations

Hardline Islamists in Somalia have carried out double amputations on four men for stealing phones and guns.

They have each had a hand and foot cut off after being convicted by a Sharia court in the capital earlier this week.

More then 300 people, mainly women and children, watched as masked men cut off their limbs with machetes.

The four men reportedly admitted to the robberies, but were not represented by a lawyer and were not allowed to appeal against their sentence.

The al-Shabab group, which controls much of southern Somalia, has carried out amputations, floggings and an execution in the port of Kismayo but such punishments are rare in the capital.

The amputations were carried out in the open in front of an al-Shabab military camp in the north-east of Mogadishu.

A local resident said the four men cried out during and after the amputations. Each man had his right hand and left foot cut off.

“‘Help, help, help!’ one of them shouted,” Mohamed Abdi told the BBC.

Eyewitnesses estimate the age of the four men — Aden Mohamud, Ismail Khalif , Jeylani Mohamed, and Abdulkadir Adow — to be between 18 and 25.

Mr Abdi said the whole process took about an hour to complete.


Human rights lobby group Amnesty International has condemned the amputations.

“These punishments amount to torture,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty’s Africa deputy director.

The group says that committing torture could amount to a war crime.

After the four were sentenced to double amputations on Monday, mosques in the area announced through their loud speakers that the amputations would take place at 0800 local time on Thursday.

Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told journalists that the amputations were a warning to all thieves.

“If they are caught red-handed in similar circumstances, they will face amputation,” he said.

He also said al-Shabab would look after the welfare of the amputees.

On Monday, the court had said it was too hot for the sentence to be carried out on that day as an amputation in such conditions could lead the accused to bleed to death.

The punishments carried out in Kismayo have shocked many Somalis, who traditionally practise a more tolerant form of Islam than al-Shabab’s strict Wahabi interpretation.

Onlookers at the amputation in Mogadishu on Thursday declined to comment when asked for their reaction.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, took office in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the hardliners.

The government has not carried out any amputations under its version of Sharia.

Since 7 May, al-Shabab and its allies have been locked in ferocious battles with pro-government forces.

The president has declared a state of emergency and has appealed to Somalia’s neighbours to send troops to help.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

U.S. Warns of Threats Against Sudan Government, West

KHARTOUM (Reuters) — Islamic militants have threatened violence against Sudan’s government and could target Western interests following the death of a suspected militant, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum said on Wednesday.

The U.S. embassy, which urged its citizens to keep a low profile and restrict their travel, did not give details of the “jihadist website” it said had published the threats or the suspected militant that had been killed.

The warning comes at a time of already heightened tension in the capital, where a judge was due on Wednesday to issue a verdict in the case of five men accused of murdering a U.S. aid worker and his driver.

Sudan, which hosted al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the 1990s before expelling him, has been on a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993.

The U.S. embassy’s warden message said: “Statements threatening violent action against the government of Sudan have been posted on a jihadist website, following the death of a suspected Islamic extremist.”

It said calls to attack government targets “and/or Western interests” might be repeated during Friday prayers, and warned citizens not to travel inside the capital from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on that day.

Sudanese state media last week reported a university professor, wanted on charges related to extremism, had died after a police chase.

A police spokesman was quoted as saying someone threw a stone at the suspect while he was trying to get away from officers on a motorcycle on Wednesday last week, thinking he was a thief, and he died later in hospital of head injuries.

U.S. officials have acknowledged Sudan has been cooperative in sharing intelligence on militant groups since the September 11 attacks in 2001. But Western embassies have continued to warn that militants remain active in Sudan.

Al Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri in 2007 criticised President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for letting international peacekeepers into the country’s Darfur region and accused him of abandoning Islam to appease the United States.

In August 2007, Sudanese security services said they had broken up a plot to attack the French, British, U.S. and U.N. diplomatic missions in Khartoum.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Will Somalia Become the Afghanistan of East Africa?

Analysts are warning that Somalia could soon become the Afghanistan of East Africa. Increasing numbers of Taliban fighters are entering the country, bringing with them tactics such as suicide bombings that hadn’t been seen before in Somalia. The security situation is rapidly worsening.

