Friday, August 14, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/14/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/14/2009Tonight’s news feed is the largest ever — 118 items. I don’t know whether this just happens to be an especially news-rich day, or whether perhaps some of our tipsters have returned from their vacations in tropical lagoons and mountain hideaways, and are now reapplying their noses to the grindstone.

You’ll find three or four stories below about the twice-hijacked Russian ship. It has been located off the Cape Verde Islands, and there is speculation whether this is a run-of-the-mill piracy case — rare in that part of the world — or something more convoluted involving a particularly valuable cargo of contraband. One report says that the pirates demand a ransom of $1.5 million.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Diana West, Earl Cromer, Gaia, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, Thrasymachus, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Anglo-Saxons and Hedge Funds: Culprits or Scapegoats?
Fannie Mae and D.C.
Germany and France Show Signs of Recovery
Gov. Haley Barbour: Obamacare is Going Too Far, Too Soon, Too Fast, And Costing Too Much
A Slow-Motion Honor Killing
AARP Wields Power in Health Debate
According to an MD — Part 1 of Obama Care Was Already Passed Last February!
Blind US Muslim Woman Uses Tiny Horse as Guide
Clermont Police Interview Suspect in Obama ‘Joker’ Posters
CNN Gives Boot to Talk Radio Hosts
Diana West: Lux Et Dhimmitude, Cont’d
Every Year, Thousands of Americans Join Aarp Before They Realize Those Discounts Come With a Lot of Heavy Baggage.
Father of Muslim Teen Who Converted and Fled to Florida: I Did Not Threaten My Daughter
Gov. Rick Perry: Tort Reform Must be Part of Health Care Reform
HR 2749 Authorizes International Take-Over of Domestic Food Production
Massive Campaign for Obama Hits Air
National Guard Reveals ‘Internment’ Job Sites
Obama’s Environmental Czar Started Group Targeting Beck
Obama’s Tone-Deaf Health Campaign
Panel Fact Checks Obama’s Statements About Health Care
Roadblocks Devised to Push Back Against Health Care Town Hall Protesters
The ‘Messiah’ Has Lost His Mojo
Town Halls Burst With Obama ‘Plants’
Tulsa Federal Judge Rules Poultry Litter is Solid Waste
Widespread Use of Psychiatric Drugs on Foster Kids
Europe and the EU
Biker Gang Member Shot Dead in Berlin
Czech Rep: Czech Cssd Leader Against People From Other Cultures’ Employment
Denmark: Police Targeted in Vollsmose
Denmark: Police Dodge Bullets
Denmark: Church Iraqis on Hunger Strike
Denmark: Despite Protests, Most Support Police
France: Opposing the Mosque in Bayonne
Germany: Small Muslim Group Opens Up to Outsiders
Germany’s Highest Criminal Court Dismisses Appeal in Terror Case
Greece: Released Mink Go Wild in Northern Greece
Greens Remove Campaign Poster Featuring Bare Buttocks
Hijacked Ship Found Off Africa’s Coast
Ireland: Cox Says McCreevy Claim on Lisbon ‘Groundless’
Ireland: Stay-at-Home Mums Victims of State Injustice
Italy: Curia Cancels Opera Performace
Italy: Locals Force Priest to Ring Bells
Italy Welcomes Nazi Crime Verdict
Missing Ship ‘Found’ Off Africa
Mystery of the Arctic Sea: Ship Feared Seized by Pirates in European Waters
Netherlands: Security Leak Makes Phone Numbers Public
Netherlands: New Row Over Rotterdam’s Islamic Advisor
Netherlands: Ramadan Criticised Over Iran Connection
Portugal: Search Continues for Freighter Seized by Pirates
Ramadan: Italy, Lombardy Day Labourers Obliged to Drink Water
Ramadan Under Fire for Iranian TV Job
Spain-Portugal: Police Cooperation Centre Opened
Sweden: Uppsala Father Gets Two Years in Prison
Sweden: ‘Super Bunker’ Houses Sweden’s Top Criminals
UK: Cancer Patients Denied Life-Saving ‘Near-Label’ Drugs
UK: David Cameron Turns on MEP Daniel Hannan for Anti-NHS Tour in America
UK: Gypsy Convoy Invades Site… Just Hours After Council Evicts Travellers Following Six-Year Battle Costing £400,000
UK: Jim Fitzpatrick, Government Minister, Condemns Traditional Muslim Wedding
UK: Labour’s Jobs Miracle Has Been a Disaster for a Whole Generation
UK: Mother Goes on the Run Across Europe After Social Workers Try to Snatch Her Son
UK: NHS Attack by MEP ‘Unpatriotic’
UK: Officers Go Back to School to Learn Urdu (Rochdale)
UK: Off-Duty Police Officer Was Sexually Assaulted in Cinema
UK: Sensationalism is a Gift to Extremists
Vatican: Pope Urged to Celebrate Mass in Rome Prison
Violence Against Officers on the Rise, German Police Union Says
Kosovo: Territory ‘A High Priority’ Says NATO Chief
North Africa
Algeria: Goodbye Islamic Weekend, Stop on Friday-Saturday
Egypt Makes First Arrest Over Female Circumcision
Israel and the Palestinians
Fatah Change, Barghuti in and Arafat Era Ends
Interesting Times: The Power of Truth
Kidnapped Soldier Claim, No Confirmation
Oslo Revisited: Are the Fundamental Assumptions Still Valid?
Rafah Gun-Battle Goes on, 16 Killed, 120 Wounded
Texas Gov. Compares Gaza to Mexico
Middle East
Iran: Two Iranian Women Arrested for Converting to Christianity
Iraqis Protest Govt Clampdown on Free Speech
Israel Asks Syria for News on Soldier and Releases Prisoner
Jordan: Religious Council Bans Virginity Tests
Jordan: Rape Victim Killed by Uncle to Cleanse Family Honour
Kuwait Braces for Increased Power Cuts During Ramadan
Lebanon: Three Injured in Bomb Attack in Northern Port Cist
OIC Islamophobia Observatory Urges Danish Galleri Drauppner to Cancel Exhibition of Blasphemous Cartoon
Saudi Activist: Gender Equality, The First Step to a True Social Development
Saudi Arabia: A Minor Wedding to 70 Year Old Man
Syria: US Military Delegation and Mitchell Envoy Arrive
Terrorism: Kuwaiti Refinery Targeted by Al Qaeda
Dagestan: Seven Women Shot Dead in Sauna
South Asia
Afghanistan: Taliban Now Winning
Asia: Chinese Essay Sparks Outcry in India
India: No Nuke Cargo on N. Korea Ship
India: Govt to Holbrooke: Can’t Just Walk in and Out of India
Indonesia Gripped by Terror Psychosis as Manhunt for Noordin Continues
Myanmar: UN Fails to Slam Conviction
Pakistan: Taliban Militants Clash With Rivals in Border Region
Row Over the Indian Government’s Economic Programme
Far East
China: Tan Zuoren Tried: He Sought the Truth About the Death of Thousands of Schoolchildren
Philippines: Muslim Rebels Killed in Army Attack
S. Korea: [Editorial] Recall Vote for Jeju Governor
S.Korean’s Release is Not the End of the Matter
Why Did N. Korea Release Hyundai Asan Worker?
Australia — Pacific
NZ: PM Flexible on Anti-Smacking Law
Plan to Change Punjab Place to Oak Tree Place in Logan
Sub-Saharan Africa
Egyptians Escape Somali Pirates
Boat Rescue Off Malta, Baby on Board
Finland: Professor: Position of Foreign Berry Pickers Unconstitutional
Mark Steyn: We Can’t Talk About Immigration
Patrols and Crime of Illegal Immigration, New Rules in Italy
Speaking in Mexico, Obama Calls American Opponents of Immigration Amnesty ‘Demagogues’
USA: Student Held as Family Takes Citizenship Oath
Culture Wars
Canadian Doughnut Mogul Walks Away From Marriage Day
Euthanasia Advocates Authored Part of Obamacare
‘Hate Crimes’ Brings Pro-’Gay’ Cash to Your Town
Mandatory ‘Gay’ Lessons Spark Lawsuit
School Officials Face Jail Time for Meal-Time Prayers
UK: Abortions on Under-14s Revealed
End-Times Muslim Beheadings on the Rise
Prophet Mohammed: A Pioneer of the Environment
UN Chief’s Warning — The End of the World is Nigh!

Financial Crisis

Anglo-Saxons and Hedge Funds: Culprits or Scapegoats?

Disasters often provoke unseemly bouts of finger-pointing. This has certainly been true of the global financial crisis. In the Anglo-Saxon world, libertarians have blamed it on governments, and governments on “bankers”. But in continental Europe, many blame Anglo-Saxons for their supposed reluctance to regulate financial markets. The crisis, they believe, would never have happened if the British and the Americans had regulated and supervised their financial sectors like the French and the Germans. On this view, the UK needs to change, notably by clamping down on hedge funds. Does this narrative stack up? Or have some Europeans just turned Anglo-Saxons and hedge funds into their scapegoats of choice?

Tirades against Anglo-Saxons long predated the crisis, but they have gathered in intensity since it began. In the run-up to the G20 summit in April, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker stated that this crisis “started in the US. The Anglo-Saxon world has always refused to add the dose of regulation which financial markets needed.” At the end of the same summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the death of “unregulated Anglo-Saxon finance”. And in July, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a political meeting in Nuremberg that “with us, dear friends, Wall Street or the City of London won’t dictate again how money should be made, only to let others pick up the bill.”

In any analysis of the causes of the crisis, the UK and the US clearly deserve a share of the blame. They tolerated unsustainable domestic credit booms which wreaked havoc on themselves and the rest of the world. But they were hardly the only countries to experience credit-fuelled housing booms. Denmark, France, Ireland and Spain did too. Nor were they the only countries which allowed “shadow banking” entities to proliferate and banks’ exposures to complex financial instruments to grow. It was a funding crisis at two “special investment vehicles” (SIVs) that brought the regulated German bank, IKB, to its knees. And German banks built massive exposures to collateralised debt obligations (CDOs).

What of hedge funds? Listen to French and German leaders, and you would think that hedge funds were central to the financial crisis. France and Germany have leaned on the European Commission to propose a directive that would regulate hedge funds; they have criticised the Commission’s resulting legislative proposal as too weak; and they have accused the British of dragging their heels. France and Germany are not entirely wrong: the example of Long Term Capital Management in 1998 shows that some hedge funds can pose a threat to financial stability. Even so, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that France and Germany have used the crisis as an opportunity to advance one of their hobby horses.

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

Fannie Mae and D.C.

You cheered last week when you heard that President Barack Obama’s administration is analyzing how to reorganize Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The housing giants have lost a bunch of money during the recession because of bad mortgages and foreclosures.

Not unlike a large percentage of the American public, the twins are obese. Few complained, however, when they were eating everything in sight and spitting out huge payments to stockholders. The fat and happy crowd disappeared, as the economy took a nose dive and the market plunged. The duo went hat in hand last year to the government. The feds forked over your money to bail them out.

You were never one of crew eating at Freddie’s and Fannie’s table. In fact, you and your neighbors were especially dissatisfied with the special treatment the latter received. There is good reason for your discontent and annoyance.

Even when it was raking in dough, Fannie Mae hoarded its wealth, thanks, in part, to previous congressional intervention. When the District received quasi-independence, the mortgage giant was deemed untouchable. Consequently, the city has been unable to collect from it sales or income taxes.

Fannie Mae was just one of several large organizations to receive that special dispensation. Even now, as the District struggles with closing a nearly $700 million revenue shortfall, the city remains restricted from levying a fee on those companies.

Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi attempted in the past to appeal to the corporation’s sense of civic duty. Fannie Mae executives slammed the door on him.

You think this is the perfect time for the White House to correct an historic wrong. House Democrats also can redeem themselves, making up for their failure to bring to the floor legislation that would have provided the District voting representation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her crew should remove Fannie Mae’s tax shield, requiring it to do what other commercial corporations do: Pay income taxes.

Obama and Pelosi also should order a review of all congressionally mandated tax exemptions that infringe on the District’s autonomy, preventing it, in the process, from collecting revenue important to serving the needs of its citizens. The National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institution are among those that should be required to pay up.

Gandhi told me he attempted to persuade the museum conglomerate to collect sales taxes or make a payment in lieu of taxes. But executives there treated him as if he were a thief trying to break into their offices.

The city took the World Bank to court. Now, it charges taxes on purchases made in its gift shop and cafeteria.

You don’t think the District should be made to play the bad guy to receive fair treatment. If it can’t get representation, at the very least it ought to have the right to tax companies within its borders. Equity should start with Fannie Mae.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Germany and France Show Signs of Recovery

Berlin, 13 August (AKI) — France and Germany — two of Europe’s largest economies — have emerged from recession with both recording growth of 0.3 percent in the second quarter of 2009. German gross domestic product rose unexpectedly between April and June, technically ending the country’s deepest recession since World War II and boosting hopes of recovery elsewhere in the region.

But economic activity in the eurozone fell by 0.1 percent in the same period, showing the region is still feeling the impact of the global economic downturn.

The eurozone is a currency union of 16 European Union member states which use the euro as their monetary unit.

The European Union’s statistics office said the overall contraction was a significant improvement on the 2.5 percent drop recorded in the first quarter, and smaller than economists had expected.

Germany’s GDP rise was led by an increase in private and public consumption, construction activity and trade.

However, year-on-year, the German economy shrank by 7.1 percent in the second quarter, the data showed.

French GDP also posted a surprise return to growth in the second quarter, rising by 0.3 percent.

The French economy minister Christine Lagarde announced the recovery.

