Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/29/2009Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern confirms that Ireland will resettle two Uzbek Gitmo detainees in the Emerald Isle.

In other news, a Sudanese woman is on trial for “indecency” because she wore trousers in a restaurant. If she is convicted, she faces 40 lashes.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JCPA, JD, KGS, Lexington, Sean O’Brian, TB, The Lurker from Tulsa, Tuan Jim, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Dogs Are Considered Unclean in Islam So a Pony Fills in
New Doubts Revealed in Obama’s Nativity Story
No ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Way
Obama Has Aura But Doesn’t Know How to Legislate
Thomas Sowell: A Post-Racial President?
Tulsa Receives Stimulus Money for More Police
Unveiled! Hawaii’s 1961 Long-Form Birth Certificates
Carleton Stops Diab From Returning to Classroom
Lawyer Says Canal Death Suspect Attacked in Jail
Ottawa University Slammed for Firing Terrorism Suspect
Seals and Visas Threaten EU-Canada Rift
Europe and the EU
Czech Rep: Christian Democrats Against New Mosque in Brno
Danish Defence Minister: Headscarves Out
EU Will Defend Canadian Challenge to Seal Product Ban
Finland: Homes Built by Finnish Government for Repatriation Being Used by Bosnians as Second Homes
First NATO Transport Plane Arrives at Hungarian Air Base
French Rapper in Censorship Row
German Birth Rate Continues to Decline
Greece: Theodorakis Backs Police
Greenland: Government Considers Seal Trade Ban Appeal
‘Hate Crime’ At Danish Gay Games
Ireland Agrees to Take Two Gitmo Detainees
Ireland: Ahern Confirms Plan to Resettle Guantanamo Detainees
Italy: City Bans Gatherings of Two People
Mussolini Fans Celebrate His Birth
Netherlands: Verhagen: Too Tough on Serbia, Too Soft on China
Netherlands: Police Deny ‘Taxi War’ In Apeldoorn
Sweden: Government Reported for English Email Use
Sweden: Fire Hatchway Jammed During Fire
Swedish Think-Tank Denounces EU ‘Propaganda’
UK: Binyam Claims ‘Risk to UK Lives’
UK: Most Britons Want National Service to Return
UK: Organic Food Has No Health Benefits, Study Finds
UK: Police Must Record Toilet Breaks
UK: Police Anger Over Ban on Union Flag Badges in Support of British Troops
UK: Scotland Yard Drops Ban on Officers Wearing Union Flag Badges Backing Our Troops
UK: Sir Paul Stephenson Backs Down in Row Over Union Jack Badges
UK:£300,000 Bill to Give Free Laptops to Traveller Children (Whose Parents Use Them to Shop Online)
Bosnian Police Hunt Ex-Islamist Fighter Who is on the Run
Croatia: Artificial Insemination, New Law After 30 Years
Montenegro: Greeks Outbid Italians for Shares of Epcg
North Africa
Hizbullah Cell Faces Hanging in Egypt, Nasrallah Personally Ordered it to Carry Out Attacks
Morocco: 2009-2010 Bumper Cereal Crop
Norway: Embassy Staff Threatened
Royalty: Forbes Sees King of Morocco Among World’s Richest
Television: Tunisia, Confalonieri About Nessma TV
Israel and the Palestinians
Hamas Wants Female Lawyers Veiled, Protests
Obama Slammed as ‘Racist’ At Jerusalem Rally
Palestinian Territories, Over 300,000 Settlers
The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem: Why Continued Israeli Control is Vital
West Bank: Army Stops Settlement Attempt
Middle East
High Prices of Basic Items Expected During Ramadan
Hizbullah Training Lebanese Army, Report
Jordan Seeks to Join Nuclear Club of Energy Exporters
Khamenei Orders Closure of Jail Holding Protesters; 140 Prisoners Freed
Lebanon: UNIFIL; 30 Years of Italair Celebrated in Naqura
Obama Lifts Ban on Syrian Air Industry
South Asia
Afghanistan: Franceschini, Vote to Keep Soldiers Abroad
Afghanistan — Di Pietro: There to Save Face for Silvio
Berlusconi Reaffirms Troops to Stay in Afghanistan
Pakistan: Hindus and Sikhs Threatened by the Taliban and Sharia
Taliban Commander: ‘Swedes Will be Killed’
US Sets Up Task Force to Stem Flow of Foreign Funds to Taliban
Far East
China Foils Smuggling of Missile-Use Material to N.Korea
Myanmar: Despite Sanctions, A Growth in Investment. China Has 87% of the Market
The First Protest of Foreigners in China: Nigerians Against the Police in Guangzhou
Sub-Saharan Africa
Alarm Over Somalia’s Child Soldiers
Captives Freed in Nigerian City
Sudan ‘Trousers Trial’ Adjourned
Swedish Youth Dead in Somalia
24 Land in Calabria
African Refugees and Illegal Migrants ‘Terrorize’ Arad
Australia: Reporter Attacked During Migration Scam Probe
Calais Migrant ‘Cried Rape as Revenge Against People Smuggler Who Failed to Get Her Into Britain’
Denmark: Wanted Asylum Seekers Fled Country
Greece: Conflicting Signals for Migrants
Ireland: HSE Sends Emergency Phrase Books to Every Acute Hospital
Spain: Voluntary Re-Entry Plan Flops
Sweden: Afghan Teens in Swedish Asylum Limbo
UK: Hundreds of Thousands of Migrants Here for Handouts, Says Senior Judge
Culture Wars
Nurse ‘Forced’ To Help Abort
Stanford University Punishes Dissent When Training Teachers
UN Allows Gay, Lesbian Group to Join Debates


Dogs Are Considered Unclean in Islam So a Pony Fills in

Tiny horse gives US Muslim new life perspective

Mona Ramouni’s fingers fly across the text as she proofreads yet another page of a calculus textbook to be published in Braille — with her guide pony sitting patiently by.

Cali, a pretty brown pony with a soft black mane, is the first guide animal for Ramouni, 28, a devout and blind Muslim whose parents — Jordanian immigrants — would not accept a dog into their home.

Dog saliva is considered unclean in Islamic teaching, although dogs are permitted to be used as work animals, such as guards or shepherds.

“There is a saying of the Prophet Mohammed accepted by most Muslims that the angels do not enter the homes where dogs are,” said Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

While several prominent scholars have determined that guide dogs are acceptable under Islamic rules, it remains a cultural taboo for many Muslims, he explained.

Ramouni says her parents aren’t fond of animals in general, although they did let her have a pet rabbit and are warming to the pony who lives in a small enclosure in the yard of their tidy brick home in Dearborn, Michigan.

And after some initial trepidation about how their daughter would fare with only a miniature horse to watch out for her, they have begun to trust that Ramouni will be okay on her own.

Pony benefits

Cali is just one of a handful of miniature horses in the United States known to be used as guide animals for the blind.

Weighing in at under 100 pounds (45 kilograms), miniature horses are about the same size as a large dog but are much stockier and can help support people with mobility issues.

They also have significantly longer life spans — they can live and work for more than 30 years while guide dogs are usually retired by age 12 — but require much more care and bear a far heftier price tag.

“My whole world and my whole outlook on stuff has changed, because I feel that there are a lot more possibilities,” Ramouni tells a visiting reporter.

“Before Cali, I didn’t feel like I could go places on my own, although theoretically I probably could have.”

Ramouni was taught as a child how to guide herself with a cane, but never really took to it. With six siblings, there was always someone around to take her by the arm.

Straddling hurdles

She began looking into guide horses on a whim, becoming more determined to make it happen every time someone told her she couldn’t — or shouldn’t.

There was the neighbor who tried to get the city council to deny her a permit for Cali’s shed. The nasty e-mails from people attacking her family’s religious beliefs.

And then there was all the work it took to find a trainer, find a horse and learn how to trust and care for Cali.

Ramouni bought the three-year-old former show pony in October 2008 and sent her to a professional trainer who spent seven months teaching Cali to tap her hoof to point out obstacles, get in and out of cars and buses and even pick up misplaced objects.

It generally takes six months to a year for the relationship with a service animal to solidify and Ramouni’s first six weeks with Cali have been intense.

“I’m working with Cali. She’s working with me. We’re sort of figuring each other out,” Ramouni says.

“She is the most awesome little horse. If she can do it, if she thinks she can do it, she will. If she feels that there is a possibility for her to do it, she will try with all her heart.”

Cali is also a show-stopper: they can’t go anywhere without people stopping to ask about her.

And Ramouni, whose sisters used to call her antisocial because she would spend hours alone in her room, has found that she has become “more involved with the world… and more visible to the world” because of Cali.

Domestic animals

“ I just basically want to have a normal life “

RamouniThat is the intention of the Americans with Disability Act, which protects against discrimination and requires that businesses, such as restaurants, hotels and stores allow entry to service animals.

But proposed changes to the act could narrow the definition of service animals to “a dog or other common domestic animal.”

Not only could Cali be turned away from businesses — like the McDonald’s down the street from Ramouni’s office — but the city of Dearborn could also decide to lift the zoning waiver that allows the horse to live in Ramouni’s yard.

If that happens, the city will have to send someone to pry Cali’s bridle from her hands, Ramouni says.

With Cali at her side, Ramouni can do simple things most people take for granted like go the store, sit in the park and listen to people going by, or take the bus to work. She also hopes to get a doctorate in child psychology and open her own practice.

“I just basically want to have a normal life,” she says, before laughing. “Yeah, after this you think I’m going to have an ordinary life? But that’s really what I want.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

New Doubts Revealed in Obama’s Nativity Story

School documents show mother left father within weeks of birth

More cracks have appeared in the official story of Barack Obama’s family life, with the revelation in school documentation from the University of Washington that Ann Dunham most likely left her husband, Barack Sr., within weeks of the baby’s birth.

The official story as presented in his autobiography, “Dreams from My Father,” and in various accounts in newspapers and websites supporting Obama conflicts with the results of a careful analysis of the documentary evidence available.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

No ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Way

A dangerous serpent’s head must be severed

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush vowed to apply traditional American values to make the United States “a kinder and gentler nation” — using our strength as “a force for good.” Twenty years later, that strength has been weakened by a faltering economy and the challenges of fighting two wars.

But Mr. Bush recognized that “kinder and gentler” did not always apply, particularly in dealing with Saddam Hussein. Yet, today, in the face of our greatest challenge — Islamic extremism — we choose to take a “kinder and gentler” approach toward fighting a brutal enemy’s ideology. This is underscored by the House Intelligence Committee’s June 17 announcement that it has launched a probe into the CIA’s handling of its al Qaeda leadership assassination program.

The investigation is to focus on whether the agency improperly withheld information from lawmakers.

The secret program — to use assassins to kill or capture senior terrorist leaders — was initiated eight years ago in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks but never got beyond the discussion phase. Upon first learning of the program a month ago, CIA Director Leon Panetta immediately terminated it and briefed Congress.

Almost two decades ago, as I interrogated a senior Iraqi military officer captured during Desert Storm, he made an astute observation about Saddam Hussein. Comparing his brutal leader to a serpent, he said one cannot kill a snake without severing its head — a concept well understood within the Muslim world. It also should be well understood within the Western world in dealing with Islamic extremist leaders.

During the 20th century, the West confronted two kinds of leaders in the conduct of warfare.

There were civilian leaders who, as heads of state, were not involved in war-fighting decisions, which were left to their military. For this reason, leaders such as Japan’s Emperor Hirohito were never personally targeted during hostilities.

But there also were heads of state who, by their personal actions in taking a direct role in planning and implementing military and/or terrorist operations, catapulted themselves onto the battlefield, becoming “fair game.” Such targets have included Adolf Hitler during World War II, Saddam Hussein during Desert Storm and Moammar Gadhafi during his terrorist campaign of the 1980s.

There should be no doubt al Qaeda’s leadership falls into the latter category. Its terrorist leaders represent the head of the snake and, as such, will continue to strike unless the head is severed.

Precisely for this reason, the leadership of both al Qaeda and the Taliban have been targeted for attack by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. These attacks, authorized during President George W. Bush’s watch, have been continued on President Obama’s watch because they have killed at least a dozen leaders.

The attacks so unnerved Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud that in May he threatened a devastating attack upon the United States if they continued. Undoubtedly, the fact that a drone, flying thousands of feet high where it cannot be seen or heard by terrorist leaders, can silently strike at any time has caused them some sleepless nights.

But how is a program targeting terrorist leadership for assassination by drone any different from the CIA’s assassination program now targeted by the House for investigation? While Congress undoubtedly was briefed on the terrorist-slaying drone program before implementation, it is doubtful a briefing was done before an effective implementation plan was firmly in place. Similarly, no effective implementation plan has yet been structured for the CIA’s assassination program; therefore, no briefing is yet required.

While it may give politicians a good feeling to launch this congressional probe into the CIA’s program, they need to understand the downside. The 1976 hearings chaired by Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho to investigate domestic surveillance and other illegal activities by U.S. intelligence agencies had a chilling effect on legal intelligence and counterintelligence operations. As such, it eventually impacted upon our ability 25 years later to read the tea leaves in time to be forewarned about the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Though there were some excesses by U.S. intelligence agencies in the 1970s, it is critical that we also recognize that congressional probes, by their very nature, impact on future effectiveness by limiting decisions to undertake legal activities. That probably is why the CIA’s assassination program existed conceptually but not in practice. The link between concept and practice is a plan for implementation. Again, none yet existed for this program; therefore, neither did a duty to advise Congress.

A “kinder and gentler” approach has pampered Islamic extremist prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, too, creating a country-club atmosphere in which they have gained an average 20 pounds each (one in excess of 100 pounds) because of the “good life.”

Hearings were held there recently for Sept. 11 suspects. One, Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi, made a mockery of court proceedings by conducting himself inappropriately. This is a suspect to whom the “kinder and gentler” approach has gone to a ridiculous extreme, as his guard carried with him a pillow to place on Hawsawi’s chair for his viewing comfort. As Hawsawi was led back out of the courtroom, his guard followed with pillow in tow.

Our “kinder and gentler” approach toward terrorists is making it difficult for Americans to comprehend that we are a nation at war fighting an enemy whose ultimate goal is our total annihilation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Obama Has Aura But Doesn’t Know How to Legislate

Aura dazzles, but argument gets things done. Consider the debate on the Democrats’ health care bill and the increasingly negative response to Barack Obama’s performance. Democrats have the numbers to pass a health care bill — 256 votes in the House, 38 more than the 218 majority; 60 votes in the Senate, enough to defeat a filibuster. But they haven’t come up with the arguments, at least yet, to put those numbers on the board. It’s something not many predicted that bright January inauguration morning.

We knew that day that Obama was good at aura, at generating enthusiasm for the prospect of hope and change. His inspiring speeches — the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines, the race speech in Philadelphia, the countless rallies in primary and caucus and target states — helped him capture the Democratic nomination and then win the presidency by the biggest percentage margin in 20 years.

But it turns out that Obama is not so good at argument. Inspiration is one thing, persuasion another. He created the impression on the campaign trail that he was familiar with major issues and readily ticked off his positions on them. But he has not proved so good at legislating.

One reason, perhaps, is that he has had little practice. He served as a legislator for a dozen years before becoming president, but was only rarely an active one. He spent one of his eight years as an Illinois state senator running unsuccessfully for Congress and two of them running successfully for U.S. senator. He spent two of his years in the U.S. Senate running for president. During all of his seven non-campaign years as a legislator, he was in the minority party.

In other words, he’s never done much work putting legislation together — especially legislation that channels vast flows of money and affects the workings of parts of the economy that deeply affect people’s lives. This lack of experience is starting to show. On the major legislation considered this year — the stimulus, cap and trade, health care — the Obama White House has done little or nothing to set down markers, to provide guidance, to establish boundaries and no-go areas.

The administration could have insisted that the stimulus package concentrate spending in the next year. It didn’t. It could have insisted that the cap-and-trade bill generate the revenue that was supposed to underwrite health care. It didn’t. It could have decided either to seek a bipartisan health care bill or to insist that a Democratic bill be budget-neutral. It didn’t — and it still hasn’t made this basic policy choice.

Most of Obama’s top White House staffers are politics operatives, not policy wonks. The one leading policy wonk on health care, Budget Director Peter Orszag, has either missed signals of danger or has failed to communicate their seriousness to his colleagues. On Feb. 25, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf, a Democratic appointee, signaled in testimony to the Senate Finance Committee that the CBO would not credit health care bills with the budget savings the administration was promising.

Orszag, as a former CBO director himself, should have realized what this meant, which is that Democrats would have to shape their bills accordingly. They didn’t, and were stunned when the CBO came out in June and this month with estimates of little or no savings.

And someone in the White House should have taken note when 40 Blue Dog Democrats signed a letter dated July 9 warning that they wouldn’t vote for anything like the health care bills being considered in committee. Without those 40 votes, Democrats don’t have a majority in the House. It’s unusual for dissenting members of the majority to set down such a public marker. Predictably, they haven’t backed down so far, despite foot-stomping by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a chat session with Obama.

Obama’s July 22 news conference was intended to rally support for the Democrats’ health care bills. It didn’t. The president eschewed serious arguments and rattled off campaign-type talking points. Those used to be enough to elicit cheers from enthusiastic audiences in Iowa and Virginia.

But aura can only take you so far, particularly when you diminish it by disrespecting the Cambridge police department. Being president means being more than commenter-in-chief. You need to know how to legislate. You need not just aura but argument.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Thomas Sowell: A Post-Racial President?

Many people hoped that the election of a black President of the United States would mark our entering a “post-racial” era, when we could finally put some ugly aspects of our history behind us.

That is quite understandable. But it takes two to tango. Those of us who want to see racism on its way out need to realize that others benefit greatly from crying racism. They benefit politically, financially, and socially.

Barack Obama has been allied with such people for decades. He found it expedient to appeal to a wider electorate as a post-racial candidate, just as he has found it expedient to say a lot of other popular things— about campaign finance, about transparency in government, about not rushing legislation through Congress without having it first posted on the Internet long enough to be studied— all of which turned to be the direct opposite of what he actually did after getting elected.