“One has to regretfully conclude this”, says Dutch Horn of Africa expert Jan Abbink. In the capital Mogadishu, Islamist insurgent groups are intensifying their attacks on the weakened UN-backed transitional government, with increasing support by foreign combatants known as Al-Muhajiroun (the emigrants).

Members of the Taliban are said to be pouring into the region from Afghanistan and Pakistan where they are no longer welcome, along with volunteers from the Middle East.

“There are even Ugandans, converted Europeans and Americans there. The foreign combatants have their own chain of command and are allied to the main Somali Al- Shabab militant group. They are gaining in influence,” says Jan Abbink, a researcher at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands. He estimates that there are “several dozen” Al-Muhajiroun on the ground.

Al-Shabab has admitted having a close relationship with Al-Qaeda. The foreign combatants or Jihadists coming to fight a holy war, see Somalia as their new front, similar to the one they formed in Asia. They are bringing in money, arms, contacts, and training camps for new tactics such as suicide bombings that were once unheard of in Somalia.

Internal Divisions

Due to internal divisions, however, the insurgent groups have been unable to take advantage of the increasing external support and the weakness of the transitional government. This keeps them from gaining the upper hand in Mogadishu, explains Mahad Mussa, the coordinator of Nedsom, a Somali diaspora foundation in the Netherlands.

The insurgency is deeply divided among clans that control certain neighbourhoods in the capital. What does unite them now is their desire to overthrow the UN backed government, Mahad says.

According to Jan Abbink, the clans are also strongly united in Islam and their desire to establish a theocratic regime in the country, and this, he believes, even supersedes inter-clan rivalries.

“There is an emerging Islamic agenda in Somalia that was not there before, and we should not underestimate that. They will not immediately fall apart once they’re in power. That’s an easy conclusion by people who don’t understand the depth of the transformation in Somalia.”

Mr. Mahad disagrees. If the Islamic insurgents manage to conquer the capital, he predicts that “the clan factor” will prevail as they try to extend their control to the rest of the country.

“And then we will get what we had for the last 18 years: many factions within the country and more violence as each group tries to take over another group.”

The mounting unrest could increasingly affect Somalia’s neighbours in the Horn of Africa. Countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia, which withdrew its troops from Somalia in January, will be tempted to intervene. This will confirm the “Afghanistan scenario”, believes Jan Abbink:

“We will have a major source of instability in East Africa which will affect the entire region and require all kinds of extra military and humanitarian support from the international community.”

Prompt action

Both Professor Abbink and Mahad Mussa feel that the worst can still be avoided if the international community acts promptly, preferably ‘within a month’ for Mr. Mahad.

Despite calls from Western countries and the African Union (AU) to increase international support for the federal government and to reinforce AMISOM, the AU contingent in the country, concrete measures have yet to be announced. The government has complained that it has only received part of 200 million US dollars pledged at a donor conference in Brussels in April.

Meanwhile, civilians continue to bear the brunt of the fighting: almost 160,000 people have fled the capital in the past two weeks, according to the UN refugee organisation UNHCR.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Venezuela Accuses “Imperial Hand” of Iran Unrest

Hugo Chavez says Ahmadinejad won election legally

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez threw his support behind Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said he believed America’s spy agency, the CIA, was behind clashes that have rocked the Islamic Republic for almost two weeks.

Although ties between Venezuela and the United States seemed to be warming as they planned to reinstate their ambassadors almost nine months after Chavez expelled the U.S. envoy Patrick Duddy, Chavez, however, still blamed the U.S. and the “imperial hand” for the worst unrest in Iran since the 1979 revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed Shah.

“People are in the streets, some are dead, they have snipers, and behind this is the CIA, the imperial hand of European countries and the United States,” he said at a gathering of Latin American leftist leaders.

He said he suspected the U.S. and European central agencies for having a role in the post-elections clashes as he said their “imperial hand” was behind the protests that have left at least 17 people dead.