“The data is very surprising. After four negative quarters France is coming out of the red,” Lagarde said.

Few analysts expected the economies to come out of recession this early.

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

Gov. Haley Barbour: Obamacare is Going Too Far, Too Soon, Too Fast, And Costing Too Much

Americans are alarmed about the current federal efforts to change health care, and for good reason. After all it not only represents 18 percent of the U.S. economy, the health care system literally involves life and death decisions.

The White House and other proponents of a government-run health care system claim the concerns about and protests against the various proposals pending in Congress are politically generated and intended to hurt the president’s popularity. This is simply not the case.

Citizens, whether seniors or medical providers, have received little solid information as proposals have changed and major differences have emerged in House and Senate versions.

What we do know, however, is all plans contain large cuts (hundreds of billions of dollars) in Medicare spending and large tax increases (hundreds of billions of dollars more) that fall very heavily on small businesses.

No wonder people are concerned, and that concern is exacerbated by the Democratic leadership’s attempts to force passage of this complicated, life-changing legislation by artificial deadlines.

It took Obama six months to pick out a family dog. Cramming health care reform down the country’s throat in a fraction of that time scares people who have been told, accurately, the various bills contain a billion-dollar combination of tax increases and Medicare spending cuts.

During a deep recession, when most people believe job creation and economic growth should be top priorities, huge tax increases on small businesses, whether in the form of an additional eight percent payroll tax, or a $750 per employee fee, or a 5.4 percent income tax surcharge, make no sense. When the government makes it more expensive to employ people, employers will employ fewer people.

And Democrats shouldn’t be surprised that proposals to cut back on Medicare spending scare seniors. Democrats ran full-fledged “Mediscare” campaigns against Republicans in the 90’s when we proposed increasing Medicare spending at a slower rate, i.e., “cutting Medicare.”

This is not about party politics. Neither is the bipartisan opposition of governors who fear the expansion of Medicaid, as provided in both House and Senate proposals, will result in enormous unfunded mandates being placed on state governments.

States simply do not have the resources to assume tens of billions of dollars of new costs to cover an expansion of the Medicaid program as a device to give “health insurance” to some people.

Good citizens, Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans, are telling Washington to slow down. Everything this year has been “too far, too fast, too soon, too much”, and too many trillions and trillions of dollars. It’s time to slow down.

Americans want to know the facts and the effects of the various bills and proposals. They want to hear a lot more about the Medicare savings, the tax increases, the mandates and the regulatory system.

The 22 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who have chosen “Medicare Advantage” need to know if it will still be available and at what cost. People who want to keep their current plan need to have explained to them how that will be guaranteed if, five years from now, the federal commissioner of health care will have to approve any health plan before it can be sold in the U.S. How can these competing ideas be reconciled?

And, folks can’t understand how a proposal proponents claim will control health care costs doesn’t include tort reform. After all, litigation and the resulting practice of defensive medicine add tens of billions to the cost of health care.

In Mississippi we passed comprehensive tort reform in 2004, partially to stop lawsuit abuse in the area of medical liability. It worked. Medical liability insurance costs are down 42 percent, and doctors have received an average rebate of 20 percent of their annual paid premium.

The number of medical liability lawsuits against Mississippi doctors fell almost ninety percent one year after tort reform went into effect. Doctors have quit leaving the state and limiting their practices to avoid lawsuit abuse.

If we are trying to make health care more affordable, how do you leave out tort reform?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


A Slow-Motion Honor Killing

A seventeen-year-old girl from Ohio, Rifqa Bary, fears for her life today. She is afraid that her own parents will murder her. Her father, she explains, “said he would kill me. Or he’d have me sent back to Sri Lanka where they’d put me in the asylum.” Her crime in their eyes? She has converted to Christianity from Islam — bringing to the fore once again the prevalence within Islamic communities in the West of attitudes and beliefs that foster honor killings and the murder of apostates from Islam.

Rifqa has fled to Florida, where she has become the center of a bitter custody battle with her parents — and she herself is adamant that if she is forced to return to her parents, her life will be in danger: “if I had stayed in Ohio,” she says flatly, “I wouldn’t be alive.” If she is made to return, she says, “I will die within a week. My life is at stake. My dad threatened me.” Rifqa is under threat both because of Islam’s apostasy law and because, as she herself explains, by converting to Christianity she has besmirched the family’s honor: “in 150 generations of my family no one has known Jesus. I am the first one. Imagine the honor in killing me. There is great honor in that.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

AARP Wields Power in Health Debate

Obama quickly retracts claim organization signed on to plan

If there is anyone or anything President Obama cannot afford to offend in his battle to overhaul the nation’s health care system, it is the powerful seniors lobby, AARP.

Perhaps that is why the White House was so quick to backpedal Wednesday after Mr. Obama mistakenly claimed that the organization, with its tens of millions of politically active members, had already signed on to his plan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

According to an MD — Part 1 of Obama Care Was Already Passed Last February!

By Devvy Kidd

Back in March, I wrote a column titled, ‘Will you let the federal government take possession of your medical records?’ (1) In that column, I said this:

“This one I call the gang rape bill is officially titled, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009. (2) Of course, it is no such animal. But, like Roosevelt’s NIRA, Obamaination’s ARRTA will give birth to even more useless and costly government agencies.

“Sec. 3001. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology sets up another useless bureaucracy. The goal is to have everyone’s medical records entered into a massive, electronic government data base. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have a real problem with this because I know the real goal is to track medical care and treatment under a totalitarian government. This would mean an already incompetent government is allegedly going to manage some 300 MILLION medical records using technology that CAN be hacked, never mind some nosey busy body snooping into your medical records or “sharing” with some agency or foreign government down the road under world government.

“On March 6, 2009, I sent a certified letter to my primary care physician (which I’m required to have under our broken medical system that Congress destroyed), various specialists (neurosurgeons) and TriCare, our insurance company. I simply told all of them very politely about this new “law” signed by Obama and that the purpose of my correspondence is to notify each of them I do not, under any circumstances, give my permission or consent to have my medical records submitted to the federal government under any agency to put be put into their electronic data base. If it is declared mandatory that physicians and insurance companies hand over my medical records to some government agency, I will sue the federal government to stop such an action.”

In my last column, Health Care Reform: Congress Has no Authority to Legislate, (3) I linked a letter by Dr. Dave Janda, MD.

Today, I received an email that shocked me. The shadow government will use any means necessary to Sovietize these united States of America and what better way than to slip draconian laws into bills well over 1,400 pages?

I studied the links and bill sections Dr. Janda provided; it is beyond outrageous. No wonder there was the original thousand plus pages in the “stimulus” package. Then another 318 pages withheld until the last minute. If I recall, that amendment was voted on at 3:00am in the morning. Then the “final” amendments. Should we be surprised that someone began altering Dr. Janda’s letter on the Internet? Shame on those who call themselves Americans and engage in such deceit. They are swimming in a gutter of rotten garbage.

There will have to be lawsuits to get hundreds of the provisions of these bills thrown out of Part One and if Part Two passes because the Politburo (Congress) has no authority to legislate medical practice or treatment within the states of the Union. That is precisely the language contained in the stimulus bill and the Obama Care bill.

For further reference, here is the full Stimulus Bill text and you can compare the sections cited by Dr. Janda as I have done…

[Return to headlines]

Blind US Muslim Woman Uses Tiny Horse as Guide

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.

It is dull work for tiny Cali who serves as Ramouni’s eyes through a world she cannot see, and the pony keeps butting her head into Ramouni’s chest.

“Cali! Stop it,” Ramouni exclaims, but she can’t keep the pride out of her voice when she realizes what the pretty brown pony with a soft black mane has gotten up to.

Rolling back her thick lips, Cali has grasped the tab of the zipper on the bag of treats Ramouni carries around her waist and is slowly pulling it open with her teeth.

“She knows which part has the carrots,” Ramouni says in amazement. “She’s really smart.”

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.

Cali is the first guide animal for Ramouni, 28, a devout 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.

“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.

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 professional trainer Dolores Artse, 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.

That 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: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Clermont Police Interview Suspect in Obama ‘Joker’ Posters

CLERMONT — Clermont police have interviewed one suspect who is admitting to putting up the dozens of posters pasted around the city depicting President Obama as the Joker character from the Batman film The Dark Knight, city officials confirmed.

Assistant City Manager Darren Gray said city officials have an individual “admitting to putting up 500” of the posters.

Clermont Police Capt. Eric Jensen said the male individual has admitted to putting up some signs, but investigators suspect others were involved and their investigation is continuing.

“We have talked to an individual,” Jensen said. “He only admitted to some of it…We’re still tracking down leads and talking to folks. We have not arrested anybody.”

At this point officials are not sure how much damage was caused by the signs or the dollar amount associated with the clean-up.

Dozens of the posters were pasted around the city earlier this week. A pair of the posters were pasted to a Clermont Post Office collection box. They prompted the postmaster to contact the Postal Inspector’s office, which is looking at potential federal crimes for defacing federal property.

City officials, meanwhile, are trying to determine what local crimes might be associated with the posting of the images on public and private properties. They’ve also been busy ripping down the sticky signs because they’re a violation of city ordinance regarding illegal signs.

Jensen said he doesn’t have a good count on the number of posters put up because, he said, “People are going out and tearing them down.”

In a press release put out late today, Jensen said the suspect “also asked if he could video tape the encounter with the officers.” Clermont Police declined that request.

“Currently we are still conducting interviews of victims, witnesses, and other suspects who were placing the Obama Joker Poster throughout our city,” Jensen said in the statement. “We believe that the postings are the result of multiple suspects. We are hopeful that we can develop enough information to present charges of vandalism to the State Attorney’s Office for review.”

He did not have a specific reason why the individual who admitted to putting up the posters spent so much time sticking them to surfaces around the city, but Jensen suspects it may have something to do with a contest linked to the image of the President in white face and smeared lipstick, like the Joker.

Check back for more details.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

CNN Gives Boot to Talk Radio Hosts

Described as ‘all noise’ and too predictable

Jon Klein, the chief of CNN’s U.S. operations, has issued orders that no more talk-radio hosts will be allowed on CNN News programs, according to a new report.

The move comes on the heels of the fracas that was generated when Lou Dobbs, a CNN anchor, had the audacity to question on air why President Barack Obama hasn’t released his long-form birth certificate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Lux Et Dhimmitude, Cont’d

Behold the guardian of Yale Dhimmi-versity Press: John Donatich, dressed for a hard day’s work in the Ivory Tower snipping out what he calls “gratuitous” images of Mohammed through the centuries. Mohammed by Old Masters and Mohammed by sketch artists; Mohammed in a 19th-century woodcut by Dore and Mohammed in a 21st-century caricature by Westergaard. I refer, of course, to Yale University Press’s decision to delete all imagery of Mohammed in a book about imagery of Mohammed, which, as Roger Kimball reports today in a fine bit of detective work, appears to have emanated from Yale University’s highest offices. The book’s title is The Cartoons That Shook the World. Sans pics, the book also should be re-titled: [Expletives Deleted] That Shook the World. Or just: …That Shook the World. It makes as much sense.

Not that “sense” is the goal. Yale’s motto, Lux et Veritas has been obliterated in this shameful effort to pursue not light and truth, but Islamic approval. And Yale University Press will get that approval because it has proven that it operates under Islamic law (sharia), which prohibits both images of Mohammed, and criticism of Mohammed. And woe to anyone who draws or publishes a critical image of Mohammed.

Of course, there is irony in the fact that the book itself is unlikely to be a resounding smack-down of Islamic dictates on speech and artistic expression in the Western world. As Thomas Landen of Brussels Journal points out in an excellent piece here, the book’s author, Jytte Klausen, a leftist Danish-born professor at Brandeis, was one of the “experts” cited in Newsweek’s cover-story last month downplaying and dimissing the Islamization of Europe, along with anyone fighting it. Landen writes…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Every Year, Thousands of Americans Join Aarp Before They Realize Those Discounts Come With a Lot of Heavy Baggage.

The AARP uses the clout that it gets from its behemoth membership to lobby for left-wing, big-government programs that saddle your grandchildren with mountains of debt and drive up the cost of almost everything you use.


Many now realize that they can get the same (or better) discounts by joining AAA — the automobile club — without the excess liberal baggage. Furthermore, many careful shoppers have discovered that the insurance they bought from the AARP was at an inflated rate.

Even more troubling, AARP members recently discovered that the organization is lining up with the Obama administration and the Democrats to try to put our health care completely under the thumb of the federal government, and the AARP stands to benefit.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Father of Muslim Teen Who Converted and Fled to Florida: I Did Not Threaten My Daughter

The father of an Ohio teenager who ran away to Florida, saying she was afraid her father would kill her for converting from Islam to Christianity, on Thursday said he loves his daughter and wants her to come home.

“Whether she is Christian or whatever religion she adopts, that’s O.K,” said Mohamed Bary. “Basically, we want our daughter back.”

Fathima Rifqa Bary, who turned 17 this week, is currently in foster care. An Orlando judge on Monday ordered her placed with the Florida Department of Children & Families until social workers can figure out where she belongs and if her home in Columbus, Ohio, is safe.

Another hearing is set for Aug. 21.

Bary had been living with Blake and Beverly Lorenz, husband and wife pastors at Global Revolution Church of Orlando, whom she met through a prayer group on Facebook.

They took her in after she ran away, riding a bus from Ohio and popped up unannounced in Orlando.

In a video clip on YouTube, the girl, in tears, says, her father threatened to kill her, and if she had not fled, she’d be dead.

“I am fighting for my life,” she said.

