Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/21/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/21/2009If you want to see the shape of things to come, look at California. Its financial crisis came earlier, and is more intractable than in the rest of the country. The family living in a mobile home at LAX airport. Bodies going unclaimed at the morgue because families can’t afford funeral costs. California is always in the forefront of national trends.

In other news, this has been the coolest July recorded in Al Gore’s hometown since 1877.

Thanks to AA, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, Lexington, Nilk, Paul Green, Steen, TB, VH, xoggoth, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Bernanke Says Fed Can Take on Supercop Role
California State Budget Deal Reduces Prison Inmates by 27,000
Italy: Crisis, Collapse of Tourist Industry
LAX Parking Lot is Home Away From Home for Airline Workers
More Bodies Go Unclaimed as Families Can’t Afford Funeral Costs
This is a Stick-Up: Spaniards Take Revenge on Banks for Credit Crunch
United States Trying to Allay Concern in Arab Countries
Barry Rubin: The Obama Ideology and World Affairs, Part 1
Coolest July 21st Since 1877 Recorded in Al Gore’s Hometown
Critics Slam Overweight Surgeon General Pick, Regina Benjamin
Hizb ut-Tahrir: Shariah Takes Precedence Over U.S. Constitution
Muslims Slam Discriminate Law in US
Obama Admits He’s “Not Familiar” With House Bill
Sun Times Group Publishes ‘Varied’ Versions of HuT Rise of Islam Conference
The Bloom is Off the Rose: Senior Democrats Criticize Obama
US Imams, Rabbis Teach Ecumenism
Europe and the EU
Animal Rights Activist Held — ‘Plan to Attack Dutch Queen’ — Summary
Berlusconi Approval Drops Below 50%
Chief of Hungary’s National Security Office Resigns
Cold War Heroes Walesa & Havel Plead to Obama: Don’t Give Up Missile Defense
‘EU Big Brother Planning to Watch You More Closely’
France: Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni Spend £660 Per Day on Flowers
French Cosmetics Giant L’Oréal Guilty of Racial Discrimination
Germany: Prosecutors Planning Child Porn Charges Against Tauss
Hungary’s KGB-Trained Secret Services Chief Resigns
Obama More Appreciated Than Any Dutch Politician
Romanian Mayor Criticized for Dressing Up as Nazi
UK Court Rejects Suit on Google Search Results
UK: 7,000 Care Kids ‘Lost’
UK: Council Snoopers Sifting Through Rubbish Bins to Find Out if You’re Wealthy or Poor
UK: LBC Radio Signal Blocked by Islamic Extremists
UK: Londoners Face Second Night Without Electricity After Arson Attack
UK: Muslim Sheikh Says That Sharia Penal Codes Would Benefit Britain
UK: Man, 22, Dies After Liver Transplant Refused
UK: Non-Muslims Turning to Sharia Courts to Resolve Civil Disputes
UK: Not Fit to Shine Their Boots! Outrage as Toady Labour Peer Accuses Forces of ‘Helping the Taliban’
UK: Olympic Flight Ban Over Terror Attack Fears
UK: Police Given Powers to Enter Homes and Tear Down Anti-Olympics Posters During 2012 Games
UK: Seven Pubs Close for Good Every Day
UK: Swine Flu Triggers Change to Church Ritual
North Africa
Egypt: Imam Al Azhar Replies to Criticism on Pic With Peres
Egypt: Tamim Death Sentences Confirmed
Islam: Obama Made a Mistake in Choosing Cairo, El Khayat
Israel and the Palestinians
Daniel Pipes: Obama and Israel, Into the Abyss
Israel to Demolish 23 Illegal Settlements in One Day
Middle East
Army Arrests Terrorist Network That Planned Attacks on UNIFIL
Economy: 100 Euro in EU Cost 73 in Turkey, Eurostat
Kuwaitis Return From Mecca With Swine Flu
Saudi Man Marries Flipina for Her Kidneys
Six Die in Turkey Village Attack
Women, Refugees Vulnerable in Arab World: UN
OIC Secretary General Welcomes President Medvedev’s Visit to the Grand Mosque in Moscow
Russian Pupils to Have Choice of Religion, Ethics
South Asia
India: All Muslims Not Terrorists, Says Court
Jakarta Bombings: Muslim Leader Reveals the Name of One of the Attackers
Malaysia to Cane Beer-Drinking Muslim Model
Malay Prince Sues Indonesian Wife
No US-India Agreement on Climate But Deals on Arms and Space Programme
Pakistan President Asif Zardari Bans Jokes Ridiculing Him
Far East
China to Allow 2,700 Muslims to Visit Mecca: Report
China Using the Internet to Spy on Germany
Chinese Imperialism and Its Discontents
Giant Chinese Dustball Circles the Earth
Seoul Plans $40bn Aid Fund for N Korea
Australia — Pacific
Council Energy-Monitoring Devices a Hit
Packing Heat and Strolling Free
Underbelly Lebanese Style
Sub-Saharan Africa
Kenya Boosts Somali Border Force
Mauritania: Aziz Wins in 1st Round, ‘To Fight Terrorism’
200 Voluntary Repatriations From Italy Per Year
Calais Migrants Ambush Britons at Knifepoint in Terrifying ‘Highway Robberies’
Dramatic Appeal on Migrants by Barrot
Italy: EU to Probe Tough New Migrant Laws
Ten Saudis Seek Asylum After Princess is Allowed to Stay
UK: Free Health Care for Failed Asylum Seekers
From Gulag Liberators to Saudi Retainers: Human Rights Watch Has Betrayed Its Original Mission.
Plans for Microsoft and Yahoo to Take on Google

Financial Crisis

Bernanke Says Fed Can Take on Supercop Role

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke ran into skepticism Tuesday from lawmakers wary of expanding the Fed’s duties to police big financial companies. They argued that the Fed failed to spot problems that led to the financial crisis in the first place.

“The Fed has made some big mistakes,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee.

An Obama administration proposal to make the Fed the supercop of globally interconnected financial companies would be “just inviting a false sense of security that inevitably will be shattered at the expense of the taxpayer,” Bachus warned.

Bernanke countered that the administration’s proposal would be a “modest reorientation” of the Fed’s powers, not a great expansion of them.

The Fed boss sought to assure investors and Congress that the central bank will be able to reel in its extraordinary economic stimulus and prevent a flare up of inflation once a recovery is firmly rooted. Still, any such steps will be far off in the future. The central bank’s focus remains “fostering economic recovery,” he said.

Bernanke also worked to beat back an administration proposal to create a new consumer protection regulator for financial services and strip some of those duties from the central bank. The House panel delayed a committee vote on that legislation until September.

Consumer groups and lawmakers have blamed the Fed for failing to crack down early on dubious mortgages practices that fed the housing boom and figured into its collapse. Later this week, the Fed will issue a proposal to boost disclosures on mortgages and home equity lines of credit. It also will include new rules governing the compensation of mortgage originators.

Bernanke also argued against congressional proposals to let the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, audit the central bank. He feared that audits that delve into the Fed’s interest-rate decisions could compromise its independence in setting interest-rate policies.

“A perceived loss of monetary policy independence could raise fears about future inflation,” he warned.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a frequent Fed critic, rejected that argument and said the Fed already makes political calculations.

“Just the fact that (the Fed) can issue a lot of loans and special privileges to banks and corporations,” Paul said. “That’s political.”

Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., who wants the Fed to be more open, argued that some people rightly say “you can find out more about the operations of the CIA, than the Fed. The public has the right to know.”

Bernanke’s term expires early next year, and President Barack Obama will have to decide whether to reappoint him. The Fed chief’s innovative policies have been credited with pulling the economy from the edge of the abyss last year.

But those actions also have touched off criticism about putting taxpayers at risk and whether the government should be cleaning up Wall Street messes.

Bernanke again pledged to keep its key bank lending rate at a record low near zero for an “extended period.” Economists predict rates will stay at record lows through the rest of this year.

Laying out a plan now to unwind the Fed’s stimulus could give Bernanke more leeway to hold rates at record lows to brace the economy. It could ease investors’ fears that the Fed’s aggressive steps to end the longest recession since World War II could spur inflation later on.

“It is important to assure the public and the markets that the extraordinary policy measures we have taken in response to the financial crisis and the recession can be withdrawn in a smooth and timely manner as needed, thereby avoiding the risk that policy stimulus could lead to a future rise in inflation,” Bernanke said. “We are confident that we have the necessary tools to implement that strategy when appropriate.”

But House committee chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said it is important that the Fed not take those actions “prematurely” and snuff out a recovery.

Nigel Gault, economist at IHS Global Insight, said Bernanke wanted to send Congress a clear message: “Our monetary exit strategy is ready. Don’t try to interfere with it.”

On Wall Street, bond investors took comfort in Bernanke’s remarks, pushing Treasury prices higher. The Dow Jones industrial average added about 35 points in afternoon trading, while broader indices dipped.

To revive the economy, the Fed has plowed trillions into the financial system in an effort to drive down rates on mortgages and other consumer debt. It also has created programs to bust through credit clogs, a key ingredient in turning the economy around.

Eventually, the Fed will need to soak up that money.

Besides raising its key bank lending rate, the Fed can raise the rate it pays banks on reserve balances held at the central bank, Bernanke said. That would give banks an incentive to keep their money parked there, rather having it flow back into the economy, where it can stoke inflationary pressures.

The Fed also can drain money from the financial system by selling securities from its portfolio with an agreement to buy them back at a later date. Or it can sell securities outright.

Steering the economy from recession to recovery will be a delicate move for Bernanke — economically and politically.

Bernanke repeated the Fed’s forecast that the economy should start growing again in the second half of this year. But he warned that growth would be slight, leading to higher unemployment.

The nation’s unemployment rate climbed to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent in June. The Fed says it could rise as high as 10.1 percent this year and stay elevated into 2011. The post-World War II high was 10.8 percent at the end of 1982.

“We have a very long haul” back to full economic health, Bernanke told lawmakers.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

California State Budget Deal Reduces Prison Inmates by 27,000

he state budget deal negotiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders would reduce the population of California prisons by nearly 27,000 inmates in the current fiscal year.

That would be done with a combination of new measures, including allowing some inmates to finish their sentences on home detention, creating new incentives for completion of rehabilitation programs and scaling back parole supervision for the least serious offenders.

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Crisis, Collapse of Tourist Industry

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The global recession is having a tough impact on Italy’s tourist industry, at least according to a report published today by Federalberghi (Italy’s Federation of Hoteliers unions). The report indicated a real and true collapse of the sector, resulting from a constant drop in turnover that was felt in the first half of 2009 and that will be felt even more this summer. Consequently the worst lies ahead of us: a 15% drop is expected for the four summer months, with immediate repercussions on employment rates in the tourist industry and also on future investments. Federalberghi-Confturismo president Bernabo’ Bocca stated that this comes as no surprise, and that inevitably the whole sector will be affected,. >From January to June the overall number of hotel bookings dropped by 6.7%. Bocca pointed out that, as a consequence, hotel businesses are asking both the government and local authorities (Regions and Municipalities first of all) for common measures and strategies to revive the sector. However, despite repeated invitations to change holiday patterns, most Italians still choose to go on holiday in August.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

LAX Parking Lot is Home Away From Home for Airline Workers

For about 15 days a month, Alaska Airlines pilot Jim Lancaster lives in a motor home in Parking Lot B near the southernmost runway at Los Angeles International Airport.

Every four minutes, a jetliner or turboprop roars in — 500 feet above his front door — for a landing. The noise is so loud it forces Lancaster to pause during conversations. But he doesn’t mind. Lancaster puts up with the smell of jet fuel and screaming engines to save time and money.

The 60-year-old aviator’s primary residence is a cottage he shares with his wife overlooking a quiet bay off Puget Sound in Washington state. Living in Lot B while he’s on duty means he doesn’t have to rent a Los Angeles apartment with other pilots or spend 12 hours a day commuting to and from the Seattle area.

“As kids we used to ask our parents to take us to the airport to see the planes,” Lancaster quipped. “Now I get to live at the airport.”

He isn’t the only one. Lancaster’s 2001 Tradewinds sits among 100 trailers and motor homes that form a colony of pilots, mechanics and other airline workers at LAX, the third-busiest airport in the nation. They are citizens of one of the most unusual communities in the United States.

Their turf, just east of the Proud Bird restaurant off Aviation Boulevard, is less than 3,500 feet from the south runway. It is a drab expanse of crumbling gray asphalt, approach lights, chain-link fencing and rows of beige and white RVs — some battered, others grand. A splash of color comes from the red and white blooms of about a dozen rose bushes along the colony’s northern edge.

Many of the residents are separated from spouses, children and significant others for days — even weeks — at a time in order to keep their jobs or move up the pyramid of the airline industry.

“This is the cost of being a pilot today,” said Todd Swenson, 40, a first officer with Alaska Airlines. His wife, Amanda, and 2-year-old son, Noah, live in Fresno, a six-hour commute by car. “I’ve wanted to be a pilot all my life. It can be awful here. But I have to provide for my family, and I love flying airplanes.”


For several years, clusters of RVs were scattered around the airport’s parking lots until LAX officials decided to consolidate them in Lot B. Now operating as an organized camp overseen by the airport, it has an unofficial mayor, a code of conduct and residency requirements, including background checks, regular vehicle inspections and proof of employment at an air carrier.

“There might be a few other places like this nationally, but I think this is rather unique,” said Michael Biagi, who heads the land-use division at Los Angeles World Airports.

Today, the colony has more than 100 residents — mostly men — from around the country, including captains, first officers, mechanics, flight attendants, support staff and employees of air cargo companies. There are at least two married couples, who work as flight attendants. About 10 people are on a waiting list.

Lot B’s attractiveness is partly the result of the decade-long decline in air travel brought about by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the outbreak of SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome — in 2003 and the deepest recession since World War II.

Salaries for pilots, mechanics and other airline workers have plummeted. Captains like Lancaster have been demoted to first officer, losing hard-earned seniority and forcing them out of plum assignments at airports close to home. Lancaster, who came to LAX from Seattle about 18 months ago, estimates that his reduction in rank cost him about $30,000 a year, roughly 20% of his pay.

[Return to headlines]

More Bodies Go Unclaimed as Families Can’t Afford Funeral Costs

he poor economy is taking a toll even on the dead, with an increasing number of bodies in Los Angeles County going unclaimed by families who cannot afford to bury or cremate their loved ones.

At the county coroner’s office — which handles homicides and other suspicious deaths — 36% more cremations were done at taxpayers’ expense in the last fiscal year over the previous year, from 525 to 712.

he county morgue, which is responsible for the indigent and others who go unclaimed, saw a 25% increase in cremations in the first half of this year over the same period a year ago, rising to 680 from 545.

The demands on the county crematorium have been so high that earlier this year, officials there stopped accepting bodies from the coroner. The coroner’s office since has contracted with two private crematories for $135,000 to handle the overflow.

“It’s a pretty dramatic increase,” said Lt. David Smith, a coroner’s investigator. “The families just tell us flat-out they don’t have the money to do a funeral.”

Once the county cremates an unclaimed body — typically about a month after death — next of kin can pay the coroner $352 to receive the ashes. The fee for claiming ashes from the morgue is $466.

[Return to headlines]

This is a Stick-Up: Spaniards Take Revenge on Banks for Credit Crunch

With Spain’s economy in freefall and loans squeezed, desperadoes are resorting to robbing banks to solve their personal credit crunch.

Bank robberies have risen by 20 per cent in two years, Spain’s banking association says; and those who adopt the tactic of the stick-up to pay their debts are novices rather than hardened criminals.

“In recent months, it has become apparent that Spain is suffering from an increase in bank robberies,” Francisco Perez Abellan, the head of criminology at Camilo Jose Cela University in Madrid, told The New York Times.

“We are seeing people committing offences through necessity, first-time offenders who can no longer continue to maintain their lifestyle and so turn to crime,” he said.

Instances where counter clerks are tied up at gunpoint while masked raiders empty the safe have become so common that Spain’s government, prodded by the bank employees’ trade union, has classified bank robbery as an occupational hazard.

Jose Manuel Murcia, the head of workplace health and safety in the financial sector for the Workers’ Commissions union federation, said: “There’s unemployment, there’s hunger and there’s money in the banks, and the three factors combine.

“Banks are denying credit, so companies are having problems… People can’t pay their mortgages. So it’s… logical to rob a bank.”

Typical among novice robbers is the building contractor identified as Ausencio CG, who allegedly stole â‚80,000 (£69,000) from four banks before he was caught attempting his fifth hold-up near Barcelona in February. He told police he had used the money to pay his workers and fund his daughter’s studies in London.

Other new bandits were low-skilled workers from eastern Europe or Latin America, drawn to Spain during the building boom, who were now unemployed, Mr Perez Abellan said.

“They bring new skills that increase the level of violence and the speed of the bank robbery.”

Four South American painters kidnapped a bank manager in Barcelona in March, held him overnight and forced him to hand over â‚150,000 from the vault.

They were caught last month in their painters’ overalls, guns and bullets in their car, as they tried a final heist before returning home.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

United States Trying to Allay Concern in Arab Countries

US Treasury Secretary travels to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to boost confidence in US economy and dollar. His optimism is stronger than actual figures should warrant.

Dubai (AsiaNews/Agencies) — “The force of the global recession is receding” as “global trade is just starting to expand again,” US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in his first trip to the Middle East to rebuild confidence in the US economy among local leaders. But he had to admit that “given the extent of damage to financial systems . . . it seems realistic to expect a gradual recovery, with more than the usual ups and downs and temporary reversals”.

Yesterday Geithner held talks in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah and his top financial advisers, where he laid out a four-point strategy that he said is essential for economic recovery.

In his opinion one of the reasons for the crisis was the fact that the United States was “on an unsustainable fiscal path before this crisis”.

Today he travels to the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, who are the main financial backers of US companies and buyers of US treasury bills after China.

Washington is trying to reassure them with regards to the health of the US economy to prevent capital from moving to more lucrative markets.

This year the Gulf States have seen their revenues drop as a result of lower oil prices and the depreciation of the US dollar, something especially painful since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar have pegged their currency to the dollar.

Geithner, who was in London on Monday, said the Obama administration is committed to protecting the value of the dollar.

This is important because Gulf “countries have a big stake in the financial stability of the United States. They’re a big creditor,” said Nasser Saidi, chief economist at the Dubai International Financial Center.