Those who were shocked at President Obama’s cheap shot at the Cambridge police for being “stupid” in arresting Henry Louis Gates must have been among those who let their wishes prevail over the obvious implications of Obama’s 20 years of association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Anyone who can believe that Obama did not understand what the racist rants of Jeremiah Wright meant can believe anything.

With race— as with campaign finance, transparency and the rest— Barack Obama knows what the public wants to hear and that is what he has said. But his policies as president have been the opposite of his rhetoric, with race as with other issues…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Tulsa Receives Stimulus Money for More Police

TULSA, OK — There’s big money for more cops in Tulsa. The city is getting $3.5 million in federal stimulus money to put 18 more officers on the street.

The stimulus grant will pay the salary and benefits for the officers’ first three years on the force. The city is required to put up the money for the officers’ fourth year.

The Tulsa City Council will have the choice on whether to accept the money.

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

Unveiled! Hawaii’s 1961 Long-Form Birth Certificates

Real documents include name of doctor, hospital

Images of two 1961 Hawaii birth certificates similar to the one President Obama purportedly has on file have now been unveiled.

The Honolulu Advertiser published photostats of the original long-form birth certificates of twin daughters born to Eleanor Nordyke at Kapi’olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital Aug. 5, 1961, one day after Obama was supposedly born at the same facility.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Carleton Stops Diab From Returning to Classroom

OTTAWA — Carleton University has stopped Hassan Diab from returning to the classroom following at least one complaint from an outside organization.

B’nai Brith, the influential Jewish group, harshly criticized the university for hiring Diab, who is accused in France of killing four people in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue.

The Toronto-based national office of B’nai Brith issued a statement condemning Carleton’s actions, while an Ottawa-based member of the group telephoned the university directly to complain.

“The university did the right thing,” B’nai Brith executive vice-president Frank Dimant said on Tuesday of Carleton’s about-face in not allowing Mr. Diab to teach.

Mr. Dimant said it was “inconceivable” that Mr. Diab, who’s awaiting an extradition hearing on Jan. 4, 2010, would be allowed to be in direct contact with young people.

On Monday, a Carleton spokeswoman confirmed that Mr. Diab had been hired on contract to teach for a few weeks this summer after the instructor originally assigned to the introductory sociology class took “an unforeseen leave.”

However, late on Tuesday afternoon, the university issued a terse statement that a full-time faculty member would “immediately replace the current instructor, Hassan Diab.”

The move was being made in order to provide students “with a stable, productive academic environment that is conducive to learning,” the statement said.

A Carleton media-relations officer did not return calls or emails, and the university’s statement said “no further comment will be made regarding this issue.”

Mr. Diab, 55, was born in Lebanon, but obtained Canadian citizenship in 1993. He is fighting an extradition bid by the French government.

Mr. Diab has been under virtual house arrest since he was arrested late last year. He has been granted bail but under very strict conditions which include the wearing of an electronic monitoring bracelet.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Lawyer Says Canal Death Suspect Attacked in Jail

A lawyer representing Hamed Mohammed Shafia said his client was attacked in a Napanee, Ont., prison, according to a CBC News report.

Shafia, 18, has been charged with four counts of first degree murder in the deaths of his three sisters and his father’s first wife. His father, Mohammed Shafia, 56, and his wife Tooba Mohammed Yahya, 39, face the same charges.

Lawyer Jean-Claude Dube told CBC that his client had been injured in jail and required a visit to the hospital.

Shafia is being held at the Quinte Detention Centre while waiting his bail hearing. A spokesperson for the detention centre would not offer any details of the attack.

A lawyer for the family said earlier they will plead not guilty at a court appearance in Kingston Aug. 6.

Waice Ferdoussi said his clients will petition for a change of venue because the atmosphere in Kingston and Montreal is “poisoned.” Ferdoussi said police have jumped to the conclusion that this is an “honour crime.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ottawa University Slammed for Firing Terrorism Suspect

OTTAWA — Carleton University in Ottawa “cravenly caved to external pressure” when it relieved terrorism suspect Hassan Diab of a summer teaching job, says the executive director of the union that represents university professors.

There were no questions about Diab’s qualifications, and both the provost and the dean signed off on the contract hiring after consulting with the university’s lawyer, said James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which represents about 65,000 university teachers, librarians and researchers.

The university reversed its decision to hire Diab to fill in for a few weeks in an introductory sociology course and “summarily fired” him after the Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith released a statement critical of the hiring, said Turk.

Diab was terminated without consulting with the dean or the departmental chair, he said.

“They did this solely because of external pressure,” said Turk. “It’s an abdication of the responsibility of universities to be insulated from these kinds of pressures.”

Carleton University declined Wednesday to comment on the decision to terminate Diab, pointing to a statement released Tuesday saying the lecturer was being replaced “in the interest of providing its students with a stable, productive academic environment that is conducive to learning.”

The Lebanese-born Diab is accused in France of killing four people and injuring dozens more in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue. He faces an extradition hearing in January and is under virtual house arrest.

Diab must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, must report regularly to the RCMP and can’t own a cellphone.

Turk said the allegations against Diab have not been tested in court and the judge was satisfied that Diab would be out on bail and working.

Meanwhile, the union that represents Diab said it will grieve the decision to terminate him.

“He’s innocent until proven guilty,” said CUPE local 4600 organizer Stuart Ryan.

Ryan said Diab was delivering his fourth lecture in the course Tuesday when a letter was deposited in his mailbox notifying him of his dismissal.

B’nai Brith Canada’s executive vice-president, Frank Dimant, said the organization did not approach Carleton University or its administrators about firing Diab.

“‘Cravenly caved to external pressure.’ If that means the sense of morality of Canadians, if this means their sense of outrage at this situation, then I think it’s a good thing for Canada,” said Dimant, who applauded Carleton for its actions.

“When teachers are accused of inappropriate actions whether inside or outside the classroom, the normal action is to take a leave of absence,” said Dimant.

In its statement, B’nai Brith said Canadians “should be concerned that an alleged terrorist, accused of committing such heinous acts, will be teaching our youth at a leading Canadian university.

“We find it deplorable that university officials believe there is nothing wrong with employing Diab. The safety and security of the community as a whole, and of the Carleton University campus in particular, are of great concern to us.”

Turk said the Canadian Association of University Teachers is considering censuring the university, a step that has not taken place in decades although proceedings have been initiated in dozens of cases.

When a university is censured, the Canadian Association of University Teachers urges academics not to work for the university, and advises organizations not to hold conferences there.

“The only acceptable alternative is to apologize and reinstate him. Otherwise the integrity of Carleton will be questioned across the country,” said Turk. “Everyone understands people will be displeased. If you cave in to that, you undermine academic freedom.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Seals and Visas Threaten EU-Canada Rift

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Canada’s decision to impose visas on Czech citizens and the EU’s decision to ban seal products are emerging as major irritants in bilateral relations.

Both issues came up at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (27 July), the first high level event under the Swedish EU presidency.

The Czech Republic used the opportunity to complain against Ottawa’s unilateral re-imposition of visa requirements due to a surge in Czech asylum applications. The move, in mid-July, comes after two years of visa-free travel.

“For us, this is not an issue between the Czech Republic and Canada but between the EU and Canada,” Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt commented after the EU meeting.

Mr Bildt called the Canadian decision “sad” and said it has caused “deep concern” in the bloc.

But he ruled out any EU reaction before the European Commission in September puts forward a legal analysis of the situation.

The commission will assess Prague’s call on fellow member states to show “reciprocity” — or in other words, to re-introduce visas against Canada. EU states will then have a further three months to consider their reaction.

“As the presidency of the EU, we are in favour of this reciprocity,” Sweden’s migration minister Tobias Billstroem told AFP, despite the Canadian opinion that such a counter-reaction is out of the question.

Germany, France and the UK could face harsh consequences in terms of trade if they retaliate on the Czech Republic’s side.

Canada says 1,720 mostly Roma-origin Czech citizens applied for asylum in the first six months of 2009 compared to half that figure in the whole of 2008. The Czech Roma have complained of discrimination in their home country.

“We need to streamline the system to provide faster protection for real victims of persecution, while showing bogus claimants the door much more quickly,” Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney said on Monday.

“Until we’re able to come up with reforms along those lines, unfortunately, the visa policy becomes our only recourse.”

Seal angst

In another matter set to annoy in Canada, EU ministers on Monday rubber stamped a ban on EU seal product imports “in response to concerns about the animal welfare aspects of seal hunting practices.”

Canada — which culls about 300,000 seals off its east coast each year — has said the EU’s decision is unscientific and plans to challenge the move at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva.

“We are very disappointed with this ruling. We believe strongly this violates the World Trade Organisation guidelines,” Canada’s international trade minister Stockwell Day said, according to the BBC. “It is in our view inappropriate that a trade decision is taken which is not based on science.”

The ban is due to affect the 2010 hunting season and halt annual trade worth a symbolic €4.2 million, according to media reports.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Rep: Christian Democrats Against New Mosque in Brno

Brno, July 27 (CTK) — South Moravian Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) are against the construction of a second mosque in Brno, Stanislav Juranek, chairman of the regional party organisation, said Monday.

He said the Muslims who want to live in the Czech Republic should adapt themselves to the local traditions.

“It would be a great mistake to allow them (traditions) being pushed away by a foreign culture and religion,” he told journalists.

Munib Hasan, from the Brno-based Islamic foundation, who recently announced the plan to build a new mosque, dismissed Juranek’s opinion.

He said Brno Muslims have always rejected any radicalism and oppression.

KDU-CSL deputy chairman David Macek said the Christian Democrats recognise freedom of religious faith, but added he is embarrassed about some demands of Islamists.

He said, for instance, Vladimir Sanka writes in a manual on what is allowed and what is banned in Islam that Muslims need not obey anyone who does not preach Islam.

The manual also sets death penalty for unfaithful women and renegades from Islam, Macek said.

Hasan said the sentences are torn out of context. He added that it is necessary to look at the teaching of the churches as such, not at individuals’ opinions.

“One thing is toleration and another thing is naivety. Such a group should not be accommodated in southern Moravia,” Macek said.

He said the Czech Republic should not repeat the mistakes of western Europe where many Islam followers moved and now their communities clash with the majority society.

Macek also said the minaret that could be part of the planned mosque in Brno would change the city’s cultural relief.

The Muslims, however, say they do not want a regular minaret, but a spire reminiscent of the minaret.

The Muslims now have a mosque in Brno but they say it no longer meets their requirements. It is small and it does not have study and lecture rooms.

Hasan reminded that previously the Brno mosque was opened in Brno 11 years ago as the first Muslim place of prayer in the Czech Republic.

Some 120 Islam followers meet in it and their number is growing.

Hasan said he believes that a new mosque can be built in Brno without provoking the public’s resistance. He said Muslims have coexisted with other Brno inhabitants without any problem to date.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the mosque opening last year, the Muslims handed out 3653 roses as a sign of friendship. One rose was for one day in the ten years.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Danish Defence Minister: Headscarves Out

Denmark’s defence minister says military uniforms and headscarves are incompatible

Denmark’s Defence Minister Søren Gade has told Parliament that Muslim women in the armed forces are not to be allowed to wear headscarves as part of their uniform.

“I find wearing for example a headscarf, to be incompatible with a military uniform. Both in the regular defence forces and the Home Guard,” Gade says in a written answer to a parliamentary question from Unity List MP Per Clausen.

Clausen asked the minister whether Muslim women are to be excluded from the Home Guard if they wear a headscarf.

Uniforms The minister’s response comes following a week of controversy involving a Home Guard soldier Maria Mawla, who was allowed to wear a headscarf under her helmet when in uniform. The Home Guard even went as far as portraying its liberal stance on its website.

But the Danish People’s Party, which is the minority Liberal-Conservative government’s safety net in Parliament, reacted strongly to the disclosure, resulting in the Home Guard text being removed and Mawla being told that she was no longer welcome in the Home Guard if she continued to wear a headscarf.

Safety Gade says military uniforms have a distinct purpose.

“Uniforms for military personnel ensure, among other things, uniformity so that it is possible to recognize members of the armed forces and distinguish them from the civilian population. The uniform is also designed in such a way that it provides the individual soldier with the maximum security possible. That is why it is not possible to show the same flexibility for employees serving in military functions as that proffered to their civilian colleagues,” Gade writes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

EU Will Defend Canadian Challenge to Seal Product Ban

The EU will “vigorously defend” the values of EU citizens in the face of a challenge to the ban on selling seal products says MEP Arlene McCarthy.

Following a controversial passage through the European parliament, involving McCarthy as chair of the assembly’s internal market committee, EU member states agreed on Monday to back the ban.

Canada immediately announced that it plans to challenge the ban saying the deal “violates WTO guidelines”.

Ottawa’s international trade minister Stockwell Day explained, “It is in our view inappropriate that a trade decision is taken which is not based on the science, and for that reason, we are announcing that we’ll be pursuing an appeal of this vote.”

McCarthy told this website that, “At a time when Canada and the EU are negotiating a free trade deal worth almost €9bn to Canadians, it is discouraging to see Canadian government officials make counterproductive threats of WTO challenge.”

“The ban is WTO compliant, and for Canada to suggest otherwise is misleading. The EU will vigorously defend the values of EU citizens within the WTO and within the free trade negotiations should any challenge be made.”

The regulation covers products derived from all species of seals and includes fur skins, organs, meat, oil and blubber, which can, for instance, be used in cosmetics and medicine.

The new act will come into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. The harmonised rules will become effective nine months later, giving the commission and the member states time to put in place the necessary implementing measures.

Products from traditional hunts which are vital for the survival of groups such as the Inuit populations of Greenland and Canada will be exempt from the ban.

However, Andy Lenhart, chairman of the International Fur Trade Federation, claims that the decision would inevitably have a negative impact for these groups.

He said, “This ban only succeeds in punishing Inuit and other remote coastal peoples by ensuring that the market for their goods has collapsed. Apparently it doesn’t matter to the European parliament how seals are hunted, so long as there is no trade in seal by-product”

“It completely ignores all the very serious legal, WTO and welfare concerns of many and is an example of the kind of bad legislation the European parliament claims it tries to avoid.”

Long-time advocate of the seal ban Green MEP Caroline Lucas noted the potential impact of the ban on indigenous communities, saying her party would fight to ensure their way of life was maintained, but generally welcomed the final agreement of the law.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Homes Built by Finnish Government for Repatriation Being Used by Bosnians as Second Homes

Refugees refusing to leave Finland even if they’re given a free home

The Finnish state is getting fed up with its Bosnian refugees, it appears that its honest, helping hand attempt to repatriate them back to Bosnia has hit a snag, they’ve either refused to return, or have used the property as an opportunity for their own self aggrandizement….and all at the expense of the Finnish tax payer.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

First NATO Transport Plane Arrives at Hungarian Air Base

The first C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to arrive in Hungary — part of NATO’s Strategic Transportation Fleet — was presented to the media at the Pápa military airfield on Monday.

Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai, Defence Minister Imre Szekeres and NATO deputy secretary general Claudio Bisogniero were present.

Bajnai said it is a historic achievement that 12 countries worked together to finance the acquisition and operation of the military air transportation fleet in the Strategic Airlift Capability programme. The group comprises NATO members Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the US, along with Partnership for Peace countries Finland and Sweden.

Hungary’s annual contribution to the project is expected to total Ft 1 billion. Hungary will use the aircraft for missions to Afghanistan, the Sinai Peninsula and Cyprus, Szekeres said, adding that the project has created 300 jobs in the area. The Globemaster III will be joined by two others in the autumn.

Bajnai noted that Hungary has a key role in this, the biggest NATO project in 40 years. US General Richard C. Johnson said this was one of the fastest NATO projects to be implemented, as it was launched in less than three years.

In addition, the Hungarian and Canadian governments have opened negotiations on having four Canadian C-17s use the air base.

Soldiers, combat vehicles and humanitarian aid will be flown on the heavy transport planes, primarily to remote countries, even amid warlike conditions.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

French Rapper in Censorship Row

A 27-year-old rapper from Normandy, nicknamed by some the “French Eminem”, is at the centre of a political storm over censorship in France.

OrelSan has seen 10 of his concerts cancelled recently after the former Socialist presidential candidate, Segolene Royal, and other politicians complained that his lyrics encouraged violence against women.

Ms Royal even threatened to withdraw the public subsidy from one prestigious festival, Les Francofolies in La Rochelle, in her capacity as head of Poitou-Charentes regional council.

The organisers dropped OrelSan, whose real name is Aurelien Cotentin, from the bill shortly afterwards, complaining that Ms Royal had “positioned herself as a master-blackmailer”.

The move led the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) of President Nicolas Sarkozy to accuse Ms Royal of attacking freedom of expression, and of “intolerable” interference.


Ms Royal and other critics were particularly outraged over a song by the 26-year-old called Sale Pute, roughly translated as “Dirty Bitch”, which is about a man who wants to break the bones of his unfaithful girlfriend.

“I hate you, I want you to die a slow death. I want you to become pregnant and lose the baby,” he chants in one verse. “You are just a pig who should go straight to the slaughter house.”

But OrelSan says the song, which he no longer performs in public, was never meant to be taken seriously.

“This song tells the story of a man who sees his girlfriend cheating, comes back home, drinks and writes her an e-mail in which he insults her,” he says.

“But it’s a fiction. It’s nothing real. I didn’t write it about my ex-girlfriend or anything so you can’t really take the song personally. I play a role in it, that’s all.”

“It’s like a book or a film about a murderer or a criminal,” he adds.

Historical parallel

OrelSan’s new album, Perdu d’Avance, has been removed from public libraries in Paris because of concern over what feminist and women’s groups say are his sexist, homophobic and violent lyrics.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

German Birth Rate Continues to Decline

A growing number of women in Germany are opting against having children. The higher the education, the less likely women are to start a family. The trend, however, is less significant in eastern Germany.

New data released by Germany’s federal statistics office indicates the country’s birth rate is on the decline. The trend is particularly strong among women with a university degree and more significant in the western part of Germany than in the former communist east.