The Venezuelan president also announced his support for Ahmadinejad and said the Iranian premier “won the elections legally, we are absolutely sure we know quite a lot about Iranian politics.”

Iran has also accused Western powers, including the CIA, of having a hand in the protests and the nation’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has refused to calls for a vote recount.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Holidays: Spain Ready for Exodus of North African People

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 15 — Today marks the official start of operation OPE, an initiative designed to cope with the return home of north African immigrants who work and reside in Europe. The national coordination board issued a statement saying that, up to September 20, an expected 2.7 million passengers and 700,000 vehicles will be heading from the Spanish ports of Algeciras, Tarifa, Almeria, Alicante and Malaga to those in Morocco and Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in North Africa. The operation set up by Spanish authorities expects to see most traffic pass through the port of Algeciras (Cadiz) since last year more than 1 million passengers and 264,000 vehicles passed through there. The operation will require checks and assistance from 2,000 personnel comprising doctors, French and Arabic translators, social workers, Red Cross and Civil Defence workers, police officers and, for the first time ever, men from the emergency military unit who will act in case of disaster. The first wave of north Africans heading home for the holidays is expected towards the end of June, with peak transit expected from August 13 to 15 and 20 to 22. Experts believe that the peak days for people returning will be from August 27 to 30. The return wave is expected to end by September 20, which this year coincides with the end of the month of Ramadan. Some 25,000 square metres of cover are being set up in Algeciras to offer some shade from the sun, along with 57 drinking water fountains, 38 modular baths and showers, video screens to keep people updated on traffic conditions, two areas for children, and a mosque. Local shipping companies will provide a fleet capable of transporting approximately 10,000 vehicles and 40 crossings per day on the Algeciras/Tangiers and Tarifa/Tangiers routes. A further 4,00 vehicles and 30 crossings will be provided on the Algeciras/Ceuta route. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Migrant Stowaways at Calais Triple in Five Years

The number of migrants trying to sneak into Britain via Calais has almost tripled in just five years.

The revelation that more than 50 a day are being caught follows the re-emergence of refugee camps at Sangatte, close to where lorries board ferries to cross the Channel.

In 2004, after the closure of the original Sangatte camp, border officials detected 7,540 stowaways. Last year, the total was 19,399.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Census and Sensibility

In another wink to homosexual activists, the Obama administration is taking an extraordinary measure to show its commitment to their agenda. Last week, the Justice Department notified a same-sex couple that they could change their passports to feature their “married” names, a major policy change that has yet to register in the press. The decision, which took effect this month, is yet another sign that the President intends on eroding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) one small step at a time.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Get Back in the Closet

Dear UNC-Wilmington Students: It’s getting close to time to start another semester. That means that it’s time to lay down the rules for all of my classes. I’m going to continue to use all the rules I’ve used before, which can be found in my syllabus. But, starting this semester, I’m adding three more rules. Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered students (GILBERTS) need to pay especially close attention.

First of all, GILBERTS will not be allowed to mention their status as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or trans-gendered. A few semesters ago, a gay student in one of my classes said — right in the middle of class, mind you — “I’m gay.” It offended me when he said that. That is why I am banning such statements for the duration of the semester. The simple awareness of the presence of gays in my classes offends me. No other reason need be offered. Just shut up and comply with the rule.


Hopefully, by now, most of you realize you are reading political satire. But that crucial fact — and the larger point of the satire — was lost on countless GILBERTS across the nation. After reading only two paragraphs of this letter, which was posted in its entirety on, they began to fire off letters to the UNC-Wilmington administration demanding that I be fired.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ihsanoglu Calls for Presenting the True Image of Islam

OIC Secretary General, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, stated that the Islamic World is invited today, more than any time before, to conduct further study and research in order to avoid the threats faced by the Islamic Ummah through fighting negative propaganda and presenting the true image of Islam as a religion of peace, love and freedom.