“I want to worship Jesus. I want to go to church on Sundays and read my Bible and say, ‘Jesus is alive!’ whenever I want to,” she says in the clip.

But her father on Thursday said he never threatened to kill his daughter.

She had a falling out with her mother the night before she disappeared, he said. He was out of town.

Rifqa had gone out without permission, was gone more than three hours, and when she came home, her mother scolded her and told her that because of her behavior, the whole family might have to return to their native Sri Lanka, Mohamed Bary said.

His wife was upset and there were no plans to leave the U.S., Mohamed Bary said, but that apparently frightened his daughter.

His family, Mohamed Bary said, was a normal one. They attended mosque as a family from time to time, he said.

His daughter was an excellent student, a cheerleader in a prestigious school in Columbus who got A’s and B’s. She wanted to go to college and become a nurse, he said.

“Basically, the last two months, her behavior has changed a lot,” he said. “She won’t talk to us much.”

She began to study the Bible and Christianity, he said. When he discovered that, he encouraged her to study Islam, he said. After that, he said he told her, “You can study whatever you want and decide what is good for you.”

The Barys’ court-appointed Orlando attorney, Craig McCarthy, Thursday said the girl’s parents “didn’t do or say anything that would give her a reasonable fear that her dad was going to kill her.”

McCarthy also said the girl didn’t tell anyone she was frightened while living at home. They reported her missing immediately and didn’t know her whereabouts for weeks.

That was a terrible stretch of time, her father said.

Sgt. Jerry Cupp, who heads the missing-persons unit at the Columbus Police Department, said he does not think the girl’s father is a threat.

Cupp said the family left Sri Lanka a decade ago so their daughter could be treated for blindness in her right eye.

“All I’m picking up is love for his daughter and he wants her to be safe,” he said.

Meanwhile, Eric Fenner, executive director of Franklin County Child Services in Ohio, said his employees have talked to the Barys, and his agency is ready to help re-unify the family, should the Florida judge send the teenager back.

“The family has been very cooperative, appropriately concerned, as you can imagine. Their daughter has run away from home. She had changed from their religion to Christianity, but the family has expressed an interest in trying to work these things through,” he said.

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

Gov. Rick Perry: Tort Reform Must be Part of Health Care Reform

To hear federal officials tell it, they’ve got all the answers on health care and it’s up to the rest of us to sit, wait and embrace whatever solution — if any — they may eventually provide.

I find this troubling, since states have shown they know a thing or two about solving problems that affect their citizens.

Texas, in fact, stands as a good example of how smart, responsible policy can help us take major steps toward fixing a damaged medical system, starting with legal reforms.

Just six years ago, Texas was mired in a health care crisis. Our doctors were leaving the state, or abandoning the profession entirely, because of frivolous lawsuits and the steadily increasing medical malpractice insurance premiums that resulted.

Two thirds of our state’s counties had no practicing obstetricians, and for pregnant women that meant long trips in cramped cars and higher fuel bills. Sixty percent of our counties had no pediatricians, which often meant delayed, or denied, health care for sick children.

And 24 counties in the Rio Grande Valley had no primary care doctors at all.

Each of those factors made it more likely that patients in underserved areas would postpone seeking care, which meant minor issues became major issues, and illnesses that could have been treated simply, easily and economically in the doctor’s office turned into severe health crises that had to be treated in the emergency room.

And the situation was worsening with every passing day. By 2002, 13 of the state’s 17 liability insurance carriers had left Texas, leaving less competition and leaving doctors with insurance bills that were seeing double-digit increases, if they could get insurance at all. That same year, applications for medical licenses plummeted to the lowest level in a decade.

This being Texas, instead of throwing money at the problem or debating endlessly, we identified the root causes and decided to do something about it.

In 2003, I declared the medical liability crisis an emergency item, and the legislature responded, passing sweeping reforms that protected the patient, but also shielded doctors and hospitals from unscrupulous trial lawyers eager to make a quick buck at the system’s expense.

We capped non-economic damages at $250,000 per defendant, or up to $750,000 per incident, while placing no cap on more easily determined economic damages, such as lost wages or cost of medical care due to injury.

We ended the practice of allowing baseless, but expensive, lawsuits to drag on indefinitely, requiring plaintiffs to provide expert witness reports to support their claims within four months of filing suit or drop the case.

These measures were supported by the people of Texas, who in September of 2003 approved a ballot measure, Proposition 12, authorizing all of these changes.

Changes were seen immediately, and continue to be felt. All major liability insurers cut their rates upon passage of our reforms, with most of those cuts ranging in the double-digits. More than 10 new insurance carriers entered the Texas market, increasing competition and further lowering costs.

As a result, Texas doctors have seen their insurance rates decline by, on average, 27 percent.

The number of doctors applying to practice medicine in Texas has skyrocketed by 57 percent. In 2008, the Texas Medical Board received 4,023 licensure applications and issued a record 3,621 new licenses.

In all, in just the first five years after reforms passed, 14,498 doctors either returned to practice in Texas or began practicing here for the first time.

And our reforms finally brought critical specialties to underserved areas. The number of obstetricians practicing in rural Texas is up by 27 percent, and 12 counties that previously had no obstetricians now have at least one. The statistics show major gains in fields like orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, neurosurgery and emergency medicine.

The Rio Grande Valley has seen an 18 percent growth in applications to practice medicine, adding about 200 doctors to this critically underserved area.

And what about the money that used to go to defending all those frivolous lawsuits? You can find it in budgets for upgraded equipment, expanded emergency rooms, patient safety programs and improved primary and charity care.

Success stories like ours need to be told, and need to be remembered as we continue this national debate.

Instead of handing down “one size fits all” mandates on how it’s going to be, Washington should be enabling states to set their own agendas, and solve their own problems, when it comes to health care.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

HR 2749 Authorizes International Take-Over of Domestic Food Production

HR 2749 is 160 pages (July 29 version) and contains the following references to international standards and guidelines (emphasis added for clarity) (all page numbers refer to the PDF file):

“(B) INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS.—In issuing guidance or regulations… the Secretary shall review international hazard analysis and preventive control standards that are in existence on the date of the enactment of this Act and relevant to such guidelines or regulations to ensure that the programs…..are consistent……with such standards.” (p. 35)

“CONSISTENCY WITH INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS.—The Secretary shall apply this paragraph consistently with United States obligations under international agreements.” (p. 81)

“The Secretary shall issue regulations to ensure that any qualified certifying entity and its auditors are free from conflicts of interest. In issuing these regulations, the Secretary may rely on or incorporate international certification standards.” (p. 82)

This means that there will be a layer of auditors, certifiers and inspectors over every aspect of food production in this country and that these inspectors and certifiers will be trained in ISO (International Standards Organization) management program certification. The ISO has been working with Codex Alimentarius on Food Safety Standards and, in particular, a technical standard for Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) which is a consortium of the seven largest food retailers in the world, and that is ISO22000:2005. All traceability (read NAIS) falls under the purview of Codex, the OIE (World Animal Health Organization) and the IPPC (International Plant Protection Convention) for global trade agreements.

The following excerpt from HR 2749 shows the fully interoperable global network already in existence regarding food and its production…

[Return to headlines]

Massive Campaign for Obama Hits Air

$12 million in television ads to support health plan

A new coalition on Thursday launched $12 million in television ads to support President Barack Obama’s health reform plan, in the opening wave of a planned tens of millions of dollars this fall.

The new group, funded largely by the pharmaceutical industry, is called Americans for Stable Quality Care. It includes some odd bedfellows: the American Medical Association, FamiliesUSA, the Federation of American Hospitals, PhRMA and SEIU, the service employees’ union.


The group is likely to be the biggest spender in support of health reform. The campaign will serve as a counterweight to the critics at town meetings, which are getting saturation news coverage while Congress is out of town.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

National Guard Reveals ‘Internment’ Job Sites

Military confirms it follows Constitution, civilian leaders

Soldiers recruited to be “Internment/Resettlement” specialists by a series of National Guard ads concerning “civilian resettlement” locations would have assignments overseas, not within the U.S., says a National Guard spokesman who reports members pledge to follow the U.S. Constitution and take orders from American civilian authorities.


On the other hand, there were suspicions that weren’t relieved.

A man who described himself as a former MP in California said he was told there are Federal Emergency Management Agency zones across the U.S.

“If the president calls a national emergency and enacts FEMA then constitutional government will be suspended and the National Guard takes over all law enforcement,” he told WND. “The president remains the president until the emergency is over.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Environmental Czar Started Group Targeting Beck

Attacks follow Fox News host’s reporting of White House adviser’s radical activism

President Obama’s “green jobs czar” is co-founder of a black activist organization that has led a campaign prompting major advertisers to withdraw from Glenn Beck’s top-rated Fox News Channel program.

In recent weeks, Beck has done several critical segments about Van Jones, who was appointed as the special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Tone-Deaf Health Campaign

The president shouldn’t worry about the protestors disrupting town hall meetings. He should worry about the Americans who have been sitting at home listening to him.


This would have to do with the fact that the real Barack Obama—product of the academic left, social reformer with a program, is now before that audience, and what they hear in this lecture about one of the central concerns in their lives—his message freighted with generalities—they are not prepared to buy. They are not prepared to believe that our first most important concern now is health-care reform or all will go under.

The president has a problem. For, despite a great election victory, Mr. Obama, it becomes ever clearer, knows little about Americans. He knows the crowds—he is at home with those. He is a stranger to the country’s heart and character.

He seems unable to grasp what runs counter to its nature. That Americans don’t take well, for instance, to bullying, especially of the moralizing kind, implicit in those speeches on health care for everybody. Neither do they wish to be taken where they don’t know they want to go and being told it’s good for them.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Panel Fact Checks Obama’s Statements About Health Care

‘They have lost total control. They are not just on the defensive, it is in freefall’

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have the AARP onboard because they know this is a good deal for our seniors. AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare.

JOHN ROTHER, AARP: On behalf of our members, I think it’s important that we continue to say in public and to the president, no, we have not yet endorsed it.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They have been supportive of comprehensive health care reform for a long time. They have not, as they said, endorsed a specific piece of legislation.

QUESTION: So you weren’t trying to mislead anyone?

GIBBS: No, no.

QUESTION: You just misspoke?

GIBBS: Right.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Roadblocks Devised to Push Back Against Health Care Town Hall Protesters

Supporters of health reform say they are simply pushing back against opposition that is disruptive and designed to shut down debate while opponents say the tactics are underhanded and intended to undermine democracy in action.

Americans who want to express their opinions on health care reform at town halls across the country are encountering a host of roadblocks, ranging from fake schedules to a demand that they show their driver’s licenses or photo identification.

Supporters of President Obama’s plan say they are pushing back against opposition that is disruptive and designed to shut down debate. But opponents say the supporters’ tactics are underhanded and designed to undermine democracy in action.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The ‘Messiah’ Has Lost His Mojo

President Barack Obama apparently came to believe the myth of his messiahship and has accordingly abused and squandered his good will and political capital and possibly self-sabotaged his socialized medicine scheme.

Of all the newsworthy aspects of this desperate “reform” effort, none is more so than the robust democratic processes it has reinvigorated in this nation. While Democrats insist the nationwide grass-roots movement against his draconian measure is contrived and illusory, it is just the opposite.

Nothing could be so real as the American people, emboldened by their passion for liberty, standing up against a callous, dishonest government trolling for its freedoms in exchange for false promises.

All the proof we need that Obama and Democrats recognize the authenticity of this grass-roots protest is their hysterical reaction to it. They wouldn’t be hyperventilating about it if they believed it to be fake, but would use their supermajorities to ram through this bill.

Indeed, that congressmen have not been able or courageous enough (against the threat of being removed from office in 2010) to pass this bill is the story of the year. Integral to that story is the unraveling of the Obama mystique, occasioned by Obama’s ongoing arrogance and duplicity, most recently on the Obamacare issue.

Let’s just look at some of the myriad ways Obama has betrayed the enormous trust bestowed upon him — on the health care issue alone.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Town Halls Burst With Obama ‘Plants’

Campaign donors, health care lobbyist, SEIU members, fake doctor

Next, an 11-year-old girl named Julia Hall took the microphone and read her question to Obama from a small piece of paper.


Kathleen Manning Hall, Julia’s mother, was seated next to her daughter during the exchange. She, too, won tickets from the White House, according to WMUR.

Kathleen was an early Obama supporter and donor in Massachusetts during the presidential election, the Boston Globe reported. She had previously met Michelle Obama, the Obama daughters and Vice President Joe Biden.


At a July 1 Annandale, Va., town hall, a woman who claimed to have kidney cancer fought back tears as she explained her trouble obtaining insurance and keeping a job.

Obama hugged Appalachia, Va., resident Debby Smith, 53.

He referred to her as “exhibit A” in a weak health care system that is too costly and complex for Americans.

“We are going to try to find ways to help you immediately,” Obama told Smith

However, Smith never mentioned that she is a volunteer for Organizing for America, Obama’s political operation within the Democratic National Committee. USA Today revealed that she received her ticket to the event from the White House.

“The questions posed from social media networks were selected by White House staffers, and the three people he called on from the audience all were affiliated with advocacy groups that support Obama,” the newspaper reported. “Smith said the White House invited her to attend after she had spoken at events for Organizing for America, an Obama grassroots operation at the Democratic National Committee. Another questioner said he worked for Health Care for America Now, and the third identified herself as a member of the Service Employees International Union.”


However, Newsbusters revealed the unassuming middle-aged woman wearing a flowery knit sweater and glasses was no ordinary concerned citizen.

Garin was a recent Democrat candidate for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district. She is also a district coordinator for the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care, a national lobbyist organization for single payer health care, and Wisconsin state coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America.


Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, hosted a Houston town hall forum on Aug. 11. A supporter of federal health “reform,” Roxana Mayer, identified herself as a “general practitioner” who has been practicing for four years.


But a blog called Patterico’s Pontifications revealed that Mayer had lied about her occupation. Her name was not listed in the AMA Doctor Finder or with the Texas Medical Association. Instead, the blogger discovered that a Roxana Mayer is listed as a graduate student at the University of Houston. A woman by the same name is pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

Mayer later confirmed to the Houston Chronicle that she is not a doctor.

“I’ve been advised to refrain from making any further statements,” she said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tulsa Federal Judge Rules Poultry Litter is Solid Waste

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that poultry litter could be classified as a solid waste under federal environmental laws when applied in excessive amounts on farmland.

The decision was a partial victory for the state of Oklahoma in its environmental lawsuit against 12 Arkansas poultry companies. Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson claims excessive application of chicken waste has resulted in runoff polluting the Illinois River watershed.

The case has drawn national attention because it could lead to similar lawsuits across the country challenging how the industry does business. A trial is set for Sept. 21.

On Thursday, attorneys for the poultry companies argued the litter should not be labeled solid waste because it has a beneficial use as a fertilizer and a market value. The state argued that litter was “patently” solid waste.

“I reject both approaches,” U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell said Friday, before coming up with the compromise ruling. “It’s very gray.”

Frizzell said excessive application of the litter made it a solid waste.

Attorneys for both sides spent Friday arguing more pretrial motions, including which evidence could be admitted. In Thursday’s hearing, Frizzell ruled an economist who claims the poultry industry knew for years about the environmental harm chicken waste was causing would be allowed to testify.

The 1 million-acre watershed spans parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas and has 1,800 poultry houses, which produce an estimated 345,000 tons of chicken waste each year.

The companies in the lawsuit are Tyson Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., and Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Cal-Maine Farms Inc., Cargill Inc., Cargill Turkey Production LLC, George’s Inc. George’s Farms Inc. Peterson Farms Inc. and Simmons Foods Inc.

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

Widespread Use of Psychiatric Drugs on Foster Kids

Florida child-welfare panel says mind-altering drugs used to manage unruly kids

Admitting for the first time what critics have claimed for years, state child-welfare authorities say caregivers for children in state custody frequently use powerful mind-altering drugs to manage unruly kids, rather than treat their anger and sadness.

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Content may be disturbing.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Biker Gang Member Shot Dead in Berlin

A member of a biker gang has been shot and killed in Berlin’s Hohenschönhausen district, police reported on Friday.

Despite immediate resuscitation attempts, a man in Hohenschönhausen died (Thursday) night after he was shot on the street by unknown perpetrators,” a statement said.

News agency DPA reported that the 33-year-old man dragged himself some 200 metres after being shot before he collapsed.

Residents of Ernst-Barlach-Straße heard several gunshots on the street and called police, who found the unresponsive man shortly thereafter in front of an apartment building.

According to the police statement, the man is known as a member of the biker gang scene, though they refused to speculate whether his death was related to ongoing conflict between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels. Violence between the two groups escalated in recent months, particularly in the north, where police have called territorial fighting “explosive.”

Both a homicide squad and specialists for organised crime from the state’s criminal investigation office are on the case. Witnesses told DPA that the crime scene was teeming with officers overnight and the surrounding road was closed for several hours.

Autopsy results for the man are expected late on Friday.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Czech Rep: Czech Cssd Leader Against People From Other Cultures’ Employment

Kutna Hora — Czech Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman Jiri Paroubek said during his visit to the local employment office today he would not employ people from other cultures to avoid ethic problems in the future, the server writes.

Paroubek was reacting to the information that the Foxconn company based in Taiwan that produces LCD monitors and computer components in Kutna Hora often employes people from Vietnam and Mongolia.

“It is not appropriate to employ people from other cultures as they would then remain in the country. They would learn the Czech language, have children here and this would result in an ethnic problem,” Paroubek said at the employment office in a room full of journalists and civil servants, according to

“Paroubek had no intention of hurting anyone. He made his statement in connection with unemployment. As regards people from third countries Czechs should always be given preference,” CSSD spokeswoman Katerina Blechova who accompanied Paroubek said later.

Aktualne says that CSSD shadow labour and social affairs minister Zdenek Skromach made a similar statement.

“It is not appropriate to give preference to employees from third countries in the conditions of the current economic crisis and high unemployment. Jobs should be first offered to Czech citizens, then to people from the European Union and only then to employees from third countries,” Skromach said.

Paroubek visited the Kutna Hora employment office accompanied by David Rath, his party colleague and Central Bohemian regional governor.

According to the server, the questions he asked were about how many people lost jobs due to the economic crisis and what jobs the employment office can offer them at present. writes that in the past Paroubek criticised Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Mirek Topolanek for his Words “Don’t expect nothing else but a long knives night from me. It will simply come,” which Topolanek pronounced at a meeting with businessmen in June 2005.

Topolanek then indicated that his ODS would make personnel changes in case it won the 2006 general election.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Police Targeted in Vollsmose

Shots were fired at police in the Odense suburb of Vollsmose after car chase.

There were ugly scenes in the Odense suburb of Vollsmose on the island of Funen during the night after the driver of a BMW that was being chased by police lost control of his vehicle and ploughed into a roundabout.

Police called in an ambulance to take care of the unconscious driver as a large number of angry bystanders congregated and began throwing bottles and stones at officers.

The driver was driven in a police car to a waiting ambulance some distance away as paramedics had been unable to approach the scene.

“He was driven to hospital and his condition is not critical. We know who he is and we will be talking to him, but he has not been arrested,” Duty Police Officer Hans Frederiksen tells Fyens Stiftstidende.


The episode, however, developed during the evening and night as unrest spread, with among other acts of vandalism, two vehicles being torched. A local police patrol attempted to quieten the unrest, but had to withdraw as a result of threats and gunfire. Officers said they saw six to eight muzzle flashes.

“None of the shots hit the officers, but they were close. They could see the muzzle flashes and feel the bullets whizz past,” the duty officer tells Ritzau.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Police Dodge Bullets

Up to 10 shots fired from an automatic weapon at the police following a car chase in Odense

Shots have been fired from a crowd after a car chase near the Vollsmose council estates in Funen’s largest city Odense.

Police in Odense report that as many as 10 shots were fired from an automatic weapon at officers attempting to break up a rampaging group of young men after the car chase.

No one was hit by the shots, which were fired from a distance of about 50m, but officers say they could hear the bullets whizzing by as they ducked for cover.

Police have no suspects, but say the shots were fired from a crowd of about 100 people.

The crowd had gathered during the chase and prevented medical crews from reaching the scene of an accident, forcing police to drive the injured driver outside the area, where he was transferred to an ambulance.

The crowd then turned its anger on a number of cars in a nearby car park. Several cars were set on fire.

Police efforts to disperse the crowd in order to allow the fire brigade to move in caused it to become even more agitated. The shots were fired when police attempted to talk with people in the crowd.

Police say it was the first time officers in Odense have been shot at from a crowd. Superintendent Hans Frederiksen described the incident as ‘scary’.

After the shots were fired, police withdrew and the crowd dissipated.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Church Iraqis on Hunger Strike

Iraqis detained when police cleared a Copenhagen church have gone on hunger strike.

18 Iraqi men who were detained at Brorson Church in Copenhagen on Wednesday night have gone on hunger strike and have not eaten since they were detained, according to Agri Kurdistani, a family member to one of those arrested.

“They are neither drinking nor eating and will continue as long as they have the courage and energy. They say they are willing to go all the way,” Kurdistani says.

The group, which is made up of rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers, was detained by the police in an operation at the Brorson Church where the group and other Iraqis had sought sanctuary from forced repatriation.

Both the church’s vicar and the Parish Council gave their blessing to the occupation which began in May this year. Women and children were not detained by the police, although several of the families have also had their asylum requests denied.

The concept of ecclesiastical sanctuary is not part of the Danish legislative complex.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Despite Protests, Most Support Police

Wednesday’s arrest of Iraqi refugees taking shelter in a church has left a deeply divided population

A massive demonstration in Copenhagen yesterday protesting the arrest of 19 Iraqi refugees stands in stark contrast to multiple polls finding that the majority of people support the police.

Police estimate that more than 15,000 people took part in a march starting at Brorson’s Church in the Nørrebro district where the Iraqis had been living since May. They had sought refuge there with about 30 other Iraqis whose requests for asylum had been denied.

The march proceeded peacefully to Town Hall Square and on to the parliament building, where participants urged decision makers not to deport the Iraqis, some of whom have been living in Denmark for eight years.

Some had feared a repeat of Wednesday’s violence, but after dictating the route the march was to take, police stayed on the sidelines. No arrests were made.

Similar protests were also held in Århus, Aalborg and Svendborg.

In addition to showing their support for the Iraqis, many of the marchers said they were protesting police tactics to disperse the 300 activists who had attempted to prevent the arrests early Thursday morning.

It was only the second time in modern Danish history that police have arrested people seeking shelter in a church, and the first time they did so without the church’s permission.

Scenes of police striking activists with their truncheons were repeatedly broadcast throughout the day on Thursday, but the majority of people questioned in two independent polls say they support the decision to storm the church.

In a DR/Capacent poll of 1018 people, 54 percent said the police handled the eviction of the Iraqi refugees well while only 27 percent believed they had been too rough. A poll conducted for TV2 and Politiken newspaper, which had 1011 respondents; found that 60 percent supported the arrests and eviction from the church. In both polls, however, about 20 percent were undecided.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

France: Opposing the Mosque in Bayonne

his is a report on the new mosque planned for the city of Bayonne, in the Basque Country. The first article is from Novopress, dated March 24, 2009:

In recent months, plans to build mosques in the region of Aquitaine have been multiplying. After La Rochelle, Bordeaux and Mérignac, it is Bayonne’s turn to become familiar with the torments of an ever more present Islamization. This new mosque is coming into existence with the obvious complicity of the mayor, Jean Grenet, and the priest of the near-by church, Jean-Marc Lavigne. In 2007, the regional committee sold to the Muslim association of the Basque Coast a 2000-square-meter piece of land on rue Joseph Latxague, for the ridiculous price of 10 euro per square meter. But it turned out that the land had no official permit for development. In March 2008, as if by miracle, the mayor decided to make the land eligible for development. Now it will be able to welcome the new 500 square-meter mosque and its minaret.

Father Jean-Marc Lavigne is organizing a conference tonight (March 24, 2009) at the Eglise Sainte-Croix, with father Delorme, a specialist in collaborating with the Muslims, in order to: “prepare the spirits, minds and hearts of the people, and to defuse all fears, hatreds and rejection.”

With men like that, it’s understandable why the situation of the Church in the Basque Country is so difficult!

Shortly after the above announcement, Joachim Véliocas posted this letter from a woman of Bayonne at his website Islamisation:

“It is too bad that they don’t ask for our opinion on what we like and don’t like in our city. I was born in Biarritz and grew up in Bayonne. I was stunned by the plan to build a mosque. For nine years I have been living in the Priority Urbanization Zone (ZUP) in Bayonne. You have to live there to believe it. The Muslim women have disdain for you… they don’t even try to talk to you. You’re a pariah in their eyes. When the Vatican and the parish priest from Sainte-Croix ask us to be conciliatory with Islam… I’m sorry, I would rather die than bow down. I am Basque and I say NO to the Bayonne mosque and to the powerful rise of Islam and the consequences.” Martine F., Bayonne, March 25, 2009.

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

Germany: Small Muslim Group Opens Up to Outsiders

Germany has some four million adherents to Islam, but as David Wroe reports, a small group of Muslims is making a big effort to become a recognised part of German society.

When the Ahmadi Muslim community was building a mosque in eastern Berlin last year — the first in formerly communist East Germany — they didn’t expect it to be easy. But nor did they expect death threats.

“I was standing on the road,” said Abdul Basit Tariq, the mosque’s Imam. A man stood there and stared at me with very sharp eyes and said, ‘I will kill you.’“

Another man living across the road unfurled a German flag on his balcony and, according to the Imam, cried out, “This country belongs to us, not to you.”

“They were afraid and tried their best to stop the construction,” Tariq said of local agitators in Berlin’s eastern Pankow district who tried to whip up opposition to the house of worship.

“They spread fear, spread hostility. They said, the Muslims will put their prayer carpets on the road. Property prices will go down. The schools will be filled with Muslim children. We are not ready to see women on the streets with black veils.”

Such folks ought best avoid Mannheim this weekend. Ahmadiyya, a small but determined Muslim community that split from the Sunni faith in the late 19th century, is holding what is thought to be the biggest ever Muslim gathering in Germany. Up to 35,000 Ahmadis will converge on Mannheim in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg — a conspicuous presence in a city of 330,000.

Ahmadiyya Islam is an oddity. On a continent where Muslim communities are accused of forming enclaves that refuse to integrate, the Ahmadi bend over backwards to reach out to the mainstream and open themselves up to scrutiny.

They are also unapologetically ambitious. Though they are small, with about 30,000 members out of more than four million Muslims in Germany, they aim to build 100 mosques across the country in the next couple of decades. There will be plenty more like the one built in Pankow.

“We like to say, ‘Here we are. This is what we’re about. We’re not going away, so let’s be open with each other,’“ explains the community’s affable national spokesman, Ijaz Ahmad.

For the Mannheim meeting, they have invited virtually all of Germany’s media organisations — though few, it seems, have taken up the offer — and secured the attendance or written greetings of MPs from the country’s major political parties, as well as the mayors of Mannheim, Stuttgart, Heidelberg and Riedstadt.