The number of women who don’t have children at all is on the rise, and on top of that the actual number of kids by those who do have children is declining. However, this trend is likely to be reversed in the coming years, a spokeswoman of the federal statistics office said.

The data based on a 2008 census shows that 21 percent of women aged between 40 and 44 do not have any kids. With women ten years older, the figure is only 16 percent.

There is however a difference between western and eastern Germany. Of the women aged between 35 and 39, around 28 percent in the west have no children, while in the east it’s only 16 percent.

The study also shows a connection with the level of education. The higher the education, the less likely a woman is to start a family. Germany’s Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the “hesitant policies” of previous decades was largely to blame for this development.

She said that higher education and children were for a long time very difficult to combine. “Women had to choose between career and children. This has to change,” she said, stressing that there was no alternative to her model of more financial incentives and increased flexiblity for paternity leave.

The trend of a falling birth rate, however does not apply to women from Germany’s immigration community, where the number of women without children is significantly lower.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Greece: Theodorakis Backs Police

Composer Mikis Theodorakis yesterday expressed his support for the police, who have become the prime target of domestic terrorists since the December riots, as officers staged a rally in central Athens, marking 40 days since the death of a witness protection officer.

“I am very pleased that the overwhelming majority of the police force has undergone a radical transformation from persecutor to guardian of the rights that people have won through struggle,” the 83-year-old veteran leftist wrote in an open letter. Theodorakis expressed his “total opposition to the demonization of police last December” when riots broke out in protest at an officer’s fatal shooting of a teenager. The composer added that his support for the police depended on officers “distancing yourselves from people and activities that blacken your name.” Officers had gathered in Syntagma Square in memory of Nektarios Savvas, a 41-year-old policeman shot dead last month outside the Athens home of a witness to a trial of terrorist suspects

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

Greenland: Government Considers Seal Trade Ban Appeal

An imminent seal product ban in the European Union is criticised as amoral and a direct attack on the Inuit way of life.

Greenland’s government is considering appealing the decision to ban the trade of seal products in the European Union.

Seal products are due to be banned in all EU countries from next year, following strong lobbying from international animal rights groups.

However, Premier Kuupik Kleist and his government are not sure that the ban is compatible with international trade and human rights legislation, despite special Inuit exemptions allowing for limited trade from hunting communities.

‘It remains the case that the countries against the EU import ban still believe it to be in contradiction of basic international agreements pertaining to global trade,’ said Kleist.

The government is considering lodging an appeal with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). But as Greenland is not an independent member of the WTO, an appeal would need to be made in consultation and agreement with Denmark.

According to a Danish foreign ministry source, that would be highly unusual.

‘If the government of Greenland decides to challenge the EU decision it will be Denmark that lodges the appeal on behalf of Greenland. This would result in Denmark, itself a member of the union, suddenly being in the position of lodging an appeal against itself. It is something we have never experienced before and would be extremely unusual,’ the source said.

Denmark is already facing sharp criticism for its opposition to the seal trade ban, with international human rights organisation International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) accusing the country of putting economic considerations ahead of legitimate concerns for animal welfare.

‘While the EU has upheld its position as the world’s moral leader, both Denmark and Romania have shown through their opposition to the ban that they are willing to risk their otherwise good reputation for the sake of financial profit,’ IFAW’s EU spokesperson Lesley O’Donnell said.

However, there is also international support for the opposition to the ban, with Inuit organisation ICC calling the ban ‘totally amoral’.

‘What the EU is doing is totally incomprehensible,’ ICC’s international chairman Jimmy Stott said. ‘It is a direct attack on indigenous people in the Arctic and the foundation of Inuit culture.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

‘Hate Crime’ At Danish Gay Games

A Dane has been charged with committing a hate crime for allegedly throwing fireworks at athletes during a gay sporting event in Copenhagen..

He is accused of throwing fireworks into the Oesterbro stadium where the World Outgames running competitions were being held.

One US athlete suffered a light injury to his hand.

The attack marks the second suspected hate crime at the Outgames after three men were assaulted in the street.

The alleged perpetrator was apprehended by runners from Sparta Athletes club as he attempted to escape.

The 31-year-old suspect told a court he had thrown only one firework against a wall and had not intended to harm the athletes.

Copenhagen Police commissioner Poul B Hansen told the Danish newspaper Politiken it would be surprising if the accused had been unaware the event was for gay people.

“We are certain it was no coincidence that he threw the fireworks where he did — but it is, of course, up to the judge to decide if we are right,” he added.

The suspect was remanded in custody for 13 days.

‘Tolerant city’

On Sunday, three gay men from Sweden, Norway and the UK were treated in hospital following an attack by youths in the street.

The attackers have been charged with hate crimes.

Copenhagen mayor Ritt Bjerregaard denounced the attacks.

“We want to show Copenhagen as a multi-cultural and tolerant city,” she said.

“It is deeply regrettable that people behave like this.”

Some 5,500 participants from 98 countries are in Copenhagen for eight days of sport and culture to promote rights for homosexuals worldwide.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Ireland Agrees to Take Two Gitmo Detainees

Ireland said Wednesday it is to accept two detainees from Guantanamo Bay, the latest European country to help U.S. President Barack Obama fulfill his pledge to close the controversial camp.

The two men, reportedly Uzbeks, are expected to travel to Ireland in the “next couple of months,” Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said after informing U.S. ambassador Dan Rooney of the decision.

The move follows a visit by Irish officials to Washington and the Guantanamo camp, on the island nation of Cuba.

“In making this decision I am conscious of the intention of the United States to close the center at Guantanamo Bay, in part by transferring detainees no longer regarded as posing a threat to security but who cannot return to their own countries, to other countries willing to accept them,” Ahern said.

He noted that he was the first European Union minister to call for the closure of the facility on Cuba, set up by the former U.S. administration of President George W. Bush.

“The (Irish) government has consistently called for its closure since then,” Ahern added, though he declined to give details of the travel arrangements,

“A definite timetable has yet to be established, (but) the transfer of the two detainees is expected within the next couple of months,” he said.

Media reports have suggested the two are Uzbek nationals, but a justice ministry spokesman declined to comment, and Ahern said the men’s privacy would be respected.

He underlined the difficult conditions in which they had been detained for a number of years, saying they would need to be given time and space to adjust to their new circumstances when they arrive.

Obama pledged to close Guantanamo within a year, as one of his first announcements after taking office in January, but questions have been raised over whether it can be achieved.

On June 15, EU foreign ministers agreed a deal with the United States on transferring Guantanamo detainees, but stressed that the decision to accept any inmate was one for individual European governments.

On the same day Obama announced that Italy had agreed to accept three detainees, while Portugal has since said it was ready to take in two or three, and Hungary has offered to accept one or two.

Four detainees of Uighur origin — from a mostly Muslim minority living in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province — were resettled on the British overseas territory of Bermuda in early June, although it later emerged that Britain had not been consulted.

Other countries which have said they may be willing to accept former detainees include Belgium, Britain, France and Spain, according to officials at the time of the EU-U.S. deal.

The EU-U.S. agreement stops short of insisting that Washington help finance resettlement operations, noting only that “the United States will consider contributing to the costs incurred by EU member states.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Ahern Confirms Plan to Resettle Guantanamo Detainees

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has confirmed that Ireland will accept two detainees being released from the US internment camp at Guatanamo Bay.

Mr Ahern confirmed the decision at a meeting in Dundalk today with the new US Ambassador to Ireland.

The two detainees are expected to be two Uzbek men who are being freed by the US because they have been found to pose no threat to security.

They are expected to arrive in Ireland in the coming months.

The Obama administration has appealed to its allies around the world to resettle Guantanamo detainees who cannot return to their homelands due to the risk that they will be arrested and tortured.

President Obama had planned to resettle some of them in the US, but the move faced strong congressional opposition, forcing him to look to other countries for help.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Italy: City Bans Gatherings of Two People

Fines of up to 500 euros for those flouting rule

(ANSA) — Pordenone, July 28 — The mayor of the northern town of Pordenone has outlawed public gatherings, even if only two people stop on the street, in a crackdown on noisy behaviour and disorderly conduct.

Mayor Sergio Bolzonello’s ordinance bans “gatherings of people, meaning the contemporary presence of two or more people” who disturb the peace by “elevated tones of voice”, offend public decency or limit the use of public streets and squares by other residents.

Those who flout the rules face fines of between 35 and 500 euros under the experimental ordinance, which will be in force until December 31.

The city council drew up the ordinance after families living in squares favoured as meeting places by young people in Pordenone complained that groups remain there day and night, drinking, shouting and annoying passers-by.

The ordinance also bans drinking alcohol in public places except for spaces reserved by licensed bars.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mussolini Fans Celebrate His Birth

Admirers ignore plea to stay away from dictator’s hometown

(ANSA) — Predappio, July 29 — Admirers of Benito Mussolini flocked to the his tomb Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary of his birth despite a plea from the mayor of the Fascist dictator’s northern hometown for them to stay away.

Mussolini fans came from as far as Naples, Bari and Rome to visit the tomb in Predappio cemetery and leave a message in the visitors’ book, while Fascist memorabilia on sale in the town’s shops was doing a roaring trade.

Early on Wednesday a parish priest held Mass at the crypt in the presence of Mussolini’s daughter-in-law, Monica, the widow of his son Vittorio, among fresh flowers sent by fans from across the country.

Predappio Mayor Giorgio Frassineti, of the centre-left Democratic Party, had appealed to the thousands of people who arrive each year not to come to the town, saying he did not appreciate “blackshirt tourism”.

“Fascism tourists, please, stay at home,” he said Tuesday on the eve of the anniversary.

Frassineti described gatherings of Mussolini sympathisers as a “sad and surreal carnival”.

“These people are the enemies of our future. We are victims of these boorish waves that make Italy’s history vulgar and marginalise us. The demonstrations often happen at the cemetery, a place of sorrow for the town’s residents,” he said.

“The name of our town is inextricably linked with that of Mussolini, but we would like to become a place where history is discussed, not a theatre for these sad demonstrations,” Frassineti added.

Mussolini admirers were resolute on Wednesday, however.

“I don’t give a damn what the mayor says,” said one, echoing the Italian Fascist motto coined by Mussolini.

“I’ve been coming here every year for 30 years,” said Sandro from Orvieto, making it clear that he would continue to do so.

Pierluigi Pompignoli, the owner of a memorabilia shop, stressed that the arrival of Mussolini fans in the town has never resulted “even in a cuff around the ears”.

“If sometimes a young guy goes over the top with bad behaviour we’re the first to take him down a notch,” Pompignoli said.

The head of the Emilia Romagna branch of the tiny right-wing political party Forza Nuova, Gianni Correggiari, also dismissed the mayor’s plea.

“It’s the tens of thousands of people who pay homage to Mussolini each year who are fuelling the economy of the town.

“The mayor’s invitation is stupid, but maybe it’s motivated only by concern that Mussolini has left something at an emotional level,” he said, adding that people did not make pilgrimages to the graves of founding members of Italy’s Communist or Christian Democrat parties.


In a bid to spruce up the town’s image Predappio banned the display in shops of swastikas, cudgels and merchandise bearing Fascist mottos in April.

The town council approved a 500-euro fine for shops caught displaying items harking back to the Fascist era in their windows or anywhere visible from the street.

But souvenir hunters are still able to freely browse Mussolini memorabilia at one of several Predappio shops with Internet stores.

At one website, shoppers can pick up a ‘Dux Mussolini’ cudgel for five euros, a wide range of swastika-decorated daggers from 30 euros and a selection of beers bearing the faces of Fascist leaders for 2.6 euros each.

Born in Predappio in 1883, Mussolini led Italy from 1922 to 1943.

Using his charisma, control of the media, and violence, he dismantled the country’s democratic government system and created a Fascist state.

In 1940, he made the decision to enter the Second World War in alliance with Hitler. Three years later he was deposed and arrested.

With Nazi help, he set up a Fascist mini state, the Republic of Salo’, at Lake Garda in northern Italy.

As the Allies advanced he tried to flee to Switzerland but was captured and shot by Italian partisans in April 1945.

His body was strung upside down in Milan with that of his mistress, Clara Petacci.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Verhagen: Too Tough on Serbia, Too Soft on China

The Dutch foreign minister has chosen to base his foreign policy on human rights. His indignation is unfortunately too selective, writes Joost Lagendijk.

By Joost Lagendijk

I think many people were surprised when Maxime Verhagen announced soon after his appointment as foreign minister of the Netherlands that the worldwide protection of human rights would be the connecting thread of his government’s foreign policy.

Surprised because in his former political life Verhagen was not known for being a passionate defender of human rights. Surprised also because his predecessors from the Christian democrat party on foreign policy had usually excelled in skilfully attaining a balance between striving towards praiseworthy ideals while defending the interests of the Netherlands abroad. Verhagen opted without reservations for the ideals, and in itself this is deserving of praise.

A long tradition

This choice established Verhagen as part of a long tradition of primarily left-wing foreign policy. The most recent examples of this include Robin Cook, the now deceased UK foreign minister in the first government led by Tony Blair, and Germany’s Joschka Fischer, who was foreign minister in the two left-wing governments of Gerhard Schröder.

Cook announced with much aplomb in 1997 an ethical British foreign policy centred on human rights. Two years later, Fischer was somewhat more cautious: he stressed the link between improving human rights and conflict prevention and strengthening international institutions.

Both however were quickly confronted with the accusation that they were very selective in their defence of human rights. Cook was reproached that while the Blair government was very critical of countries like Indonesia and Pakistan, these same countries were invited to spend a lot of money at large arms fairs on British soil. Fischer also faced criticism when Schröder pushed through the sale of tanks to Turkey at a time when Fischer was harshly criticising the Turkish policy with respect to the Kurds. Both Cook and Fischer were attacked in the media for their much too accommodating attitude towards Putin’s Russia.

Selective indignation

The final verdict on Cook and Fischer was overall positive: a good attempt, but be honest and admit that from time to time you’re going to be inconsistent and that sometimes other interests prevail.

Does Verhagen have any chance of such a positive final verdict? To be honest, that might be rather difficult. Examples of Verhagen’s selective indignation are simply too numerous.

Just like Britain and Germany, the Netherlands too is often accused of being involved — albeit as a transit port — in arms supplies to dubious regimes. And Verhagen too appears not to have found the right tone when it comes to Russia.

Despite flagrant human rights violations in the Caucasus, there has been no criticism and the Netherlands seems to treat Medvedev and Putin with kid gloves. The government’s laxity cannot be seen in isolation from its ambition to become Western Europe’s natural gas gateway with the help of Russian energy giant Gazprom. Harsh criticism of Putin’s Russia could be rather inconvenient under the circumstances.

All talk, no action

Unfortunately, there are many more more examples of such inconsistent behaviour. Human rights policy not only involves calling out others, but also making sacrifices in order to stay credible. Take for example the relocation of former Guantánamo Bay detainees. If the closing of Guantánamo Bay, which the Netherlands too has demanded, will only succeed if other countries agree to take in former detainees, the Dutch refusal to do so is unfortunately an example of all talk, no action.

Honesty compels me to point out that a double standard is, in a certain sense, unavoidable. We have less of a grip on China than on smaller countries, and we are more in need of Chinese cooperation in tackling problems on the global scale, like climate change and the credit crisis. But this double standard can be compensated for, for example by giving the smaller players an extra reward when they achieve progress in the area of human rights- even if it is just to consolidate progress.

However, in the case of Serbia, Verhagen, supported by parliament, has refused to do just that.

If the pro-European democrats were victorious over the nationalists in Belgrade in last year’s election, it was despite, not thanks to The Hague. While the rest of the EU wanted to reward the democrats both before and after the elections, Verhagen personally put a stop to that. The war criminal Ratko Mladic must first be extradited; only then, said the Netherlands, can there be a discussion about rewarding Serbia’s cautious steps towards democracy and EU membership.

Solo effort

That is a very principled position that is successful in The Hague because it combines two ‘good’ causes: capturing a notorious war criminal and strengthening international law. It is easily forgotten however that by sticking so strictly to that one demand, other European policy goals in the Balkans, which are also supported by the Netherlands, are even further out of reach: preventing new conflicts in the Balkans, for instance, or stabilising a region that will eventually become a part of the EU whatever happens.

What Verhagen forgot is that human rights policy cannot be seen as isolated from conflict prevention. When conflicts flare up, human rights are the first victim, also and especially in the Balkans. The opposition within the EU to the Dutch ‘solo effort’ on Serbia makes it clear that the rest of Europe does realise that rewarding and stimulating are often more effective than punishing and isolating.

These are all examples of the snags of a policy that centres on human rights. It is certainly not an argument against such a policy. Verhagen deserves support for his aspirations, but he also deserves to be criticised at times when his policy is spineless, inconsistent or counterproductive.

Joost Lagendijk served in the European Parliament for many years as a member of the Dutch Green party. Since July 1 he is a senior adviser to the Istanbul Policy Centre in Turkey.

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

Netherlands: Police Deny ‘Taxi War’ In Apeldoorn

Three taxis belonging to Taxi Centrale Apeldoorn (TCA) were burned out in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The director of TCA, Jamshed Payam, claims that his company is the victim of a ‘taxi war’ and says that there have been about ten such fires in the past two years. He estimates the cost of damage in the latest one as at least 150,000 euros. One of his drivers was also assaulted, and according to Mr Payam had to spend a week in hospital.

But although Mr Payam claims to have reported each incident, a police spokesperson in Apeldoorn denied that they had received reports of any fires. The assault incident was reported, but the spokesperson rejected Mr Payam’s claim that the victim spent a week in hospital.

According to Mr Payam, there are too many taxis in Apeldoorn, and he blames the fires on competitors. He also claims that out-of-town taxi companies provide additional competition. However, the police spokesperson said that there is no ‘taxi war’ in the town as Mr Payam alleges, but officers will investigate exactly what the problems are.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Government Reported for English Email Use

The Swedish government has been reported to the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman (Justitieombudsman — JO) for using English email addresses.

The government has incurred the wrath of the former head of the Language Council of Sweden (Språkrådet), Olle Josephson, who has reported the Government Offices (Regeringskansliet) to JO for contravention of the recently adopted language law.