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


Barry Rubin: The Obama Ideology and World Affairs, Part 1

Theme One: The Obama Revolution

To get a sense of Obama administration thinking, let’s examine the speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Council on Foreign Relations, July 15. Remember that the wording of such speeches is not random and that phrases and formulations are carefully chosen to convey messages.

The most chilling and perhaps symbolic of all that was said in defining this administration is the speech’s ending. In conclusion, Clinton quotes the American revolutionary Thomas Paine as saying, “We have it within our power to start the world over again.”

[I should mention at this point, though, that as we shall see later, Clinton is realistic enough to show some stronger sense of continuity. In fact, on certain points, she steals ideas from George W. Bush’s policy, merely asserting that this administration will do the same things better.

How much this first theme reflects the natural exuberance of a new government and how much it expresses the thinking of certain naive or foolishly ideological people—including the president himself—to whom Clinton must kow-tow will only be clear in time.]

Many will recognize this as something quintessentially American: history doesn’t matter too much; human beings are malleable; all obstacles can be swept away. It is also a basic aspect of revolutionary creeds, including those of the French, Nazi, and Russian revolutions. Such thinking is, on one hand, awe-inspiring; on the other, terrifying.

There is a more mundane English language cliché for this kind of thinking as well: reinventing the wheel. This world view can lead one to underestimate the extent to which others are bound by tradition, interests, and history. It can lead to far-reaching changes which don’t coincide with human social and psychological realities. Regarding international affairs, perhaps in more than any other aspect of endeavor, it can bring disaster.

Such thinking also reflects our current age of post-Marxist, high-technology philosophical idealism. History is seen as a series of shameful mistakes which our superior intellects will set right. Social conventions are artificially constructed. The human brain will dictate to material reality, whose existence after all is only a projection of human consciousness in the first place.

Much can be said about the weaknesses of that argument. But here’s one point. The American Revolution needed Paine’s idealism. But America’s success has been based on the thinking of founders who grounded their idealism in very realistic, even cynical, evaluations of how human beings work.

They limited government and divided power and understood that human attributes like greed had to be harnessed to develop an economic system that provided the greatest possible benefits for the largest possible number. Progress had to be incremental, based on working with the actual, existing world, with all its inevitable shortcomings.

Always, these founders understood, there would be people convinced that only they possessed absolute truth, that their ideas were the only ones of value, that these ideas must be imposed on the masses for the good of the masses.

And such people would have to be fought and defeated, at home or in the world.

No, the Obama administration does not have the power, even in partnership with other countries, to start the world all over again. Indeed, one of its most important tasks must be to save the world from those who want to do so.

Theme Two: Leadership through partnership…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Coolest July 21st Since 1877 Recorded in Al Gore’s Hometown

Cool weather has broken a previous low temperature for July 21 in Nashville that was set when Rutherford B. Hayes was president.

When the temperature at the National Weather Service station dipped to 58 degrees at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, it wiped out the previous record low for the date of 60 degrees, which was set in 1877.

NWS forecaster Bobby Boyd noted it was the third consecutive morning when Nashville either tied or broke a daily low temperature record.

[Return to headlines]

Critics Slam Overweight Surgeon General Pick, Regina Benjamin

Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, Obama’s pick for the next surgeon general, was hailed as a MacArthur Grant genius who had championed the poor at a medical clinic she set up in Katrina-ravaged Alabama.

But the full-figured African-American nominee is also under fire for being overweight in a nation where 34 percent of all Americans aged 20 and over are obese.

Critics and supporters across the blogsphere have commented on photos of Benjamin’s round cheeks, saying she sends the wrong message as the public face of America’s health initiatives.

But others support the 52-year-old founder and CEO of Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, citing new research that shows you cannot always judge a book by its cover when it comes to obesity.

Even the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance — whose slogan is “we come in all sizes” — has jumped to her defense.

[Return to headlines]

Hizb ut-Tahrir: Shariah Takes Precedence Over U.S. Constitution

Imam Promises to Fight “Until Islam Becomes Victorious or We Die in the Attempt”

Oak Lawn, Illinois — Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the international movement to re-establish an international Islamic state ­ or Caliphate — kicked off a new campaign to win American recruits Sunday afternoon in this Chicago suburb. Nearly 300 people packed the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel for its Khalifah Conference on “The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam” to listen to HT ideologues blame capitalism for World War I and World War II; the U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown; the current violence in Iraq and Afghanistan; world poverty and malnutrition and inner-city drug use.

A speaker identified as Abu Atallah even blamed capitalism for the late singer Michael Jackson’s decision “to shed his black skin.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir aims to restore the Caliphate that existed during the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk abolished it in 1924 in an effort to create a secular, Europeanized state.

Security at the conference was very tight. Oak Lawn police maintained a checkpoint outside the Hilton, and local police and HT’s own security people had a substantial presence inside the hotel. In the ballroom where the conference took place, men and women were largely segregated, with men in the front and women in the back. This became a significant point of contention between HT supporters and several members of the audience who objected to this arrangement. At one point, an unidentified Hizb ut-Tahrir speaker became flustered over this line of questioning.

“Men and women,” he blurted out, must be kept separate “to prevent people from behaving like animals.”

A woman in the audience responded: “How does intermingling between men and women make you animals?” HT panelists didn’t have a persuasive answer, and soon adjourned that session.

The conference was sometimes poorly organized. There was no list of speakers, forcing reporters to sometimes guess at the spelling of speakers’ names. But HT certainly appeared to be serious about working for the larger goals of the conference: abolishing capitalism and imposing Caliphate rule over the world.

According to Hizb ut-Tahrir, the world’s social and economic problems will not be fixed until the world is governed by Shariah and the government controls all major industries. Lenders would no longer be able to charge interest, which one speaker decried as a “poisonous concept.” Charity, or zakat, was advertised as the way to alleviate “economic inequality.”

“Secular capitalism has made me devalue my skin” and “has kept my family in ghettos,” said one speaker, an African-American who went on to blame it for the fact that he smoked marijuana and his grandmother played the lottery. Capitalism, he added, is a form of economic “terrorism” and “causes us to be sent to mental hospitals.” Barack Obama’s presidency, he said, “is only a scheme or con” to trick people into thinking that things will get better under capitalism.

But time and again on Sunday, Hizb ut-Tahrir officials seemed to be playing slippery rhetorical games of their own — particularly when it came to the behavior of despotic Muslim regimes and terrorists. When a few skeptical audience members pressed speakers over the fact that Islamic governments in Iran and Saudi Arabia are despotic, conference speakers claimed those weren’t “authentic” Muslim governments and that the CIA (and by implication, the capitalist U.S. government) was to blame for the problems in those countries. In an interview with WBBM-TV in Chicago, HT deputy spokesman Mohammad Malkawi refused to specifically condemn Al Qaida and the Taliban.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government and it insists it is only interested in instituting radical change by nonviolent means. But HT’s alumni include 9/ll mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the late Iraqi terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi and would-be Hamas suicide bombers, and the group’s pro-jihadist rhetoric has led critics to label it a “conveyor belt for terrorists.”

One Muslim American group issued a statement in advance of the conference condemning Hizb ut-Tahrir’s radical ideology and challenging others to follow suit.

“Hizb ut-Tahrir preaches an ideology that calls for the destruction of the principles that America is founded on,” said Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy. “While their words are protected by our First Amendment, their actions and movement must not be allowed to take hold. The silence of American Islamist organizations like [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] CAIR and [the Islamic Society of North America] ISNA in condemning the ideologies of Hizb ut-Tahrir and their agenda of insurgency in America speaks volumes to their own, albeit, more camouflaged Islamist agenda.”

HT’s efforts to rehabilitate its image won’t be helped by the menacing tone on display Sunday. One late-afternoon panelist suggested that modern industrial powers could fall to Muslims the way Mecca fell to Mohammed nearly 1,400 years ago…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Muslims Slam Discriminate Law in US

US Muslims see new draft legislation as contradicting right to practice one’s religion in America.

WASHINGTON — A leading US Muslim civil rights organization on Thursday slammed a draft state law that would bar teachers in public schools from wearing “religious dress” such as a headscarf.

“This legislation forces Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and others to choose between their faith and entering the teaching profession,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), referring to a bill before the governor of the northwestern state of Oregon.

“Merely wearing a headscarf is not proselytizing; it’s a statement of faith. Practicing one’s faith is a right guaranteed by the constitution,” said Hooper.

CAIR cites a clause of the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act as saying: “No teacher in any public school shall wear any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher.”

The bill also says education officials and schools would not be breaking the law if they “prohibit a teacher from wearing religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher.”

Hooper questioned whether the law would be applied to Christian crosses or the Jewish Star of David, or if it would affect a Muslim woman who did not normally wear a scarf but had to undergo chemotherapy and lost her hair.

“Would she be put through an inquisition to determine if she was making a religious statement or not?” he said.

Hooper also pointed out that the Oregon legislation directly contradicts a statement made by US President Barack Obama during a speech in Egypt in June.

“Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion,” Obama said in the speech. “That is why the US government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.”

The bill has been passed by the Oregon state legislature and the governor “has said he will sign it,” said Hooper.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Obama Admits He’s “Not Familiar” With House Bill

With the public’s trust in his handling of health care tanking (50%-44% of Americans disapprove), the White House has launched a new phase of its strategy designed to pass Obamacare: all Obama, all the time. As part of that effort, Obama hosted a conference call with leftist bloggers urging them to pressure Congress to pass his health plan as soon as possible.

During the call, a blogger from Maine said he kept running into an Investors Business Daily article that claimed Section 102 of the House health legislation would outlaw private insurance. He asked: “Is this true? Will people be able to keep their insurance and will insurers be able to write new policies even though H.R. 3200 is passed?” President Obama replied: “You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you are talking about.” (quote begins at 17:10)

This is a truly disturbing admission by the President, especially considering that later in the call, Obama promises yet again: “If you have health insurance, and you like it, and you have a doctor that you like, then you can keep it. Period.” How can Obama keep making this promise if he is not familiar with the health legislation that is being written in Congress? Details matter.

We are familiar with the passage IBD sites, and as we wrote last week, the House bill does not outright outlaw private individual health insurance, but it does effectively regulate it out of existence. The House bill does allow private insurance to be sold, but only “Exchange-participating health benefits plans.” In order to qualify as an ?Exchange-participating health benefits plan,? all health insurance plans must conform to a slew of new regulations, including community rating and guaranteed issue. These will all send the cost of private individual health insurance skyrocketing. Furthermore, all these new regulations would not apply just to individual insurance plans, but to all insurance plans. So the House bill will also drive up the cost of your existing employer coverage as well. Until, of course, it becomes so expensive that your company makes the perfectly economical decision to dump you into the government plan.

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Sun Times Group Publishes ‘Varied’ Versions of HuT Rise of Islam Conference

Little has been made about yesterday’s “The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam” conference that was held at the Hilton Hotel Grand Ballroom in Oak Lawn, IL. The conference was held by the group Hizb Ut Tahrir; a group that has been banned in Germany, Russia, Pakistan and several other Middle Eastern countries. Yet most mainstream media organizations in the United States didn’t even bother to mention the event.

Indeed. Although the story did appear in Chicago’s suburban Southtown Star, the paper’s sister publication, the Chicago Sun Times penned it as an “ecomonic session” and homogenized the coverage as follows…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

The Bloom is Off the Rose: Senior Democrats Criticize Obama

President Barack Obama has irked close allies in Congress by declaring he has the right to ignore legislation on constitutional grounds after having criticized George W. Bush for doing the same.

Four senior House Democrats on Tuesday said they were “surprised” and “chagrined” by Obama’s declaration in June that he doesn’t have to comply with provisions in a war spending bill that puts conditions on aid provided to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In a signing statement accompanying the $106 billion bill, Obama said he wouldn’t allow the legislation to interfere with his authority as president to conduct foreign policy and negotiate with other governments. Earlier in his 6-month-old administration, Obama issued a signing statement regarding provisions in a $410 billion omnibus spending bill.

“During the previous administration, all of us were critical of (Bush’s) assertion that he could pick and choose which aspects of congressional statutes he was required to enforce,” the Democrats wrote in their letter to Obama. “We were therefore chagrined to see you appear to express a similar attitude.”

The letter was signed by Reps. David Obey of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as well as Reps. Nita Lowey and Gregory Meeks, both of New York, who chair subcommittees on those panels.

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US Imams, Rabbis Teach Ecumenism

CAIRO — Imams and rabbis from across Europe are touring interfaith centers in the US to learn from the track record of success of their American counterparts in fostering inter-religious dialogue and Muslim-Jewish relations.

“Our success in America has given us the faith and confidence to reach out to Europe,” Sayyid Mohammad Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), one of three hosts for the tour, told the Washington Times on Monday, July 20.

“We need them to witness firsthand what we are doing. I have been working toward this all my life.”

Twenty eight imams and rabbis from 10 European countries will be touring interfaith centers and meetings American counterparts and experts in interfaith relations.

The aim is to get ideas and instructions on breaking new ground on Muslim-Jewish relations in their societies.

They will begin their visits on Monday in New York, where they will meet Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali, head of the Islamic Cultural Center who will talk about the experience of New York’s largest mosque.

During their two days in New York, the European imams and rabbis will also meet prominent political, civic and religious leaders, and be hosted by the United Nations.

They will then travel to Washington, where they will be received by Muslim congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson and two leaders of the unofficial Congressional Jewish Caucus, Jerrold Nadler and Robert Wexler.

The delegation will also visit an exhibit at the US Holocaust Museum.

In addition to ISNA, the tour is also sponsored by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), a national organization dedicated to strengthening ties between ethnic and religious communities in North America.


The tour is the first of its kind to show how American-style ecumenism works on the ground.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the FFEU and chairman of the WJC American Section, says the tour came after requests to learn from the American experience.

“We received calls from faith leaders in England, Sweden and Australia who want to take part in that,” he told the Washington Times.

Interfaith ties between American Muslim and Jewish leaders have a history of successes.

Two years ago, the FFEU convened the first summit of rabbis and imams in New York.

Religious leaders from both faiths joined forces in early 2008 for a public service announcement on CNN that denounced both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

In November 2008, imams and rabbis launched a week-long national initiative “twinning” a synagogue with a mosque in 25 cities and towns across the country to fight Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

A second weekend of twinning mosques and synagogues is planned next November.

ISNA, the biggest Muslim umbrella group in North America, has also launched an unprecedented outreach to American Christians and Jews at its annual conference earlier this month in Washington.

It sponsored a private interfaith reception for 400 leaders from various religions.

Rabbi Schneier, who co-founded the FFEU 20 years ago, believes there have been breakthroughs in the relation between US Muslims and Jews particularly.

He hopes the model spreads worldwide.

“The great challenge of the 21st century in inter-religious dialogue is to find the path to narrow the gap between Muslims and Jews worldwide,” he said.

“But I appreciate the fact this is a very long process.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Animal Rights Activist Held — ‘Plan to Attack Dutch Queen’ — Summary

Amsterdam — A radical animal rights activist was arrested Tuesday for allegedly planning an attack on Dutch queen Beatrix to protest the fact that she wears furs. The news comes three months after a different attack left nine people dead when an assailant intentionally ploughed his car into a crowd in an attempt to attack the royal family.

In the latest development, Peter Janssen, 23, who has become known throughout the Netherlands for spectacular events in the name of ending animal abuse, was arrested on charges of planning an attack and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Police raided his home and that of a friend, confiscating two computers, but no gun was found.

A spokesman for the state attorney’s office said there were a number of concrete justifications for the investigation. Multiple witnesses have also filed reports on Janssen.

Police said Janssen was first arrested on similar suspicions during Queen’s Day celebrations on April 30, 2008 in the northern Dutch town of Makkum, attended by the Dutch head of state and her family.

Janssen was then detained on charges of disturbing public order, but released the following day.

The nature of the latest alleged planned attack remains unclear. Through his attorney, Janssen rejected all charges against him. Attorney Gerard Spong said Janssen was innocent of all charges.

Janssen was dubbed the “Vegan Streaker” in 2008 after disrupting a popular live Saturday night television show wearing only underpants to raise public awareness about animal rights.

He was arrested several months ago for allegedly releasing 2,500 mink on a farm in Stavenisse in the southern Netherlands. In April police released him, pending further investigations, to take care of his sick mother.

It was not immediately confirmed whether Janssen would be brought before a judge on Thursday to determine possible extension of custody.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Approval Drops Below 50%

Escort scandal given new life as audio tapes leaked

(ANSA) — Rome, July 21 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s approval rating has fallen below 50% for the first time since he took office in May of last year, according to a poll taken by IPR Marketing for the Rome daily La Repubblica. In its first poll since a suspension in May for the local elections, IPR found that only 49% of Italians now approve of Berlusconi’s performance, a drop of four percentage points from the last poll, while 50% say they have little or no confidence in him. Berlusconi’s popularity hit a high of 62% in October, while until now his lowest rating was 52%, set in March. This latest poll, carried out July 18 on a cross section of 1,000 Italians, was the first since Berlusconi found himself at the center of a media storm over his private life as well as after this month’s Group of Eight summit which he hosted in the quake-stricken city of L’Aquila.

The results of the poll came out as allegations linking Berlusconi with a female escort were gaining new momentum after a left-wing news group posted audio tapes and transcripts of phone calls and conversations allegedly linking the pair.

La Repubblica and sister weekly Espresso offered conversations allegedly between Berlusconi and escort Patrizia D’Addario on Monday, while Espresso published four further conversations on Tuesday.

Espresso received a record number of hits on its site Monday as a result, with 2.1 million pages seen and 459,000 unique users — statistics five times higher than its average results for July.

The first round of tapes and transcripts meanwhile grabbed international headlines Tuesday, with newspapers reporting key passages and Spain’s El Pais headlining its article “Patrizia was telling the truth”. LEAKED TAPES ‘ILLEGAL’.

However, an MP for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party said Tuesday that the conversations were either false and “manipulated” or, if authentic, constituted an illegal interference into the premier’s private life.

The government successfully blocked an attempt by the opposition to table a motion in parliament to discuss Berlusconi’s private behaviour. Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo’ Ghedini, said Monday that the recordings were “without any merit, completely improbable and the fruit of invention”, adding that the premier was ready to sue “anyone who considered using” them. He also demanded to know how the news group had come into possession of the tapes, which are still being held by Bari prosecutors who are probing Tarantini for abetting prostitution. D’Addario first claimed in a newspaper interview in June that she and other women were paid by Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini to attend parties at the premier’s residences. She claims to have attended two parties at Berlusconi’s Rome residence last year and says that on the second occasion she spent the night.