This was conveyed in a message of the Secretary General read by the High Commissioner in charge of Da’wa Affairs at the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ambassador Selem Ajili El-Houni, opening the works of the Sixteenth Session of the Committee for the Coordination of Joint Islamic Action in the field of Da’wa taking place in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The Secretary General maintained in his message that the major question of interest to the Organization of the Islamic Conference and to people in charge of da’wa is the phenomenon of Islamophobia which has become a source of real concern and preoccupation to the peoples of the Islamic Ummah. He insisted that combating Islamophobia requires institutional work to which all Islamic players should contribute, including States, Governmental and popular organizations and civil society institutions.

The Secretary General pointed to the necessity to put in place coordination mechanisms such as a network gathering all the said organizations and institutions, which shall be governed by the committee for the coordination of Joint Islamic Action in the field of Da’wa, to participate in fighting Islamophobia through permanent cooperation and coordination with the Islamic Observatory at the OIC General Secretariat.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Iran Expected to Dominate G8 Meeting in Italy

ROME — Italy hopes foreign ministers of the industrialized Group of Eight meeting Thursday will send Iran a “tough” message over its violent crackdown on protesters, the foreign minister said.

Italy had originally invited Iran to attend the three-day gathering of industrialized nations in Trieste, northern Italy, as a special guest, arguing that Tehran could have an important role to play in stabilizing Afghanistan — a key focus of the meeting.

But Rome retracted the invitation after Tehran failed to respond and after days of violent clashes with demonstrators protesting Iran’s disputed June 12 elections.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he hopes delegates from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia will condemn the crackdown and urge a recount.

“We will adopt a particularly tough and clear position before the world,” Frattini said Thursday. He added that Russia “won’t have difficulties in supporting a common position” — even though Moscow has previously said it backs the results that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Though several of the G8’s European members have expressed concern about the postelection violence and urged a recount, it was unclear how strong a condemnation would emerge from the three-day meeting in Trieste.

President Barack Obama condemned the violence against protesters Tuesday and lent his strongest support yet to their accusations the hardline victory was a fraud. But the United States does not want to become a scapegoat for Iran’s cleric-led government.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Moscow, which hosted Ahmadinejad at a regional summit a few days after the election, so far had seen no legal violations in Iran’s crackdown.

“At the same, we are calling not to take any actions … that would allow violence and jeopardize people’s lives,” Lavrov told a news conference in Bern, Switzerland, after meeting with his Swiss counterpart, according to Interfax, ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies.

The Trieste meeting begins late Thursday with a working dinner at which a host of thematic, global issues are to be discussed, from counterterrorism to organized crime and piracy.

On piracy, Italy hopes the G8 will “launch a strong signal of commitment for capacity building” for countries like Somalia to help them better patrol their territorial waters while improving their ability to prosecute pirates, said Sandro De Bernardin, the Foreign Ministry’s political director.

The Afghan conflict will take central stage Friday and Saturday, with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke and key regional players — including the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan — joining in the discussions on five major points of discussion: border management, drug trafficking, economic development, refugees, and food security.

In all, some 44 delegations will participate in the meeting of the eight industrial powers, including representatives from the Islamic Development Bank, the International Organization for Migration and the World Food Program.

On the sidelines of the summit will be a meeting of the Mideast Quartet — the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations — to try to help move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward. The new U.S. Mideast envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, is to attend, as will a range of Arab League nations which will join in a follow-on session Friday afternoon. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is grounded in Washington with a broken elbow.

Israel was not invited; the Foreign Ministry said that decision was taken by the Quartet, not Italy.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Their God is Not Our God

A Biblical and Historical Rebuttal to “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to a Common Word Between us and You.”

This document is in response and protest to the “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to a Common Word Between us and You.” a document produced by Yale Center for Faith and Culture in November, 2007 and signed by a large number of Christian leaders.

The Yale document is in response to “A Common Word Between Us and You” produced by over a hundred Muslim clerics and intellectuals. It is a call for dialog between the two religions.