Josephson, who is a professor in the Nordic languages at Stockholm University, considers the use of English in the government’s email addresses as a political problem.

“It is a statement that Sweden can not be governed in Swedish, but in English instead. One should contact the Government Offices in English — a very strong symbolic statement, which is against the law.”

The new language law, the first of its kind in Sweden, came into force on July 1st.

The new law stipulates that Swedish is the main language of Sweden and establishes that public bodies have a particular responsibility to ensure that Swedish is used and developed.

“The purpose of the language law is to preserve a multilingual Sweden with Swedish as the main language, and the purpose of my report to JO is to put to the test just how strong that tool is,” Josephson says.

“If JO does not instruct the government to change this, and if the government does not change this, then we have to pretty much draw the conclusion that it is sham legislation.”

In his report Josephson concedes that there may be grounds to use English language email addresses but at the same time questions why it would be harder to understand instead of

Mari Ternbo, head of information at the Government Offices, explains that when the email addresses were introduced ten years ago it was presumed that they would be used primarily in contact with foreigners.

Within Sweden it was expected that more traditional means of communication would be used.

“Since then the development has shown to have been quite different,” Ternbo concluded, stating that the issue will be reviewed later in the autumn.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Fire Hatchway Jammed During Fire

A fire hatchway was jammed in the Rinkeby apartment house where seven people died of smoke poisoning on Saturday night, Swedish forensic investigators have discovered. As a result, smoke from the first-floor fire became trapped in the stairwell, where the seven family members later died when they tried to escape.

The jammed hatchway was discovered during a fire inspection in the end of May. It was scheduled to be fixed in June, but the repair never occurred.

Tomas Strandman, chief of staff at the Stockholm Fire Department, says that the jammed smoke hatch “made our [firefighting] efforts more difficult.” But he’s not sure if the victims’ fate would have been different if it had been open, according to news service TT.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Swedish Think-Tank Denounces EU ‘Propaganda’

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — A former speech-writer of Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has in a report accused the EU of creating an illegitimate “propaganda machine.”

Maria Rankka, who worked for Mr Bildt in 1999, currently runs the Swedish pro-free markets think-tank Timbro, which in a paper out this week says that Brussels is overstepping its mandate of facilitating cross-border co-operation.

“The EU, at the tax-payers’ expense, actively advocates more European integration and prevents free debate on the future of Europe, extending the limits of what we normally regard as communication,” the study says.

“Sweden, during its presidency of the EU in the autumn of 2009, should highlight the issue and take the first step in reversing this trend.”

Timbro notes that the European Commission each year allocates funds far in excess of its official €213 million communications budget to projects ranging from EU-sponsored radio stations and websites, such as Euranet and EUtube.

It points out that popular broadcaster Euronews benefits from EU assistance to the tune of €10.8 million a year, raising questions over its objectivity.

The Brussels and Maastricht-based European Journalism Centre, which trains future reporters, took a €1 million grant in 2008.

The EU also contributes funds to a number of pro-European “NGOs” in order to substantiate claims that there is civil society support for deeper integration, the think-tank argues.

The list of what Timbra likens to “GONGOs” — Government Organised Non-Governmental Organisations — includes the Centre for European Policy Studies, European Movement, Europe for Citizens and Friends of Europe.

In one striking example, the report notes that schools keen to benefit from Brussels’ €69 million a year free milk scheme must display an A3-format poster outside their canteens showing the EU flag and stating that EU money paid for the drink.

Brussels is currently rolling out a similar-scale free fruit project.

The EU approach to self-promotion “would hardly be acceptable in individual member states” if applied by national governments, the think-tank says.

Swedish politician Margot Wallstrom, in charge of the commission’s communication wing, fired back in a comment for Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, calling the report “incomplete, simplistic and biased.”

“Our task …is to stimulate debate and discussion about various EU topics that relate to all of us. It’s not propaganda — it’s to strengthen democracy,” she said.

“My aim is to make the European Commission more open and responsive to people’s opinion and attitudes. Not to make people love the EU.”

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

UK: Binyam Claims ‘Risk to UK Lives’

British lives could be endangered if allegations of torture of a former Guantanamo Bay inmate are published, the High Court has been told.

A lawyer for the foreign secretary said an official summary of Binyam Mohamed’s allegations must remain secret.

The US would respond to publication by withholding intelligence, which could endanger British lives, she said.

Mr Mohamed’s lawyers want the High Court to disclose a seven-paragraph briefing on his alleged mistreatment.

Mr Mohamed, a British resident, was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Intelligence officials claimed he was an al-Qaeda-trained bomber heading back to the UK.

Mr Mohamed alleges that over the following two years he was tortured in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

In February this year Mr Mohamed was freed and returned to the UK. He is pressing for the release of material which he says shows the UK knew he was being mistreated.

Relations damaged?

The key document is a summary of abuse allegations that US intelligence officers shared with their counterparts in London.

The High Court has previously heard warnings that relations between the British and American intelligence agencies could be harmed if the summary is given to Mr Mohamed and made public.

But on Wednesday, Karen Steyn, for Foreign Secretary David Miliband, went further, saying that relations would be damaged to the point that intelligence would be withheld.

This, the court heard, was a view shared by Mr Miliband and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

UK: Most Britons Want National Service to Return

Most people in Britain would like to see National Service brought back to reduce anti-social behaviour among young people, according to a survey.

Almost three quarters of those questioned said they think compulsory military service — abolished in 1960 — might be the answer to so-called yob culture.

And about three in every 10 people think it should be brought back for criminals in order to create more space in UK jails, the survey by OnePoll said.

The research also said 86 per cent of people questioned are worried about Britain’s youth — 14 per cent said they believe young people get involved in knife crime because there is nothing else for them to do.

The survey, which questioned 3,000 people aged 18 and over, was commissioned by Scottish charity Erskine, which cares for ex-servicemen and women.

Major Jim Panton, who has retired from the Army and is chief executive of the charity, said: “National Service always evokes different opinions but this poll suggests that the majority of Britons would like to see compulsory military service reinstated.

“We thought this was a very interesting finding, and as a result carried out a separate poll of some veterans in our care homes — 88 per cent of veterans felt National Service should be brought back, only slightly higher than the public.

“Our charity cares for over 1,300 veterans of all ages every year, and we are seeing more and more veterans come to us that served their country as national servicemen.

“We rely heavily on the voluntary support of the public to pay for our high standards and hopefully they will continue giving to us, not just for the WWII, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans but also for those who completed National Service.”

A quarter of those asked said they know a child who has an Asbo, electronic tag, carried out a spell of community service or spent time in a young offenders’ institution.

About half said National Service can be an alternative punishment for young offenders instead of sending them to prison.

And the survey said 42 per cent of people believe there is peer pressure to get involved in crime but 87 per cent of people asked said they do not believe young people would do National Service if called up.

About two thirds think National Service should also be open to both men and women, 44 per cent said they would not fight for their country and about a third said they do not feel patriotic for the UK.

“It’s understandable how many of the older generation believe it’s the answer to all the country’s problems as many feel the strict regime would knock the rough edges off many troublesome youngsters,” Mr Panton added.

Conscription for National Service ended on December 31, 1960 and the very last national servicemen left the Army in 1963, according to the Imperial War Museum’s website.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Organic Food Has No Health Benefits, Study Finds

Organic food gives no health benefits to consumers, according to research for the Food Standards Agency published today.

Shoppers pay more for organic fruit, vegetables, chicken, beef and milk but the food gives no nutritional enhancement to people’s diet.

The watchdog stopped short of advising consumers that buying organic produce was a waste of money but its message was clear: choosing to eat organic food will make no important difference to a person’s overall health. Eating a healthy balanced diet is the only important thing, the report concluded.

The research — the first and biggest study undertaken of scientific papers published in the past 50 years on the health and diet benefits of organic food — will come as a blow to the organic food industry, which is now worth £2.1 billion a year in Britain..

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also threatens to put the FSA on a collision course with organic champions such as the Soil Association.

The £120,000 year-long study by a team from the London School for Hygiene and Tropical health was headed by Dr Alan Dangour, a public health nutritionist. His team identified some differences between organic and conventionally produced food but concluded that they were not sufficiently important to make any difference to a person’s health or give nutritional benefit.

Dr Dangour said: “There is more phosphorous in organic food. Phosphorous is an important mineral but it is available in everything we eat and is not important for public health. Acidity is also higher in organic produce but acidity is about taste and sensory perception and makes no difference at all for health.

“A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance.

“Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally-produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”

He made clear, however, that he had not looked at pesticide and herbicide residues in food produced by organic and conventional farming methods. The study also did not seek to compare the taste of the products.

The FSA insisted that it was neither pro nor anti-organic food and it recognised that there were many other reasons why people chose to eat organic — such as concern for the environment and wildlife, higher animal welfare standards and stricter rules on use of antibiotic medicines in animals and pesticides on crops.

Gill Fine, the agency’s director of consumer choice and dietary health, said: “Ensuring people have accurate information is absolutely essential in allowing us all to make informed choices about the food we eat.

“This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally-produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.”

Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, admitted that he was disappointed by the conclusions but said that he was confident that consumers would make their own minds up.

“The FSA has always sated there was no scientific evidence to show organic food was better for health than conventional food. But it has not stopped the growth of the market. Some 8 per cent of shoppers are regular users of organic food and they do so for a variety of reasons. As far as FSA advice is concerned people tend to use their own common sense.”

He was adamant that five-year research work funded by the European Commission and due to be published next year would show that organic food was beneficial to health.

He also challenged the conclusion by the researchers that the nutritional differences found in organic and conventional foods were not important.

“Consumers will decide for themselves,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Must Record Toilet Breaks

Phone operators at Scotland Yard’s control room have described an order to record their toilet breaks as “offensive and humiliating”.

Staff in the Metropolitan Police’s control room in Lambeth must note lavatory visits as a “code three”.

Employee Paul Drew wrote in a staff magazine: “Everyone I have spoken to about this finds it deeply offensive and humiliating.”

The Met said the rules stop staff from taking unnecessary breaks.

But Mr Drew said: “It would be interesting to know what the public or the Met can possibly gain from making notes of such intimate details.”

Code three toilet breaks are now recorded on a Scotland Yard database.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Anger Over Ban on Union Flag Badges in Support of British Troops

Metropolitan Police officers have defying orders banning them from wearing Union Flag badges on their uniforms in support of British troops, describing the demand as “shameful”.

Scotland Yard chiefs have told officers to remove the emblems, which cost £1 with proceeds going to charity, after a complaint that they were offensive.

However, many junior officers have defied the ban by continuing to wear the one-inch flags, risking disciplinary action, so they can honour British forces serving in Afghanistan.

A petition has been launched on the Downing Street website demanding they be allowed to wear the badges, which are to raise funds for the Royal British Legion and the Help for Heroes charity

The Metropolitan Police Federation has also attacked the ban calling it “completely crass”.

Writing on the MPF’s website, chairman Peter Smyth said: “The decision to forbid police officers from joining the rest of the country in showing support for those who are fighting for their country is nothing less than shameful.”

The row started when 200 officers at Heathrow Airport were barred from wearing the badges last month on the grounds that they were in breach of the Met’s strict dress code.

It has been reported that 70 officers have defied the ban, while Mr Smyth, who represents more than 30,000 rank and file officers, told the Daily Mail that staff in the Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Group, CO19 firearms squad and dog units have joined the revolt.

The petition on the Downing Street website has gathered almost 200 supporters.

Mr Smyth said: “As the country mourned the deaths of young soldiers and saluted the heroism of the men and women fighting in Afghanistan, Met officers at the airport were ordered to take off small, one-inch square Union Flag badges because someone had complained they were offensive.

“Many police officers are themselves former Servicemen and women. Some have children and friends currently serving in the armed forces.

“Personnel serving in the armed forces pass through Heathrow, but are being denied any boost to morale they might get from a very modest display of support by the Metropolitan Police.”

He said that on June 27 — Armed Forces Day — Met officers were also ordered the Union Flag from the flagpole above the Heathrow airport police station because was not an “approved” ensign.

He added that the ban on the Union Flag emblems had been issued despite the fact that Met officers who took part in this year’s London Pride march wore “discrete insignia appropriate to the event, such as lanyards and badges, with official tolerance, if not approval”.

Scotland Yard said in a statement: “The Metropolitan Police has a dress code policy to clarify the dress standard expected from all staff whether they are wearing uniform or plain clothes.

“The Met wants to ensure that everyone projects a smart and professional image in support of delivering a quality service.

“The dress code states only the approved corporate badging may be used and only on clothing authorised by the Clothing Board.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Scotland Yard Drops Ban on Officers Wearing Union Flag Badges Backing Our Troops

Scotland Yard today caved in and lifted a ban against officers wearing Union Flag badges in support of British troops.

Met Chiefs had decreed that the tiny emblems — which cost £1 with proceeds going to charity — must be removed after a complaint that they are offensive.

But furious junior officers continued to wear them in defiance of the ban and a petition was launched on the Downing Street website demanding it be lifted.

Today, in a victory for the Daily Mail after we revealed the politically correct move this morning, Met Chief Sir Paul Stephenson stepped in to calm the row.

He ruled officers should be allowed to show their support for soldiers fighting for our country and that the rules should be relaxed.

‘The Met has a dress code policy which states that only approved corporate badging may be used. However, on this occasion, the Commissioner has decided to intervene in terms of officers wearing Union Jack badges,’ a spokesman said.

‘He feels strongly that these are exceptional circumstances and the Met should be openly showing their support for the British troops currently serving abroad.

‘On this occasion it seems entirely appropriate that officers are able to show their support for these brave men and women.’

The badges are sold to raise funds for the Royal British Legion and the Help for Heroes charity.

The row started last month when 200 officers at Heathrow Airport were banned from wearing them because they were in breach of the Met’s strict dress code.

Peter Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, had branded the decision ‘nothing less than shameful’.

He described the climb down as ‘absolutely marvellous’ today.

‘I am very pleased. I don’t think he had much choice really. It was such a no-brainer and it exploded today. People have always worn different badges at different times and no one has ever said anything about it,’ he said.

The initial order is thought to have followed a complaint from a member of public that the Union Jack symbol is ‘offensive’.

But about 70 officers, many of whom have been in the Services or have relatives fighting in Afghanistan, ignored the directive despite warnings of disciplinary action.

Officers at Heathrow were also ordered to take down a Union Flag hoisted on June 27 — Armed Forces Day — because it was not an ‘approved ensign’.

Strict rules are in place about when the Union Flag can be flown at individual police stations.

Mr Smyth said yesterday: ‘These orders from senior officers are legal and must be obeyed. They are, however, also completely crass.

‘Personnel serving in the armed forces pass through Heathrow, but are being denied any boost to morale they might get from a very modest display of support by the Metropolitan Police. It is not even as if the wearing of “unofficial” badges is without precedent.’

Mr Smyth said senior officers routinely turn a blind eye to constables wearing gay pride ribbons when they go on marches.

Strictly speaking, officers are not allowed to wear any type of badge on their uniforms.

Mr Smyth said: ‘From what I can gather, someone may have complained that the Union Flag is offensive. I find that hard to believe. We take the oath to serve the Queen and these badges are for a charitable cause.’

He added that as the row has escalated, hundreds of patriotic officers have expressed an interest in buying the Union Flag badge.

In February, Scotland Yard was hit by another row over political correctness after the Union Flag hanging outside a police station was replaced by a gay rights flag to mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) history month.

This is despite Met rules stating that only the Union Flag and its own flag can fly from force buildings.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Sir Paul Stephenson Backs Down in Row Over Union Jack Badges

The Metropolitan Police Service has lifted its ban on officers wearing Union Jack badges in support of British troops after scores of officers openly flouted the ruling.

A group of officers at Heathrow wore the one-inch square badges and dozens of other officers followed suit even though they were told to remove them after a complaint that they were offensive.

The Met reiterated yesterday that the dress code states that “only the approved corporate badges may be used and only on clothing authorised by the Clothing Board”.

However, Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, stepped into the growing row today and said that he was willing to change the rules in this instance because of the “exceptional circumstances”. Officers should be allowed to show their support for Servicemen, he said.

Hundreds of officers had threatened to defy the order as a petition calling on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to intervene and let officers wear the badges, which cost £1 with the proceeds going to charity, attracted more than 1,500 signatures.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: “The Met has a dress code policy which states that only approved corporate badging may be used. However, on this occasion, the Commissioner has decided to intervene in terms of officers wearing Union Jack badges.

“He feels strongly that these are exceptional circumstances and the MPS should be openly showing their support for the British troops currently serving abroad. On this occasion it seems entirely appropriate that officers are able to show their support for these brave men and women.”

The small tie-pins, sold to raise cash for the Help for Heroes charity, fell under a blanket ban on non-regulation clothing.

Peter Smyth, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “This is absolutely marvellous. I am very pleased. I don’t think he [Sir Paul] had much choice really. It allows our officers to support the brave men and women in the Armed Forces.

“It was such a no-brainer and it exploded today. People have always worn different badges at different times and no one has ever said anything about it.

“I don’t think this opens the floodgates for people wearing whatever they want. People know they have to be sensible.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK:£300,000 Bill to Give Free Laptops to Traveller Children (Whose Parents Use Them to Shop Online)

More than a thousand gipsy and traveller children have been given laptop computers to help them with their schoolwork.

The free equipment and wireless internet access is estimated to be worth up to £750 per pupil, and is costing the taxpayer £300,000 a year.

Some children are also being handed printers and digital cameras under a controversial Government-backed scheme aimed at encouraging them to stay in education.

Figures have revealed that free IT equipment has been handed to 1,317 pupils from gipsy and traveller families since 2004.

However, ministers have admitted that some of the laptops have been used by parents to buy and sell goods, and book foreign holidays online.

Last night, the Conservatives, who obtained the figures, warned that the scheme risked fuelling resentment among taxpayers. Only days ago it emerged that gipsy and traveller children are being given priority admission to popular state schools.

In addition, gipsy and traveller families are getting priority to see GPs and dentists.

The Electronic Learning and Mobility Programme (E-LAMP) is designed to offer ‘quality distance learning opportunities’ to gipsy and traveller children who regularly change schools and are on the move throughout large parts of the school year.