Prosecutors believe Tarantini, 34, paid the women to “ingratiate himself” with powerful people to help his business activities. He has denied that the premier knew that the girls he took or sent to parties at Berlusconi’s Rome home or at his villa in Sardinia were in fact being paid. The premier has kept quiet on the issue since the audio tapes were leaked but in the past has slammed the press’s coverage of the escorts probe as “just rubbish, just trash”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Chief of Hungary’s National Security Office Resigns

Brigadier General Sandor Laborc, head of Hungary’s National Security Office, resigned on Monday, and Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai accepted his resignation.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that Laborc’s successor will be Brigadier General Laszlo Balajti, currently general manager of the Specialized National Security Service.

Laborc, who leaves his post on Sept. 1, cited the termination of the key points of an investigation into alleged wrongdoing involving security firm UD as the reason why he “will be unable to perform work of full value in the future.”

The local wire service MTI reported that Laborc, whose appointment in November 2007 triggered a firestorm of protest because of his “close ties to the KGB,” had initiated an investigation into security firm UD, a company responsible for computer security, on charges of illegal data gathering that involved hacking into government and private networks.

UD had been suspected of playing a role in an effort to depose the leader of the tiny conservative MDF party, Ibolya David, and replace her with someone more ready to cooperate with the center-right Fidesz party, Hungary’s leading conservative force.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NNI) conducted a series of searches and seized multiple computers, servers and other items, initiating proceedings on charges involving violations of private security, unauthorized accessing of state secrets and hacking. All of these charges were dropped in the summer of 2009.

Still under investigation are charges of abuse of products and services used in military technology or usable for military as well as civilian purposes, influence peddling, abuse of office and abuse of personal data. Police reported that NNI has continued delving into these matters.

Laborc opposed halting any portion of the investigation, arguing that not all avenues of evidence gathering had been exhausted. He was apparently overruled, which triggered his resignation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Cold War Heroes Walesa & Havel Plead to Obama: Don’t Give Up Missile Defense

Dissident heroes from the age of the Iron Curtain, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and 20 other Central and Eastern European intellectuals, policymakers and leaders have penned an open letter to President Obama on the perils facing US-NATO relations should he cave to the Russians —- and they should know:

“Despite the efforts and significant contribution of the new members, NATO today seems weaker than when we joined. In many of our countries it is perceived as less and less relevant — and we feel it. Although we are full members, people question whether NATO would be willing and able to come to our defense in some future crises.


Many in the region are looking with hope to the Obama Administration to restore the Atlantic relationship as a moral compass for their domestic as well as foreign policies. A strong commitment to common liberal democratic values is essential to our countries. We know from our own historical experience the difference between when the United States stood up for its liberal democratic values and when it did not. Our region suffered when the United States succumbed to “realism” at Yalta. And it benefited when the United States used its power to fight for principle. That was critical during the Cold War and in opening the doors of NATO. Had a “realist” view prevailed in the early 1990s, we would not be in NATO today and the idea of a Europe whole, free, and at peace would be a distant dream.”

With regards to planned European missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, they write:

“[T]he thorniest issue may well be America’s planned missile-defense installations. Here too, there are different views in the region, including among our publics which are divided. Regardless of the military merits of this scheme and what Washington eventually decides to do, the issue has nevertheless also become — at least in some countries — a symbol of America’s credibility and commitment to the region. How it is handled could have a significant impact on their future transatlantic orientation. The small number of missiles involved cannot be a threat to Russia’s strategic capabilities, and the Kremlin knows this. We should decide the future of the program as allies and based on the strategic plusses and minuses of the different technical and political configurations. The Alliance should not allow the issue to be determined by unfounded Russian opposition. Abandoning the program entirely or involving Russia too deeply in it without consulting Poland or the Czech Republic can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region.”

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

‘EU Big Brother Planning to Watch You More Closely’

The European Union’s wide-ranging Stockholm Programme risks further damaging citizens’ hard earned privacy rights, argues Pirate Party member and long-time libertarian blogger Henrik Alexandersson.

EU ministers are gathering in Stockholm this week to advance their work on the Stockholm Programme, a five-year plan they claim is designed to make it easier to catch criminals and keep Europe’s citizens safe.

But despite soothing words from politicians about the programme’s virtues, it’s critical for EU citizens to stand up now and protest against the threat it presents to privacy and individual rights.

On the surface, the Stockholm Programme’s professed set of goals may appear somewhat benign — perhaps even sensible —with its calls for increased cooperation to fight terrorism and organized cross-border crime.

But we’ve already got a pretty good idea that the kinds of measures under consideration for meeting the Stockholm Programme’s goals are anything but benign.

In short, we’re talking about increased surveillance which tramples on the privacy rights of individuals and about higher walls being constructed around Europe’s borders.

Last summer, a number of details about the concrete steps associated with the Stockholm Programme were leaked from the EU’s so-called Future Group in connection with a meeting of EU justice ministers in Nice.

While the drafters of the Stockholm Programme profess it is a tool that will aid the “free movement of people” within the EU, there is very little about one’s movements that will remain “free” if EU ‘securocrats’ are allowed to implement the sorts of measures hinted at in the Future Group document.

Among other things, the leaked Future Group document envisages “new and more flexible expulsion and surveillance measures” which would make it easier for states across Europe to gather increasingly detailed information about citizens and their movements, as well as block the entry of others.

Moreover, the authors also discuss the need for “increased synergies between police and security intelligence services” across Europe, meaning that information gathered by local law enforcement in Piteå could eventually end up in the hands of counter-terrorism agents in Palermo.

Are we really “free” if our movements are tracked by the state and that information can end up being read by any intelligence or law enforcement agency in Europe?

Will we be “free” if the state has access to information about our banking habits, internet use, and can pinpoint our location using mobile phone data?

Whatever happened to the notion that the citizens of Europe could go about their business without having Big Brother continually tapping them on the shoulder and watching them with a suspicious eye?

While the indications we’ve seen so far about the plans for fulfilling the Stockholm Programme are frightening, it’s still early enough in the process for the citizens of Europe to make their voices heard.

While demonstrators plan on taking to the streets in Stockholm, we here at the European Parliament in Brussels are getting ready to fight the next round from within the system.

It’s going to be a long, difficult autumn for us privacy advocates and bloggers as we do battle to make sure some of the more intrusive proposals don’t end up making it into the final document, which is expected to be presented for signature in December by heads of state and government EU Summit in Stockholm.

And even in the years after the programme is adopted, those of us who support privacy rights will have to be vigilant regarding additional measures which will likely be debated in reference to the Stockholm Programme.

But what’s important now is that we, at an early stage, show how we feel and are clear about what concerns us.

If the politicians don’t meet with some resistance, they’ll never put the brakes on the Stockholm Programme before it ends up in a train wreck of invasive measures which all but wipe out any notion of personal privacy and integrity among the citizens of Europe.

It’s exciting to see how many activists have been mobilized so far by these important issues of privacy and individual rights. And it’s important to protest. If we don’t, politicians won’t realize that they’ve stepped over the line.

So get out and demonstrate! Blog, write, and shout to show everyone in the capitals of Europe as well as the European capital that privacy is an important right for every individual in the 27 member states of the European Union,

If we don’t speak loudly now, we may find our views barely able to utter a whisper without the Big Brother of Europe holding his hand across our mouths.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

France: Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni Spend £660 Per Day on Flowers

Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni have been spending more than £660 a day on flowers.

The extraordinary sum was revealed in a public audit which comes in the middle of the worst recession for decades.

The couple also used taxpayers’ money to settle £3,000 of fines for late payment of electricity and gas bills.

But it is their annual payments to florists to supply the Elysee Palace which has caused the most astonishment.

At £241,000 per year, the sum is even greater than spent by Elton John, who was revealed to spend around £460-a-day on flowers in 1997.

The sum emerged in presidential accounts for 2008, Mr Sarkozy’s first full year in office, during which he made Miss Bruni his third wife.

The former model turned pop singer is particularly fond of fresh flowers, and is frequently pictured arranging huge vases full of them inside the Elysee.

The figures were part of the first state audit of a French leader’s spending since the reign of Louis XVI.

An Elysee Palace spokesman said the floral bill was being reduced, and that the 2008 figures were welcomed as a move towards ‘transparent government’.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

French Cosmetics Giant L’Oréal Guilty of Racial Discrimination

L’Oréal, the French cosmetics giant, whose advertising campaigns proclaim “because you’re worth it”, was found guilty of racial discrimination for considering black, Arab and Asian women unworthy of selling its shampoo.

France’s highest court was told that the group had sought an all-white team of sales staff to promote Fructis Style, a haircare product made by Garnier, L’Oréal’s beauty division.

The word went out that Garnier’s hostesses should be BBR — “bleu, blanc, rouge” — the colours of the French flag. The expression is widely recognised in the French recruitment world as a code for white French people born to white French parents, a court was told, in effect excluding the four million or so members of ethnic minorities in France.

La Cour de Cassation, the equivalent of the US Supreme Court, said that the policy was illegal under French employment law, upholding a ruling given by the Paris Appeal Court in 2007.

The judgment was a significant blow to the image of the world’s biggest cosmetics group, which has spent millions of dollars in global advertising campaigns featuring stars such as Andie MacDowell, Eva Longoria, Penélope Cruz and Claudia Schiffer.

That image already suffered a battering when L’Oréal executives were forced to deny claims that they had lightened the singer Beyoncé Knowles’s skin for a campaign last year. The ruling also hinted at widespread prejudice among French shoppers since L’Oréal believed that they were more likely to buy shampoo from white sales staff, the court was told.

The ruling will fuel anger among black and Arab French people, who complain that they face widespread discrimination when seeking employment.

The court ruled that Adecco, the temporary recruitment agency whose Districom division hired the hostesses, was also guilty of racial discrimination. The Paris Appeal Court had fined both L’Oréal and Adecco €30,000 (£25,500) and ordered them to pay a further €30,000 each in damages to SOS Racisme, the anti-racist campaign group, which brought the case. The court upheld the fines but told the appeal court judges to reconsider the damages.

L’Oréal expressed “disappointment” at the judgment, which ends three years of legal wrangling over the discrimination claims. Adecco declined to comment.

Samuel Thomas, the vice-chairman of SOS Racisme, described the ruling as a “very great victory”. He said: “Whatever the size of the company, none is able to escape prosecution.”

The court was told that a Districom executive had sent a fax to its headquarters in 2000 saying that Garnier’s hostesses should be aged 18 to 22, wear size 38 to 42 clothes (British sizes 8 to 12) and be “BBR”.

Prosecutors said that Garnier wanted to exclude members of the ethnic minorities on the ground that they would be less likely to sell its shampoo in French shops. The court was told that only 4.65 per cent of the hostesses hired for Garnier’s campaign were black, Asian or Arab.

Before the BBR fax went out, the agency had been offering a pool of candidates in which 38.7 per cent were from ethnic minorities, suggesting that they had been blocked during the final stages of recruitment.

Districom employees said that they were given oral instructions to favour white sales staff. But Thérèse Coulange, the deputy managing director of Districom, who sent the fax, said that she had merely wanted hostesses able to “express themselves correctly in French”. She said that the fax had been a personal initiative and not the implementation of company policy.

Laurent Dubois, Garnier’s former managing director, told a lower court that he had “never given the slightest order to discriminate against anyone” and described racial prejudice as “foreign to L’Oréal’s genes”.

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Germany: Prosecutors Planning Child Porn Charges Against Tauss

State prosecutors in Karlsruhe said they have finished their investigation and plan to file charges against former Social Democratic MP Jörg Tauss for alleged possession of child pornography, daily Bild reported on Tuesday.

“Before that the parliamentary immunity committee will have access to the folders because they will have to annul his immunity for charges against Mr. Tauss to be filed,” head prosecutor Rüdiger Rehring told the paper.

Tauss’ lawyer Jan Mönikes criticised the state prosecutor’s office for revealing their plans to mass-circulation Bild, telling news magaszine Der Spiegel it was a “social execution” and a “public prejudgement.”

Authorities began their investigation against Tauss in March, and he has since admitted to downloading child pornography, saying it was part of his work against the trade in such images.

Bild reported Tuesday that state prosecutors do not accept this explanation because he had “no official assignment” to fight child pornography. Authorities found mobile phone images and three DVDs with illegal content during searches of Tauss’ home and office.

In response to the investigation, Tauss left the Social Democratic Party (SPD), for which he has been an MP since 1994, and is now the first member of the Pirate Party in the Bundestag, ignoring calls that he step down from parliament.

The Pirate Party in Germany sees itself as representing those in the information technology community, campaigning for privacy protection as well as the loosening of copyright laws.

He said he left the SPD in protest at its decision to support a bill giving the government the power to censor websites containing child porn.

Although Tauss is known for his experience in information technology matters and he has a track record in investigating child porn websites, he said the decision to give the government powers to close such sites down is a mistake.

The Pirate Party welcomed Tauss into its ranks, saying that as long as the investigation into his possession of child porn images did not result in a conviction, there was, “no reason to doubt his innocence and moral integrity.”

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Hungary’s KGB-Trained Secret Services Chief Resigns

Budapest — Hungarian Premier Gordon Bajnai on Monday accepted the resignation of Sandor Laborc, the head of Hungary’s National Security Office, the Prime Minister’s Office told local news agency MTI. Laborc was a controversial figure due to his communist-era past as a graduate of a top KGB academy in the Soviet Union.

His resignation came in the wake of a scandal over a private security firm that was suspected of spying on politicians and hacking into state computers.

The secret services chief cited “anomalies” in official investigations into the affair (which resulted in no serious charges being brought) as reasons for his decision to stand down.

Prime Minister Bajnai said Laborc had “modernized” Hungary’s secret service operations during his time in the job and will remain at his post until September 1.

Laborc spent six years at the KGB’s Dzerzhinsky Academy in Moscow in the 1980s, and his appointment in December 2007 by Hungary’s socialist government was strongly criticized by the opposition.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Obama More Appreciated Than Any Dutch Politician

AMSTERDAM, 21/07/09 — The American President Barack Obama is much more popular in the Netherlands than any Dutch politician. He has support from both leftwing and rightwing voters, pollster Maurice de Hond reports.

The US president, who came into office six months ago, scored 7.4 on a scale of 1-10. This is more than a point higher than the highest score achieved by any Dutch politician since De Hond started measuring popularity in 2003.

Strikingly, Obama is popular with supporters of both leftwing and rightwing parties. The first black president even received a clear ‘pass mark’ of 6.4 from Party for Freedom (PVV) voters, although they were less enthusiastic than the leftwing voters.

One factor that makes the popularity figures for national politicians in the Netherlands lower is that many politicians receive extremely low scores from voters who detest them. PVV leader Geert Wilders, for example, is the most popular leader if only the votes of a party’s own supporters are counted, but his score is low when all the votes are averaged.

Other politicians suffer from this phenomenon as well. “The results for Dutch politicians are always pulled down by low scores from people on the ‘other’ side of the political fence,” De Hond observed.

In spite of Obama’s high popularity score, the Dutch are critical of his foreign policy in relation to the Netherlands. Of those questioned, 40 percent do and 53 percent do not want the Netherlands to take in prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Only 20 percent wish to continue the current Dutch mission in Afghanistan in the same or a different form.

A third want the Netherlands to withdraw from Afghanistan completely. More than 40 percent want the troops to leave the Uruzgan region, but want a small mission to remain elsewhere in Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Romanian Mayor Criticized for Dressing Up as Nazi

CONSTANTA, Romania — An anti-Semitism monitoring organization in Romania has filed an official complaint with prosecutors against a mayor for taking part in a fashion show dressed as a Nazi officer and wearing a swastika.

Radu Mazare, the mayor of Constanta city, is no stranger to showmanship. He once appeared at a public event dressed as James Bond, and he has done fashion magazine spreads.

Mazare, a member of the opposition Social Democracy Party, also was charged last year, along with 36 other government officials, with carrying out illegal real estate deals that cost the country 114 million euros ($143 million).

On Sunday evening, Mazare, 41, and his 15-year-old son performed on stage at the fashion show in Mamaia, a Black Sea resort town near Constanta, and both appeared to be dressed in Nazi uniforms.

Television news shows later showed footage of the performance in Romania, where it is illegal to display swastikas and where people convicted of doing that can be jailed for three years.

The newspaper Evenimentul Zilei quoted the mayor as saying he was inspired to dress the way he did by the film “Valkyrie,” in which a German officer “tries to free Germany of a mad dictator.” Actor Tom Cruise plays Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, the aristocratic army officer who was among those executed after a failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944.

Mazare told TV station B1 that he thought he had covered up all the Nazi symbols on his uniform, but did not see a swastika on the belt because it was very small.

On Monday, the country’s Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism accused Mazare of wearing a Nazi uniform and displaying a swastika during the fashion show. The center urged Romania’s chief prosecutor to investigate Mazare.

In Israel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Tuesday called on Mazare to resign and to apologize for parading in the Nazi uniform.

Efraim Zuroff, the center’s director, “expressed a sense of insult and outrage at the poor judgment Mazare exhibited,” especially since he was accompanied by his son. “It would hard to adequately describe the depth of the pain that your appearance caused, not only to Jews and other victims of Nazism, but to any person of moral integrity who knows the history of World War II,” the center said in a statement.

Romania denied participating in the Holocaust until 2004, when it accepted the findings of an international commission that Romanian authorities killed up to 380,000 Jews during World War II in territories under their control.

The Associated Press called Mazare’s office and the chief prosecutor’s on Tuesday, but neither was available for an interview.

Video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8E3Rv3Jh0g

“Radu Mazare dressed in Nazi uniform officer, along with his son, Raducu” Radu Mazare: “No, not a Nazi, a German army officer in the Wermacht. I was inspired by the movie Operation Valkyrie. The costume is made in a workshop in Germany, and is identical to the costumes that were worn by officers.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

UK Court Rejects Suit on Google Search Results

LONDON — A British judge has ruled that Google cannot be held responsible for defamatory words that appear in results on the popular Internet search engine..

Justice David Eady said that Google is not a publisher because searches are carried out entirely by computers and the search engine does not choose the terms itself.

The case was closely watched because the United Kingdom is perceived as having particularly stringent libel laws.

The ruling came in a suit by Metropolitan International Schools Limited, a British company which offers distance learning courses and trades under the brands of SkillsTrain or Train2Game, and previously as Scheidegger MIS.

MIS sued both Google UK Ltd. and the parent company, Google Inc., and Designtechnica Corp., incorporated in Oregon. The company’s Web site hosts bulletin boards and forums that have carried allegedly defamatory complaints about Metropolitan International Schools.