“The lesson they have learnt is that the only method they can take against all the emotions of the people who do not really know them is complete transparency,” says Greens MP Omid Nouripour. “That’s the way they are trying to go now. It’s a good idea. It’s the only idea that can work.”

Used to being outsiders

The Ahmadi are used to being outsiders, having been persecuted in their homeland of Pakistan and dismissed as a sect by mainstream Muslims in Germany. Nouripour, who is of Iranian background, says mainstream Muslims have made a “huge mistake” in not inviting the Ahmadi to such gatherings as the German Islamic Conference.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, has made a point of stating the Ahmadi are peaceful. They strongly condemn all violence and interpret Jihad as an internal struggle to free oneself of impurities and be more faithful to God.

Yet despite describing themselves as reformist, they are considered to be conservative and, particularly in their adherence to hejab dress for women, likely to anger many Germans.

In an interview with The Local, Imam Tariq railed against the European culture of sexual freedom and binge drinking, and said women should not go out in public alone. Spokesman Ahmad did his best to restrain him.

“He doesn’t mean they can’t go out alone,” Ahmad said. “Only that it’s better if they don’t. If someone wants to wear a veil, that’s her choice. No one can force her.”

In 2007, the Ahmadi had a public relations disaster when its youth magazine claimed eating pork made you gay — a stance swiftly rejected by the community’s leaders.

Since the Pankow mosque opened late last year, the community’s bridge-building, which has included holding “open house days” and inviting their critics, has turned public opinion around, according to Ahmad and Tariq.

“The Mosque was filled with German people,” Tariq said. “We were saying, ‘We will not hide from you. And if you won’t come to us, let us come to you.’ We are not bad people, we are civilised people.”

Even Joachim Swietlik, the head of the local opposition came to an open day and stayed for five hours, they said.

They felt they had at least partly convinced him. Swietlik’s Pankow-Heinersdorf Citizens’ Interest Group did not respond to email requests for an interview, but recent postings on their website, which includes a sarcastic denunciation of a kids’ playground on the mosque premises, suggests the Ahmadi still have their work cut out for them.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Germany’s Highest Criminal Court Dismisses Appeal in Terror Case

Germany’s highest criminal court has upheld a ruling against an al-Qaeda member and his accomplices. The three were convicted of insurance fraud to raise funds for supporting the terrorist network.

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe on Friday confirmed two of the men’s sentences of six and seven years. It said the third man’s sentence should be reassessed.

The defendants had appealed their 2007 conviction, arguing that the police had breached privacy laws when they bugged the men’s homes.

The principal defendant, 32-year-old Syrian-national Ibrahim Mohamed K., had been sentenced to seven years imprisonment for membership in a terrorist organization and attempted fraud in 28 cases.

Yasser Abu S., a Palestinian, received a six-year sentence for the same crimes. His brother, Ismail Abu S., was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for attempted fraud.

The court said it had only been proven that Ismail Abu S. had supported a terrorist organization, not that he had also been a member, and it referred his case back to a lower court for his sentence to be revised.

The men had attempted to raise at least 4.3 million euros ($6.1 million) for the al-Qaeda terrorist network in a massive life insurance scam.

Part of the evidence in the trial was acquired by bugging the men’s homes. Though eavesdropping laws were later tightened, the court did admit the evidence gathered was from wire-tapping.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Greece: Released Mink Go Wild in Northern Greece

Officials and residents of a town in northern Greece were yesterday still trying to round up about 6,000 mink that first appeared on Monday after animal rights campaigner apparently released them from two local fur farms.

The runaway mink have been wreaking havoc in the community of Askio, near Kozani, as they have been attacking chickens and rabbits and foraging into residents’ homes. A four-year-old girl was bitten by one of the carnivorous mammals but did not suffer a serious injury.

“These are dangerous predators that can kill even small sheep,” Mayor Vassilis Patras told Agence France Presse. “There will not be a single small animal left in the area if they’re not recaptured.”

An organization calling itself Corvus Revengis (Crows of Revenge) is suspected of releasing the mink as it had claimed responsibility for a similar act last February.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Greens Remove Campaign Poster Featuring Bare Buttocks

The Green party in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia have decided to take down campaign posters featuring a white woman’s hands grabbing a black woman’s bare buttocks after critics said it was racist and offensive.

The poster in the western town of Kaarst reads “The only reason to vote black,” which is a reference to the party colour of the rival conservative Christian Democrats (CDU). Green officials have said the poster was meant to highlight the party’s policy of supporting same-sex couples ahead of state elections on August 30, but other parties called the poster sexist and racist.

“The decision over individual posters was done on a local level and not at a state level,” North Rhine-Westphalian Green party heads Daniela Schneckenburger and Arndt Klocke said on Thursday evening. “In this respect we as a national party were not involved in the poster’s production.”

The two leaders rejected claims that the poster was intentionally racist or sexist, but said they had taken the matter seriously.

Other campaign posters recently made headlines this week in Berlin, when one politician caused a stir with chesty imagery of herself — and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On some 750 posters tacked all over the Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain parliamentary district, Bundestag candidate Vera Lengsfeld was pictured next to fellow conservative Christian Democrat Merkel — both sporting a daring décolleté.

The photograph of Merkel is already well-known. It was taken when she wore an uncharacteristically revealing ball gown to the inauguration of Norway’s national opera house in April 2008. Paired with a photo Lengsfeld in a similarly low-cut number, the poster reads, Wir haben mehr zu bieten, or “We have more to offer.”

Lengsfeld on Tuesday defended the poster against widespread criticism it was both tasteless and sexist. But she admitted she had not asked Merkel for permission to use the revealing photo.

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

Hijacked Ship Found Off Africa’s Coast

The ship Arctic Sea that was allegedly hijacked in Swedish waters has been localized off the coast of western Africa, writes the online German version of Financial Times. The Cape Verde Coast Guard confirmed on Friday that the ship has been sighted 740 kilmeters ouside the island group, though it has not entered Cape Verde territorial waters.

The German Financial Times also reports that the ship has indeed been hijacked, as earlier suspected. The hijackers reportedly demand 1.5 million dollars for the ship’s return.

The news comes soon after the European Commission expressed doubt on Friday about whether the Maltese-registered timber ship was actually hijacked, as Reuters reports. According to radio calls, the ship and its Russian crew had been attacked two times, once off the Swedish coast and once off the Portuguese coast. This, the commission said, was very unusual, and “has nothing in common with traditional acts of piracy or armed robbery at sea.”

The Cape Verde Coast Guard has said that international organizations and authorities have been contacted, and that any action taken will be conducted jointly.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Cox Says McCreevy Claim on Lisbon ‘Groundless’

THE CLAIM by Ireland’s EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy that people in most EU countries would have voted No to the Lisbon Treaty was “sweeping, false and entirely groundless”, according to the director of Ireland for Europe, Pat Cox.

The former president of the European Parliament, whose independent people’s campaign is advocating a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum, said that selectively pointing to negative referendum results in France and the Netherlands on the constitutional treaty in 2005 wilfully ignored the corresponding positive votes in Spain and Luxembourg.

“If one takes the Yes and No votes cast in the four votes by referendum on the constitutional treaty the overall number voting Yes came to 26.7 million voters, while the number voting No was 22.7 million, a popular majority of four million voters across borders,” Mr Cox told the Chambers of Commerce in Killarney yesterday.

“It certainly does not sustain the sweeping, false and entirely groundless assertion that 95 per cent of countries would have voted No. It is sceptical in tone, wrong in substance and populist in perspective.”

Mr McCreevy said after the No vote in last year’s Irish referendum on the treaty that the result in most member states would have been the same had the treaty been put to the people.

Mr Cox said yesterday that each EU state was free to choose how it ratified treaties, whether by representative democracy in the form of votes in their respective national parliaments or by referendum.

“However, as regards the Lisbon Treaty, all member states except Ireland have chosen to ratify the treaty through their national parliaments.

“Both France and the Netherlands held national elections after the constitutional treaty was defeated by referendum. The eventual winners indicated in advance to their electorates their intention to ratify the upcoming EU amending treaty by the parliamentary method. They won electoral mandates to do so.”

Mr Cox said the national parliaments of Ireland’s 26 partner states in the EU had voted for Lisbon. In three of those countries — the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany — final formal ratification was still being awaited.

“Almost 7,400 national parliamentarians have voted on the Lisbon Treaty…Of these thousands of elected representatives across the EU, 85 per cent voted Yes, 11 per cent voted No and 4 per cent abstained. If votes count this tells us something, something different to Commissioner McCreevy’s assertion.”

[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Stay-at-Home Mums Victims of State Injustice

By David Quinn

THE Government doesn’t like stay-at-home mothers. In fact, it has effectively declared war on them. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from several recent policy decisions.

The first is the decision to abolish the Early Childcare Supplement of €1,000 for every child under the age of the five. The second is the decision to make single-income married couples pay more for the newly increased health levy, and the third is the probable decision to tax child benefit.

It’s difficult to know which of these decisions is the most unjust. The Government introduced the Early Childcare Supplement (ECS) to help parents with their childcare costs. It did so in the fairest way possible. It was paid directly to the parents so they could spend it as they pleased.

If they wanted to, they could use it to help meet the cost of putting a child in a creche, or else they could use it to help one or other spouse to stay at home and mind the children there.

But now the Government has abolished the ECS, worth €480m per annum, and will use €170m of the money saved to directly subsidise creches so that working parents won’t have to pay for those places at all in many instances.

What this means is that stay-at-home mothers will no longer receive a direct payment for their youngest children, but working parents will receive an indirect payment. How is this fair? Why favour one childcare decision over another? Why favour mothers who go out to work, over mothers who stay at home to mind their children?

Now let’s take the health levy. A single-income married couple on €40,000 will now pay a health levy of €1,600 per year. But a double-income married couple on the same income will pay nothing. How is this fair?

Then there is the strong possibility that child benefit will be taxed. Because single-income married couples pay much more tax anyway than double-income married couples they will obviously be much more badly affected by this change.

If they have young children this means they will be hit on the treble. They will pay more for the health levy, lose the ECS altogether while their neighbours have pre-school paid for, and they will lose more in child benefit than their double-income married friends.

Let’s not forget what’s behind much of this, the tax individualisation introduced by Charlie McCreevy a decade ago. This meant single-income married couples were already paying much more in tax than double-income married couples.

In other words, the single-income couples are being victimised four times over, and five times over if you consider that the new income levy is hitting them harder as well.

I doubt if the Government even knows its policy is, de facto, anti-stay-at-home mothers. It’s probably being led around by the nose, as usual, by civil servants and quangos. It never stops to consider what kind of childcare arrangements men and women actually want. It simply assumes they want to put their children in creches.

However, a third of married women aged 30 to 50 aren’t in paid employment at all. They stay home to raise their children. That’s nearly 150,000 couples, or 300,000 people, being actively discriminated against by government policy.

In addition, tens of thousands of women on top of the 150,000 work fewer than 20 hours per week. Four times as many women as men work part time. Maybe some of these would like to quit work entirely for a few years but government policy makes it nearly impossible.

Then there are several hundred thousand more women who work full time but might like to work part time or stay at home with the children, but again are discouraged from doing so by official policy.

The ultra-influential feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir detested the idea of women staying at home to raise their children. She wrote: “We don’t believe that any woman should have this choice . . . because if there is such a choice too many women will make that one.”

It looks like the Government agrees. Why else would it be hounding stay-at-home mothers in such a malignant way?

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Curia Cancels Opera Performace

Sicilian town churchmen say Cavalleria Rusticana immoral

(ANSA) — Catania, August 12 — The plot of Pietro Mascagni’s tragic opera Cavalleria Rusticana is “immoral” and unsuitable for performances while the Sicilian city of Caltagirone holds its religious festival, the local church said on Wednesday.

The Caltagirone Curia said “scenes and contents” of the 1890 opera “contrasted with the religious festivity and the sacredness of the family” and could not be performed during the August 13-15 feast of Maria Santissima Del Ponte, the city’s patron saint.

The one-act opera, based on a story by celebrated 19th century Italian writer Giovanni Verga, is a tale of love, jealousy and betrayal set in a Sicilian village.

It tells the story of Turiddu, a soldier who returns home to find his sweetheart Lola married to Alfio. Turridu tries to console himself with Santuzza but before long he begins an affair with Lola.

The spurned Santuzza informs Alfio who challenges Turiddu to a duel and kills him.

Cavalleria Rusticana is usually performed on a double bill with Ruggero Leoncavalli’s Pagliacci.

Movie fans will remember seeing portions of it in the final scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather, Part III, when Anthony Corleone — a tenor and the godfather’s son — sings the role of Turiddu in Palermo’s Teatro Massimo.

Gianfranco Piluso, who had been set to stage the opera at the festival, blasted the Curia’s decision as “cultural obscurantism”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Locals Force Priest to Ring Bells

(ANSA) — Mezzema, August 12 — A village priest who stopped ringing the church bells to appease a jittery tourist began chiming them again on Wednesday when residents came out in the streets to bang their pots and pans in protest.

Father Alfredo De Simoni had caved in to the request of the town’s single tourist, who in need of a good night’s rest, had asked him a few days ago to still the bells from 10 pm till at least 8 am.

But the 85 residents of the Ligurian hilltop town of Mezzema were accustomed to waking up with the sound of the bells at 7 am.

They balked at the move and decided to take action, plastering the town with protest banners banners and leaflets.

On Sunday they all boycotted Mass. Still, De Simoni could not be swayed.