At the very beginning of “A Common Word Between Us and You” truth and history give way to the oft-used Muslim talking point that their God is actually our God. This is simply and absolutely not so. I will substantiate this below. A survey of history, Islam, Judaism and Christianity all disprove this, the very basis of the Muslim letter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US, Israel, Russia Absent at Cluster Bomb Talks

BERLIN (AFP) — Delegates from over 80 countries pledging to destroy their cluster bombs started a two-day conference in Berlin to assess progress since a 2008 agreement banning the weapons.

Absent however were the United States, Israel, Russia and Georgia — countries which have used cluster bombs in recent years and which refuse to sign up the agreement. China, India and Pakistan also stayed away.

A cluster bomb is a weapon fired by artillery or dropped by aircraft that splits open and scatters multiple — often hundreds — of smaller submunitions, or bomblets, over a large area.

Often many of these bomblets fail to explode immediately and can lie dormant for many years, killing and maiming civilians — many of them children — long after the original conflict is over.

First employed by the German Luftwaffe on the English town of Grimsby in 1943 and by the Red Army the same year, their use really took off in the US bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1960s and 1970s.

Most recently they were deployed by both sides in Georgia’s war with Russia in 2008, and in Israel’s bombardment of southern Lebanon in 2006, rights groups say, and by the United States and allies in Iraq in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2001-02.

They were also put to deadly effect by NATO in Serbia in 1999, by the British in the Falkland Islands in 1982, during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, by Ethiopia and Eritrea, by Morocco and by Sudan, these groups say.

According to a 2006 report by Handicap International, there have been at least 11,000 recorded and confirmed post-conflict casualties and that the actual number — levels of reporting being low — may be as high as 100,000.

Around 98 percent of these are civilians, Handicap International says. A quarter of these are children, who often tragically mistake the bomblets for a toy.

Last year around 100 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan, agreed to ban their use, development, production, transfer and stockpiling, creating the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).

Ten countries have since ratified the CCM. Once 30 have done so — as campaigners hope they will by the end of 2009 — the treaty comes into force, giving the 98 signatories eight years to destroy their stockpiles.

It also requires clearing areas of unexploded submunitions within 10 years, and establishes a framework for assistance to victims.

But the United States, which has as many as one billion cluster munition bomblets, rights groups say, has not signed up. And nor have China and Russia, both of which are thought to have around the same amount.

The US has argued that destroying its stockpiles would put the lives of its soldiers and those of its coalition partners at risk, and that cluster bombs often result in less collateral damage than bigger bombs or larger artillery.

Other notable non-signatories include Israel, India, Pakistan, South Korea and North Korea, as well as Turkey, Georgia, Iran, Libya, Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

Thomas Nash from the Cluster Munition Coalition, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, said he hoped the Berlin conference would encourage some to drop their opposition.

“Our main focus is to get as many countries to ratify as soon as possible, get more countries to sign on so that we remove the stigma from the treaty,” Nash told AFP.

“And that means telling the US, telling other allies that haven’t signed the treaty, that they need to get rid of it, that this weapon is a thing of the past. It is no longer a legitimate or morally appropriate weapon to have in your arsenal.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Jedilson Bonfim said...

It sounds odd to me that Porkis in Porkistan would want to target Swedenistan's embassy in Mahoundianabad. Hasn't a Swedenistan-based imam recently stated that the country formerly known as Sweden was the best mahoundian naiton in the world?

And shouldn't those jihadists be friendly towards a country which has imported so many thousands of Somalis and Iraqis to the lands behind the enemy lines of Dar al-Harb, thus making it easier for the cause of allah (mahound's imaginary alter-ego) to advance? Perhaps Sweden's dhimmified elites reckoned that such sandal-licking would spare them the mahoundian anger from "hurt feelings" usually reserved for the USA, Denmark and Geert Wilders. Well, now that they know that their strategy hasn't worked, what's next? Replacing the yellow cross on the Swedish flag with the shahada?

I suppose that unless the Swedish constitution is replaced with sharia law, and Sweden is ruled by Saudi Arabia's repulsive grand mufti, no other appeasement strategy will ever work. Do those Swedish Chamberlains ever consider the possibility that fighting against islamization, Wilders style, is a much better option than surrender?