Google cannot be “regarded as a publisher” for what its searches discover on the Web, the judge said in his ruling handed down Thursday, noting that Google had prevailed against similar suits in the Netherlands two years ago, and this year in cases in Spain and France.

MIS had won a lower court order that Designtechnica and Google should answer the suit in London, but that was thrown out by Eady. The plaintiffs have “no reasonable prospect of success,” he said.

“When a snippet is thrown up on the user’s screen in response to his search, it points him in the direction of an entry somewhere on the Web that corresponds, to a greater or lesser extent, to the search terms he has typed in,” Eady said. “It is for him to access or not, as he chooses.”

Google Inc. said in a statement that the verdict reinforces the principle that search engines are not responsible for content that is published on third party Web sites.

The judge “made clear that if someone feels they have been defamed by material on a Web site then they should address their complaint to the person who actually wrote and published the material, and not a search engine, which simply provides a searchable index of content on the Internet,” it said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: 7,000 Care Kids ‘Lost’

Sex traffic fears as figures reveal chaos

A STAGGERING 7,080 kids in care have VANISHED in the past eight years, new figures reveal.

Nearly a third — 2,240 — disappeared from council- run children’s homes.

Experts last night warned that hundreds could have fallen prey to people traffickers and been forced into prostitution.

Last year 980 kids went missing — up from 810 in 2001 — as Britain’s care system descended into chaos. Of those, 310 disappeared from council children’s homes — the highest number in eight years.

One of the worst offenders is Haringey Council, which failed to save the life of Baby P.

A total of 150 kids in the London borough have gone missing from care since 2001, according to the latest local authority figures.

Nationally, it is estimated there are up to 5,000 trafficked youngsters, and there was a 50 per cent increase in the rate of recorded child trafficking in Britain between 2007 and 2009.

Clare Tickell, of the charity Action for Children said: “It’s tragic that so many vulnerable children have gone missing from care — the one place where they should have felt safe.


“It is particularly worrying given the rise in trafficking. More must be done to understand why children go missing from care.”

Most of the youngsters are runaways unhappy with their care placements. Many go to live with a friend or relative.

But others are immigrants who arrive alone in the UK without visas and are targeted by traffickers.

It is feared at least 77 Chinese kids were abducted from a care home near London’s Heathrow Airport and forced into prostitution and to work on cannabis farms between 2006-8. Only four have ever been found.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “We are concerned about any children that go missing from local authority care. It is their duty to make sure children are properly safeguarded.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Council Snoopers Sifting Through Rubbish Bins to Find Out if You’re Wealthy or Poor

Nearly 100 town halls ordered secret searches of their residents’ rubbish bins last year.

The official aim was to find out who was throwing out what to help councils encourage recycling.

But some staff examining the contents of bins also classified residents as well-off or poor.

In one area householders were divided into categories on the basis of their rubbish, ranging from Level One Wealthy Achiever to Level Five Hard Pressed.

The bin trawls, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, have been criticised as an invasion of privacy and a waste of effort.

One council chief said he strongly objected to the examination of waste unless specific permission is obtained from the householder.

Jeremy Kite, Tory leader of Dartford in Kent, said: ‘I do not believe it is right.’

Neighbouring councils to Dartford were among those who did go ahead with secret searches of bins.

Eleven councils in Kent allowed the bins from more than 2,000 homes to be scrutinised by officials working for the Kent Waste Partnership.

Waste was dumped into a big pile and sorted into 66 different categories, which included ten types of paper and card, 11 types of plastic, five sorts of glass, six kinds of textiles and a miscellaneous category that included disposable nappies, carpet and sanitary waste.

Other surveys were carried out in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, and in the areas covered by Eastbourne, Hastings, Lewes, Rother and Wealden councils in East Sussex.

The officially-endorsed searches of residents’ rubbish follow many previous rows over council waste collections.

The replacement of weekly bin rounds with fortnightly collections led to a backlash from voters in local elections.

There is also deep unhappiness about the introduction of ‘bin police’ empowered to hand out fines to those who fail to close wheelie bin lids or put out waste at the wrong time.

The use of wheelie bins themselves has now come into question — with pressure to give householders the right to choose bins or sacks — following the Daily Mail’s Not in My Front Yard campaign.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: LBC Radio Signal Blocked by Islamic Extremists

The transmission signal of London commercial radio station LBC 97.3FM is being blocked by an Islamic extremists radio station “Radio Dower” which is believed to be part of a concerted campaign by Islamic extremists groups in the capital to undermine the stations output.

The signal believed to have been broadcast as early as Friday afternoon has been broadcasting recitals of the Qur’an the holy book of Muslims on the 97.3Fm frequency all over north and east London.

The pirate radio station “Radio Dower” is believed to be broadcasting feeds of holy texts from the Qur’an ahead of Ramadan which begins at the end of August. The broadcasts by the pirate radio station vary from readings from the Qur’an to calls from the imprisoned Abu Hamza al-Masri saying “until you see the Khilafa sitting in the White House ruling from there like the Prophet Muhammad said, that Allah showed him the Earth, that Allah told him that the whole Earth will be for Muslims, booty for Islam.”

The offices of the London Daily News have received dozens of emails of people reporting the attempt to block LBC’s broadcast. LBC has come to prominence in London with an editorial decision to debate issues like the middle-east conflict, the 7/7 bombings and the war in Afghanistan.

LBC is listened to 879,000 people daily with its anchor show presented by Nick Ferrari winning the Sony Radio awards this year.

           — Hat tip: xoggoth[Return to headlines]

UK: Londoners Face Second Night Without Electricity After Arson Attack

Tens of thousands in blackout after a suspected arson attack on cables in south-east London caused a huge power cut

TENS of thousands of Londoners face a second night without power after vandals torched cables.

Large sections of south-east London were plunged into darkness last night, with 100,000 customers in parts of Dartford, Welling, Orpington, Bromley and Bexleyheath left without electricity.

Some flats were also left without water as pumps needed to carry it to upper floors stopped working.

Today around 70,000 households and businesses were still without power and the supplier, EDF Energy, warned the shortage could continue until the morning.

EDF is tapping limited electricity supplies to provide three hours of power on a rota to some homes in Crayford, Bexleyheath and Erith.

Emergency services and hospitals are working as normal and additional police patrols are taking place across the borough.

The power was cut at just before 1pm yesterday when a blaze broke out on a bridge that carries cables across Dartford Creek.

“There appears to be evidence of vandalism”

Kent Police are investigating. An EDF spokesman said: “There appears to be evidence of vandalism. Locks have been broken on the security gates at both ends of the bridge.”

More than 100 engineers worked through last night to repair the widespread damage, and this has continued today.

The EDF spokesman said: “Four major electricity circuits have been badly damaged by the fire, with damage also to one of the concrete bridge supports.

“At the peak of the incident close to 100,000 customers were without power supplies.

“We have managed to restore supplies to about a third of customers and the rota connections will help provide temporary supplies to more customers while we continue repairs.

“Our priority is restoring power to all our customers as quickly as is safely possible, and we continue to work on a full restoration of power supplies. However, this is a complex and difficult situation and it is unlikely this will be completed before tomorrow morning.”

For more information on rota connections and estimates on reconnection, EDF’s emergency contact centre is on 0800 028 0247. Those with portable radios should listen to local stations for the latest information.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Sheikh Says That Sharia Penal Codes Would Benefit Britain

“We don’t want to be in conflict with the British legal system at all; we are not interfering with it. We are only concerned here with the religious aspect, no more than that.” The problem with this, as Dr. Hasan well knows, is that Sharia makes no such distinction. If it is to be made at all, it will have to be imposed artificially, and that in itself will create conflict.

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

UK: Man, 22, Dies After Liver Transplant Refused

A 22-year-old alcoholic has died after being refused a life-saving liver transplant because he was too ill to leave hospital and prove he could stay sober.

Gary Reinbach, who died in hospital on Monday from a severe case of liver cirrhosis, did not qualify for a donor liver under strict NHS rules.

The alcoholic, from Dagenham, Essex, had admitted binge drinking since he was 13 but was only taken to hospital for the first time with liver problems 10 weeks ago.

He was never discharged.

His mother Madeline Hanshaw, 44, said: “These rules are really unfair.”

She told the Evening Standard: “I’m not saying you should give a transplant to someone who is in and out of hospital all the time and keeps damaging themselves, but just for people like Gary, who made a mistake and never got a second chance.”

She said he was “desperate to recover” but had deteriorated quickly.

Mr Reinbach’s family said he had started drinking aged 11 when his parents split up and drank heavily from the age of 13.

He had recently tried to give up and had signed up for support group Alcoholics Anonymous just weeks before he was taken into hospital, they said.

His brother Luke, 18, told the Evening Standard: “They never gave him the chance to show he could change.”

Mr Reinbach died at University College Hospital, London.

A hospital spokeswoman said: “Our sympathies are with his family at this time.”

Campaign group Alcohol Concern says it is worried a rise in teenage drinking will lead to more people suffering alcohol-related illnesses at younger ages.

“There has not really been much research into younger people’s drinking and the effects that is having on health in this country,” said a spokeswoman.

She said a study in the US had shown children who begin drinking before they reach 15 are more likely to become alcohol dependent

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: Non-Muslims Turning to Sharia Courts to Resolve Civil Disputes

“plans to triple the number of courts by the end of the year”

Increasing numbers of non-Muslims are turning to Sharia courts to resolve commercial disputes and other civil matters, The Times has learnt.

The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT) said that 5 per cent of its cases involved non-Muslims who were using the courts because they were less cumbersome and more informal than the English legal system.

Freed Chedie, a spokesman for Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siqqiqi, a barrister who set up the tribunal, said: “We put weight on oral agreements, whereas the British courts do not.”

In a case last month a non-Muslim Briton took his Muslim business partner to the tribunal to sort out a dispute over the profits in their car fleet company. “The non-Muslim claimed that there had been an oral agreement between the pair,” said Mr Chedie. “The tribunal found that because of certain things the Muslim man did, that agreement had existed. The non-Muslim was awarded £48,000.”

He said that the tribunal had adjudicated on at least 20 cases involving non-Muslims so far this year. The rulings of the tribunal are legally binding, provided that both parties agree to that condition at the beginning of any hearing.

Anti-Sharia campaigners, who claim that the Islamic system is radical and biased against women, expressed alarm at the news. Denis MacEoin, who wrote a recent report for the think-tank Civitas examining the spread of Sharia in Britain, said that MAT’s claims about non-Muslim clients “raises all sorts of questions”.

He added: “You really need to ask why. What advantages could that possibly have for them going to an Islamic court? Any [Sharia] court is going to be implementing aspects of a law that runs contrary to British law, because of the way it treats women for example.”

Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said that organisations should be free to conduct arbitration under Sharia, provided that it did not infringe British law and was a voluntary process.

Baroness Warsi, the Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, who is Muslim, said that there were many forums for arbitration and alternative dispute resolution in Britain. “There is no problem with that, as long as it is always subject to English law,” she said.

The Times has also learnt that the MAT is planning to triple the number of its courts by setting up in ten new British cities by the end of the year. It will expand its network further by acting as an advisory body to dozens of other Islamic courts, with the intention of achieving national consensus over rulings and procedures.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

UK: Not Fit to Shine Their Boots! Outrage as Toady Labour Peer Accuses Forces of ‘Helping the Taliban’

A Labour peer caused outrage yesterday after he accused Britain’s top soldier of disloyalty and helping the Taliban.

Lord Foulkes attacked General Sir Richard Dannatt for daring to speak out about the shortage of equipment for troops in Afghanistan.

He said public demands for more helicopters by General Dannatt and Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, were ‘giving succour to the enemy’.

The remarks triggered an avalanche of counter-attacks from former senior officers and politicians.

Westminster sources said Lord Foulkes is a notorious establishment toady who slavishly defended his close friend Michael Martin, the disgraced former Speaker of the Commons.

After an undistinguished ministerial career — clouded by an episode of drunk and disorderly behaviour — he was given a peerage in 2005.

His comments represent a dramatic escalation in the war of words between Labour loyalists and senior military commanders.

Last week Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth took the extraordinary step of writing to junior ministers, ordering them not to brief against General Dannatt, after his team was accused of bad-mouthing the Army chief.

But Lord Foulkes reopened hostilities with an outspoken attack in the Lords.

He said: ‘In this media-dominated age it is even more important than ever to maintain a united front in dealing with ruthless and cunning enemies like the Taliban and Al Qaeda.’

Lord Foulkes, a member of the Lords intelligence committee, trained his fire on ‘the public comments of Sir Richard Dannatt and Sir Jock Stirrup which threaten to undermine our effort in Afghanistan and give succour to the enemy.’

And he asked Labour frontbencher Lady Taylor to ‘consider gently reminding these gentlemen of the importance of loyalty, particularly when we are engaged in a very difficult war where victory is essential for the future safety of this country.’

His intervention provoked fury on a day when the Ministry of Defence announced the death of yet another British soldier in Helmand — the 18th fatal casualty this month. He was killed trying to defuse a roadside bomb.

Warning: Sir Jock Stirrup said more helicopters in Afghanistan would save soldiers’ lives

Lord Guthrie, the former Chief of the Defence Staff, denounced Lord Foulkes’s comments as ‘cheap’ and said General Dannatt had been driven to speak out by Labour’s failure to fund the forces.

He said: ‘In normal circumstances people do not speak to the press, they really do not. But these people have been at the end of their tether. They have been driven to it.’

Shadow Defence Minister Gerald Howarth said: ‘It is outrageous for Lord Foulkes to accuse an outstanding general of helping to undermine the mission in Afghanistan.

‘General Dannatt, a holder of the Military Cross, has not only inspired his men through his leadership, but has done more than anyone else to generate the tremendous public support which now manifests itself across the country for our Armed Forces.’

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey said: ‘Considering this Government’s failure to provide either a coherent strategy or adequate kit for the mission in Afghanistan, Richard Dannatt and Jock Stirrup have shown admirable restraint.

‘Lord Foulkes’s claim that these comments will undermine efforts in Afghanistan is absurd. If anything, we need to see more public debate on what our mission is in Afghanistan and how best to achieve it.

‘He should realise that the issue of whether our troops are properly supported is far more important than a few bad headlines for his Government.’

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader in Westminster, whose constituency includes contains RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth, said: ‘Lord Foulkes is playing politics with the lives of our brave service personnel. General Dannatt has done the right thing by pointing out the shortage of equipment and men.’

Earlier yesterday, General Dannatt insisted he had ‘no regrets’ at speaking out.

186th victim: Corporal Joseph Etchells, 22, was killed as a result of an explosion while on foot patrol near Sangin, northern Helmand Province

The general, who is standing down next month, said: ‘Of course there is a line which generals speaking publicly should not cross. If some people think I crossed it, that’s their judgment, I respect their judgment.

‘I don’t believe I crossed it. We may have got quite close to it but I will look back over my shoulder with no regrets at three years as Chief of the General Staff.’

He argued that he had to speak out publicly to assure members of the armed forces that he was on their side.

In a BBC interview the general said: ‘The soldiers knew I would be fighting their case, if you like, from within the tent. But they also have to have the confidence, because they listen to the radio, they watch the telly, they read the newspapers, they need to know that their boss was actually out there for them as well as out there for the operations.

‘That’s why I did what I did and I’m afraid every word was considered and calculated.’

His case was bolstered by the Defence Ministry’s own annual report and accounts, which revealed that the forces do not have enough money to keep operating at the current level.

Opinion polls for the MoD also show the public do not believe Labour is doing enough. Only 26 per cent of voters thought the Armed Forces were well equipped and just four out of ten believed the MoD gives taxpayers value for money.

Forces are stretched to the limit, says MoDBritain’s armed forces are overstretched and do not have enough money to keep operating at the current level, according to the Ministry of Defence’s annual report and accounts.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth slipped out the announcement of the damning study as MPs went on holiday.

The report reveals that the military is not ‘ready to respond to the tasks that might arise’ and are failing to ‘build for the future’ because of a shortage of resources.

‘Lord Foulkes’s claim that these comments will undermine efforts in Afghanistan is absurd. If anything, we need to see more public debate on what our mission is in Afghanistan and how best to achieve it.

‘He should realise that the issue of whether our troops are properly supported is far more important than a few bad headlines for his Government.’

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader in Westminster, whose constituency includes contains RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth, said: ‘Lord Foulkes is playing politics with the lives of our brave service personnel. General Dannatt has done the right thing by pointing out the shortage of equipment and men.’

Earlier yesterday, General Dannatt insisted he had ‘no regrets’ at speaking out.

186th victim: Corporal Joseph Etchells, 22, was killed as a result of an explosion while on foot patrol near Sangin, northern Helmand Province

The general, who is standing down next month, said: ‘Of course there is a line which generals speaking publicly should not cross. If some people think I crossed it, that’s their judgment, I respect their judgment.

‘I don’t believe I crossed it. We may have got quite close to it but I will look back over my shoulder with no regrets at three years as Chief of the General Staff.’

He argued that he had to speak out publicly to assure members of the armed forces that he was on their side.

In a BBC interview the general said: ‘The soldiers knew I would be fighting their case, if you like, from within the tent. But they also have to have the confidence, because they listen to the radio, they watch the telly, they read the newspapers, they need to know that their boss was actually out there for them as well as out there for the operations.

‘That’s why I did what I did and I’m afraid every word was considered and calculated.’

His case was bolstered by the Defence Ministry’s own annual report and accounts, which revealed that the forces do not have enough money to keep operating at the current level.

Opinion polls for the MoD also show the public do not believe Labour is doing enough. Only 26 per cent of voters thought the Armed Forces were well equipped and just four out of ten believed the MoD gives taxpayers value for money.

Forces are stretched to the limit, says MoDBritain’s armed forces are overstretched and do not have enough money to keep operating at the current level, according to the Ministry of Defence’s annual report and accounts.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth slipped out the announcement of the damning study as MPs went on holiday.

The report reveals that the military is not ‘ready to respond to the tasks that might arise’ and are failing to ‘build for the future’ because of a shortage of resources

It also found that the percentage of units suffering from critical or serious weaknesses is increasing.

The paper details a 25 per cent cut in training exercises during 2008-9, with one in seven cancelled altogether.

And it reveals that the UK has been unable to supply enough troops to Nato’s Joint Rapid Reaction Force because there are not enough troops available for action at short notice.

The report also reveals that the Auditor General has ‘qualified’ the MoD’s accounts for a second year over errors in payments to military specialists, and £155million of payments on the Bowman radio system that were not properly accounted for.