But when the locals rose up in unison to clank their kitchen ware, he finally got the message.

When the bells rang on Wednesday, everyone came out to celebrate.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Welcomes Nazi Crime Verdict

German court gives ex- officer life for Tuscan massacre

(ANSA) — Cortona, August 11 — The mayor of a Tuscan town site of a Nazi massacre hailed the verdict of a Munich court which on Tuesday sentenced an ex-German World War II officer who ordered the killing of 14 Italian civilians to a life sentence.

Josef Eduard Scheungraber, 91, an ex-Wermacht lieutenant, had already been sentenced to life in absentia in Italy for the massacre.

The war crime took place on June 27, 1944 in the village of Falzano di Cortona, near Arezzo, in Tuscany.

The Munich court said Scheungraber, as the only officer present in Falzano, had supervised the executions as “an act of revenge” in reprisal for attacks against German troops by Italian partisans.

It said his orders had been driven by “anger and hatred”.

“After 65 long years, the truth on the Falzano massacre has come out and justice has been done,” said Mayor Andrea Vignini, who was in court when the sentence was read.

“This proves that it’s never too late to uncover the truth,” said Vignini, who added that he had come to Munich to “honour the dead as well as survivors who waited a long time for this moment”.

Vignini stressed that it was particularly significant that a court in Munich — where the Nazi party was founded — had condemned Scheungraber.

“It’s a sort of symbolic retribution by history”.

“I’m aware that many will say that this verdict has been late in coming but I say that it’s never too late for truth”. Ten Italians were killed when German troops, after being attacked by partisans, rounded up the civilians and put them into a house which they then blew up.

A 15-year-old boy — Gino Massetti — managed to survive, saved by a fallen beam, while four other civilians were killed by the soldiers during the roundup. Massetti, who was a witness at the Munich trial, told the court he had been rounded up when the soldiers saw him near the house. He was saved by a woman who found him six hours after the explosion. The president of the region of Tuscany, Claudio Martini, hailed the court’s decision. “This (verdict) is important not to appease a thirst for vendetta but because trials which uncover the truth and find those who are responsible are necessary for memory’s sake and to ensure that similar crimes are never committed again,” said Martini.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center — which hunts suspected Nazi war criminals — said ‘the verdict strengthens the view that a long time gap in no way diminishes the perpetrator’s guilt and that age offers no legal protection for the murders”.

“The victims of Falzano had the right to see their executioners punished today as much as they did in 1944,” said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Center’s Jerusalem office in a statement. photo: relatives hold up the names of the victims.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Missing Ship ‘Found’ Off Africa

A missing ship with 15 Russian crew members on board has been spotted more than two weeks after it disappeared, unconfirmed reports say.

The Arctic Sea had last been sighted in the Bay of Biscay on 30 July.

Reports citing local coastguards now suggest it has been seen some 400 nautical miles from the Cape Verde islands, off the coast of West Africa.

Russian navy ships have been searching for the 4,000-tonne Maltese-flagged vessel, which had been carrying timber.

Observers have suggested the ship was hijacked, possibly because of a Russian commercial dispute.

Following the reported sighting, a spokesman for the French defence ministry told the BBC that the Arctic Sea was thought to be in international waters.

The spokesman said his information came from the Cape Verde coastguard, who said the ship was outside their jurisdiction. He was unable to confirm the coastguard’s report.

However, the spokesman said there was a “high possibility” that the ship had been located. French intelligence officials also believe they have found the ship in the same area, he said.

There has been no confirmation yet from Russian authorities that of any sighting of the Cape Verde.

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

Mystery of the Arctic Sea: Ship Feared Seized by Pirates in European Waters

Russian-crewed cargo ship that set off from Finland for Algeria carrying timber worth £1m seemingly disappears

While their Kalashnikov-armed modern peers are running riot off the Horn of Africa, pirates have been absent from the coasts of Europe for hundreds of years. Now, however, coastguards are investigating what could be the continent’s first significant case of maritime piracy in living memory.

The mystery surrounds the Arctic Sea, a 98-metre Russian-crewed cargo ship that set off from Finland on 23 July carrying timber worth about £1m, bound for the Algerian port of Bejaia.

In the early hours of the next morning, in the Baltic Sea near the Swedish island of Oland, the ship was boarded by up to 10 armed men dressed in police uniforms, according to reports from the Russian news agency Tass.

The raiders tied up the crew as they searched the vessel and stole a few items, including a satellite phone, before leaving in their rubber dingy. Three crew members were reportedly injured. Curiously, the attack did not seem to be reported immediately, and only emerged 10 days later when Interpol issued an alert.

By this time the Maltese-registered ship had vanished. Its last confirmed contact with the outside world came just before 3pm UK time on 29 July, when it radioed British coastguards to say it was in the Dover straits and heading for Algeria. Signals from the ship’s automatic identification system (AIS) beacon confirmed the position.

“That’s all they said — where they were and where they were going,” said Mark Clark, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. “They didn’t mention anything about having been boarded or hijacked, which would seem a bit curious. If they had been tied up by pirates you’d have thought they might have mentioned it.”

According to websites that monitor live AIS signals, the Arctic Sea, built in 1992 and owned by a Finnish company, disappeared from tracking systems in the early hours of 30 July off the northern French port of Brest. This did not necessarily mean the system was turned off, as tracking coverage can be patchy. The ship was later spotted by a patrol aircraft off the Portuguese coast, Clark said.

And then, nothing — the ship and its crew seemingly disappeared into thin air. The vessel was due at Bejaia more than a week ago, but never arrived. Spanish reports say it was never seen passing the Straits of Gibraltar, meaning it could have been taken down the west coast of Africa.

The Russian navy has sent ships from its Black Sea fleet to the Atlantic to hunt for the Arctic Sea, according to the country’s defence ministry, while Portugal is carrying out its own search.

“We don’t know what has happened, but it is possible the ship was attacked by pirates,” said a spokesman at the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Lisbon. “We are searching with planes and boats, but so far there is no sign of it.”

The call to British coastguards was a mystery, Clark said. “It seems possible that the hijackers could still be on board. Even if they are not, at the very least a large ship has apparently gone missing, which is unusual enough. It is possible that the person who spoke was either a pirate or a member of the crew speaking under duress.”

Inevitably, a number of alternative theories have sprung up, including the notion that criminal gangs or someone connected to the crew had been smuggling drugs or another illegal consignment amid the timber. Russian maritime officials have dismissed any notion of crew complicity, saying those on board were experienced and trusted.

If the case does turn out to be piracy, it would be an unprecedented situation, according to Jeremy Harrison, from the UK’s Chamber of Shipping. “It’s extraordinary. This just doesn’t happen. These are heavily patrolled waters,” he said.

If boarders had turned off the AIS signal, finding the vessel could prove hard, Harrison added. “It can take a long time even to find boats in trouble, even when the general location is known. If the vessel is still afloat and is trying to hide — well, it’s a big ocean.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Security Leak Makes Phone Numbers Public

The telephone numbers of thousands of public figures, including anti-immigration MP Geert Wilders, were openly accessible online because of a leak in the security system of regional press agency GPD, report various media on Thursday morning.

The leak was discovered by the technology website Tweakers. The numbers are stored on a database for journalists working for the press agency.

Although a password is needed to access the database, it was ‘not difficult’ to find the telephone numbers and other personal information using the Google search function, Tweakers tells the Telegraaf.

The GPD has admitted the mistake and says its database is no longer accessible to the public.

According to the Volkskrant even the phone number of prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende was easy to find via the GPD database — albeit an old one.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: New Row Over Rotterdam’s Islamic Advisor

A new row has emerged over the controversial Islamic expert Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan, integration advisor for Rotterdam council and a guest professor at the city’s Erasmus university, is under fire for presenting a weekly talk show on the English-language Iranian channel Press TV.

In an interview with the AD newspaper on Friday, Ramadan says that he is not connected in any way to the Iranian government and stresses that he has always been free to make his own decisions in terms of the subjects and guests he includes on the show Islam and Life.

Ramadan also stresses that the ‘oppression and murder of citizens’ must be condemned, reports the NRC. The comment refers to the allegedly heavy-handed reaction of the Iranian authorities following widespread public protest in July against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the country’s ruler.

Three opposition parties on Rotterdam council (the local party Leefbaar Rotterdam, the Socialists and the right-wing Liberals) are demanding that Ramadan be sacked as the city’s advisor.

The Liberals resigned from the city’s coalition government in April following comments allegedly made by Ramadan against homosexuals and women.

Neither Rotterdam council or Erasmus university were aware that Ramadan is employed by the Iranian broadcaster and both organisations are considering what action to take, says the NRC.

Ramadan was asked to present the Iranian tv show two years ago because of his eighth position on a list of worldwide intellectuals according to Press TV’s Matthew Richardson, reports the AD.

Richardson does not believe Ramadan will give up his job on the station because of a few ‘irritated and badly informed critics’in the Netherlands, the paper quotes Richardson as saying.

Ramadan told the AD that he will reconsider his position ‘as a free spirit, not under pressure and on the basis of my own principle’ when he returns to Europe in three weeks. He is currently on the island of Mauritius.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Ramadan Criticised Over Iran Connection

Opposition members in the Rotterdam city council are once again calling for the resignation of integration consultant Tariq Ramadan, this time because he is hosting a talk show on an Iranian TV station.

Ramadan, a Swiss Muslim academic of Egyptian descent, was hired by the city of Rotterdam in 2007 to help bridge the divide between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. He also lectures at Rotterdam’s Erasmus university.

In April, the right-wing liberal party VVD resigned from the city executive because of its refusal to sack Ramadan following a controversy concerning homophobic statements Ramadan allegedly made. An investigation by the city executive concluded at the time there were no grounds for the accusations.

Now, three opposition parties in the city council — Leefbaar Rotterdam, the Socialist Party and the VVD — are once again calling for Ramadan’s resignation because of his collaboration with the Iranian state TV station Press TV.

Ramadan has been hosting a weekly talk show on the English-language Press TV titled ‘Islam & Life’. The ruling Labour party has also said that Ramadan’s work for Press TV affects his credibility, and has asked the city executive for clarification.

Leefbaar Rotterdam councilwoman Anita Fähmel said Ramadan’s “Iranian hat” proves once more that he has a “double agenda”. She said it was “unacceptable” that Ramadan is “on the payroll of the dictatorial regime of [Iranian president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, while at the same time he preaches tolerance here in Rotterdam”.

Members of the ruling Christian Democrats in the Dutch parliament also asked questions about Ramadan’s involvement with Press TV.

The green party GroenLinks, a coalition partner in the Rotterdam city executive, was more cautious. “The Christian Democrats are suddenly demonstrating Wilders-like behaviour for electoral reasons,” said GroenLinks city council member Arno Bonte in a reference to the populist, anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders. “We don’t want any part of that.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Search Continues for Freighter Seized by Pirates

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 13 — The search off the coast of Portugal continues for the 4,000 tonne freighter, the Arctic Sea from Malta, with its 15 member Russian crew, transporting 1 million euros worth of wood to Algeria, which disappeared July 28. The search for the ship, which could have been seized by pirates, has been joined by two Russian nuclear submarines, according to Portuguese coastal authorities quoted in the media. The last contact with the commander of the vessel, which should have arrived at its destination, the port of Bejaia on August 4, dates back to July 28 when the freighter put itself in contact with the coastal guar, Mark Clark, in the Mancha Channel, ‘it is possible that the members of the crew were kidnapped and under the threat of weapons” of pirates. According to Swedish authorities, after having left the Finnish coast, navigating the Baltic Sea, the freighter was boarded by 10 men on July 24, reportedly an anti-drug squad and left the vessel 12 hours later after damaging the radio. The last news of the ship is from July 31, when it was sighted by aircraft from the Portuguese Coast Guard, but since then it seems to have completely disappeared. In addition to the two Russian nuclear submarines, another five ships are engaged in the search. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ramadan: Italy, Lombardy Day Labourers Obliged to Drink Water

(ANSAmed) — MANTOVA, AUGUST 13 — Muslim day labourers working on Mantova melon and tomato farms will be obliged to drink water even during the month of Ramadan, as decided by the Mantova Committee for Safety in Agriculture, made up of representatives from the Coldiretti and Confederazione Italiana dell’Agricoltura agricultural-entrepreneurial organisations and the CGIL, CISL and UIL trade unions. The document, in reference to the legislative decree number 81 of April 9, 2008, “obliges” Muslim farm labourers to drink water during the work day under the sun to avoid heat strokes even in the month of Ramadan, which this year will begin around August 20. Those not following this regulation “will be temporarily suspended from activity and, if recurring, will be fired”. Agricultural organisations have also begun handing out informational brochures to workers in four languages to explain the possible risks from sun stroke. “We made this decision because we want to safeguard workers’ health as much as possible,” said Roberto Cagliari, Coldiretti director and chairman of the Safety Committee. “Last year, the refusal by many workers to drink during the month of Ramadan in the melon fields created a large number of problems.” The representative of the Muslim community in Mantova, Ben Mansour, is against the decision: “No work contract and no judicial regulation provides for the obligation to drink during Ramadan. If Muslim workers are fired for this reason, we will raise an objection. If a Muslim does not feel well then he can take a break and if he feels that it is not simply a fleeting sensation but something more serious then he can drink, since it would then be his decision which no one can impose on him.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ramadan Under Fire for Iranian TV Job

Muslim academic and Rotterdam integration adviser Tariq Ramadan has come under fire for his work as presenter of a television programme on the Iranian state-funded international news network Press TV.