Under the scheme, being run in 330 schools, the children are given laptops with, for example, 3G wireless internet software, which enables them to study while travelling and keep in touch with their ‘base’ school.

There are an estimated one million children from around 350,000 gipsy and traveller families in the UK, but fewer than 9 per cent obtain five good GCSEs including maths and English.

Studies have shown that children who relocate regularly quickly become demotivated with learning and disengaged with their school friends and school life. In addition, many traveller parents provide little support for their children’s academic learning, with a small number believing that formal education offers little or no value to their children’s futures.

In a written Parliamentary answer, schools minister Jim Knight said 1,317 laptops were issued from 2004 to 2009. He said: ‘The vast majority are still out on loan to the students. There have only been seven incidents of minor accidental damage. One laptop was sold by the family, but recovered quickly as it had been tagged.’

A survey by the National Association of Teachers of Travellers has found adult travellers are using their children’s laptops to book holidays, shop and sell goods online.

It said: ‘Initially the restriction on data transfer allowed, due to shared group tariff packages, caused issues when the students became more confident workers and their parents discovered the joys of Amazon, eBay and booking flights online.’

Tory local government spokesman Bob Neill said: ‘However well-meaning, I am concerned the Government’s policies on travellers threaten to undermine community cohesion and inflame community tensions.

‘The British people believe in fair play — it’s not fair that one small group get privileged access to public services, whilst hard-working families who struggle to pay their bills and taxes are pushed to the back of the queue.’

           — Hat tip: Lexington[Return to headlines]


Bosnian Police Hunt Ex-Islamist Fighter Who is on the Run

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AFP)—A Tunisian-born former Islamist fighter has fled prison in Bosnia, triggering a nationwide manhunt by forces concerned about the threat he poses to security, authorities said Wednesday.

Karay Kamel bin Ali, a volunteer in the Muslim army during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, had failed to return to the jail in the central town of Zenica from authorized leave, prison chief Nihad Spahic said.

“Police and border police were immediately informed that he is on the run,” Spahic told AFP.

Better known in Bosnia by his nom de guerre Abu Hamza, he had been entitled to leave the prison based on good behavior while serving more than half of his sentence. He did not return as due Monday.

Bin Ali was detained in 2007 and sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison for robbery, acts of violence against his family and for making threats against a prosecutor.

Like many Mujahedeen fighters in Bosnia’s war, Bin Ali had obtained the citizenship of the ex-Yugoslav republic by marrying a local woman, but lost the status on the grounds he poses a risk to national security.

Bin Ali was to be deported from Bosnia once he sees out his term, according to a security ministry spokeswoman.

Bosnia came under the spotlight after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S. due to the presence in the country of former fighters from Islamic countries.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Croatia: Artificial Insemination, New Law After 30 Years

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, JULY 17 — Croatia’s parliament has today passed a law on assisted conception, which includes regulations the centre-left opposition and several NGOs believe to be conservative and discriminatory. This is because the measure, among other things, prohibits the preservation of embryos. The opposition, together with a few deputies of the majority, walked out of parliament at the time of voting and accused the government of passing a “mediaeval law”, but failed to undercut the quorum needed for approval. Only one amendment was approved, providing assisted conception to couples who can show that they have lived together for at least three years. The first version of the law guaranteed public health assistance only to married women: this led to a wave of protests. The minister of Health justified the choice by claiming that “those who don’t support marriage don’t support children either”. The law provides that children conceived with the assistance of anonymous donors can discover the identity of their biological parents at the age of 18. The freezing and preservation of embryos has been prohibited, and doctors can refuse to carry out the procedure “for reasons of conscience”. Until today, assisted conception in Croatia had been governed by a law issued in the ‘70s, which did not cater to a whole range of possibilities made available by scientific progress and which said nothing about the preservation and manipulation of embryos. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Montenegro: Greeks Outbid Italians for Shares of Epcg

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JULY 27 — The Greek Golden Energy Public Power Corporation offered a greater price than Italian A2A for the purchase and refinancing for 18.3% of the shares of the Montenegrin Electric company (EPCG), reports BETA news agency. The Montenegrin tender commission opened the offers on July 24 from these two companies, which earlier earned the rights to participate in the final phase of the tender for the privatization and refinancing of EPCG, out of a total of four companies that were interested. The Greek company offered a price of 11.1 euro per share, and the Italians offered 8.4 euro. The state is ready to sell 22.8 million of its shares in the electric company. “The price is one of the main criteria for the final evaluation of the bid,” Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Vujica Lazovic said, adding that in the next seven days, the executive evaluation of all documentation will be completed. After this, the final decision will be given on who will be the new investor in EPCG.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Hizbullah Cell Faces Hanging in Egypt, Nasrallah Personally Ordered it to Carry Out Attacks

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has personally tasked the head of the Hizbullah cell in Egypt to carry out attacks in the country, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported Tuesday.

The newspaper, based on records of investigation, said that Nasrallah ordered the leader of the network, Mohammed Qabalan, who is on the run, to prepare for attacks in Egypt, and the man in his turn tasked Lebanese Mohammed Youssef Mansour to plan for such operations.

The two men agreed that they would carry out an attack while Nasrallah was making a speech on the occasion of Ashoura. The green light, according to al-Hayat, would be given when the Hizbullah chief states the words “armed forces” in his address.

However, the arrest of members of the network thwarted the planned operation, the daily said, citing the Egyptian investigation.

The probe also revealed that Qabalan and Mansour, who is known as Sami Shehab, were pushed by the Hizbullah leadership to organize the network in Egypt. The men were able to recruit members who were divided into small groups that functioned under their orders, al-Hayat said.

The report came as Egyptian lawyer Muntasar al-Zayyat announced that he planned to stop defending the accused in the Hizbullah cell case in protest against Cairo’s decision to try the 26 men at an emergency state security court.

He told al-Mustaqbal daily that he hoped the case would be referred to the criminal court so that the verdict would be appealed. State security courts were set up under Egypt’s emergency laws and have been in place since 1981 and their verdicts are final.

Legal sources told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that several members of the network could be hanged if convicted by the court. Charges include conspiracy to murder, spying for a foreign organization with the intent of conducting terrorist attacks and weapons possession.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Morocco: 2009-2010 Bumper Cereal Crop

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, JULY 27 — Between 2009 and 2010 Morocco is expected to produce up to 10.2 million tonnes of cereal: twice as much as in the previous year’s harvest. ONICL, the national office for cereals and legumes, is the source of this estimate; it explained that the record crop is the result of unexpected rainfall in Morocco between autumn of 2008 and spring 2009. Harvests of the three main cereal crops (bread wheat, durum wheat, and barley) should be 77% greater than the average figure for the past five years. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norway: Embassy Staff Threatened

Members of the staff at the Norwegian Embassy in Morocco have received serious threats in connecton with a difficult child custody case, in which the father allegedly kidnapped his two children. (Photo: Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere) The man is charged with kidnapping and bringing his two children, aged 13 and 16 from Norway to Rabat in Morocco, where they have been kept for two-and-a-half years.

Ten days ago the children escaped and found their way to the Norwegian Embassy in Rabat, and stayed there for several days.

During this time the father tried to contact the children, and made serious threats against embassy staff members.

The children eventually left the embassy and were met by their mother who managed to bring them back to Norway.

The Norwegian authorities have been working on this extremely difficult child custody case in Morocco for several years. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it has been concerned about the safety of the two children for some time. Norway has been in close contact with the Moroccan authorities involved in the case with a view to finding a solution in cooperation and agreement with the Moroccan authorities.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere comments: “The two children went voluntarily to the Norwegian Embassy after threats to their lives. They were allowed to stay there for three days, which is quite out of the ordinary, and indicates the seriousness of the case. They left the Embassy of their own accord, after which the Norwegian authorities had no contact with them, and consequently were not in any way involved with their leaving Morocco.”

Mr Støre also underlined the need to ensure adequate security for the Norwegian Embassy in Rabat and the embassy staff. Embassy employees have received death threats from the children’s father.

“We are taking the threats received by embassy staff very seriously indeed. We have therefore requested Morocco to take all possible precautions to ensure their safety,” Mr Stoere added.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Royalty: Forbes Sees King of Morocco Among World’s Richest

(ANSAmed) — ROME, 28 JULY — Mohammed VI is one of the richest kings in the world, with a personal estate worth approximately 2.5 billion dollars, which Forbes claims makes him rank seventh among the 15 richest monarchs in 2008. The Forbes chart, quoted by Courrier International, places Mohammed VI ahead of the very rich emirs of Qatar and Kuwait, who have only one sixth of his wealth. Mohammed VI’s estate includes two dozen palaces, thousands of hectares of farmland, the north African Omnium group (mining), a food company, insurance companies and telecom companies, and Forbes also sees the King of Morocco as a business king’ because he managed to increase his wealth five-fold in less than the ten years since he began his reign. In 2000 his wealth was estimated at 500 million dollars). Courrier International stated that Mohammed VI is Morocco’s largest banker, industrialist and insurer, pointing out that the King’s capacity for growing richer is in contrast to conditions in his country, where some 5 million people live on less than one euro a day. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Television: Tunisia, Confalonieri About Nessma TV

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 28 — The Tunisian Nessma TV, in which Mediaset has a 25% stake, active in North Africa since March this year, has a very good outlook according to Mediaset president Fedele Confalonieri. He said this, African Manger reported, during the Mediterranean economic and financial forum. The president of Mediaset underlined that “the largest commercial television network in North Africa has a good growth potential, with a higher income from advertising than the company’s budget.” Nessma TV, which can be received in Italy and France as well, currently has a 12% audience. Confalonieri believes that this figure is likely to rise to 20%. The potential market of Nessma TV is 90 million viewers, 60% younger than 25 years. The advertising market, based on these data, is worth 150 million euros: 100 million in Morocco, 30 in 30 in Algeria, 20 in Tunisia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas Wants Female Lawyers Veiled, Protests

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, JULY 27 — The first protests have begun against the decision made by the justice system in Hamas-controlled Gaza to impose “modest clothing” on Palestinian female lawyers when they appear in court. “This is discrimination against women and an attack on personal freedom,” stated the PCHR-Gaza civil rights organisation this morning. The incident began in the wake of a provision set forth by a judge, Abdel Rauf al-Halabi, at the Supreme Court in Gaza that states that from September 1, specific “uniforms” for male and female lawyers will have to be worn in court. Male lawyers will have to wear white shirts and black ties under their dark-coloured suits, whilst female lawyers will have to wear a dark dress with a veil (the hijab). PCHR-Gaza maintains that the judicial authorities in Gaza, linked to Hamas, are not authorised to impose any type of “uniform”, which will only widen the gap between Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza residents have also reported that in recent weeks Hamas police have tried to impose “modest behaviour” on those people sunbathing or swimming on beaches. (ANSAmed).

2009-07-27 12:16

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Slammed as ‘Racist’ At Jerusalem Rally

‘This insolence will bring about the downfall of the American leadership’

JERUSALEM — President Obama’s policies against Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank were slammed as “racist” today by participants in a rally drawing about 2,000 Israelis in front of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem.

“George Mitchell go home!” yelled protestors in front of the U.S. government building.

Mitchell, Obama’s envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is here discussing the American administration’s call for a halt to all Jewish settlement activity, including natural growth or accommodating the needs of existing Jewish populations in the areas in question.

The protest began in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence. Marchers then made their way to the U.S. consulate about one block away.

“Obama should not be pressing Israel to compromise and freeze building in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem,” protest organizer Yaacov Steinberg told WND.

“All these steps in the past just brought more Palestinian terror and showed Israeli weakness,” said Steinberg, director of a coalition of West Bank Jewish organizations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Territories, Over 300,000 Settlers

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JULY 27 — In June, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank rose to over 300,000, according to a report issued by the Israeli military in the West Bank and cited by the press. According to the report, the annual demographic increase in settlers in 2008 was 2.3%, three times the Israeli national figure. The figures have been released while Israeli leaders in Jerusalem are involved in talks with US representatives under President Barack Obama, having been tasked with discussing a timeline and modalities of a freeze on Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories with the aim of re-launching peace talks with Palestinians. Today in Israel the US secretary of state, Robert Gates, is expected, after yesterday’s brief visit by Obama’s envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell, while over the next few days also James Jones, national security advisor, will be visiting the country. “Americans are beginning to understand that settlements cannot be halted,” said the Israeli minister for industry, Benyamin Ben Eliezer (Labour). Today a demonstration has been called by the settlers’ movement in Jerusalem against “the diktat from the US”. “Settlements are a reality which cannot simply be done away with,” said one of the movement’s leaders. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem: Why Continued Israeli Control is Vital

by Nadav Shragai

  • The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, that the Palestinians demand to transfer to their control, is the most important Jewish cemetery in the world. The area has constituted a religious and national pantheon for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, containing the tombs of the illustrious dead of the nation over the course of 3,000 years and serving as a site for Jewish gathering and prayer at the time of the ancient Temple and even prior to it.
  • Under Jordanian rule, Jewish access and the continued burial of Jews on the mount was prohibited, despite Jordan’s explicit commitment in the Israeli-Jordanian Armistice Agreement of 1949. During the period of Jordanian rule, the cemetery was destroyed and desecrated, and 38,000 of its tombstones and graves were smashed to smithereens.
  • Since Jerusalem’s reunification, burial ceremonies were renewed at the site and large sections of the cemetery were rehabilitated. Nevertheless, attempts by Palestinians to damage the cemetery have never totally abated, and there have been periodic attacks on Jewish mourners escorting their dead for burial.
  • Previous Israeli governments that consented to discuss arrangements in Jerusalem with the Palestinians rejected their demand to transfer the Mount of Olives to PA sovereignty and control. Nevertheless, those governments were prepared to give their assent to the transfer of neighborhoods that control the access routes to the mount. Should any such agreement be implemented in the future, it could endanger freedom of access to the site and continued Jewish burial there.
  • In any future arrangements, in order to allow continued Jewish burial on the mount, Israel must guarantee freedom of access to the site by controlling the arteries leading to it, as well as the areas adjacent to it. On the previous occasions that Israel transferred areas that included Jewish holy sites to Palestinian control, the Palestinians severely encumbered or refused to allow Jewish access to these places. Sometimes these sites were even severely damaged.

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]

West Bank: Army Stops Settlement Attempt

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JULY 27 — Today the Israeli Army prevented a dozen settlers from establishing a settlement outpost in the West Bank, close to Hebron. Local broadcasts reported that the Israeli soldiers isolated Nezer, the area targeted for the settlement which lies next to the Gush Etzion settlement areas. The settlers behind the failed operation stated that they will try again. The USA is pressurising Israel to cease any settlement in the West Bank. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

High Prices of Basic Items Expected During Ramadan

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JULY 28 — As the kingdom prepares for Ramadan, officials from Jordan’s Agriculture ministry anticipated a sudden surge in prices of basic food items during the holy month. Ramadan is known to be as a month of worship and fasting from food from sun rise to sun set, but also known among businessmen as the month where demand on basic items increase by almost a double. An official from the ministry, live stock division, said the price of one kilo of red meet is expected to cross the mark of JD 10 (9 euros), which would be happening for the first time in this cash strapped kingdom. The official, who was quoted by the pro-government daily al Rai, accused a number of big firms of purchasing large among of live animals and stocking them to increase the price when Ramadan arrives next month. Prices of vegetables are also expected to surge during the same period, said the official, who was not named. Every year, the government puts in place stringent measures to keep prices of basic items such as vegetables, serials, milk and meet within reach of ordinary citizens during the fasting month. But as the kingdom continues its open market policy, experts believe it would be hard to reign the soaring prices. (ANSAmed).

2009-07-28 15:00

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hizbullah Training Lebanese Army, Report

Hizbullah is reportedly “secretly” training senior Lebanese army officers, the Kuwaiti daily Asiyassa has said.

It said Lebanese defense officials believe there is a “clandestine agreement” between Hizbullah and top officers in the Lebanese army.

The report said that a Lebanese army battalion will operate “independently” and will have access to Hizbullah’s arsenal.

It said the 150-strong battalion is being trained on the use of “specific Iranian missiles with average and long-distance ranges.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Jordan Seeks to Join Nuclear Club of Energy Exporters

Jordan is forging ahead with a peaceful nuclear program that would turn the energy-poor kingdom into an exporter of electricity, nuclear chief Khaled Tukan told Agence France Presse (AFP).

“We are moving in great strides in the field of civilian nuclear energy in order to stop being dependent on the import of fuel,” said Tukan, who chairs the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).

Jordan is the latest Sunni Arab country, among them Egypt and pro-Western Gulf states, to announce plans for nuclear power programs in the face of Shiite Iran’s controversial atomic drive.

“Our goal is transform Jordan from net energy importing to net electricity exporting country by 2030,” added Tukan, whose country imports 95 percent of its energy needs.

Jordan’s 2007 energy bill was 3.2 billion dollars, the equivalent of 24 percent of its total imports and 20 percent of gross domestic product.

The kingdom has six power stations with a total generation capacity of 2,400 megawatts, but it has been forced to buy five percent of its electricity needs from neighboring Arab countries in the face of growing demand.

In the country of nearly six million people, per capita electricity consumption is estimated at 2,000 kilowatts a year.

“In 2030, electricity consumption will double,” added Tukan, noting that “atomic energy is the most logical solution” to meet his country’s growing power needs.

“Four regions in Jordan have been demarcated for exploration of uranium,” which is found in carbonate rocks and in phosphate.

Jordan’s 1.2 billion tons of phosphate reserves are estimated to contain 130,000 tons of uranium, whose enriched form provides fuel for nuclear plants.

But Jordan has given priority to uranium mining, which is faster and less expensive, Tukan said.

“The country has reached nuclear cooperation deals with six countries, France, China, South Korea, Canada, Russia and Britain, and hopes to sign three more agreements with Romania, Spain and Argentina,” he added.

In October 2008, French nuclear giant Areva started exploring for uranium resources in the central region of Jordan, which has 70,000 tons of carbonate rocks.

“The work in this area is the most advanced and in the final stages of exploration,” said Tukan.