The red-faced baron who fights his way… to the bar Lord Foulkes: His name is a byword in Westminster for unthinking tribalism

As Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, former Labour MP George Foulkes sports a title as florid as his ample cheeks.

His opinions are equally colourful and frequently targeted at anyone who has the temerity to question Government policies or the activities of his friends.

His name is a byword in Westminster for unthinking tribalism and shameless sycophancy. One writer once complained: ‘His toadying is becoming embarrassing even by Westminster standards.’

But his accomplishments in the military arena are rather less striking. As one MP put it yesterday: ‘The only fighting George has ever been interested in is fighting his way to the bar.’

Indeed it was his taste for drink which summarily ended his only experience of the Armed Forces.

He was Labour’s defence spokesman in opposition between 1992 and 1993 but was forced to resign after he admitted assault and being drunk and disorderly following a reception hosted by the Scotch Whisky Association. He spent a night in police custody and was fined £1,050.

Lord Foulkes — whose Gordon Highlander grandfather won the military medal in the First World War — became an MP in 1979 after a career in student politics and local government.

When Labour won power in 1997 he was Clare Short’s deputy at the Department for International Development. After a couple of other jobs he got a peerage in 2005.

In recent months he repeatedly leapt to the defence of fellow Scot Michael Martin during the MPs’ expenses scandal.

Lord Foulkes was still arguing that Mr Martin was the right man for the job just hours before he became the first Speaker forced from office in 300 years.

Lord Foulkes’s own expenses included claims of £45,000 over two years for overnight subsistence to stay in a flat he had inherited.

He also acquired a reputation as one of Westminster’s leading junketeers, going on record numbers of foreign freebies.

Christian soldier who politicians can’t cow

General Sir Richard Dannatt has been the most outspoken Army chief of recent years.

The first 37 of his 40 years of service saw him win a reputation as a cool and accomplished safe pair of hands.

But from the moment he took over as Chief of the General Staff in 2006, he has been willing to speak publicly about the shortage of resources Labour has provided for defence.

Telling the truth about soldiers’ pay, living conditions and equipment made him a popular figure with frontline troops, who affectionately dubbed him ‘the Reverend’ because of his profound religious beliefs.

Telling the truth: Sir Richard Dannatt (right), talks to troops at Camp Price, Gerashk, in southern Afghanistan. He has been the most outspoken Army chief in recent years

Captain Henry Coltard, a rifleman serving in Helmand, yesterday hailed General Dannatt’s recent visit to the battlefront.

‘By coming here in what is occasionally dangerous territory, it shows he is a soldier first and that he’s willing to stand alongside his riflemen on the ramparts and be part of the fight,’ he said.

‘It’s good and invigorating to see that he’s not just based in an office, hiding behind the information that’s given to him.’

But the General enraged ministers who claimed he had broken the convention that military chiefs should complain in private.

First he warned that the overstretched Army was ‘running hot’, then told the Daily Mail that UK forces in Iraq were ‘exacerbating’ security problems and should leave ‘some time soon’, adding that the Iraq mission was in danger of ‘breaking’ the Army.

There followed blunt warnings that British soldiers in combat were not being paid enough — less than traffic wardens, as he pointed out — and that Britain itself was not doing enough to support its troops.

The General himself had risen through the ranks after distinguished service with the Green Howards which garnered him a Military Cross in Northern Ireland at just 22.

He was seen as a strong contender to take the top job as Chief of Defence Staff, but lost out as his relationship with Labour ministers faded. He will leave the Army next month.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Olympic Flight Ban Over Terror Attack Fears

A flight ban is to be introduced over the Olympic stadium to protect it from terrorist attack during the games.

The “no-fly zone” is designed to protect the games from light aircraft which could be used as missiles by terrorists intent on attacking the event, a senior Home Office official said.

Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, who is in charge of the security operation surrounding the games, said the three main terrorist threats would come from car bombs, planted bombs and suicide bombs and that measures to counter each will be in place, such as blast-proof barriers and regular security checks.

The measures are part of a number of security precautions being taken to protect Olympic venues which also include an Olympic Intelligence Centre within the Metropolitan Police that will gather information from MI5, MI6, GCHQ and regional police forces about potential threats to the games.

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), part of MI5, has advised Olympic organisers that the threat level against the games remains at “severe” — meaning an attack is highly likely — although it was lowered to “substantial” for the rest of the country on Monday.

Mr Allison said there was no specific threat to the games but he added: “There are always going to be people talking about it.”

The Olympic Intelligence Centre is expected to grow as the games approach in 2012, playing a key role in what is expected to be the largest policing operation Britain has ever seen, rivaling the 12,000 to 13,000 officers involved in the recent G8 summit.

The security operation is costing £600m and already includes a dedicated team that polices the Olympic site. The whole operation will have to secure 34 venues across the city and deal with nine million visitors, along with an unknown number of parallel private events.

An Olympic and Paralympic Security Directorate has been set up within the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism that is looking at all the possible threats to the games, analysing terrorist attacks across the world.

It is working with the police and Olympics organisers to ensure that as many design features as possible are included in the stadiums to prevent attacks and minimise the effect of conventional as well as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks.

Mr Allison said the three main terrorist threats would come from car bombs, planted bombs and suicide bombs and that measures to counter each will be in place, such as blast-proof barriers and regular security checks.

Those working on the Olympic site will only gain access using biometric hand-recognition technology.

The Home Office official admitted that the public view the games as a significant target and added: “People do want reassurance. They want to know what measures are in place and that steps are being taken to guard against an attack.”

The strategy admits that although there may also be a threat from organised crime that may try and disrupt ticketing and potentially from natural hazards such as a flue pandemic, the most serious threat is from terrorism..

But it says the “games will go ahead in almost any circumstances” and a parallel document for the public promises to maintain a “friendly welcoming atmosphere” and still be “ready for anything.”

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said: “Our promise of a safe and secure 2012 Olympics was a major factor in the decision to bring the Games to this country and it is something I am determined to deliver.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Given Powers to Enter Homes and Tear Down Anti-Olympics Posters During 2012 Games

Police have been handed ‘Chinese-style’ powers to enter private homes and seize political posters during the London 2012 Olympics.

Little-noticed measures passed by the Government will allow officers and Olympics officials to enter homes and shops near official venues to confiscate any protest material.

Breaking the rules could land offenders with a fine of up to £20,000.

Civil liberties groups compared the powers to those used by the Communist Chinese government to stop political protest during the 2008 Beijing Games.

Anita Coles, of Liberty, said: ‘Powers of entry should be for fighting crime, not policing poster displays. Didn’t we learn last time that the Olympics should not be about stifling free expression?’

The powers were introduced by the Olympics Act of 2006, passed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, supposedly to preserve the monopoly of official advertisers on the London 2012 site.

They would allow advertising posters or hoardings placed in shop or home to be removed.

But the law has been drawn so widely that it also includes ‘non-commercial material’ — which could extend its reach to include legitimate campaign literature.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘This is a Government who just doesn’t understand civil liberties. They may claim these powers won’t be used but the frank truth is no one will believe them.’

Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: ‘This sort of police action runs the risk of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. ‘We should aim to show the Chinese that you can run a successful Olympics without cracking down on protestors and free speech.’

Scotland Yard denied it had any plans to use the powers.

Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison said: ‘We have no intention of using our powers to go in and take down demonstration posters.’

But critics said that — given the powers were now law — it was impossible to predict what would happen in three years time.

Campaigners said the existence of the powers was ‘dreadful’. Peter McNeil, who is against the holding of equestrian events in Greenwich Park said: ‘It’s bullying taken to another level. It’s quite appalling that this should happen in a democracy.’

The power emerged as the Home Office and police outlined the £600million security operation for the Games, which will cost more than £9billion in total.

They said hundreds of flights could have to be diverted every day, with planes prevented from passing over the main venue for the London games.

Olympic security chiefs said they expected to have to ‘manage’ the airspace over the Olympic Park in east London.

A senior Home Office official said: ‘We do expect there will have to be some management of the airspace. We do not expect that any airports will have to close.’

The officials said they had no evidence of a specific terror threat against the Games at the moment.

But current preparations assume the terror threat level will be at ‘severe’ during the event, despite it being reduced to ‘substantial’ for the UK earlier this week. It is the lowest threat level nationwide since before the July 7 attacks in 2005.

A DCMS spokesman said: ‘The advertising provisions in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 are there to prevent ambush marketing and the over-commercialisation of the Games, not to prevent or restrict lawful protests.

‘The measures will only apply to areas within a few hundred metres of the London 2012 venues. The Government is currently developing detailed regulations for advertising during the Games which will enable these powers to come into effect. The Government will be consulting on the regulations in 2010.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Seven Pubs Close for Good Every Day

Pubs are closing in record numbers due to the combined impact of the recession, beer duty rises and the smoking ban, new figures show.

Seven pubs are calling last orders for the last time every day, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). During the first six months of the year, 52 pubs closed on average every week, up a third on the 39 closures a week in the last six months of 2008.

According to new figures compiled by CGA Strategy for the BBPA, 2,377 pubs have shut their doors in the past 12 months, at the cost of 24,000 jobs.

The totals hide a marked divergence in the fortunes of traditional and branded boozers. While traditional ‘wet-led’ community pubs have been hard hit by the smoking ban and rising joblessness, closing at the rate of 40 a week, branded pubs and café style bars are increasing, with two openings a week.

“Food seems key to some sustainability,” the BBPA said.

“Pubs that focus mostly on selling drink are shutting up shop at the rate of 51 a week, while those that focus more on food are closing at one a week.”

Overall, pubs appear to be in long-term decline. There are now 53,466 pubs in Britain, compared with 58,600 three years ago and few analysts believe the sector will not be toasting any successes for years.

The BBPA warned pubs would experience a further squeeze in the next 12 months as VAT increases from 15 to 17.5 per cent in January and the Government imposes a 2 per cent above-inflation rise in beer duty in March as part of its beer tax escalator.

“The recession is proving extremely tough for Britain’s pubs. However, those economic pressures have been made much worse by a Government that has continued to pile on tax and regulatory burdens,” complained the BBPA’s chief executive David Long.

“While every other sector seems to receive a sympathetic ear and a tax payer funded handout from Government to tide them through the downturn, all we are getting is a deaf ear and a higher tax bill.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Swine Flu Triggers Change to Church Ritual

Swine flu has spurred the Church of England to revive a rule drawn up more than 450 years ago when bubonic plague swept the land.

As concern mounts about the spread of the virus, which has killed at least 29 people in the UK, some Anglican churches have begun to allow “intinction” or dipping bread in communion wine rather than sharing the chalice, while others have stopped offering wine altogether. The practices are permitted under the 1547 Sacrament Act, introduced after the plague, which requires both bread and wine to be given “except necessity otherwise require”.

In London’s Southwark diocese parishioners have been advised to hug rather than shake hands as a “sign of the peace”, while in Chelmsford they have been discouraged from using shared holy water stoops to dip their fingers and make the sign of the cross.

Similar practices have emerged in the Catholic church, with some priests now passing bread into worshippers’ hands rather than on to the tongue.

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Imam Al Azhar Replies to Criticism on Pic With Peres

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JULY 20 — Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the Great Imam of the Al Azhar Mosque, Sunni Islam’s highest theological institution, “cursed” Israeli president Shimon Peres, his supporters and the people who know him. Egyptian media reported the news today. The Great Imam was reacting to criticism levelled against his person in the wake of the publishing of a picture which portrayed him greeting the Israeli president during a convention on inter-religious dialogue which took place last month in Kazakhstan. Tantawi claimed that “I did not sit next to Peres but next to the president of Kazakhstan, then Peres surprised us by sitting between us. What was I supposed to do? Tell him to move away?”. After the first signs of controversy the Great Imam had stated that he did not know that the person he was greeting was the Israeli president. Egyptian media report that Tantawi also asked why Al Ahzar, as suggested by some of his critics, should not join a convention on inter-religious dialogue insofar as Saudi Arabia and Iran are already doing it, adding that “the people who are asking for Al Ahzar’s withdrawal from such conferences are ignorant”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Tamim Death Sentences Confirmed

A court in Cairo has confirmed death sentences against a billionaire former politician and a security guard for the murder of Lebanese star Suzanne Tamim.

Hisham Talaat Moustafa was found guilty in May of paying $2m (£1.2m) to Muhsin Sukkari to kill the singer.

Under Islamic law, the sentences of death by hanging had to be approved by Egypt’s religious authorities.

Ms Tamim reportedly broke off a secret love affair with Moustafa months before she was stabbed to death in Dubai.

The tale of sex, politics, money and show business gripped the Arab world.

The judge’s proclamation was greeted calmly by friends and relatives of the two men, reported the news agency AFP — in contrast to the chaotic scenes of screaming and fainting that accompanied the May verdict.

[Return to headlines]

Islam: Obama Made a Mistake in Choosing Cairo, El Khayat

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 20 — US president Barack Obama “was wrong to choose Cairo as the place to give his speech of reconciliation with Muslims in”, because Egypt “has been in cultural and political decline for some time. The Arab world is no longer there — it is in Beirut, in Casablanca, signs of a fresh start have also been seen in Tunis. Islam, instead, is now in Turkey”. This is the belief of Rita El Khayat, in Italy to present her latest book: ‘Cittadine del Mediterraneo. Il Marocco e le donne’ (‘Female Citizens of the Mediterranean. Morocco and Women’), published by Castelvecchi. Born and raised in Rabat, the psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and anthropologist El Khayat is a very determined woman, aware and proud of her potential and calling herself “an avant-garde intellectual in an atrophied Arab world”. In her opinion, Egyptian decadence started in the early ‘60s and is still underway. “The land of Pharaohs therefore has no right to appoint itself as the beacon of Arab culture,” El Khayat said, even though she also assured that “there is no rivalry between Maghreb and Egypt. But over the next ten years, Morocco will give a lesson to Arab Middle East as a whole.” At the beginning of the last century, El Khayat said, “Casablanca was a fishing village with 12,000 people. At present, 7-8 million people live there and there are five Literature Faculties in the city”. Morocco is in full swing. “Over here,” El Khayat added “we are not waiting for something to happen, as they do in other Arab countries. We go forward by our own efforts, rolling up our sleeves.” If she is so critical with the Arab world, the Moroccon writer is equally harsh with the West: a world in which ignorance and superficiality are spreading ever more, “where idiotic books are sold on hyped-up publicity but are entirely lacking in contents”. But El Khayat does not spare Arab women either, even though she has been involved for years in the struggle for female emancipation, defending the right of expression and promoting human rights. “Over the last seventy years, the world of Arab women has been unable to create intellectuals that could introduce a breaking point, innovation or a revolution. While it is true that some Middle Eastern women are nowadays doctors, lawyers, ministers, and ambassadors, they are still not leaving their mark at a cultural level.” Her opinion is trenchant and leaves no room for debate. “It is their own fault,” she says. “Too many of them are illiterate or have a low educational level.” Yet her last book is a work which pays homage to the world inhabited by women and that of Moroccan traditions, and also her way of speaking out against “a world of child-brides, deprived of the written word and of some of the most basic civil rights”. According to El Khayat this sort of situation is widespread in Arab countries, where “female illiteracy reaches peaks of 50-60% and the educational level is extremely low, with the first person to put boy and girl on a different level is the mother herself, who raises her sons differently than her daughters”. The author of the ‘Il complesso di Medea. Le madri mediterranee’ published by L’ancora del Mediterraneo (‘Medea’s Complex. Mediterranean Mothers’) maintains a highly critical attitude towards Arab feminism too, “immobile and utterly lacking in stimuli”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Daniel Pipes: Obama and Israel, Into the Abyss

What I dubbed the Obama administration’s “rapid and harsh turn against Israel” has had three quick, predictable, and counter-productive results. These point to further difficulties ahead.

First result: Barack Obama’s decision to get tough with Israel translates into escalating Palestinian demands on Israel. In early July, Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat, his top negotiator, insisted on five unilateral concessions by Israel…

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

Israel to Demolish 23 Illegal Settlements in One Day

Israel is planning to remove 23 “illegal outposts” from the West Bank in the course of a single day in response to mounting US demands that it halt all settlement activity, it was reported today.

These outposts are defined as illegal by the Israeli government because they have not received planning permission. But under international law all settlements built on occupied territory are illegal. According to the Ha’aretz newspaper the outposts, housing 1,200 people, will all be evacuated and dismantled simultaneously following a decision by the Likud prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli army denied receiving any orders for a “lightning evacuation”. Settler spokesmen warned of a furious response if any such move took place.

Israel has only twice evacuated Jewish settlements since the 1967 war: in 1981 when the Sinai desert was returned to Egypt, and in 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. Removing settlers from the West Bank will be far more controversial.

Israel has told the US it would remove “illegal” outposts built after March 2001. The current activity is in response to unprecedented pressure from Washington, where President Barack Obama has departed sharply from the informal acquiescence of the Bush administration.

Dan Meridor, a deputy prime minister with a reputation for moderation, insisted that tacit “understandings” with Bush still bound the Obama administration.

Netanyahu has insisted that construction must be permitted in existing settlements to accommodate what he calls “natural growth” in their populations. In all, nearly 500,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both claimed by the Palestinians as part of their future independent state.

Tensions have flared in recent days since Netanyahu said the US had no right to demand that Israel halt plans to develop 20 apartments in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. On Monday, campaigners protesting at the planned eviction of Palestinian families to make way for it appealed to Obama to stop the settlement.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said today: “What is required from Israel is to freeze all settlement activity. When Israel meets these demands, we will be ready to go to the final negotiations.”

France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, meanwhile summoned the Israeli ambassador to Paris to complain about Jewish settlements. “These activities must be stopped,” warned Kouchner, “otherwise there will be no chance to found an independent Palestinian state that administers itself and also guarantees Israel’s security.”

Britain’s foreign office minister, Ivan Lewis, told MPs: “Israel should freeze all settlement activity, including the natural growth of existing settlements, and dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001.”

Sweden, current president of the EU, also urged Israel “to refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem, including home demolitions and evictions.” It added: “Such actions are illegal under international law.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Army Arrests Terrorist Network That Planned Attacks on UNIFIL

The Lebanese army said Tuesday that it arrested a 10-member extremist network that was planning to carry out attacks against U.N. troops and smuggle wanted terrorists out of the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh.

“Our investigation has shown that this network was planning to smuggle wanted terrorists out of Ain el-Hilweh … smuggle Fatah al-Islam fighters into Ain el-Hilweh, to carry out attacks from Lebanon on targets abroad and create terrorist cells to monitor UNIFIL and the army in order to carry out terrorist attacks on them,” an army communiqué said.