The Swiss academic works as an integration adviser for Rotterdam city council and is holds the Chair in ‘Identity and Citizenship’ at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University. Both the council and the university have expressed concern at Mr Ramadan’s role in the weekly television programme Islam and Life. The programme discusses Islam and “the daily challenges faced by its followers especially in the West”.

Rotterdam councillors have expressed concern that Mr Ramadan should be working for a network funded by the Iranian government, particularly in the light of the violent suppression of dissent in the country following the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Three parties in Rotterdam city council — the conservative VVD, the local populist party Liveable Rotterdam and the Socialist Party — say the local authority should immediately dismiss Mr Ramadan as an adviser. The Labour Party has called for an explanation. Neither the city council nor the university was aware of Mr Ramadan’s work for the Iranian network, which emerged on Wednesday in the Dutch online higher education magazine Science Guide.


Press TV has been attacked in the British media and by Iranian dissident organisations such as Solidarity With Iranian People’s Protests for being a mouthpiece of the Iranian government.

In July a well-known British radio presenter Nick Ferarri resigned from his show on the Press TV, which broadcasts in English and operates from London, in protest at the Iranian regime’s suppression of protests in the wake of the presidential election. However, British MPs Derek Conway and George Galloway, and high-profile British journalists such as Andrew Gilligan continue to work for the network.

In a statement to de Volkskrant newspaper on Friday, Tariq Ramadan said that he had been free to choose the content of his broadcasts and had not had any contact with the Iranian government, and that the oppression and murder of citizens was to be condemned.


Mr Ramadan became the subject of controversy in the Netherlands earlier this year when the Gay Krant magazine alleged that he had made anti-gay remarks that were “not intended for Western ears”.

In response the conservative VVD demanded that Rotterdam city council should end its relationship with him. In protest the party then withdrew from its coalition with the Green Left, Labour and Christian Democrat parties.


Mr Ramadan characterises himself as a bridge-building moderate in the debate on Muslim attitudes to homosexuality. In a response on the Gay Krant website he says that “all the world’s major religions and spiritual traditions — from the majority view in Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism to Christianity and Islam — condemn and forbid homosexuality.” He concludes that “European Muslims have the right to express their convictions while at the same time respecting the humanity and rights of individuals.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Spain-Portugal: Police Cooperation Centre Opened

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 13 — A new centre for police and customs cooperation between Spain and Portugal has been opened in the border town Ayamonte (Huelva), in Andalusia, and Castro Marim (Faro), in Portugal, in the historic mixed border area between the two countries. The opening of the centre reinforces Spain and Portugal’s cooperation in the fight against criminality and trafficking weapons, people and drugs, as well as terrorism, the Portuguese Minister of Internal Administration, Carlos Pereira, and the Prefect of Andalusia, Juan José Lopez Garron, during the inauguration ceremony. In the centre at Castro Marim, which has functioned since January as a joint police station, members of the Guardia Civil and the customs service for the Spanish part and police and public security agents for the Portuguese part are already at work. The cross-border cooperation for security between Spain and Portugal has been in the process of being reinforced since 2005, following the agreement reached during bilateral talks in Evora. The institution of 5 police cooperation centres was established by the agreement reached between the two neighbouring countries in January, during the most recent bilateral talks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Uppsala Father Gets Two Years in Prison

A 58-year-old father of four in Uppsala has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for abusing his wife and children.

The man was also ordered to pay almost 400,000 kronor ($56,000) in damages to his wife and three of his children by the Uppsala district court.

The court considered the children’s testimony to be reliable and considered it proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the father had kept them locked up in the family apartment between September 2003 and March 2004.

The court also concluded that the man’s actions exceeded the rights and duties of a parent and guardian to influence and control the personal relationships of one’s children, as afforded by law.

The low age of the children at the time of the events, that it was the father that had exposed them to the criminal act and the duration of the abuse, were all factors considered when determining the level of damages. In addition the children’s lost school time was considered to have had an impact on their education as they are now of consenting age and need to fund their own education.

One of the daughters, the fourth and youngest child, is not deemed to have been victim of any crime. The girl witnessed in court in support of her father but her testimony was not considered by the court to be reliable.

The father was also on trial on charges of having assaulted and threatened his wife on five separate occasions, but on four of the five occasions it was a case of word against word.

The court wrote that the man’s wife appeared reliable but that the available evidence was insufficient to convict.

The man was however convicted for having assaulted her on the occasion that one of her sons was a witness, and for having, on the same occasion, assaulted and threatened to kill the son with a knife.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: ‘Super Bunker’ Houses Sweden’s Top Criminals

The new high security bunker at Kumla prison in central Sweden is now home to around a dozen of Sweden’s most hardened criminals. The facility has space for 24 in total.

The “super bunker” has been designed to house the most dangerous criminals in the country and those considered most likely to attempt an escape.

Among the inmates already placed in the facility are Mehdi Seyyed Hosseini Nazari, the leader of organized crime gang Bandidos, who is serving time for a conviction for the blowing up of two cars in central Gothenburg.

Seyyed is joined by Mårten Tammiharju, who is connected to the criminal network

ed for Life (FFL), and who was given six years and nine months for shooting at two police officers in Västerås while on the run.

A third inmate is Milivoje Jokovic who was convicted and imprisoned for smuggling cocaine from the Netherlands to Stockholm.

Further inmates include Emin Isakovic, convicted for a slew of bank robberies in western Sweden.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: trying to understand the apparent disparity here between criminals who fit the “Swedish Supermax” profile — six years and nine months(?) and other actual murderers — who apparently don’t make the cut…]

The bunker was built on instruction from the government after Tammiharju and two fellow inmates escaped from Norrtälje prison in 2004. Three further escape attempts in the same year left the Swedish prisons service in turmoil.

Last Tuesday the new high-security bunker was opened at Kumla, Sweden’s most notorious high-security prison located in the Nerike countryside, and has been described as escape-proof.

The bunker is guarded by 50 staff, twice the normal ratio, and prisoners are housed in 12 square metre cells under 24 hour surveillance, according to the Aftonbladet newspaper.

“Security is in every way substantially higher here than at all other locations across the country,” said Christer Isaksson, who is in charge of security at Kumla, to the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Cancer Patients Denied Life-Saving ‘Near-Label’ Drugs

Thousands of cancer patients are being denied drugs that could extend their lives because of restrictions on supplying medications outside their licensed use, campaigners say.

Almost 3,200 patients have been forced to plead for funding from the NHS for so-called “near-label” treatments — medicines licensed for use in some cancers, but not in other, similar forms of the disease.

In the past three years, 1,053 applications for funding were rejected by local primary care trusts (PCTs), meaning that patients had either to go without or pay up to £20,000 for treatment.

The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests to every PCT in England, are published today by the Rarer Cancers Forum.

The charity says that the problem arises because the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which assesses drugs for NHS use, cannot recommend a treatment outside its licensed use.

After a review of access to cancer treatments last year, Nice promised to speed up its processes and consider the greater value attached to some drugs designed to treat terminal conditions.

However, where drugs could be used outside their licensed fields, doctors have to apply to local PCTs for funding to use a drug on a case-by-case basis, generating a postcode lottery of access to the treatments.

Stella Pendleton, executive director of the Rarer Cancers Forum, said: “The NHS is forcing desperate patients into the cruel situation where the chances of their being given the treatment they need depend on where they live.

“No patient should be denied a treatment recommended by a doctor simply because the cancer it treats is too rare for the medicine to be licensed. We need these obstacles removed.

“Drugs companies, politicians and the NHS have a responsibility to patients to fix this system.”

The Department of Health said: “Doctors can use their clinical judgment to prescribe any treatment that will benefit their patient, even if it is outside its licensed indication.

“Such decisions need to be made in discussion with the patient concerned and funding may need to be agreed with the local PCT.

“Where NICE guidance is not available, it is only right that local PCTs should continue to make these difficult funding decisions according to the needs of their local population.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron Turns on MEP Daniel Hannan for Anti-NHS Tour in America

David Cameron was today forced to rebuke one of his own MEPs who spent the last week on a tour of the United States rubbishing the NHS in a series of interviews.

Daniel Hannan, an outspoken and popular Conservative politician, gave a damning verdict on the British health service, telling American television viewers: “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

The Conservative MEP for South East England has appeared regularly on Fox News this year criticising the NHS but today, after a popular backlash by the British public, the Tory leader moved to distance itself from Mr Hannan.

Mr Cameron said the MEP was wrong to have labelled the NHS a bloated relic that would destroy the US economy and risk American lives if it was emulated.

The Leader of the Opposition said: “He does have some quite eccentric views about some things, and political parties always include some people who don’t toe the party line on one issue or another issue.”

Gordon and Sarah Brown cast conventions of neutrality aside yesterday, joining an online campaign to defend the NHS against the attacks from US Republicans.

In doing so Mr Brown effectively threw his weight behind President Obama’s controversial plan to reform healthcare, which has prompted Republicans to described the NHS as “evil and Orwellian”.

The Browns Tweeted in support of the health service using the hugely popular “#welovetheNHS” tag that was launched by Britons to counter US allegations.

Mr Cameron responded outside his constituency home this morning: “The Conservative Party stands four square behind the NHS,” said. “We are the party of the NHS, we back it, we are going to expand it, we have ring-fenced it and said that it will get more money under a Conservative government, and it is our number one mission to improve it.”

One of Mr Cameron’s most popular politicians, however, strongly disagrees. Mr Hannan became popular in American right-wing circles in March when he confronted the Prime Minister in a spirited broadside at the European Parliament.

A video of his speech became a YouTube hit viewed by more than two million people around the world.

After that speech, Mr Hannan began to appear regularly on Fox News via satellite link sometimes in front of a picture of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, despite working in Brussels.

In April, when the US healthcare debate was beginning to become contentious, Mr Hannan told television viewers that the NHS was a terrible mistake.

“We’ve lived through this mistake for 60 years now,” he said. “[I’m warning you] because you are our friends and if you see a friend about to make a terrible mistake you try and warn him.”

He said the health service in Britain “has made people iller (sic)” because “we have very few doctors”.

John Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, picked up on these remarks in the run up to the European election, where Mr Hannan comfortably retained his seat.

“Now I know he might be a hero in America for the Republican Party,” Mr Prescott said in a video blog. “But let Mr Cameron make clear now to the country that he doesn’t’ represent the view of the Conservative Party. Otherwise we’ll see another slipping of the mask of the Tory Party: reject this man.”

The Conservative Party did not respond until Mr Hannan’s latest round of interviews on the NHS. This week he claimed that attempting to follow the health system would be dangerous for US citizens and bad news for the global economy. He said that to copy the system would lead America towards bankruptcy “where we are now. We’re just a couple of years behind Zimbabwe”.

“We have a system where the most salient facts of it you get huge waiting lists, you have bad survival rates and you would much rather fall ill in the US,” he said.

“How amazing to me that a free people. . . should be contemplating, in peacetime, burdening themselves with a system like this that puts the power of life and death in a state bureaucracy.”

Lord Mandelson, who is standing in for the Prime Minister this week, said Mr Hannan’s remarks had exposed the “two faces” of the Conservative Party.

“I think people will find it shocking that a Conservative parliamentarian should go to the US in order to slag off the NHS, which is one of our great achievements in this country,” he told Sky News.

“What we see is the two faces of the Conservative Party — the one David Cameron wants to everyone to see and believe, and the other one presented by the Conservative parliamentarian.”

Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, said Mr Hannan’s intervention was Mr Cameron’s “worst nightmare”.

“What has happened within the last 48 hours is what Cameron has feared most because it lays bare the Tories’ deep ambivalence towards the NHS,” he said.

“Their election strategy is not to talk about the NHS. Cameron knows there is deep hostility towards it within his ranks. Hannan is not the only one — many senior Tory MPs would privately agree with his comments.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Gypsy Convoy Invades Site… Just Hours After Council Evicts Travellers Following Six-Year Battle Costing £400,000

A convoy of gypsies pitched up at a controversial traveller’s site — just hours after a group had been evicted following a lengthy legal battle costing £400,000.

South Cambridgeshire District Council officials had just finished bulldozing three illegal pitches when eight more caravans rolled on to an adjoining field.

The demolition action was the result of a six-year legal battle to remove illegally camped travellers at the notorious Smithy Fen site in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire…

An SCDC spokesman said officers could have done nothing to stop the travellers moving in on Wednesday as they could have been visiting relatives.

She said: ‘Our enforcement officers have been at the site to monitor the situation and will keep it under close observation.

‘As we understand, there are eight caravans on two authorised pitches.

‘We will work with the community and take a balanced approach. It is possible that they are just passing through and will move on.’

She claimed there were only eight caravans in total and they had moved on to two separate pitches — therefore only exceeding capacity by two caravans per pitch.

Campaigners have accused the Government of jeopardising councils by failing to give them the power to deal with people who illegally occupy land.

Robin Page, former presenter of One Man And His Dog and independent councillor for SCDC, said the Government was too ‘politically correct’ to act. He said: ‘It’s quite simple. The law should be the same as it is in Ireland. Illegal occupation should be a criminal offence, not a civil offence. Then there would be no problem.

‘As soon as anybody goes on to land where they are not entitled to be, police would have the power to arrest them and confiscate their caravans.

‘It is should be a universal law applied to everybody. But New Labour is so politically correct it is spineless.

‘If the law was changed in this way it would make a lot of Irish travellers go back home — they are only here because our Government makes it easy for them.

‘The cost of the legal fees is crippling councils. It’s madness.’

The new travellers moved on to Smithy Fen at 8.30pm on Wednesday.

SCDC officers had been at the site since 7.30am diligently clearing the derelict caravans.