In February, Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto signed a deal with Jordan to explore for uranium, thorium and zirconium in Wadi Sahab Abiad, close to the border with Saudi Arabia.

China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), meanwhile, is searching for uranium in the northern area of Hamra-Hausha and Wadi Baheyya in the south.

“We are currently trying to delineate the site of a nuclear reactor,” said Tukan, adding that a potential site was in southern Jordan along the Red Sea, which is also bordered by Israel and Egypt.

Jordanian and Israeli experts met in June to discuss environmental issues related to the plan, Tukan said, adding that he would hold talks on the project with Egyptian officials in August.

“At the moment things are going smoothly,” he said.

“The Belgian company Tractebel Suez-GDF is responsible for studies of the site which is currently under scrutiny and an analysis of the safety and environmental impact.”

Tukan said the results of the studies would be shared with Egypt and Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994.

“If everything goes well, the reactor will be built in 2013 with a capacity of 1,000 megawatt, which will cover 25 percent of electricity generated. The exploitation of nuclear power generation is expected in 2017 or 2018,” he said.

Four companies are competing to build the nuclear plant: Areva, South Korea’s Kepco, Atomic Energy of Canada and Russia’s Atomstroyexport.

Jordan, which signed an agreement in December with the United States to prevent the smuggling of radioactive materials from its territory, aims to build more reactors in 2018 and then again in 2020, at the same site, said Tukan.(AFP)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Khamenei Orders Closure of Jail Holding Protesters; 140 Prisoners Freed

Iran on Tuesday released 140 people detained in Iran’s post-election turmoil and the supreme leader ordered the closure of a prison where human rights groups say jailed protesters were killed, in a nod by authorities to allegations of abuses in the crackdown on protests.

The pro-reform opposition has been contending for weeks that jailed protesters and activists were being held in secret facilities and could be undergoing torture. Authorities appear to be paying greater attention to the complaints after the son of a prominent conservative died in prison — reportedly the same one ordered closed Monday.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi sharply condemned the wave of arrests and deaths, saying the Iranian people “will never forgive them.”

The last official word of the number of people in prison from the crackdown was around 500, announced several weeks ago, and arrests have continued since. The heavy crackdown was launched to put down protests that erupted following the June 12 presidential election, in which hard-line incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner but which the opposition says was fraudulent.

Among those detained are young protesters, as well as prominent pro-reform politicians, rights activists and lawyers. At least 20 people were killed, according to police, though rights groups say the number is likely far higher.

A parliament committee investigating prisoners’ conditions visited Tehran’s main prison Evin on Tuesday, and during the visit 140 detainees connected to the protests were released, said Kazem Jalili, a spokesman for the committee, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

Another 150 remain in Evin because weapons were found on them when they were arrested, he said. The names of those released were not immediately known. There was no new word on the current total in prisons around the country.

The head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, promised on Monday that the public prosecutor would review the situation of all the post-election detainees within a week and decide whether to release or bring them to trial, the state news agency IRNA reported.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, meanwhile, ordered the closure of Kahrizak prison, on Tehran’s southern outskirts, Jalali told the Mehr news agency. “It did not possess the required standards to ensure the rights of the detainees,” he said. The closure order was announced Monday in the official IRNA news agency, though the prison was not identified.

Human rights groups have identified at least three protesters they say died after being detained at Kahrizak, though the reports could not be independently confirmed. Kahrizak appeared to have little role as a detention center before the election unrest, but since then many of the detainees are believed to have spent time there.

Authorities’ new attention to the prisoners issue comes after conservative lawmakers and politicians — the camp from which the government draws its support — expressed anger over the death of the son of Abdolhossein Rouhalamini, a prominent conservative. Rouhalamini is a close ally of Mohsen Rezai, the only conservative running against Ahmadinejad in the election.

His son, Mohsen, who was arrested during a July 9 protest, was taken to a hospital after two weeks and died. The opposition news Web site Norooz reported that Mohsen had been held at Kahrizak and that his face was beaten in when his father received the body.

The crackdown was carried out by police, the elite Revolutionary Guards and the pro-government Basij militia. The opposition has warned repeatedly that the detainees are being tortured to force confessions that back the government’s contention that the protests were part of a foreign-backed plot to foment a “soft revolution” against the Islamic Republic.

Mousavi, who claims to have won the election, said that amid the disorder of the crackdown, even the judiciary doesn’t have access to all the prisoners.

“All departments from intelligence to Basij say (those who arrested protesters) were not connected to them. Where are they from? Have they come from Mars?” Mousavi said. “I am sure even the judiciary is not able and has no right to visit many prisons and ask for details.”(AP)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: UNIFIL; 30 Years of Italair Celebrated in Naqura

(ANSAmed) — NAQURA (Southern Lebanon), JULY 27 — A ceremony took place this morning in the coastal base of Naqura, the headquarters of the UN mission to southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the birth of Italair, the Italian helicopter task force under UNIFIL. The ceremony was attended by General Claudio Graziano, the commander of the UN mission, Gabriele Checchia — the Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, the present commander of Italair, Colonel Stefano Silvestrini, some former commanders of the helicopter squadron as it was, the Deputy Commandant of COI, the Italian inter-force operative command and General Tommaso Ferro and Colonel Gerardo Restaino, chiefs of the Italian contingent stationed in Naqura. Having moved up from four to six craft in April 2007, Italair transformed itself into a task force and is presently staffed by 65 personnel from the army’s winged unit, the navy and the air force. Since June 1979, Italair has been providing UNIFIL with a guaranteed flight capability in the skies of southern Lebanon and northern Israel on a 24/7 basis. Up to today, it has completed around 35,000 flight hours, one thousand emergency transports of seriously ill or wounded persons and transported 150,000 passengers, including many leading figures such as Pope John Paul II. During the ceremony, victims of the 1997 incident, the worst to have befallen Italair in southern Lebanon, were remembered. The ceremony was preceded yesterday evening by a concert of music in the Naqura base which included performances by the brass bands of the 11th Regiment of Bersaglieri and the 132nd Ariete brigade, which are presently deployed with UNIFIL. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Lifts Ban on Syrian Air Industry

Middle East regime in open military alliance with Iran

TEL AVIV — The U.S. will seek sanctions waivers to export aircraft and other equipment to Syria, U.S. officials confirmed today.

Syria is in an open military alliance with Iran. It hosts the chiefs of several major Palestinian terrorist organizations. The country is accused of aiding the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yesterday, Imad Mustafa, the Syrian envoy to the U.S., said the Obama administration had lifted a ban imposed in 2004 on exporting goods to the Syrian Aviation Industry. He said the message was delivered to Syrian President Bashar Assad by George Mitchell, Obama’s envoy to the Middle East.

Today, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed Sen. Mitchell “told President Assad that the U.S. would process all eligible applications for export licenses as quickly as possible.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Franceschini, Vote to Keep Soldiers Abroad

(AGI) — Cortina d’Ampezzo, 27 July — “Tomorrow morning we will vote on keeping Italian soldiers abroad”. Pd secretary Dario Franceschini made the statement from the stage of Cortina InConTra. “We did what we had to do: withdraw Italian soldiers from Iraq, which was a unilateral war, but the presence in Afghanistan is different, because it was called by the international community”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Afghanistan — Di Pietro: There to Save Face for Silvio

(AGI) — Rome, 27 July — “The truth is that we have a weak leader at a historic moment during which global balances of power are being recast and who, to get his entry ticket to the control room is prepared to put the lives of our soldiers on the line for a handful of sand and with the excuse of respecting treaties”. This is Antonio Di Pietro’s view of the mission in Afghanistan, in a blog guarantee that: “We shall not leave our youngsters on their mission to Afghanistan out of the political consensus — that is for sure. Nonetheless, I don’t like to think of them as a combat force and not a peace force”.

The leader of the IDV party, “Italy of Values”, refers to the “war in Afghanistan” as “a Bush-inspired mess “ revealing that “it’s costing us 28 million euros a day, to which must be added, once the new allocations have been approved, a further 147 million for 2009”, and all this while “there is not enough in the kitty for the social cards, we are seizing the dormant accounts of people who have emigrated abroad or passed away, we’re handing out pardons to mafia bosses and tax evaders while scraping together enough loose change to keep us from finishing up the creek while all along the government is preaching the virtues of a war in the desert”. “I’m no dyed in the wool pacifist, but I’m sure that peace in Afghanistan cannot be won by escalating and provoking military action, “ Di Pietro notes, wondering whether “we’re only there to save face for Silvio Berlusconi, who, after his porno-parties has to return the quid pro quo of Afghanistan?”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Reaffirms Troops to Stay in Afghanistan

Rome, 28 July (AKI) — Italy’s 3,250 troops will remain in Afghanistan, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi stated on Tuesday. “There is no change of policy,” he told journalists in Rome, reaffirming earlier statements made by defence minister Ignazio La Russa and foreign minister Franco Frattini.

Berlusconi dismissed as “hot air” reports of a rift over the issue with the conservative government’s junior coalition partner, the Northern League.

“I understand that newspapers need to fill pages in the summer season, but this supposed rift is hot air,” he stated.

La Russa and Frattini on Monday rejected calls by minister without portfolio and Northern League politician Roberto Calderoli to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

“In Afghanistan, we are working for Italy’s security including that of Calderoli… we are staying,” Frattini said in Brussels, during a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

“We cannot give up the mission in Afghanistan. What our lads are doing out there is crucial,” said La Russa.

The Northern League’s leader, Umberto Bossi, also urged the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan following a recent spate of attacks against Italian soldiers.

But in an apparent climb-down late on Monday, the party’s chief parliamentary whips issued a joint statement saying: “The Northern League has always maintained the commitments it has made to the government and will also do so in this case.”

The Italian parliament last week voted to extend the financing of all of Italy’s 35 missions overseas.

A roadside bomb attack earlier this month killed a 25-year-old Italian soldier Alessandro Di Lisio while on patrol near the western Afghan city of Farah. Two attacks in Afghanistan at the weekend wounded three Italian soldiers and three Italian paratroopers were also injured in the bombing that killed Di Lisio.

Twelve Italian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2004.

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

Pakistan: Hindus and Sikhs Threatened by the Taliban and Sharia

Members of minority groups must either pay ‘jizya’ for protection or leave. All women, even the elderly, cannot go out alone and have to wear a burqa. Men must wear a beard and a head cap. Hundreds of Sikh and Hindu families have already emigrated.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — The Taliban in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) have issued an ultimatum against local Hindus and Sikhs: either you pay “jizya”, an Islamic poll tax for religious minorities that is akin to protection money, or you leave. Many Hindu and Sikh families have already left for Peshawar and neighbouring provinces.

Threats against Sikhs and Hindus are but the latest in a series of warnings against religious minorities in the NWFP, including Christians who have had to pay jizya and submit to Sharia.

“We were living under fear: fear of the Taliban, fear of Lashkar-e-Islam and fear of other armed groups,” a Sikh man told the Daily Times.

Some 400 Sikh and 57 Hindu families have already left the towns of Bara and Tirah. Local Sikhs are employed mostly in trade in cloth, but also run grocer, garment and herbal medicine shops.

“Minorities in Orakzai agency and Khyber were warned by some militant groups to convert or leave the area. This was a real threat,” said the Sikh man, whose name is Singh.

“They’re running a parallel government. Hindu and Sikh families did not feel safe, in Orakzai, in Bara and in Tirah. We preferred to migrate, at least here we can breathe in peace and feel safe,” he added.

In the region of Orakzai, the Taliban have imposed the tax on adult male Sikhs as well as forcibly occupied Sikh-owned shops and houses.

After two months, the tax spread to Khyber Agency, the legendary tribal region on the main supply route to Afghanistan.

Here Lashkar-e-Islam, a group headed by Mangal Bagh, announced that Sikhs and Hindus could be free to live anywhere —as long as they paid jizya.

But threats have made the situation very tense. Hundreds of Sikh and Hindu families have fled to neighbouring areas, especially Peshawar.

Much like the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Islam acts like a morality police, enforcing prayers five times a day and punishing people accused of prostitution and other vices.

Muslim and non-Muslim women are not allowed outside the home without a male relative. In fact all women, even the elderly, have to wear a burqa.

For their part, men have to grow a beard and wear a cap; otherwise Lashkar extremists will beat them or fine them 200 to 500 rupees.

As a result of an agreement between the Taliban and the provincial government (backed by the central government), Sharia was imposed on most parts of the NWFP earlier this year, in Malacan division for instance.

But Pakistani authorities eventually went back on the deal, and launched an offensive against the Taliban.

The NWFP government however still supports enforcing Sharia on the entire population.

On several occasions the Catholic Church has come out against forcing non-Muslims to submit to Sharia because it is a form of violence against minority groups whose rights and liberties are guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan.

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

Taliban Commander: ‘Swedes Will be Killed’

A regional Taliban commander has warned that Swedes serving in Afghanistan will be the target of reprisals following the killing of three of the guerrilla group’s fighters by Swedish troops last week.

“Revenge will come. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or next week. But it will come,” the Taliban leader told the TT news agency in an interview published on Wednesday.

“Swedes will be killed.”

Described as a sinewy man in his forties and referred to as Zamir, the man claims to be second in command of Taliban forces fighting in the northern Afghan province of Balkh.

In an interview carried out in a secret location several hours from the provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif, the base of operations for Swedish troops in the area, Zamir emphasized that he and other Taliban supporters have no plans to submit to the wishes of foreign peacekeepers or the current government of Afghanistan.

“Faith burns deep in our hearts and we’ll never resign ourselves to a foreign ceasefire. We’d rather die as martyrs,” he told TT.

He claimed foreign soldiers weren’t interested in helping Afghan citizens, but instead were trying to “poisoning our faith” and create artificial divisions pitting Afghan against Afghan.

According to Zamir, there are around 60 guerrilla fighters in the Char Bolak district, about 40 kilometres west of Mazar-i-Sharif.

They are armed with Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers, and mines, and are prepared to employ suicide bombers in an effort to drive out foreign troops and disrupt the upcoming Afghan elections, scheduled for August 20.

Three of his fighters were killed last week in a fire fight with Swedish and Finnish troops who were on patrol 150 kilometres west of Mazar-i-Sharif as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Taliban supporters under Zamir’s command also have contact with other Taliban sympathizers in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said.

But the group’s orders originate with Mulla Omar, the leader of the Taliban who served as the de facto head of Afghanistan when the group ruled the country between 1995 and 2001.

Zamir explained that Taliban supporters would only be willing to lay down their weapons once foreign soldiers have left Afghanistan and current president Hamid Karzai agrees to share power with the guerilla group.

When asked what message he had for the Swedish people, Zamir urged them to remove their troops from Afghanistan.

“Take home your soldiers, your young men. You have nothing to gain here, only death,” he said.

He added, however, that Swedes and other foreigners would be welcomed by the Taliban under certain conditions.

“If you come without weapons to rebuild our poor, warn-torn country, you will be welcomed,” he told TT.

“If you are Muslims.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

US Sets Up Task Force to Stem Flow of Foreign Funds to Taliban

Insurgency is being fuelled by ‘massive amounts of money’ from supporters outside Afghanistan, says Obama envoy

Barack Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan today announced a new US campaign to try to stem the flow of foreign funds to the Taliban, money believed to be running into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, mainly from the Gulf Arab states.

Richard Holbrooke, the former Balkan peace enforcer appointed by the White House to lead a new US policy on Afghanistan and place greater emphasis on Pakistan, said most of the money fuelling the insurgency came from supporters abroad, including in western Europe, and exceeded the Taliban’s earnings from the opium and heroin trade.

The Taliban were the beneficiaries of “massive amounts of money from outside Afghanistan”, Holbrooke said.

He declined to put a figure on the external funds, but the opium poppy trade and heroin refining operations are estimated to net the Taliban at least $400m (£244m) every year.

Led by officials at the US treasury and including Pentagon, FBI and CIA personnel, a new “task force on drugs and money” will try to weaken the Islamist insurgents, Holbrooke said.

“The money is coming in from sympathisers from all over the world with the bulk of it appearing to come from the Gulf, not any money we know of coming from governments,” Holbrooke said. “Money is probably coming from sympathisers in western Europe as well. This is a huge problem.”

In Brussels to discuss the Afghan campaign and the refugee crisis in Pakistan’s Swat valley with senior EU and Nato officials, Holbrooke added that the Taliban used drug money locally to fund their operations in the “Pashtun belt”, but that the more significant financial support came from abroad.

Holbrooke also complained that the fate of 2 million refugees in Pakistan’s Swat valley was not being taken seriously enough in Europe, judging by the money being offered to deal with the crisis.

“This is more than a humanitarian crisis. This is a strategic issue as well. Those refugees are in the exact area where al-Qaida and the Taliban are, and it’s right up against the Afghan border,” he said.

He had repeatedly demanded of the Europeans that they “step up to the plate” and at least match the $335m the US has made available. The EU contribution so far is around half of that.

“In order to succeed in Afghanistan we have to have some degree of stability and control on the Pakistan side of the border … Right now, refugee relief assistance in Pakistan is the most urgent issue.”

Holbrooke refused to criticise reluctance in Europe to commit more troops to the war in Afghanistan, describing the dispute as “fruitless and unproductive”, but said that the Bush administration had bequeathed “kind of no strategy” on Afghanistan to the Obama White House.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Foils Smuggling of Missile-Use Material to N.Korea

Chinese customs authorities confiscated 70 kg of vanadium that North Korea tried to smuggle through China. Vanadium has defense and nuclear uses — alloys containing vanadium are used in missile casings — but it was not clear what the stash was to be used for.

Dandong News, a newspaper from the Chinese-North Korean border city of Dandong in Liaoning Province, on Tuesday said the local customs office seized vanadium hidden in six fruit boxes from a truck heading to North Korea last Saturday. The confiscated material was contained in 68 bottles hidden among fruit and is worth 200,000 yuan (W36 million, US$1=W1,238), it said.

Vanadium is resistant to corrosion by sulphuric and hydrochloric acid and strengthens steel. It is alloyed with steel to make jet engines, missile casings and superconducting magnets.