The suspects all hailed from unidentified Arab states and most were not Lebanese, the communiqué said.

Some of the suspects were employed in private companies in Lebanon and used their jobs as covers for their covert operations, the army added.

“This is an issue that the Lebanese army and Lebanese authorities are addressing,” UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane told Agence France Presse. “It is a matter that is in the hands of the Lebanese authorities.”

Last month, high-level military sources said that the army had uncovered 25 cells spying for the Israeli Mossad and arrested since early 2009 six extremist groups belonging to al-Qaida.

The sources said the networks were planning attacks to target stability, including in areas where U.N. peacekeepers are deployed.(Naharnet-AFP

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Economy: 100 Euro in EU Cost 73 in Turkey, Eurostat

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 20 — Goods and services purchased for 100 euro in the EU cost an average of 73 euro in Turkey, daily Hurriyet reports, quoting the data released by the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat). Eurostat’s comparative consumer price data for 2008 include the 27 EU member countries, candidate and potential candidate plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Turkey has lower prices than most European countries on food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco, clothing, restaurants and hotels, but higher costs for personal transportation equipment and consumer electronics. European countries offering goods and services at lower prices than Turkey include the Czech Republic (at an average of 72 euro for the comparison set of purchases), Hungary and Slovakia (each at 70 euro), Poland (69 euro), Lithuania (67 euro), Montenegro and Romania (each at 62 euro), Serbia (58 euro), Bosnia and Herzegovina (56 euro), Albania (53 euro), Bulgaria (51 euro) and Macedonia (47 euro). Turkey was shown to be the second-cheapest country in Europe, after Macedonia, in terms of ready-to-wear apparel prices. Britain was the lowest-priced country in terms of consumer electronics with an index of 86 euros, while Romania offered personal transportation equipment at the lowest price, 84 euros. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kuwaitis Return From Mecca With Swine Flu

Eight Kuwaitis have tested positive for swine flu on their return from an Omra pilgrimage to Mecca and have been admitted to hospital, the Kuwaiti health ministry announced on Tuesday.

The Kuwaitis, including six women, “underwent laboratory tests, which confirmed their infection by the A(H1N1) virus,” ministry spokesman Yussef al-Nisf.

“They are receiving the necessary treatment at the hospital and they are in stable condition,” he said.

The new cases take the number of people in Kuwait confirmed to have contracted swine flu to 44, most of whom have now recovered, the spokesman said.

As well as the annual hajj, which all Muslims are required to make once in a lifetime if they have the means, the faithful can also make a lesser pilgrimage, known as Omra, to the holy places at any time of the year.

Egypt on Monday became the latest country to warn vulnerable Muslims against pilgrimage to Mecca, after a 25 year-old Egyptian woman back from Saudi Arabia became the first swine flu death in the Middle East and Africa.

In Iran, a health ministry official on Tuesday repeated calls for elderly Iranians and children to avoid travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage as the number of confirmed swine flu cases in the Islamic republic rose to 16.

Tunisia earlier this month suspended Omra pilgrimages because of the virus, while reserving judgment on whether the main hajj pilgrimage should be undertaken in November.

With upwards of two million people expected in Saudi Arabia over the next five months on pilgrimages to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, Egypt advised vulnerable Muslims to put their plans on hold.

The health ministry “has warned the elderly, pregnant women, children and those suffering from chronic illness not to perform the hajj or Omra pilgrimages,” the official MENA news agency reported.

The warning came ahead of a meeting of Arab health ministers in Cairo on Wednesday to coordinate arrangements and precautions to be taken during the pilgrimage season.

Swine flu has now killed more than 700 people around the globe, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Saudi Man Marries Flipina for Her Kidneys

The Return of the Body Snatchers:

MANILA: A Saudi Arabian man married a Filipino woman as a cover for buying her kidney, trying to circumvent the Philippines’ strict new rules to fight organ trafficking, officials said on Monday.

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

Six Die in Turkey Village Attack

Three men have opened fire in a village in eastern Turkey, killing six people and wounding seven others.

The assailants, reportedly a man and his two sons, walked through a village firing shotguns at random at their neighbours, the local governor said.

He said the motive was not clear, but that the men had previously threatened to kill the residents of the village, Karaali, in Elazig province.

All three men fled after the attack, but their family is being questioned.

Governor Muammer Musmal said investigators had been informed that the assailants had “some psychological problems”.

In May, gunmen opened fire at a wedding party in south-east Turkey, killing 44 people, including the bride, the groom and six children.

The attack was the result of a long-running feud between two families, officials said. Several of those charged with the murders were members of an officially-sanctioned militia, the Village Guards.

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

Women, Refugees Vulnerable in Arab World: UN

Arab states must take measures to combat an expanding list of issues including rising populations, trafficking, unemployment and water scarcity, a U.N.-sponsored report said on Tuesday.

The 288-page report, “Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries,” said poverty, civil wars, sectarian and ethnic conflicts, authoritarian repression added to the human rights problems faced by the region.

“In the Arab region, human insecurity — pervasive, often intense and with consequences affecting large numbers of people — inhibits human development,” said the report, which was drafted mainly by Arab academics.

Refugees, displaced persons, children and women are at the forefront of vulnerable groups states must protect, the report said.

Violence against women

Though violence against women can be found in every country, women in societies with entrenched male dominance, patriarchal kinship patterns, and legalized discrimination — the situation in many Arab countries — are acutely vulnerable,” said Munira Fakhro, former associate professor at the University of Bahrain and an advisory board member for the report.

“Much of the violence against Arab women is inflicted unseen in the home, on wives and sisters, daughters and mothers.”

Female genital mutilation and “honor crimes” remained the most notorious forms of violence against women in several Arab societies, notably Jordan and Iraq.

Under-reporting makes the prevalence of such crimes almost impossible to define, but punishment for “immoral behavior” — from mingling with men to extra-marital affairs — can be as severe as death, according to the report.

It recommended states implement legal and institutional changes aimed at placing legislation in line with international conventions.

The fragility of the region’s political, social and economic structures, the absence of people-centered policies and the region’s vulnerability to outside intervention were among the factors that had held back progress, according to the report.

The matter of refugees

Refugees and internally displaced persons continue to be an ignored problem in the Arab world, it said, as Palestinians, Iraqis and Sudanese suffer “at worst loss of life” and often are left homeless, unemployed and with no economic prospects.

“The fabled oil wealth of the Arab countries presents a misleading picture of their economic situation to live with the insecurities associated with their status,” the report said.

“They are at the mercy of conditions in camps or political and economic events in their host countries, which could suddenly turn against them.”

While statistics on refugees are often difficult to verify, the United Nations registers approximately 7.5 million refugees in Arab countries, almost half of the 16 million refugees registered worldwide.

Jordan, Lebanon and Syria have still not ratified the convention on the status of refugees, the report recalled.

The Arab world is also home to some 17 million people who were forced to leave their homes and live in economic, political and social uncertainty, rendering them more susceptible to violence and trafficking, the report found.

“From a human development perspective, only the end of Israel’s occupation of the territories it occupied in 1967 and the restoration of Palestinian rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination, will bring about that lasting peace, the absence of which so far has contributed to frustrating human development in the region,” the report said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


OIC Secretary General Welcomes President Medvedev’s Visit to the Grand Mosque in Moscow

The Secretary General of the organization of the Islamic Conference Prof Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu welcomed the visit of President of the Russian Federation Mr. Dimitry Medvedev to Moscow’s Grand Mosque on July 15 2009, the first such visit by a Russian Head of State.

Ihsanoglu said that the visit of the President to the century old Grand Mosque which being expanded, his subsequent meeting with the Council of Russian Muftis and his encouraging remarks about the role of the Muslim Organizations in Russia’s political life will certainly have a positive impact on the relationship between the Muslim World and the Russian Federation, an important observer state of the OIC.

The Secretary General appreciates President’s support for the idea of building a mosque in the city of Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. He stated that these developments are testimony to the commitment of the Russian Federation to religious harmony and peaceful coexistence.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Russian Pupils to Have Choice of Religion, Ethics

BARVIKHA, Russia — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced a pilot project Tuesday that will require schoolchildren to take classes in religion or secular ethics.

The proposal is part of a Kremlin effort to teach young Russians morals in the wake of a turbulent period of uncertainty following the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union.

Medvedev said preteen students at about 12,000 schools in 18 Russian regions would take the classes. They will be offered the choice of studying the dominant Russian Orthodox religion, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism, or of taking an overview of all four faiths, or a course in secular ethics.

Students and their parents must be allowed to choose freely, Medvedev said in addressing top clerics and officials at his residence outside Moscow. “Any coercion, pressure will be absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive,” he said.

By 2012, the classes might be expanded nationwide, Medvedev said. The pilot project includes about 20 percent of Russia’s schools.

The offer of a choice appeared aimed to ease concerns that Russian Orthodoxy will be forced on schoolchildren as the church gains influence and tightens ties with the state.

Mandatory classes in Orthodox culture were introduced in a few Russian regions three years ago, but they alarmed adherents of other confessions who said religion has no place in schools in a secular state. The classes also were criticized as being reminiscent of the forced study of communism or scientific atheism during Soviet times, with one mandatory ideology being substituted with another.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has long pushed for the introduction of Orthodox classes in schools, but he was careful not to criticize the president’s initiative. “The free choice and alternatives could serve as the basis for a system” of religious classes, he said.

Medvedev emphasized that the classes will include only “the largest of Russia’s traditional religions” — Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. He omitted other faiths, such as Roman Catholicism or Protestantism, which the Orthodox Church accuses of proselytizing.

Some nonreligious Russians complain that the church has tailored its doctrine to suit the government, which has justified Russia’s retreat from Western-style democracy by saying the country has a unique history and culture.

Church and state are officially separate under the post-Soviet constitution, but Orthodox leaders seek a more muscular role for the church, which has served the state for much of its 1,000-year history.

The Russian Orthodox Church counts in its congregation more than 100 million people in Russia and tens of millions elsewhere. But polls show that only about 5 percent of Russians are observant believers.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: All Muslims Not Terrorists, Says Court

MUMBAI: Admonishing a lawyer for attempting to link the Mumbai terror attacks last year with the revelations in the Holy Qur’an, Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud, one of the judges of a three-member full bench of the Bombay High Court made a historical remark that a Muslim could be a terrorist, but it’s wrong to conclude that all Muslims are terrorists.

Justice Chandrachud made this remarks while hearing a petition on Saturday filed by lawyer RV Bhasin against the Maharashtra government’s order imposing a ban on his book ‘Islam — A concept of Political World Invasion by Muslims.’ Bhasin has challenged the government ban order. All the three judges were admonished the petitioner who tied to link the Mumbai terrorist attacks to the teachings in the Holy Qur’an.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Jakarta Bombings: Muslim Leader Reveals the Name of One of the Attackers

Nur Hadi, aka Nurhasbi, “entered and registered himself as guest” in the days before the attack. He was recruited by the deputy-in-command in the Jemaah Islamiyah cells under the leadership of Noordin Moh Top. An expert suggests the attack might represent a break in Jemaah Islamiyah ranks.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A terrorist on the run is suspected in last Friday’s Marriot Hotel bombing. Nur Hadi “used a fake ID when he entered and registered himself as guest in the Marriott Hotel,” said a leader of the Islamic Indonesian Movement (Gerakan Umat Islam Indonesia or GUII).

In an interview Saturday on a Jakarta TV station, GUII leader Abdurrahman Assegaf said that Nur Hadi, AKA Nur Sahid and Nurshasbi, was involved in Friday’s deadly attack.

“He was recruited by Teddy alias Reno alias Mubarok who is now believed to be the deputy-in-command in the Jemaah Islamiyah cells under the leadership of (Malaysian terrorist) Noordin Moh Top,” he said.

Assegaf said that Nur Hadi was a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah and a graduate of the Ngruki Islamic Educational Boarding School (Pesantren)”, which is run by Islamist hardliner Bakar Baasyir.

School administrators have rejected Assegaf’s allegations, saying they will sue him for his claims.

The Muslim leader insisted however that the suicide bomber was able to register at the hotel using a fake ID.

In the past “he had joined the Banten Connection, a Jemaah Islamiyah group, which was also involved with Bali bomber Imam Samudra,” he explained.

Indonesian media have reported that investigators have identified the suicide bomber, using DNA samples from relatives. But so far they have not made any public statement on the matter.

Terrorism expert Sidney Jones seems to agree that the bomb attack was orchestrated by Noordin Top’s aides, but in her opinion this doesn’t mean that it had prior Jemaah Islamiyah approval.

If confirmed this would indicate that Noordin’s followers acted on their own in order to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state and impose Sharia.

Closed-circuit television tapes show that suicide bomber who hit the Ritz Carlton was a woman. The Marriot Hotel attack was instead carried out by a man.

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

Malaysia to Cane Beer-Drinking Muslim Model

A Singaporean Muslim model who drank beer at a nightclub in Malaysia will be caned, press reports said Tuedsay.

A Malaysian religious court sentenced the tearful 22-year-old Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno to six strokes of the cane after she pleaded guilty to consuming alcohol, the English-language New Straits Times newspaper reported.

“We feel the sentence is fair after going through the prosecution’s argument and since the rotan (cane) is provided for in the law,” Pahang Sharia High Court judge Abdul Rahman Yunus said, according to the paper.

“The rotan is aimed at making the accused repent and serves as a lesson to Muslims,” he added, also fining Kartika 5,000 ringgit ($1,412).

The part-time model said she would appeal the sentence.

She was with her Singaporean husband in a hotel nightclub in the eastern state of Pahang last year when syariah officers raided the lounge, nabbing 20 other Muslims for drinking alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam. Her husband was let off, according to an earlier report in the Times.

She told the newspaper before the trial that “it was sheer bad luck” the lounge was raided.

Kartika is not the first woman to be caned for drinking alcohol. In January, the same court sentenced a Muslim waitress to six cane strokes in what was believed to be the first such sentence for a woman.

The Muslim-majority Malaysia has a two-track legal system and its non-Muslim Indian and Chinese minorities are permitted to drink alcohol. Civil courts operate alongside state-based sharia courts, which are based on Islamic law, that can try Muslims for religious offences.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Malay Prince Sues Indonesian Wife

A Malaysian prince is suing his Indonesian wife and her mother over their claims he tortured his teenage bride during their year-long marriage.

Tengku Temenggong Tengku Mohammad Fakhry, has filed a defamation suit in Malaysia’s High Court.

He is seeking $30m (£18m) in damages from Manohara Odelia Pinot and her mother, the prince’s lawyer said.

Ms Pinot returned to Indonesia in May and said Mr Fakhry had slashed her with razor blades and sexually abused her.

The 17-year-old alleged she had been held captive in her room and drugged whenever she complained.

She told Indonesian media that she escaped while accompanying the state royal family on a trip to Singapore and filed a police report in Indonesia shortly afterward.

The scandal has captured widespread media attention in both Malaysia and Indonesia.

‘Reputation tarnished’

Mr Fakhry’s lawsuit accuses Ms Pinot and her mother, Daisy Fajarina, of concocting the allegations “out of spite… motivated by a desire of financial gains,” the prince’s lawyer, Mohamad Haaziq Pillay, said.

“They have made my client out to be a monster and his reputation has been tarnished. My client is keen to get to the truth of the matter and clear his name,” he told the Associated Press.

“Anyone can say anything but do they have proof? This is the time for them to come forward and prove their allegations,” Malaysian state news agency Bernama quoted Mr Pillay as saying.

The two women, who are in Indonesia, have 21 days to respond to the suit, or the case could go on in their absence.

The prince married the teenager last year after she turned 16, but her mother has said Ms Manohara was kidnapped.

The prince has since petitioned for a divorce.

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

No US-India Agreement on Climate But Deals on Arms and Space Programme

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on an official visit to India. She is unable to reach a deal is reached on climate change because the Indian government rejects binding limits on carbon emissions. However, India is a strategic partner for the US in the fight against terrorism. The secretary notes that Pakistan will continue to receive American aid.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — India and the United States have not found any common ground on climate change, but are prepared to work together on weapons and space programmes.

During her visit to India US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was unable to move New Delhi on binding limits on carbon emissions. She did stress however that she was confident that a deal on global warming could eventually be reached.

After meeting Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Clinton was positive about the talks, but her hope for a plan to significantly change India’s was of producing, consuming and conserving energy died when Ramesh said that there was “simply no case for the pressure that we—who have among the lowest emissions per capita—face to actually reduce emissions”.

Standing firm on binding limits on carbon emissions, India’s environment minister squashed hopes that an agreement with Washington could be reached before the UN conference on global warming scheduled for December in Copenhagen.

But global warming was not the only item on the agenda of Ms Clinton’s three-day visit. The two nations are set to discuss arms sales, civilian nuclear programme, scientific cooperation and space programme.

New Delhi and Washington are ready to sign an agreement allowing the sale and transfer of US military technology to India.

If approved it would an historic first in the relations between the two countries, who were on opposite sides during the Cold War.

The slow march towards rapprochement began under Bill Clinton and continued under Bush. Now it would bear fruit in an agreement that would allow US companies to play a role in the development of India’s civilian nuclear programme.

India’s role in the fight against terrorism is also another important item on the secretary’s agenda, especially in her direct talks with the Indian prime minister.

Mr Singh, who met his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani last week, offered India’s erstwhile enemy a pledge of full relations on condition Islamabad fully cooperate on the hunt for the Mumbai attackers.

For Ms Clinton Indo-Pakistani dialogue is indeed crucial. But speaking before her meeting with Singh at a gathering of students and professors, she said that Pakistan will continue to receive American aid and India just has to live with that fact.

The other highlight of the secretary’s visit was the signing of an agreement to facilitate the launch of US satellites and satellites with US components on Indian launch vehicles.

The new Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) to be signed will cover launches involving satellites owned by US government or academic institutions or by third country space agencies and universities which have US equipment on board.

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

Pakistan President Asif Zardari Bans Jokes Ridiculing Him

Pakistan’s president, Asif Zardari, has been accused of suffering from a sense of humour failure after banning jokes ridiculing him.

Pakistanis who send jokes about Asif Zardari by text message, email or blog risk being arrested and given a 14-year prison sentence.

The country’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, announced the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been asked to trace electronically transmitted jokes that “slander the political leadership of the country” under the new Cyber Crimes Act.

Mr Malik, said the move would punish the authors of “ill motivated and concocted stories through emails and text messages against the civilian leadership”.

The step, which was described by human rights groups as “draconian and authoritarian”, came after government was particularly riled by a barrage of caustic jokes being sent to the presidency’s official email.

Critics have accused the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), a party that espouses a liberal agenda, of stooping as low as the former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, who took television broadcasters off air when he faced political opposition.

Mr Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, has long courted controversy.

During his wife’s two tenures he earned the nickname of “Mr 10 per cent” on account of his alleged penchant for demanding kickbacks on government contracts.

A former polo-playing playboy, Mr Zardari has proved to be prickly about what others say of him since he was elected as president by the national parliament a year ago.

Most of the criticism stems from his government’s inability to address problems such as severe power outages and inflation, and his inability to shake off old allegations of corruption.

Mr Zardari’s thin-skin when it comes to jokes has forced Pakistanis to find other ways to refer to the president, with nicknames ranging from “dacu” or “bandit” to chief choor, meaning thief.

The ban has become the focus of intense television debate in Pakistan, as Mr Zardari’s aides have attempted to justify the move using every argument ranging from counter-terrorism concerns to saying that women parliamentarians had received abusive messages.

The prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, with whom Mr Zardari has clashed, has distanced himself from the ban saying that it would not be enforced.

Mr Zardari’s PPP-led government tried to target text messages and emails last month when it levied a new tax on all text messages.

The tax was abandoned after it emerged that it would ruin a major source of revenue for Pakistan’s five mobile phone companies.

As soon as the tax was announced, a text message began making the rounds saying: “The government has imposed a tax on all messages. This means that until now President Zardari was getting abused for free. Now he’ll get paid every time someone abuses him!”

Zardari jokes:

“Terrorists have kidnapped our beloved Zardari and are demanding $5,000,000 or they will burn him with petrol. Please donate what you can. I have donated five litres.”

To commemorate the ascension to the Presidency, Pakistan Post has officially launched a new stamp. But the people of Pakistan are confused which side on the stamp to spit on.

Robber: “Give me all your money!”

Zardari: “Don’t you know who I am? I am Asif Ali Zardari.”

Robber: “OK. Give me all my money”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

China to Allow 2,700 Muslims to Visit Mecca: Report

BEIJING — China will allow over 2,700 Muslims to visit the holy site of Mecca this year, with pilgrims making the trip in 10 groups organised by the government, state press said Tuesday.

The pilgrims will come from the major cities in China’s Xinjiang region including Urumqi, Yili, Kashgar and Hotan and will undergo training courses covering security concerns and basic language needs, Xinhua news agency said.

The government-run ethnic affairs commission will be in charge of the tour groups and accompany the travellers, it said.

More than 30,000 Chinese Muslims have made the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudia Arabia over the last 20 years, including 2,800 last year, the report said.

An increasing number of Chinese Muslims embarking on the holy pilgrimage reflects rising living standards in China, with the costs of such trips averaging about 40,000 yuan (5,850 dollars) a person, it said.

Clashes broke out in Xinjiang on July 5, leaving at least 197 people dead and over 1,600 injured in the worst ethnic violence to hit China in decades. The unrest began with a peaceful protest by Uighurs but proceedings quickly turned violent as Uighur mobs attacked members of China’s dominant Han ethnic group.

Chinese authorities say most of the dead were Han and blamed the violence on extremist and separatist groups.

The unrest has put a spotlight on China’s roughly eight million Uighurs, who have complained of religious and cultural oppression since the officially atheist Chinese communists came to power 60 years ago and tightened control on Xinjiang.

Many Uighurs say they are prevented from going on the hajj, the trip to Mecca which all Muslims are obliged to make in their lifetime if they have the means.

But the State Bureau of Religious Affairs earlier this month denied this in a statement to AFP, saying Muslims were allowed to go in specially-designated groups.

China routinely denies passports to Uighurs, apparently fearing they could join extremist groups abroad, Uighur businessmen have said.

The lucky few who get passports often must give police hefty deposits of up to 4,000 dollars — a massive sum for most Uighurs — to ensure that they return, several Uighurs said.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

China Using the Internet to Spy on Germany

China is increasingly using the internet to spy on German government officials and companies, according to the German domestic intelligence service.

Walter Opfermann from the state office for counterintelligence in Baden-Württemberg said on Tuesday that state-backed Chinese spying via the web had already become extremely sophisticated — going beyond merely acquiring information.

He said Beijing could also “unleash effective sabotage” on German targets, posing a growing “threat to critical infrastructure” such as the country’s power grid.

The internet is also apparently being used for industrial espionage alongside traditional methods of stealing knowhow at German companies. Opfermann said China — but also Russia — used spying over the web “to save billions on their own economic research and development.”

He estimated such industrial espionage cost German companies roughly €50 billion each year.


EU suspends $90m aid to Honduras

The European Union has suspended more than $90m (63m euros; £54m) in aid to Honduras in the wake of a coup there.

It follows the failure of talks to resolve the country’s political crisis.

President Manuel Zelaya was ousted from office by troops on 28 June over his plans to hold a referendum on changing the constitution.

The current interim government, led by Roberto Micheletti, has rejected a proposal that Mr Zelaya return as leader of a unity government.

The EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement: “In view of the circumstances, I have taken the difficult decision to suspend all budgetary support payments.

“I strongly appeal to both parties to refrain from any action or declaration which might further escalate tension, thus making the prospect of a solution more difficult.”

Honduras’s political leaders are still at loggerheads after the weekend talks mediated by the Costa Rican President Oscar Arias collapsed.

The deposed president has vowed to return home despite warnings from the interim government that they will arrest him if he does.

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

Chinese Imperialism and Its Discontents

Beijing has a Uighur problem.

The current constitution of the People’s Republic of China, adopted in December 1982, tells us that: “The People’s Republic of China is a unitary multi-national state.”

That is pretty darn close to the dictionary definition of an empire: “an extended territory usu. comprising a group of nations, states, or peoples under the control or domination of a single sovereign power”—Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1993.

Which is not very surprising. China has been an empire, in the dictionary sense, for most of her very long history. What is surprising is that, after so much practice, the present-day Chinese are such lousy imperialists. Last year’s ructions in Tibet illustrated the point. Events in East Turkestan (“Xinjiang”) this past few weeks illustrated it all over again.

The trick of successful imperializing is to leave the locals alone as much as possible, stamping out only the most objectionable of local folkways, picking off only the most troublesome local nationalists, letting the subject peoples use their own languages for any purpose that does not involve addressing the central authorities, and above all avoiding insults to their religion. The British ran India with a few thousand expatriates on this principle—most of them, as Winston Churchill pointed out, not feeling very well most of the time. The Romans worked along similar lines, once they had gotten the hang of it. So did the Austrians, the early Arabs, and the descendants of Alexander.

The imperial power has to let the subject peoples know who’s boss, of course. A few salutary demonstrations—the suppressions of the Sepoy Mutiny and of Boadicea’s revolt—early on in the imperializing process generally suffice. If you’re not willing to break a few heads (actually, in those particular cases, a few hundred thousand heads), best stay out of the empire business. Things can get bloody at the other end of the cycle, too, in the chaos of imperial retreat. Ask an Armenian.

That brings us to the Turks, one of the more successful imperial powers while things were going along smoothly, which they were for several centuries. It brings us back to East Turkestan, too, as the majority people in that region, the Uighurs, share their deep ancestry with the Turks of Turkey. The preface to the Oxford English-Turkish Dictionary tells you that once you have mastered the Turkish language, you can make yourself understood from the Bosphorus to the borders of Mongolia. There was in fact, in the fever-flush of 19th-century Ottoman decline, a pan-Turkic movement with the dream of uniting all speakers of Turkic languages in a single great nation named “Turan.” Few educated Turks nowadays take pan-Turkism seriously, though the nationalist MHP party sometimes makes pan-Turkic noises for rhetorical effect.

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

Giant Chinese Dustball Circles the Earth

A giant Chinese dustball weighing hundreds of thousands of tons circled the world at high altitude in under two weeks, scientists have shown.

A group of Chinese and Japanese scientists claimed that the dustball, which weighed 800,000 tons, was kicked up during a storm in 2007 in the Taklamakan desert.

The desert, which is roughly the size of France, lies in China’s far-Western Xinjiang province, and is fringed by mountains on three sides, including the Pamir mountains on the border with Afghanistan and the Karakoram range, an extension of the Himalayas.

The dust ball was formed when a wind storm ripped across the desert, kicking up the dust, and trapping it against the mountains of the Tibetan plateau.

The scientists said the dust was forced higher and higher into the air, until it reached an altitude of around 16,250ft. A warm convection flow then lofted it further to between 26,000 ft and 32,500 ft, well above cloud level.

The dust was then trapped in the polar jetstream, a fast-flowing air current that lies just under the stratosphere, and began its “journey around the world” according to the Nature Geoscience journal.

The team of scientists tracked the progress of the cloud using tools aboard the Nasa observation satellite Calypso. After 13 days, the plume of dust passed back over the Taklamakan desert, having completed a full circuit of the globe. The scientists noted that even after such a long journey, the dust remained “tightly confined in latitude”.

It only fell back down to earth after crossing half the globe again when the cloud encountered a ridge of low pressure and fell into the Pacific ocean. Some of the dust managed to reach North America and then fall into the Atlantic.

“The Taklamakan desert is a major source of dust transported and deposited around the globe,” the scientists noted, adding that dust from the desert has turned up in ice cores in Greenland and in the French Alps. They also suggested that micro-nutrients from the dust could have a beneficial effect on the oceans, helping to feed plankton.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Seoul Plans $40bn Aid Fund for N Korea

By Christian Oliver in Seoul

South Korea has drawn up an enhanced package of incentives for the international community to entice North Korea back to talks on denuclearisation, putting hard figures on previously vague promises of aid.

The carrots would include a $40bn (£24bn, €28bn) aid fund with input from the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and governments, South Korean officials told Goldman Sachs. There would be five free trade zones and 100 exporting companies generating $3m each. The international community would help build railways, motorways and telecom networks and train a modern industrial workforce of 300,000. Forests would be replanted.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Council Energy-Monitoring Devices a Hit

JUST three months after it introduced energy-monitoring devices to the shelves of its libraries, the City of Sydney Council has had to double its collection as a result of a rush from people wanting to reduce their power bills and carbon footprints.

The council’s new “Power-Mates” — which show the electricity consumption, cost and carbon emissions from the power used by household items — have been keenly sought at the eight libraries since they were introduced in April.

Council staff said all but a handful of the Power-Mates had been booked out at any one time, with libraries reporting they had lists of people waiting to borrow the devices.

Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said the council had been surprised by the demand and had to more than double the number of Power-Mates in stock across the city.

“It shows people are increasingly conscious of reducing the environmental impact and carbon emissions of their household appliances, and reducing costs,” she said.

In tough economic times, the opportunity to reduce power bills has also been a factor. Waterloo resident Cathryn Lucas was shocked to discover she was spending $300 each winter to run the family’s heater.

“The financial aspect was a big part of it for me,” Ms Lucas said. “A single mum on a pension with four kids can’t afford to spend that much money on heating.”

The demand for the Power-Mates reflects a Sydney-wide trend, with other councils reporting that residents have taken to similar energy-saving measures with gusto.

In Sutherland 1000 residents have saved $1.5 million on energy bills by taking part in the council’s fridge buyback scheme, and in North Sydney 551 households have joined a free community program offering energy-reduction advice.

Blacktown Council has distributed 10,207 energy-efficiency packs with low-energy light bulbs to residents as part of the Blacktown solar cities project.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Packing Heat and Strolling Free

In the middle of the afternoon of November 29, 2006, four hard men from the Lebanese community had a business meeting at the corner of Burwood Road and Livingstone Street, not far from the centre of the Burwood shopping centre. The meeting did not go well.

Bashar Ibrahim, a relative of the Ibrahim brothers, some of whom have been involved in multiple violent crimes, allegedly including a fatal brawl in an arrival hall at Sydney Airport this year, was accompanied to the meeting by George Youssef. They were meeting a leader of another notorious Lebanese family, Hussein Fahda, who was accompanied by a Mr Moustapha. After a brief and unpleasant exchange, Fahda punched Ibrahim in the face. The blow was so hard it broke Ibrahim’s cheek and jaw.

Fahda spoke to Moustapha in Arabic, telling him, “Get it from the car”.

He then turned to Ibrahim and said, “I want to shoot you”.

Moustapha went to the car, pulled out an object, believed to be a gun, and tucked it into his trousers. Fahda then taunted Ibrahim, saying “Shoot me”.

So Ibrahim shot him. He pulled out a gun and fired five quick shots, one of which struck Fahda in the foot.

Ibrahim and Youssef ran to their car and departed. Fahda was driven to a hospital, where bullet fragments were removed from his foot. He declined to provide details of the incident to the hospital or police.

This did not surprise the police. Fahda was well known to them. In 2004, he had been arrested and jailed for carrying a loaded gun during an undercover investigation into drug dealing and a series of shootings. The violence swirled around three Lebanese Muslim clans, the Darwiches, the Razzaks and the Fahdas, elements of whom have been engaged in a murderous feud since 2001. The feud continues.

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

Underbelly Lebanese Style

The ember of interest in gangland warfare was whipped to a towering inferno with the popular TV series Underbelly. So you may expect a flow of local gangster films onto our big screens. Cedar Boys is a good start. Audiences who enthused over Underbelly will find it effective entertainment.

Serhat Caradee the writer/director wants us to see how easily Middle Eastern teenagers fall into crime, which may to them appear to be the only path to success. It’s equally about the way the Lebanese community is perceived by the Australian community in the current climate, and how they see themselves in light of that perception.

However many of the young fans of this type of movie might be more concerned with the action and gang violence than the social significance. Set in the western suburbs of Sydney it certainly is topical in the same way Underbelly was of the Melbourne gangland killings. Basically a cautionary tale of three discontented Lebanese lads who are sucked into the underworld drug culture for some quick money…

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya Boosts Somali Border Force

Kenya has promised to reinforce its border with Somalia after several abductions near the frontier.

Officials have been discussing how to stop incursions since the weekend, when militants snatched three foreign aid workers from the town of Mandera.

A defence spokesman promised to try to stop the militants, but said it was often difficult to identify them.

Meanwhile, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki blamed Somali insurgents for an influx of illegal weapons into his country.

Defence spokesman Bogita Ongeri said his forces were working with other nations to try to keep Somali militias such as the radical al-Shabab group at bay.

“The challenge that we have at border points is that these people come from the same clan, and you find that sometimes to identify who is al-Shabab and who is not is a problem,” he said.

“Our borders are porous and it is not a place where you can totally keep al-Shabab at bay. But we are trying our best.”

‘Banditry attacks’

The BBC’s Ruth Nesoba, in Nairobi, says a series of incidents on the Somali border has raised questions about the ability of Kenyan security agents to keep the country safe.

On Saturday alleged members of al-Shabab crossed into Kenya, kidnapped three aid workers in Mandera and returned to Somalia — apparently without any resistance.

Our correspondent says the incident came just days after militants were reportedly sighted trying to recruit young men outside a local school on the Kenyan side of the border.

During a speech to the armed forces, President Kibaki linked the insurgency in Somalia to the rise of insecurity and crime in his country.

“The continued fighting in neighbouring Somalia has contributed immensely to the infiltration of these illicit arms into our country,” he said.

“My government will not spare any efforts to mop up illicit arms that are used by criminals to carry out banditry attacks.”

Earlier this year militants from Somalia abducted two Italians nuns from the same border area.

The two were released a few weeks later after ransom money was paid.

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

Mauritania: Aziz Wins in 1st Round, ‘To Fight Terrorism’

(ANSAmed) — NOUAKCHOTT, JULY 20 — General Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, the leader of the military coup d’etat on August 6, 2008, has won the first round of presidential elections held in Mauritania with 52.58% of votes. The announcement was made by the Interior Minister, Mohamed Ould Rzeizim. “Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz has been elected president of the republic,” said the minister. The result, which according to the opposition was affected by electoral fraud, is now due to be ratified by the Constitutional Court. “The elections took place in good conditions and I want to congratulate the voters on their sense of responsibility and civic duty,” he added. In theory, the elections represent a return to democracy in a country anxious to win the trust of the international community, after the latter raised the spectre of sanctions following last year’s coup in which President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was ousted. Abdallahi did not stand in the elections, but other opposition candidates entered the lists and the election campaign was hotly contested. Over 250 observers, sent in particular by the African Union and the EU, oversaw the election. The opposition described the result as “a farce”. “They are trying to legitimise the coup,” said Ould Boulkheir, one of the four anti-Aziz candidates speaking also on behalf of the other three. The four defeated candidates have already asked the constitutional bodies to “invalidate” the vote, urging the international community to carry out an independent investigation into the alleged electoral fraud. In his first statements following his election, General Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz said that he is committed to “fighting terrorism on all fronts”, less than a month after the murder of a US citizen in Nouachkott by the al-Qaeda organisation in the Islamic Maghreb. On Friday night, just hours before polling stations opened, two Islamist fighters were arrested in the capital, accused of murdering US citizen Christopher Leggett on June 23. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


200 Voluntary Repatriations From Italy Per Year

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 17 — Every year about 200 immigrants, especially victims of human trafficking, choose to leave Italy and return to their countries of origin in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, or to Bangladesh, Brazil and India. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which has helped 7,000 people to repatriate since 1991, there could be more parties interested in the right to assisted voluntary return. To spread the knowledge of this possibility and assist immigrants in the final phase of their migratory process, the Italian Association for the Council of Cities and Regions of Europe (AICCRE), together with the ACLI, the Italian branch of Caritas, the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) and IOM have created a national network (NIRVA — Italian Networking for Voluntary Assisted Repatriation) including both the private and public sector to implement the voluntary assisted repatriation process. Presented today in Rome, the project started at the beginning of June and was financed (“with 2 million euros” specified the prefect Giuseppe Forlani) by the European Repatriation Fund and the Interior Ministry. The initiative’s target: migrants with the right to the option of voluntary assisted repatriation. “We want to offer”, stated the director of the office for the Mediterranean area and head of the IOM mission to Italy and Malta, Peter Schatzer, “psychological assistance and financial aid to the people who qualify. Thanks to this network and due to the economic crisis, requests for repatriation could increase. On the contrary, the security package and the institution of illegal residency as a crime, which we like the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, are perplexed about, could cause them, to decrease”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Calais Migrants Ambush Britons at Knifepoint in Terrifying ‘Highway Robberies’

Migrant gangs in Calais are targeting British holidaymakers in terrifying ‘highway robberies’.