After North Korea carried out its second nuclear test on May 25, the UN Security Council, at the initiative of the U.S., passed tougher sanctions seeking to curb trade in missile-related materials. China, which backed the sanctions, is apparently tightening controls of such materials going to North Korea.

Ironically, the Chinese government prompted a complaint to the WTO from the U.S. and the EU on June 23 about its long-standing export restrictions on rare “strategic” metals, including vanadium, used in production of munitions and development of environment-friendly technologies.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Myanmar: Despite Sanctions, A Growth in Investment. China Has 87% of the Market

In the past fiscal year foreign investment in the former Burma hit almost one billion U.S. dollars. Six times greater than the year 2007 to 2008. The increase due to massive investment by Beijing, which continues to deal with the dictatorship in spite of sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Foreign investment in Myanmar has reached one billion dollars in the last fiscal year, six times higher than 2007 to 2008. Underlying this massive increase in investment is China, which has acquired a majority share of the market.

According to the Ministry for National Planning and Development, foreign investment has risen from 172 million U.S. dollars in 2007 — 2008, to the current 984.9 million. The report released yesterday points out that 87% of deals are signed with Chinese businesses or companies. Russia and Vietnam have invested in oil and natural gas, with a turnover amounting to 114 million dollars. Thailand focuses on the tourism and hospitality sector and has invested about 15 million dollars in its neighbour.

The data published by the Burmese Ministry reveal two significant points: first the sanctions imposed by the international community do not affect the ruling military junta in Myanmar. Indeed, it benefits from the foreign capital from countries that do not respect the economic and trade sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union, for the junta’s repeated violations of human rights. Then there is a further confirmation of the Chinese government policy which — in the name of economic growth and the principle of “non-interference” — trades without hesitation with regimes and dictatorships. In addition to Myanmar, there are Iran, Sudan and Venezuela.

The Burmese subsoil is rich in reserves of oil and gas, which together with wood and precious stones are the principal resources of the local economy. Chinese investment focuses in particular on energy and natural resources.

Despite the increase in the volume of business, nearly all of the Burmese people are living in extreme poverty and only the capital Naypydaw — wanted by the generals in a virtually inaccessible area — has electricity and energy supplies. Even the former capital Yangon lacks electricity for several hours of the day.

To meet energy demands the junta has signed a deal for the supply of 300 megawatts of electricity from Ruili, a town near the Chinese border with Myanmar. It — says the Mizzima News website — will serve to supply the industrial area of Mandalay, for the production of cars and trucks.

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

The First Protest of Foreigners in China: Nigerians Against the Police in Guangzhou

In a police chase two Nigerians jump from a second story window. One dies the other is seriously wounded. At least 200 Africans surround the police station. Episode sparked by the problem of visas, cancelled for security reasons before 1 October, 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The death of a Nigerian, fleeing from a police check on visas, has given rise to what is thought to be the first protest of foreigners in China. At least 200 Africans have surrounded a police station carrying the body of the dead man, demanding explanations from the police.

After the dead man, Emmanul Egisimba, was taken to the hospital, the African demonstrators blocked the entrance to the police station and the adjacent street. The curious thing is that according to the Africans — mostly Nigerians — their friend is dead, while police claim there was no death.

Eye-witness accounts reported by the South China Morning Post, say that Egisimba and another Nigerian, who were visiting a mall, took flight when the police tried to stop them to check their visas. The police chased them, cornering them on the second floor of the building. In all likelihood Egisimba threw himself from a height of 18 meters to escape capture, instead finding the death as he crashed to the ground. The other Nigerian also jumped, and suffered multiple fractures.

The police declared that the Nigerian “was doing illegal currency exchange”, and sustained a back injury while trying to break a window and climb out of the building. “Another foreigner” — continues the statement — “was seriously injured while jumping from the building”.

The demonstrators complain that as festivities for the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China draw near, their visas are not being renewed on grounds of safety.

According to the Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, there are at least 20 thousand Africans in the city, but there are many more illegal immigrants. They are make a living in trade, buying cheap goods directly from factories in Guangdong.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Alarm Over Somalia’s Child Soldiers

For years, warlords have conscripted children to fight in bitter conflicts over money, power and land. The BBC Somali service’s Mohamed Mohamed reveals widespread alarm that the practice is now becoming entrenched in Somalia.

Some are drugged, others brainwashed and some paid $50 (£30) for every month they fight.

Most people are frightened to speak openly, but those who can afford it are sending their children out of the country to safety.

An elderly man who did not want to be named publicly told how his 15-year-old son had vanished.

He said he had looked everywhere for his boy, and even asked the militant Islamist group al-Shabab whether they had seen him.

They said they had not, but he later found out that al-Shabab had convinced the boy to join their jihad so “he would go to heaven if he died”.


American jihadists

Even Somalis who live overseas are not safe from the child recruitment effort of the Islamists.

In the US state of Minnesota, some young men from the Somali community have been recruited to fight with al-Shabab, and have been killed.

In October last year, at least one of them, Shirwa Mohamed, carried out a suicide attack against security services in Bosasso in north-eastern Somalia.

Omar Jamal, a community leader in Minnesota, blames local jihadists’ influence on young people.

“They were targeting young, vulnerable boys at colleges and universities to indoctrinate them and tell them to join and fight the jihad,” he says.

“Some of them were provided with cash and Somali passports and they were persuaded to join this global jihadist ideology and they fall for it.

“We want this to come to an end and we want the US government to investigate.”

Meanwhile, the FBI is already looking into how and why these Somali youngsters choose to leave a comfortable life in the US for the dangerous conditions in Somalia.

A worker for a children’s rights group in Somalia says that, while using children as soldiers is not new, the scale, number and age of those involved is worrying.

Parents try to stop their children from being recruited — but the lack of schools or other activities as well as, in some cases, peer pressure makes it difficult.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Captives Freed in Nigerian City

Nigerian police have freed about 100 women and children being held by a radical Islamist sect in a building in the northern city of Maiduguri.

They told the BBC they had been held six days, living on dates and water.

Heavy fighting continues in Maiduguri where troops are besieging militants of the Boko Haram sect in an enclave.

Boko Haram is blamed for attacks on police stations and government sites in the north this week that led to the deaths of at least 150 people.

Boko Haram says it is fighting against Western education. It believes Nigeria’s government is being corrupted by Western ideas and wants to see Islamic law imposed across Nigeria.

President Umaru Yar’Adua earlier ordered Nigeria’s national security agencies to take all necessary action to contain and repel attacks by the extremists.

‘Foreign involvement’

Boko Haram is led by Mohammed Yusuf, who has his base in Maiduguri, capital of Borno province.

About 1,000 people are inside the Maiduguri enclave, according to the military.

Security forces flooded into Maiduguri and began attacking Mohammed Yusuf’s compound on Tuesday, shelling it with heavy weapons and exchanging gunfire with militants.

Fierce fighting continued through the night and into Wednesday.

The militants are well-armed and have been keeping up a steady stream of fire, the officer commanding the operation, Col Ben Ahanotu, told the BBC.

He said there were at least 250 armed men guarding Mohammed Yusuf’s home, which is also the headquarters of the sect.

Col Ahanotu also said papers and personal items found on the bodies of young men indicated that many had come from neighbouring Chad and Niger.

One Maiduguri resident, Adamu Yari, told Reuters news agency that soldiers and police were combing the whole city, searching house to house for Boko Haram followers.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Sudan ‘Trousers Trial’ Adjourned

The trial of a Sudanese woman charged with wearing “indecent” clothing has been adjourned, but will continue after she decided to waive her immunity.

A Khartoum judge told Lubna Ahmed Hussein she could have immunity because she works for the UN.

But Ms Hussein, who claims she was arrested for wearing trousers, said she wanted carry on with the trial because she wanted to get the law changed.

Under Sudanese law she could face 40 lashes if she is found guilty.

“I wish to resign from the UN, I wish this court case to continue,” she told a packed courtroom.

The woman — a journalist who works for the UN mission in Sudan — had invited journalists and observers to the trial.

She was arrested in a restaurant in the capital with other women earlier this month for wearing “indecent” clothing.

‘Unconstitutional law’

She said 10 of the women arrested with her, including non-Muslims, each received 10 lashes and a fine.

Ms Hussein and two other women asked for a lawyer, delaying their trials.

She says she has done nothing wrong under Sharia law, but could fall foul of a paragraph in Sudanese criminal law which forbids indecent clothing.

“I want to change this law, because hitting is not human, and also it does not match with Sharia law,” she told the BBC.

The BBC’s James Copnall in Khartoum says Ms Hussein is determined to generate as much publicity as she can.

Meanwhile another female journalist who wrote an article supporting Ms Hussein has been charged with defaming the police, which can carry a hefty fine.

Amal Habbani wrote an article for Ajrass Al-Horreya newspaper following the arrests entitled “Lubna, a case of subduing a woman’s body”.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Swedish Youth Dead in Somalia

Another young Swedish-Somali man has been killed in the conflict in Somalia. According to the Swedish Security Service, he died in the beginning of July after being recruited in Sweden by the militia Al Shabab.

It’s well known in the Somali community that the group, which may have ties to terrorist network Al Qaida, has been recruiting youth in Sweden. Al Shabab has been especially active in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby, where a large number of Sweden’s Somali population lives.

Kadafi Hussein, youth leader at a Rinkeby community center, told SR International that he saw four young men recruit Somalis in a public square. “They talked about jihad and what was happening in Somalia. That it was right to go there, and that they’d help you out with a plane ticket if you needed it.”

According to Malena Rembe of the Swedish Security Service, the Swedish-Somali man who died in Somalia had lived in Sweden since he was very young. This type of radicalization may pose a danger for Sweden, she says.

“We fear that that they’ll develop a network, and get experience and training in Somalia that they can then use in Sweden [to plan terrorist attacks] when they come back.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


24 Land in Calabria

(ANSAmed) — AFRICO (REGGIO CALABRIA), JULY 27 — Twenty-four Kurdish migrants, including four women and two children, arrived on the Calabrian coastline this morning onboard a motorised fishing boat which ran aground near Bianco, in the Locride area. The 24 migrants are all doing well and have said that they are from Iraq and Iran. The boat they arrived in Calabria with, called ‘Istanbul’, was sailing under a Greek flag. Italian carabinieri, police and Customs police went to the site of the landing and brought in the migrants, who will in the course of the day be transferred to the Isola Capo Rizzuto temporary detention centre near Crotone. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

African Refugees and Illegal Migrants ‘Terrorize’ Arad

( Residents of the northern Negev city of Arad told Knesset Member Uri Ariel (National Union) on Sunday that the dramatically increasing population of legal and illegal refugees in the city was “making their lives miserable.” Illegal immigration to Israel has increased by approximately 1,000 percent in just three years, with over 7,500 people known to have entered Israel illicitly in 2008.

MK Ariel proposed that the newly formed Oz Immigration Authority, which is in the midst of a nationwide crackdown on illegal migrant workers, concentrate its efforts on Arad as well. Some elements of Israeli society, however, oppose the Oz campaign, saying it forces refugees back into the life-threatening situations from which they may have come.

Police figures show that the illegal migrant workers in the nation’s south are primarily from Eritrea, indicating a primarily economic motive, as well as from Somalia and other African states. Legally recognized refugees who have arrived in previous years, on the other hand, include significant numbers of Sudanese who fled the Arab-Muslim genocide of non-Muslims and Muslim Blacks in Darfur. Some of the latter, however, may not be authentic refugees and may even include some perpetrators of the massacres seeking new lives elsewhere.

Both legal and illegal migrants have been a source of increasing crime and violence in Arad, with many veteran residents claiming that it is no longer safe to walk through the center of town at night. The nearly 2,000 Africans have also found themselves in economic competition with local Bedouin tribes in the labor market, which has sometimes spilled into violent clashes between the two groups. Eilat and the Dead Sea area are also faced with the issue of crime by migrants.

One reason the phenomenon is largely confined to the southern region is the Israeli policy of keeping migrants from settling north of Gedera, in the highly populated coastal plain (referred to as the area from “Gedera to Hadera”). An Arad citizen’s group has recently been founded with the aim of pressuring the government to distribute the burden of the African refugees equally. As of 2009, more than 100 children of African refugees have been absorbed into Arad public schools, and the municipality provides their families needed health and welfare services.

The Arad citizens’ advocacy group is in favor of tightening law enforcement initiatives to find and expel illegal migrant workers. The illegals have no health care, no welfare and are often without permanent housing, leading to crime, vandalism, drunkenness and loitering.

Anger over the situation has led growing numbers of Arad residents to consider leaving the city. Two new churches were built in recent years as migrants hooked up with local missionary and Christian groups. This, as one Arad resident told Israel National News, in a city that did not have a single church despite the large percentage of non-Jewish Russian immigrants.

In addition to the economic impact and the increasing crime rate, residents of the south have raised the potential for a security threat stemming from the Muslim migrants. There is a danger of some of them becoming radicalized, as well as the possibility that jihadists have already made their way into Israel under cover of economic or political migration.

In response to the increasing infiltrations from Africa, IDF troops are taking more swift measures to apprehend and immediately expel those found illegally crossing the Israeli frontier with Egypt.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Australia: Reporter Attacked During Migration Scam Probe

A young Indian reporter has been attacked after going undercover to reveal migration and education scams for tonight’s Four Corners program. The woman was subjected to threats during the making of the program and was attacked over the weekend. Police have been notified.

The reporter went to two different migration agents posing as someone wanting to pass an English Language Test without having the skills, and said she was willing to buy a fake work certificate. She was able to do both if she paid between $3,000 and $5,000.

It is not suggested the migration agents nor the colleges identified in the Four Corners program are behind either the threats or the attack.

Some Indian students, principally in Melbourne and Sydney, have been subjected to violent attacks which have tainted Australia’s reputation as an education provider.

But tonight’s Four Corners program will reveal more details on how Indian students are being exploited by dodgy colleges and unscrupulous migration and education agents. The allegations on tonight’s program expose a number of cases where students have lost tens of thousands of dollars.

Prabmeet Singh is one of about 70,000 Indian students who come to Australia to study each year. His family spent more than $40,000 on a course at the Sydney flying school, Aerospace Aviation. His mother, Pushpinder Kaur, says the family is now broke and her son still has no pilot’s licence. “It is a fraud. We were shown so many rosy pictures about the school and it is not what it is really, it was just a scam,” she said. “I think the Government should be more alert in these type of matters because it is the career of the children which is at stake.”


Tonight’s Four Corners program also reveals unscrupulous practices by migration and education agents. Karl Konrad, an education and migration agent based in Sydney, says he has been aware of a black market in dodgy documents for years. “I had many students come to my offices and say, ‘oh I can buy letters for $3,000 at particular restaurants’,” he said. “They didn’t name the restaurants, but I was getting many of these type of stories. [So] we sent that information to the Immigration Department and they in turn thanked us for the information and said they would pass it on to Trades Recognition Australia. “Nothing ever became of that.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Calais Migrant ‘Cried Rape as Revenge Against People Smuggler Who Failed to Get Her Into Britain’

A young woman migrant who claims to have been raped may have made up the attack to get ‘revenge’ on a people smuggler, police say.

The alleged victim, an Iraqi Kurd, described by police as ‘in her 20s and extremely good looking’ is believed to have been negotiating a price for illegal passage to England before claiming she was attacked close to a Calais squatter camp known as ‘The Jungle’.

The woman — who cannot be named for legal reasons — claims she was dragged into a ‘dark place’ before being punched and then raped.

Welcome to the jungle: Asylum seekers in Calais queue for food handouts. France has pledged to raise the camp to the ground — as early as September

When she tried to scream, the man held her mouth and told her to ‘Shut up’, she claimed.

But despite a criminal enquiry being launched, a medical examination of the woman found no signs of physical abuse or DNA evidence.

In another possible example of the increasing desperation of those gathering in northern France as they try to get to England, detectives even suggested she might have made the attack up.

People smugglers charge up to £1,000 cash for the short journey across the Channel, and violence often breaks out over deals.

‘It’s possible that the smuggler did not manage to get her to the United Kingdom after she paid a lot of money, and so she accused him of rape,’ said one police source.

He added: ‘She’s a slight, extremely pretty woman, and not the type who would be able to fight a grown man.’

Jean-Philippe Joubert, Public Prosecutor for nearby Boulogne, said: ‘At the end of last week this young woman presented herself to police in Calais.

‘She spoke through an interpreter and claimed that the attack happened a few days beforehand.

‘That said, it’s necessary to treat this witness statement with a lot of care.

‘She filed a complaint which accused a people smuggler. She was not able to furnish us with much more information.’

Mr Joubert confirmed that the woman had been taken to hospital in Calais, where she was examined by a doctor who found no evidence of an attack.

Tests failed to find any traces of another person’s DNA, although Mr Joubert conceded it may have ‘disappeared’ since the alleged crime.

Judicial Police from Coquelles are investigating.

The attack is said to have taken place early last week in a makeshift tent or thicket in woodland next to the Marcel-Doret industrial estate, a few hundred yards from ‘The Jungle’.

An identity parade has since been organised, with photographs of suspected people smugglers also being shown to the woman.

She has described her attacker as being in his 30s and of Asian appearance.

In a separate incident, last October Sher Hassan Jaabar, in his 20s and an illegal migrant from Pakistan, was charged with the rape of a London journalism student two months before.

Jaabar, who also uses the name Afsnar Navaz, is expected to go on trial later this year.

He denies rape, saying he was just another Calais migrant whose ‘only dream is to settle in Britain.’

Crime is on the increase in and around illegal migrant camps, with Britons arriving in Calais to take the ferry to Dover saying they have been held up at knifepoint.

France has pledged to raze ‘The Jungle’ to the ground by the end of the year, with local officials currently suggesting that it will be destroyed as soon as September 21st.

Although the majority of illegal migrants around Calais are men, the number of women and children has increased in recent months.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Wanted Asylum Seekers Fled Country

Faced with deportation back to a worn-torn country, many Iraqi asylum seekers have fled Denmark Danish police cannot find 44 of the Iraqi asylum seekers facing forced repatriation to Iraq

Refugee support organisation Asylret says more than half of the missing Iraqi asylum seekers have left the country.