Would-be illegal immigrants are forming human roadblocks to force motorists passing through the French port town to stop.

Travellers are then robbed at knifepoint by the migrants, who are desperate for funds to help them sneak into the UK.

Last night police in Calais issued a warning to the nine million Britons a year who pass through Calais — the equivalent of 25,000 every day.

They urged motorists to keep their windows closed and doors locked until they are safely inside the ferry terminal.

Officers said they had received several reports from holidaymakers of having to ‘run a gauntlet’ of migrants between the town and the ferry port.

One British couple reported being forced to stop by bedraggled refugees on the port approach road last week.

A Calais police spokesman said: ‘Frontier police received a report from a British couple who said the gang formed a human chain across the road to stop them.

‘Around six of them then surrounded the car and waved a knife in the male driver’s face and demanded cash. He threw his wallet out of the window and sped off. The refugees fled into the woods on foot.’

Police said several days later another British family ploughed through a refugee roadblock, knocking down and injuring one of the migrants.

Robert Moncrieff, 80, following in a car close behind, said: ‘There was a refugee lying in the road who looked injured. He was surrounded by several of his accomplices.

‘We drove straight past and when we reached the port, the driver told us the refugees had tried to flag him down but he had driven through them and knocked one over.’

The police spokesman added: ‘We advise drivers to drive slowly at anyone blocking the road, giving the clear intention you do not want to be stopped.

‘If the road remains blocked, keep the windows closed and doors locked, and call the police. Drivers should take any opportunity to drive away once the road is clear.’

He added: ‘We are stepping up security and police patrols in the area around the port, especially over the busy summer months.’

Since the closure of the Red Cross refugee centre at Sangatte in 2002, would-be migrants have been sleeping rough in and around Calais while they attempt to sneak on board cross-Channel trains and ferries.

There are currently around 2,000, many living in a squalid camp known as the Jungle, which the French government has said will not be cleared away until next year.

In April immigration minister Eric Besson vowed to bulldoze the litter-strewn shanty town — where a London journalist was raped by a migrant last year — after admitting it had become a hotbed for people smugglers and criminal gangs.

But he has now said the camp must remain in place until it can be dismantled ‘in a dignified manner’.

French politicians have blamed Britain for the return of migrant camps to Calais.

The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, said the lure of the UK’s ‘enormous’ state handouts to asylum-seekers was the reason why thousands of foreigners are using the French port as a staging point to get across the Channel.

Mrs Bouchart said the UK Government’s policies were ‘imposing’ thousand of migrants on the town, costing the local economy millions of pounds.

Earlier this month, Gordon Brown agreed to give France £15million for new technology to search vehicles heading for Britain.

In return, France undertook to step up the repatriation of illegal immigrants.

Last night a UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘We are confident the French authorities will take any action necessary to protect those travelling back to Britain.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Dramatic Appeal on Migrants by Barrot

European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Justice Jacques Barrot yesterday called on European Union member states to set illegal immigration high on their political agenda, warning of a “dramatic increase” in the influx of undocumented visitors to the bloc and complaining about a lack of EU solidarity on the issue.

As Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis prepared for talks today with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, whose country has borne much of the brunt of illegal immigration into Europe, Barrot expressed understanding for the particular problems faced by Mediterranean states. “The mass presence of illegal immigrants and refugees can destabilize countries such as Greece if the EU does not display the required solidarity,” he said. But this support is in short supply, the commissioner conceded, noting that he has been “desperately trying” to push the problem of illegal immigration up the EU agenda but that an absence of “real European solidarity” was proving to be a stubborn barrier to progress. He said he would raise the issue at tomorrow’s informal EU summit in Stockholm.

Barrot also referred to the political exploitation of the phenomenon of burgeoning migrant flows which has boosted support for far-right parties in several EU member states, including Greece. But the chief risk the commissioner highlighted was the stance of Europe as a whole which he condemned as “shortsighted.”

One tactic Barrot proposed, to take some of the heat off Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta, was the “redistribution” of migrants meriting refugee status across member states. Most Scandinavian countries and well-organized states such as Germany are believed to oppose the idea.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: EU to Probe Tough New Migrant Laws

Brussels, 3 July (AKI) — The European Commission says it will probe Italy’s new law to make illegal immigration a crime. The controversial law approved on Thursday has drawn criticism from the Catholic church and rights groups including Amnesty international, as well as Italy’s centre-left opposition.

The commission announced it would examine the new measures to determine whether they comply with EU norms, warning that automatic expulsion rules in the legislation are not acceptable.

European justice commissioner Jacques Barrot said that “automatic expulsion rules for entire categories are not acceptable.”

But the Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni defended the new law on Friday saying those who supported it far outnumbered the critics “in quantity and quality”.

Under the new law illegal immigration becomes a criminal offence, punishable with a fine of up to 10,000 euros.

The amount of time that illegal migrants can be detained in holding centres has been increased to six months but immigrants can also be deported immediately.

Anyone caught housing an illegal immigrant could face up to three years’ jail and parents registering a baby’s birth have to present papers to prove that they are legal residents.

The law bill also expressly allows the creation of unarmed citizen patrols, to help police and soldiers fight crime.

Amnesty International said the measures “affected negatively the vulnerable people in the country” and “heavily impinge on the rights of migrants.”

Opposition groups have denounced the measures as being reminiscent of Italy’s fascist era and the racial purity laws introduced by fascist leader Benito Mussolini in the 1930s.

The bill was also been criticised by the Catholic Church. Bishop Agostino Marchetto of the Vatican’s Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants said he was concerned about the new measures, warning that they must not become a model for European integration policy.

But Maroni, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League which is a crucial ally for prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government dismissed the church’s criticism.

“It’s the usual ritual,” he said. “I think that those who have criticised the package, or have not read these norms, should rethink their criticism.”

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi made tougher immigration rules a cornerstone of the election campaign that saw him return to power for the third time in May 2008. Last year about 36,000 migrants arrived in Italy mostly coming by boat from Libya across the Mediterranean.

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

Ten Saudis Seek Asylum After Princess is Allowed to Stay

Chairman of home affairs committee welcomes decision to give sanctuary to woman with illegitimate child

Ministers are considering asylum applications for 10 Saudi Arabian nationals who claim they are at risk of persecution if they are forced to return to the Middle Eastern kingdom, it emerged last night.

The new cases were made public after The Independent revealed the plight of a Saudi princess who was granted asylum in Britain after she had an illegitimate child with a British man.

The young woman, who has also been granted anonymity by the courts, won her claim for asylum after she told a court that she faced execution if her husband found out about her adultery and she was forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Immigration and asylum experts said last night that asylum cases from women fleeing the kingdom were very rare. But Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said of the case: “This is the kind of person that our asylum laws are designed to protect. A woman and her unborn child should under no circumstances be sent back to a country where it is likely that they will be harmed. I welcome the decision made in this case.”

New figures released by the Home Office also showed that a further 15 Saudis were refused asylum by the Government last year. There are no details about the sex of each of the applicants nor for the number of asylum applications received this year.

Mr Vaz called for more information to be made public about claims from Saudi Arabia. He said: “This is a country with a questionable human rights record. It is important to make clear the number of people who are fleeing similar treatment.”

The princess’s case is one of a small number of claims for asylum brought by citizens of Saudi Arabia which are not openly acknowledged by either government. British diplomats believe that to do so would in effect highlight the persecution of women in Saudi Arabia, which would be viewed as open criticism of the House of Saud and lead to embarrassing publicity for both governments.

The woman, who comes from a very wealthy Saudi family, says she met her English boyfriend — who is not a Muslim — during a visit to London. They struck up a relationship after he gave her his telephone number in a department store. She became pregnant the following year and worried that her elderly husband — a member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia — had become suspicious of her behaviour, she persuaded him to let her visit the UK again to give birth in secret. She feared for her life if she returned to Saudi Arabia.

She persuaded the court that if she returned to the kingdom she would be subject to capital punishment under Sharia law — specifically flogging and stoning to death. She was also worried about the possibility of an honour killing. Since she fled Saudi Arabia, her family and her husband’s family have broken off contact with her.

The woman has been granted permanent leave to remain in the UK after the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal allowed her appeal. Keith Best, of the Immigration Advisory Service, said that Saudi nationals who were in genuine fear of persecution had the right to claim asylum in the United Kingdom. He explained: “They may also be able to claim if they were subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment. I can see why these cases can be difficult for Britain when one considers the relationship with the Saudi royal family and the many military contracts.”

One case already refused by the Home Office is that of Yahya Al Faifi who claims he was persecuted in Saudi Arabia for conducting trade union activities, where trade unions are illegal. He and his family fled to the UK before 2006. In 2004, Al Faifi organised a trade union in BAE Systems after the company announced it was cutting pay by 40 per cent. More than 500 workers turned up to the first union meeting. But Mr Al Faifi and two others were sacked by BAE Systems. For several months afterwards Mr Yahya, whose case has been taken up by the RMT in the UK, continued to campaign for workers’ rights leading to his case being given considerable media coverage.

However, when he refused to give up, he received repeated threats and was told that if he didn’t leave the country immediately “the safety of his family could not be guaranteed”. He left Saudi Arabia with his family to seek sanctuary in the UK. But after his case was refused he now faces deportation.

Saudi women: Victims of oppression

*Women are not allowed to drive or ride bicycles on public roads in large cities. But they are allowed to fly aircraft, though they must be chauffeured to the airport.

In September last year, women’s rights activists petitioned the King to allow women to drive all vehicles. There were also calls for Saudi Arabian women to be allowed to compete in international sporting events along with their male counterparts. According to Amnesty International discrimination has fuelled violence against women, with foreign domestic workers particularly at risk of abuses such as beatings, rape and even murder, and non-payment of wages. Concerns have been raised that discriminatory laws relating to marriage mean women are trapped in violent and abusive relationships from which they have no legal recourse.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Free Health Care for Failed Asylum Seekers

Tens of thousands of failed asylum seekers will be able to obtain free health care following a Government rethink, it has been announced.

However, a joint review of the policy by the Department of Health and the Home Office ruled that up to 20,000 would now be allowed free health care, including children and those who would “otherwise be destitute”, or could not return home “through no fault of their own”.

With health charities claiming that the NHS faced the most challenging financial period in its 60-year history, ministers were last night accused of “jamming the door open for illegal immigrants”.

Migrationwatch, the pressure group, said that over time, as many as a million foreigners could take advantage of the rethink.

The decision, details of which were released on the day before the parliamentary recess begins, follows five years of consultation. It was hailed by ministers as protecting the rights of the vulnerable.

In a statement to MPs, Ann Keen, the Health Minister, said: “These changes will support a clearer and fairer system of access to free NHS services that will maintain the confidence of the public and prevent inappropriate access while maintaining our commitment to human rights. These measures strike the right balance between controlled access, the protection and promotion of wider public health, and ensuring that the health care needs of the most vulnerable groups are protected,” she added.

“We remain firmly committed to the requirement that immediately necessary, or other urgent treatment, should never be denied or delayed from those who require it.”

However, Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “No wonder they are queuing up in Calais. These proposals amount to jamming open the door for illegal immigrants to access the National Health Service.”

He said the Government “dithered” about the issue for years and chose “almost the last day of Parliament to announce their surrender to the immigration lobby”.

“We accept that medics cannot be used as immigration officers. That is why we have proposed that each primary care trust should have a small office of trained personnel who could decide whether or not non-British nationals are entitled to NHS treatment.”

The King’s Fund, the health charity, has given warning that NHS budgets are at risk as the economic downturn reduces the amount of cash available for new spending.

However, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said the Government should have gone further in supporting migrants.

“We believe no one whose asylum claim has been refused should be turned down for care which cannot be delayed, and which clinicians determine they need. The role of clinical staff is to determine what care a patient needs, and how urgently they need it — not to assess their immigration status,” Dr Nathanson added.

A public consultation will be held on the changes.

However, a joint review of the policy by the Department of Health and the Home Office ruled that up to 20,000 would now be allowed free health care, including children and those who would “otherwise be destitute”, or could not return home “through no fault of their own”.

With health charities claiming that the NHS faced the most challenging financial period in its 60-year history, ministers were last night accused of “jamming the door open for illegal immigrants”.

Migrationwatch, the pressure group, said that over time, as many as a million foreigners could take advantage of the rethink.

The decision, details of which were released on the day before the parliamentary recess begins, follows five years of consultation. It was hailed by ministers as protecting the rights of the vulnerable.

In a statement to MPs, Ann Keen, the Health Minister, said: “These changes will support a clearer and fairer system of access to free NHS services that will maintain the confidence of the public and prevent inappropriate access while maintaining our commitment to human rights. These measures strike the right balance between controlled access, the protection and promotion of wider public health, and ensuring that the health care needs of the most vulnerable groups are protected,” she added.

“We remain firmly committed to the requirement that immediately necessary, or other urgent treatment, should never be denied or delayed from those who require it.”

However, Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “No wonder they are queuing up in Calais. These proposals amount to jamming open the door for illegal immigrants to access the National Health Service.”

He said the Government “dithered” about the issue for years and chose “almost the last day of Parliament to announce their surrender to the immigration lobby”.

“We accept that medics cannot be used as immigration officers. That is why we have proposed that each primary care trust should have a small office of trained personnel who could decide whether or not non-British nationals are entitled to NHS treatment.”

The King’s Fund, the health charity, has given warning that NHS budgets are at risk as the economic downturn reduces the amount of cash available for new spending.

However, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said the Government should have gone further in supporting migrants.

“We believe no one whose asylum claim has been refused should be turned down for care which cannot be delayed, and which clinicians determine they need. The role of clinical staff is to determine what care a patient needs, and how urgently they need it — not to assess their immigration status,” Dr Nathanson added.

A public consultation will be held on the changes.

           — Hat tip: Lexington[Return to headlines]


From Gulag Liberators to Saudi Retainers: Human Rights Watch Has Betrayed Its Original Mission.

By Gerald M. Steinberg

Human Rights Watch was founded in 1978 in New York (as Helsinki Watch) with the mission of using public demonstrations and other forms of “naming and shaming” to free prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Many Gulag denizens, including Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky, later recognized HRW’s role in gaining their freedom. Shortly thereafter HRW began advocating on behalf of political prisoners and torture victims in other totalitarian regimes, including in Chile, Argentina, and Greece.

But since then, HRW has lost its moral compass, and the organization is using its substantial budget ($42 million in 2008) to repeatedly attack Israel by exploiting the language of human rights and international law. Tendentious reports and press conferences, using distorted legal rhetoric in place of credible evidence, target Israeli responses to terror attacks from Arafat, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

My organization, NGO Monitor, annually releases a systematic analysis of HRW’s agenda, and our reports clearly show that HRW singles out Israel in the Middle East. For years, this arbiter of international morality and human rights had very little to say about Libya, Saudi Arabia, or Palestinian terrorists. HRW’s recent cautious criticism of Saudi policy came only after a reorganization of the organization’s board — and then only after receiving unwelcome attention for its see-no-evil treatment of the Kingdom. In May 2009, Arab News reported that HRW officials went to Saudi Arabia to raise funds, advertising the numerous condemnations and pseudo-research reports against Israel in the Gaza war. Some of the founders, including Robert Bernstein, are in strong disagreement with the organization they built…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Plans for Microsoft and Yahoo to Take on Google

Alliance would open up internet search market

Yahoo executives are to be questioned today on reports that they may be ready to set aside their differences with Microsoft and make an alliance against a common enemy: Google.

While Google continues to dominate the internet search market — and harvest the majority of the revenues from ads placed alongside search results — a new chief executive at Yahoo and a new search engine from Microsoft, the well-received Bing, have changed the dynamics of the negotiations between the two companies.

The two sides are in the final stages of talks about a deal that could see Microsoft take over the running of Yahoo’s search-based advertising business, in return for guaranteed payments to Yahoo. The shape of the deal is still unclear, however, and analysts are nervous that the negotiations could still break down.

Yahoo’s second-quarter financial results are due after the close of trading today, and Microsoft reports its latest figures on Thursday, giving an opportunity for investors to question executives at both companies — even if a deal is not sealed in time to be announced.

Youssef Squali, an analyst at Jefferies & Co, is recommending investors buy Yahoo shares, even though current results will be muted by the advertising recession. He raised his price target on the shares by 5 per cent yesterday, citing, among other things, the potential for profits from the Microsoft alliance. Todd Lowenstein, a fund manager at HighMark Capital, said: “The sooner these two decide to bring the best of what they both have together and then jointly go after the market, the more it will benefit both..”

In rancorous, on-again-off-again talks over the course of almost 18 months, Microsoft repeatedly tried to buy Yahoo, finally offering $46bn for the company last year, only to be turned down by its founder and then-chief executive Jerry Yang. A later attempt to tie up an advertising alliance also collapsed, as Yahoo agreed to outsource its search-based advertising business to Google, only to find that deal scuppered over competition concerns.

Carol Bartz, who took over as Yahoo’s chief executive in January, has signalled she is more open to a Microsoft alliance and has met on several occasions with Steve Ballmer, her opposite number at Microsoft. Last week, several senior Microsoft executives are understood to have flown to Silicon Valley to meet Yahoo counterparts to try to hammer out a deal.

The launch of Bing by Microsoft has helped it claw a little market share away from Yahoo. According to ComScore, Microsoft’s share of search queries rose to 8.4 per cent in June from 8 per cent the previous month, while Yahoo fell to 19.6 per cent. Sixty-five per cent of search queries go through Google.

The activist investor Carl Icahn, who bought into Yahoo last year to agitate for a sale to Microsoft, is putting on more pressure for an alliance.. “I’ve been a strong advocate of getting a search deal done with Microsoft,” he said. “It would enhance value if a deal got done, because of the synergies involved.”

Yahoo shares are half the value of Microsoft’s takeover offer. Microsoft is expected to report the first annual sales dip as a public company on Thursday, but the signs of a tie-up with Yahoo and a strong pipeline of new products have pushed its shares up 63 per cent since early March. It has begun trailing the launch of a Windows 7 operating system, and has a new version of its Office applications suite in the works.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Zenster said...

Hizb ut-Tahrir: Shariah Takes Precedence Over U.S. Constitution

Imam Promises to Fight “Until Islam Becomes Victorious or We Die in the Attempt”

I vote for the alternative to "victorious".

“Men and women,” he blurted out, must be kept separate “to prevent people from behaving like animals.”.

“Men and women,” he blurted out, must be kept separate “to prevent Muslims from behaving like animals.”

There, fixed that.