Since the repatriation agreement between Denmark and Iraq was signed in May, Iraqi authorities have accepted 54 Iraqis seeking asylum in Denmark. They have turned down 62 because of discrepancies with their identification.

About 80 rejected Iraqi asylum seekers have since the repatriation agreement was signed have been staying in Brorsons Church in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen. There has been no sign of the 44 being sought by police, who have searched both the Sandholm and Avnstrup asylum camps for them.

The refugees are required to report to asylum authorities twice a week, retrieve their mail every third day and collect a supplementary income check every two weeks. If they break this pattern, they are considered missing by the National Police, who then put out an arrest warrant for them.

Asylret has been working closely with the asylum seekers and checking their cases to see if they warrant further attention. Just last week, they were informed of an attempted suicide by one of the rejected at the Sandholm centre following the deaths of his family in Iraq in a suicide bombing.

‘How long must irresponsible and rotten Danish politicians be allowed to pretend that Iraq is a peaceful country and on the back of that send Iraqi refugees to a country plagued by civil war, terror and chaos,’ an Asylret spokesman said. Three of the missing asylum seekers were detained by German police a couple of weeks ago as they tried to cross the Danish-German border. They are being held in the closed section of the Sandholm camp awaiting repatriation. Six of their compatriots have already been repatriated to Iraq.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Greece: Conflicting Signals for Migrants

As Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlo-poulos heralded a multifaceted program aimed at integrating immigrants into Greek society, reports from Patra revealed that hundreds of migrants evicted from a dismantled makeshift settlement were sleeping rough across the western port city.

Pavlopoulos yesterday announced a program of social integration for migrants, including Greek language and history lessons for migrant mothers and a public awareness campaign aimed at averting a likely racist backlash against a burgeoning migrant population. The minister also revealed that the European Commission has earmarked 26.2 million euros to help Greece deal with migration. Of this, 3.46 million euros is said to have been set aside for this year, Pavlopoulos said. It was unclear what proportion would go toward the social integration program and what toward plans for the creation of new migrant reception centers, of which the government is said to be planning five. One of these centers is slated for construction in Rio, in the Peloponnese, but the project has stalled due to opposition by local residents. The plan had been for a center in Rio to accommodate hundreds of migrants who had been squatting in a makeshift settlement near the port of Patra until earlier this month when police razed the camp. Now more than 200 migrants, mostly Afghans, are said to be sleeping rough, some near the railway station, others on patches of wasteland.

The fate of the migrants in Patra was broached by the Geneva-based Human Rights Watch yesterday. HRW expressed its concern for “several Afghans… now homeless… hiding in abysmal conditions out of fear of being arrested.” It also objected to reports regarding the transfer of a group of migrants from the island of Chios to Evros. “We fear that people are being prevented from seeking asylum… and that migrants are kept in unacceptable detention conditions and possibly even being secretly expelled to Turkey,” said HRW’s Bill Frelick.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ireland: HSE Sends Emergency Phrase Books to Every Acute Hospital

EMERGENCY PHRASE books have been sent to every acute hospital in the State to help frontline staff communicate with patients who cannot speak English.

The Emergency Multilingual Aid packs, which are intended for use before the services of an interpreter are requested, were produced in response to difficulties reported by staff in dealing with newly arrived immigrants.

They include phrase books in 20 languages, from Arabic to Urdu, language identification cards and a manual containing guidelines for staff on using interpreters.

Alice O’Flynn, the HSE’s assistant national director for social inclusion, described it as a “hands-on toolkit” for staff in emergency and acute settings to help communicate with people with limited English proficiency. The packs have been sent to all acute public hospitals in the past fortnight.

“We have had a lot of interest in the [packs] from our colleagues who deliver healthcare in the community, such as primary care teams — GPs, public health nurses, dentists — mental health and social workers, where they would see many patients and service users who do not speak English as their first language,” Ms O’Flynn said.

“So the potential for them to be adapted and used throughout the entire healthcare system is enormous.”

She added that the HSE had also been contacted by some of its international counterparts who were interested in the initiative.

Last year the HSE published an intercultural strategy to adapt services to cater for the cultural and linguistic diversity of its users.

In the catchment area of one of the major Dublin hospitals, for example, there are 60 ethnic groupings, 25 per cent of AE attendances are patients from minority ethnic backgrounds and staff members come from 42 different countries.

Sioban O’Brien Green of Akidwa, an African women’s network, said immigrants’ lack of knowledge about the health service was often compounded by the language barrier.

“I have just finished facilitating a group down in Cork and about a third of the group did not have English as a first language and had very poor English. We had 22 women in our group with 12 different languages,” she said.

“I can imagine if they had to present for any kind of emergency procedure, it would just be a nightmare . . .

“It certainly comes up very often in our consultations with women — not being familiar with services and not being able to communicate effectively.”

The HSE’s intercultural strategy last year recommended the establishment of a national interpretation service to improve services provided to immigrants across the State.

It suggested that current fragmented services were causing distress to non-English speakers and health workers and there was pressing need for a standardised system.

The new packs contain guidelines for staff on using interpreters. They advise against using other staff members or a patient’s family or friends to interpret.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Spain: Voluntary Re-Entry Plan Flops

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 28 — Only 5,458 immigrants took part in the government’s programme to voluntarily return to their country of origin in the first 6 months of 2009. The figures were released by the Ministry for Labour and Immigration, quoted today by the daily newspaper La Vanguardia. The results of the two state programmes show that they have substantially failed: in six years only 8,500 immigrants chose to leave Spain and return home, on the basis of the 2003 voluntary humanitarian plan for the re-entry of refugees, asylum seekers and people unable to integrate in Spain. On the other hand, the voluntary re-entry programme due to unemployment, which provides for the immigrant receiving a one-off state benefit payment, provided that he or she gives up his/her permit to stay and work and that he or she is not allowed to re-enter Spain for three years, has received even scarcer adhesion. In the first six months of the year, only 5,088 immigrants presented applications to return to their countries of origin. Only 3,977 were accepted. A drop in the ocean considering that, when the voluntary re-entry programme due to unemployment was launched in 2008, the government had predicted around 100,000 applications. Even more so when you consider that foreigners in Spain (5.5 million people which is 12% of the population) have been amongst the worst hit in the last year by the economic crisis and the collapse of the job market. Some 221,000 lost their jobs between July 2008 (when 2,151,880 immigrants were registered with social security) and June 2009 (when the number registered had fallen to 1,929,837). The people who are deciding to give up their permits to stay in Spain and return to their country of origin are mainly Bolivians, followed by Argentineans, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Chileans, Brazilians and Uruguayans and, to a lesser extent, Ukrainians and Russians. The people most resistant to leaving Spain are people from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan countries. Some 83% of Moroccans in Spain (estimated to be 729,000) do not trust the plans promoted by the Spanish government. According to the Association of Immigrant Workers in Spain (ATIME), the programme is “financial blackmail and highlights the worsening of immigration policies by the government in Madrid.” People who decide to return to their country of origin due to the financial crisis or because they do not have a job, do it off their own back, in order not to close the door on a potential reintegration into the Spanish job market in the future. “They are returning to Casablanca or Rabat, but without losing sight of Madrid or Barcelona,” explains Kamal Ramuni, president of ATIME. “They simply jump in their cars, head south, get to Algerisas and cross over the strait on the ferry to get to Morocco. So that, whenever they decide to, they are free to return to Spain.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Afghan Teens in Swedish Asylum Limbo

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Note the variety of comments on the page — more than I’ve seen for any other Local article.]

A wave of teenage Afghan refugees has arrived in Malmö and other Swedish cities in recent weeks. Many remain in limbo as most Swedish municipalities refuse to accept them.

During the past week a record 64 juveniles have arrived in Sweden, according to Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) figures, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports.

In the southern Swedish city of Malmö alone, 45 teenagers have arrived and applied for asylum over the past fortnight.

They are among the 250 teenagers and children housed in reception centres around Sweden, 84 of which are in Malmö. Many have been in limbo for several months due to a chronic shortage of available places in other municipalities.

Of Sweden’s 290 municipalities, only 100 have signed agreements with the Migration Board to accept refugees.

The Migration Board’s head Dan Eliasson has joined the migration minister Tobias Billström in calling on municipalities’ local councils to take on a greater share of the burden.

“The situation demands that more municipalities sign agreements to help the most vulnerable. The municipalities claim that they lack expertise. But these kids are not from Mars. Their problems do not differ from those that other teenagers can need help with,” Dan Eliasson said to the newspaper.

The flow of teenage boys, mostly from Afghanistan and Somalia, taking their chances on treacherous journeys to Europe has been increasing recently as conflicts escalate in their home countries.

One recent arrival to Sweden is 13-year-old Mehdi Heidari, who began his journey from Afghanistan seven months ago.

“My father was murdered by the Taliban,” he told DN.

“The Taliban tries to recruit all the boys to their schools. They offer food and shelter. If you don’t accept, things can get violent. They hit my fingers with a hammer.”

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) many of those arriving in European countries have taken up to a year to complete their journeys, living on the fringes of society in the countries they pass en route.

When they arrive at their destinations many do not bother to apply for asylum and continue to live outside of formal society and accurate statistics are therefore difficult to compile.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Hundreds of Thousands of Migrants Here for Handouts, Says Senior Judge

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants come to Britain just to get welfare benefits, a senior judge declared yesterday.

Judge Ian Trigger said the cost of the handouts has helped to double the national debt.

He spoke out as he gave a two-year jail sentence to a Jamaican drug minder who disappeared from the notice of immigration authorities after claiming asylum.

He told Lucien McClearley, 31, at Liverpool Crown Court: ‘Your case illustrates all too clearly the completely lax immigration policy that exists and has existed over recent years.’

Sentencing McClearley, he added: ‘People like you, and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people like you, come to these shores to avail themselves of the generous welfare benefits that exist here.

‘In the past ten years the national debt of this country has risen to extraordinary heights, largely because central Government has wasted billions of pounds. Much of that has been wasted on welfare payments.

‘For every £1 that the decent citizen, who is hard-working, pays in taxes, nearly 10 per cent goes on servicing that national debt. That is twice the amount it was in 1997 when this Government came to power.’

McClearley arrived legally in Britain in November 2001 on a visitor’s visa.

He was arrested in October 2002 after it ran out but claimed asylum and was released while this was being processed.

He then ‘disappeared from the radar of the authorities’, the court heard. His application was rejected in 2004 but he was only arrested this February after police stopped a car he was driving and noticed it smelled of cannabis.

A search of the house where McClearley was staying in Everton uncovered cannabis worth £7,200, a gram of cocaine and a fake passport.

He admitted taking a vehicle without consent, possessing cannabis and cocaine, possessing a class-B drug with intent and two counts of possessing false identity documents.

Judge Trigger, who is also a part-time immigration judge, told McClearley: ‘The fact that it took nearly two years to process your claim shows how desperate the situation in this country has become.’

The 65-year-old judge said he ‘hoped and trusted’ McClearley would be deported immediately on release.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Nurse ‘Forced’ To Help Abort

Faith Objector Sues Mt. Sinai

A Brooklyn nurse claims she was forced to choose between her religious convictions and her job when Mount Sinai Hospital ordered her to assist in a late-term abortion against her will.

The hospital even exaggerated the patient’s condition and claimed the woman could die if the nurse, a devout Catholic, did not follow orders, the nurse alleges in a lawsuit.

“It felt like a horror film unfolding,” said Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, 35, who claims she has had gruesome nightmares and hasn’t been able to sleep since the May 24 incident.

The married mother of a year-old baby was 30 minutes into her early-morning shift when she realized she had been assigned to an abortion. She begged her supervisor to find a replacement nurse for the procedure. The hospital had a six-hour window to find a fill-in, the suit says.

Bosses told the weeping Cenzon-DeCarlo the patient was 22 weeks into her pregnancy and had preeclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure that can lead to seizures or death if left untreated.

The supervisor “claimed that the mother could die if [Cenzon-DeCarlo] did not assist in the abortion.”

But the nurse, the niece of a Filipino bishop, contends that the patient’s life was not in danger. She argued that the patient was not even on magnesium therapy, a common treatment for preeclampsia, and did not have problems indicating an emergency.

Her pleas were rejected, and instead she was threatened with career-ending charges of insubordination and patient abandonment, according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.

Feeling threatened, Cenzon-DeCarlo assisted in the procedure.

She said she later learned that the hospital’s own records deemed the procedure “Category II,” which is not considered immediately life threatening.

“I felt violated and betrayed,” she recalled. “I couldn’t believe that this could happen.”

A native of the Philippines, Cenzon-DeCarlo moved to New York in 2001 and started at Mount Sinai on the East Side as an operating-room nurse in 2004. During her job interview, an administrator asked Cenzon-DeCarlo whether she’d be willing to participate in abortions. She flatly said no.

The nurse said she put her beliefs in writing.

The day after the procedure, Cenzon-DeCarlo filed a grievance with her union. Later that week, she was cornered by two supervisors who told her if she wanted any more overtime shifts, she would have to sign a statement agreeing to participate in abortions, the suit says.

The next month, Cenzon-DeCarlo was assigned to one overtime shift, rather than the eight or nine she usually received, the suit claims.

Although the Brooklyn resident is still working at Mount Sinai, she’s asking a court to order the hospital to pay unspecified damages, restore her shifts and respect her objections to abortion.

“I emigrated to this country in the belief that here religious freedom is sacred,” Cenzon-DeCarlo said. “Doctors and nurses shouldn’t be forced to abandon their beliefs and participate in abortion in order to keep their jobs.”

Providing legal advice for her action is the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian group seeking to put a national spotlight on the case. The suit also seeks to force Mount Sinai to give up federal funding it receives, because it failed to uphold a federal rule protecting employees who have moral objections to controversial procedures.

Mount Sinai said it would not comment.

Galen Sherwin, the director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Rights Project, said the case centered on whether a medical emergency existed.

“The law provides protections for individuals who object to performing abortions, but at the same time, health-care professionals are not permitted to abandon patients,” Sherwin said.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Stanford University Punishes Dissent When Training Teachers

Michele Kerr has had a harder year than most aspiring math teachers. For her, the math was easy and the teaching was a snap. The problem was the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP).

Once administrators found out she didn’t fully share what she calls the “progressive” teaching philosophy that is pervasive at STEP and education schools nationwide, they tried to thwart her career.

In March 2008, Kerr attended an open house for admitted students and stated her concern about paying big bucks to learn a teaching philosophy that strongly differed from her own. Soon she found herself in the director’s office being told that she should reconsider attending STEP.

A misdirected e-mail revealed that STEP officials were planning to “strategize” with the program’s lawyer, apparently to revoke Kerr’s admission. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), where I direct the defense program, wrote Stanford’s president and received assurance that Kerr would be allowed to start school after all.

Kerr started a blog to record her thoughts and experiences. Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and John Dewey’s “Experiential Education” were among the many targets. The School of Education started investigating.

One day she was reprimanded for mentioning her students — anonymously — and identifying herself as a Stanford student. But nobody else was being investigated, Stanford had no rules about blogging and another blogger extolled by Stanford was revealing far more about his own students. To avoid further trouble, Kerr password-protected her blog and even removed all references to Stanford.

That wasn’t good enough for STEP. An associate dean hounded her for the password so that he could investigate whether she was breaking any rules. He made sure to communicate his concerns to the principal of the school where she had been working.

Kerr really set off a firestorm in November with her Classroom Management Plan, which stated, “My guiding doctrine in forming classroom community can safely be considered a complete rejection of progressive education doctrine.” This likely led the director to start building a case for kicking her out of school.

In a formal letter in December, the director and associate dean made clear that they were following the guidelines titled “Regarding Suitability for the Practice of Teaching.” They were amassing a laundry list of minor infractions that would give them reasons to deny Kerr her degree.

What were the crimes? “Intimidating” her classmates by standing up for herself when she learned that some of them had complained privately about her views.

After FIRE wrote the president again and Kerr filed grievances, senior Stanford administrators intervened and guaranteed her fair treatment. She got new supervisors and graduated successfully June 14.

But the story wasn’t over, for Kerr didn’t have a job. The associate dean may have poisoned the waters at her school. The new principal chose not to hire her despite rosy reviews from the math department.

A few weeks ago, Kerr finally landed a job teaching math and humanities. The school year starts Aug. 18. So far, it seems that her high school has a healthier tolerance for debate than Stanford University’s teaching program. The lesson for aspiring teachers who have doubts about the latest trends in education schools is that you can fight and win, but don’t expect many favors.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UN Allows Gay, Lesbian Group to Join Debates

GENEVA — The United Nations granted official status to a gay and lesbian organization from Brazil on Monday, allowing it to participate in U.N. meetings ranging from health to human rights.

The victory for the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transsexuals marks the third consecutive year the U.N. Economic and Social Council has overturned a decision by a 19-country committee blocking gay groups from participating in the global body’s debates.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


heroyalwhyness said...

re: Dogs Are Considered Unclean in Islam So a Pony Fills in / Tiny horse gives US Muslim new life perspective

Muslim cabbies tried to prevent seeing eye dogs from entering their vehicles and lost.

Can a horse fit in a cab? And how many passengers will a horse
displace on a train, subway, bus or (dare I ask) plane?

The horse has the potential to cause all kinds of safety hazards - including biohazards through bodily waste/not to mention slip/fall - or by obstructing access to emergency exits.

Consider how little it takes to spook a horse and the enormity of hazard a panicked horse can

Can transit organizations afford to
permit/inflict this totally unnecessary insanity upon normal society?

For what it's worth, here is a video which demonstrates and thoroughly explains the speed and damage done by a trained horse that was easily spooked - simply by the sounds of his own hooves.

Horse Kicks
Rider's Face

Now, consider the potential for danger to all, including
the blind muslima, in any confined public environment, including shopping malls, schools, elevators etc. where any sudden movement or sound, be it from a siren,
fire-cracker, back-firing vehicle, bell, speaker, drill, jack-hammer, cell phone even a barking
dog has the potential to spook this horse.

This is just a very very bad

Zenster said...

heroyalwhyness: Can a horse fit in a cab?.


Dedicated to Paco.