There are 13 members of the settled community who live on land surrounding the traveller’s site, none of whom have been able to sell their homes.

A local resident, who did not wish to be named for fear or reprisals, watched in horror as the new arrivals moved in.

She said: ‘It’s a farce. Completely ridiculous. They’re sticking up two fingers at the council. It’s exasperating.

‘They know the council has no clout. They knew the site was overrun with bailiffs, enforcement officers and council workers but they moved in, as bold as brass.

‘How much will this new development cost us? There seems to be no end. The council must act swiftly and defiantly.’

The convoy of caravans and vehicles are parked up on an authorised pitch in Setchell Drove — less than 100 yards from the bulldozed pitches — which is one of six encampments that make up Smithy Fen. The fight over Smithy Fen has so far cost taxpayers £350,000 in legal fees alone, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

SCDC moved in the bulldozers on Wednesday to clear the site 18 months after it was granted a High Court injunction ordering the travellers to vacate the area.

The travellers, who were required to leave by March 21 2008, appealed the injunction. The appeal was dismissed almost one year ago, on October 2008.

A total of 11 pitches were cleared on Wednesday but just three caravans remained.

Before the new arrivals there were 64 pitches at Smithy Fen, 14 of which are unauthorised.

At its height there were more than 100 unauthorised pitches after the site was inundated with Irish travellers in 2003.

Many of the original travellers occupying the site moved away.

Susie Squire of the Tax Payers Alliance, said the Government had to act immediately. ‘We would endorse a change in legislation, it would save tax payers of a lot of money and a lot of distress.

‘Councils are not set up in a way that they can deal with these issues. Their public services and planning laws can’t accommodate big travelling communities.

‘It is up to central government to take decisive action or we will see this problem, and the associated costs, escalate.

‘If they can change the law, they should do so because it can’t go on like this.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Jim Fitzpatrick, Government Minister, Condemns Traditional Muslim Wedding

Jim Fitzpatrick, a Government minister, has publicly condemned the Muslim tradition of separating men and women at weddings.

The farming minister and his wife walked out of the marriage ceremony of a constituent after discovering they would have to sit in separate rooms.

He said the gender segregation was a sign of increasing radicalisation and was damaging to social cohesion.

However, Muslim leaders insist the custom is traditional at Islamic weddings as well as in mosques, and expressed surprise that Mr Fitzpatrick, a third of whose east London constituents are Muslims, was unaware of the fact.

It was suggested that the Labour MP was trying to appeal to white voters who may fear divided communities.

His comments echo the row triggered three years ago when Jack Straw, now the justice secretary, called Muslim face veils a “visible statement of separation and difference” and called for women to remove them during surgeries in his Blackburn constituency.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, a founding member of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “I think in the interest of cohesion it would be better if Mr Fitzpatrick established more contact with the Muslim community.

“It shows a lack of interest on the part of the MP to engage with people with different backgrounds and sadly it reflects badly on him.

“If he had a little bit of knowledge he would have found it was quite normal and nothing unusual for them to enjoy the celebration in this way.

“There are some who prefer segregated events and some where they are joined together. We live in a society where we need to respect all traditions.”

George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow who will contest the new Poplar and Limehouse constituency against Mr Fitzgerald at the election, said: “If he doesn’t wish to attend an Islamic wedding and observe the religious customs preferred by the bride and groom, he should not go rather than insult them for perceived political gain.

“I am absolutely amazed and astonished that a Government minister with a substantial Muslim minority in his constituency should have decided to give such a gratuitous insult to so many Muslims.”

Tim Archer, who will stand for the Conservatives locally, said: “I can’t help but feel he’s playing a certain race card to save his skin at the next election. I think it’s a desperate strategy.”

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, a director of the Muslim Institute, a leading think tank, added: “He shouldn’t have been surprised, or perhaps he didn’t read the invitation card properly.

“But he’s going to annoy a number of people in his constituency.”

Mr Fitzpatrick, a former fireman, has represented Poplar and Canning Town since 1997 and served as a junior transport minister, London minister and as Post Office minister.

Most of his constituency is in Tower Hamlets, where an estimated 35 per cent of the residents are Bangladeshi Muslims, and he says he regularly attends Islamic weddings where men and women mix freely.

On Sunday he and his wife Sheila, a GP, were invited to a wedding where they found male and female guests were seated in separate rooms, and promptly walked out. The event was held at the London Muslim Centre, next door to the prominent East London Mosque in Whitechapel.

The minister later told his local newspaper: “It’s a disappointment. We are trying to build social cohesion in a community but this is not the way forward.”

He told The Daily Telegraph: “My wife and I go to weddings to celebrate the occasion jointly. If we are welcome as a couple we go as a couple and if not it is our right to say we don’t want to do that.

“I’m not pandering to any minority opinion.”

Mr Fitzpatrick claimed the invitation to the wedding, of a couple he did not know personally but who were related to a friend of his, did not make it clear that the event would be segregated.

He said he had only ever once encountered a similar situation at the centre, and had left that wedding as well.

The minister blamed the policy on the Islamic Forum of Europe, a hardline group based at the East London Mosque.

He said: “The segregation of men and women didn’t used to be as much of a strong feature.

“We’ve been attending Muslim weddings together for years but only recently has this strict line been taken.

“But it is an indication of the stricter application of rules that is taking place that didn’t exist before.”

“I think the stranglehold influence of the IFE is present more than ever before.”

However, the mosque insisted that men and women have been kept apart at weddings in the centre since 2004.

The policy is traditional at Muslim marriages, as it is in mosques, as an illustration of the importance the religion places on modesty.

A spokesman said: “Segregated weddings have always been popular in the Muslim community; the London Muslim Centre has facilitated them for over five years. It is part of the attraction for Muslim families so they can celebrate their happy day in a religious atmosphere, a custom which is also found in other religious traditions represented in Britain.

“We have always allowed non-Muslim guests to be seated together without segregation, but this is entirely at the discretion of the families who have hired the halls.”

Syed Ahmed, a spokesman for the IFE, said his organisation had nothing to do with the wedding policy.

He said: “It is a bit confusing. If he has got a problem then he should take it up with the relevant person who invited him.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour’s Jobs Miracle Has Been a Disaster for a Whole Generation

Jeff Randall says it is way too late to blame the Tories for the latest, terrible unemployment figures.

The House of Commons was in uproar; Labour MPs were spitting bullets. They roughed up the prime minister with prolonged abuse. After several attempts to restore order, the Speaker was forced to suspend the sitting to give agitated members on all sides a chance to calm down.

The cause of Opposition fury was news that UK unemployment had just reached a post-war high… one million. This was shocking — or so it seemed on January 20, 1972. Panicked by the economy’s downward lurch, the chancellor of the day, Anthony Barber, pledged to boost growth by allowing public-sector borrowing to rise above £3 billion. Heady stuff.

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Inequality ‘worse under Labour than during Margaret Thatcher’s time’Life in Britain was very different then. Ted Heath was in No 10, tartan loon pants were considered fashionable and the all-party consensus that, with well-intentioned intervention, governments ought to be able to keep unemployment close to zero was still intact (just). How naive we were.

If the toughest problems facing Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling were unemployment of one million and annual borrowing of £3 billion, they’d be dancing the Duke of Atholl’s reel in Downing Street. As it is, with dole queues lengthening and the bills for 12 years of profligacy dropping on taxpayers’ doormats, the piper is preparing a funeral lament.

Having defined itself as the administration of “record employment”, Mr Brown’s government is being buried by an avalanche of job losses. In the three months to June, there were a further 220,000, bringing the number of people out of work to 2,435,000, a jobless rate of 7.8 per cent.

Were the consequences not so serious, the irony would be delicious. Since coming to power 12 years ago, the Prime Minister has spurned few opportunities to establish unemployment levels in the Conservative years as his key point of comparison between the main parties. At all times, we have been invited to infer that the evil of unemployment is linked exclusively to the devil-worshippers inside Tory high command.

Mr Brown enjoyed littering his Budget speeches with references to the horrors of the dark ages before he turned up, bringing enlightenment. His 2004 performance was a conflation of hubris and hostages to fortune: “Even after the creation since 1997 of 1.8 million new jobs, 1.3 million in the private sector, and over 100,000 extra businesses; today and every working day another 600 new businesses are starting up… with new jobs being created at three times the rate of the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.”

Many of Mr Brown’s allusions to Labour’s jobs miracle did not bear a minute’s scrutiny. Anyone who bothered to consider the total of 2.7 million incapacity-benefit claimants could see that a sizeable chunk of Britain’s unemployed had been hidden. Like the part of the state’s soaring debt that is masked by PFI contracts, these people became off-balance-sheet items — funded publicly, but not appearing where they should in the nation’s accounts.

The Prime Minister’s reluctance to acknowledge that most of the domestic jobs created during the early part of this decade were taken up by immigrants is matched only by his willingness to keep harking back to the failings of past Conservative governments, especially on the issue of unemployment. In business, it is said that a new management can blame the last lot for only one year; after that, it owns all the headaches. This appears not to apply to contemporary British government, where responsibility avoidance is rife.

In a speech last year, Mr Brown said: “In the 1970s and 1980s… skilled manufacturing jobs were lost. The opportunities for social mobility narrowed. Inequality and child poverty worsened. As unemployment rose to three million, the sons and daughters of many families missed out on many of the new educational opportunities that were being created. At a time when many of their fathers were hit by unemployment, many of the generation that some have called Thatcher’s children — the lost generation — were sadly denied the chance to progress.”

Unfortunately for Mr Brown, if you fast-forward to 2009, the faces have changed, but the story is depressingly familiar. Manufacturing is under the cosh, social mobility is in retreat, too few students from comprehensives can crack our best universities, and — here’s the killer blow — unemployment is heading towards three million, threatening to create another lost generation.

For a beleaguered and discredited Prime Minister, the timetable could hardly be worse. Under Mrs Thatcher, the number of people out of work rose above three million in January 1982. On current form, January could again be the month when that line is breached. The difference is that whereas the Conservatives were only halfway through their first parliamentary term, Mr Brown must lead Labour into an election by no later than next June.

When he does, Jobcentre Plus offices will be bursting with unemployed and, in some cases, unemployable youth. These will be “Brown’s children”, the output of sub-standard schools who were encouraged to borrow a fortune to attend second-rate courses at third-rate universities. Many will be dropouts, with not even a debased degree certificate to show for their unwitting role in Labour’s education fiasco. History will judge them as victims of a monstrous con-trick, a giant fraud perpetrated by a bunch of mad social engineers.

As Frank Field, Labour’s voice of sanity, readily concedes, the Government’s New Deal and making-work-pay strategies have failed, costing the taxpayer £75 billion since 1997. Its record on youth unemployment is shameful. There are well over one million “Neets” — those not in education, employment or training — which is a greater number than when Tony Blair’s first landslide was celebrated with D.Ream’s pop song, Things Can Only Get Better.

For Mr Brown, a more appropriate anthem is Ray Charles’s Busted. Because, unlike Mrs Thatcher, who had to battle against institutionalised defeatism, having inherited an economy that had been run into the ground by outdated, inefficient and over-manned nationalised industries, Mr Brown took over a golden legacy. Britain’s reformed labour laws had made it one of Europe’s most flexible locations for investment, a new spirit of enterprise had been injected into the veins of commerce, and an explosion of activity in London’s financial sector brought a tax-revenue bonanza.

Much of that has been squandered. Creeping taxes are choking hopes for a quick return to growth. Public spending is out of control. Private pensions have been wrecked. It’s a tale of unimaginable incompetence.

Back in 1972, Robert Carr, the employment secretary promised to “wage an all-out war” against the boom and bust economics that had added to the jobless total. He failed, and the Tories were slung out two years later. Mr Brown has also blown it. He will suffer the same fate.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Mother Goes on the Run Across Europe After Social Workers Try to Snatch Her Son

Her crime? Letting him see her husband shout at her.

For two years [Angela Wileman] has played a cat-and-mouse game as the British authorities spent thousands of pounds chasing her around Europe, decrying her as a bad mother and threatening to put her in prison. An MP is now demanding an investigation into the waste of taxpayers’ money by Devon social services. Terrified of losing Lucas, Angela fled first to Spain and then Sweden. She now lives in County Wexford, Southern Ireland. The authorities in each of the countries deemed her a perfectly good mother to her son and let her keep him. But it had been a very different story back in Britain, where Angela, 33, fell foul of a disturbing new tactic by social workers.

In the past ten years there has been a 50 per cent rise in the number of parents who, just like her, have been accused of ‘emotionally harming’ their children. A quarter of forced adoptions happen after social workers allege that the child has been the victim of emotional abuse — far more than instances of sexual abuse or cruelty. Last year, 6,700 ‘emotionally harmed’ children were placed on the protection register. There were 2,600 registrations for sexual abuse and 5,100 for physical abuse.

Parents who social workers say might shout at, or even loudly reprimand, their children in the future have been branded as potential emotional abusers and had their toddlers or newborn babies removed from them. ‘Emotional harm’ is the latest buzz phrase in the social workers’ lexicon — one that can condemn almost any family. Yet it has no strict definition under British law.

…Her ordeal began when she approached them to seek help for her alcoholic husband. Events took an extraordinary turn when she was accused of emotionally harming Lucas by allowing him to witness her husband’s violent behaviour towards her. She has always denied such a thing. Lucas himself said to social workers that he had never seen his mother hurt by his father. But suddenly Angela, a middle-class estate agent whose father is a successful businessman, found herself fighting to keep Lucas, who was handed to foster parents and prepared for adoption.

…A video clip (recorded on Angela’s mobile phone) of one of her few meetings with her son at a council ‘family centre’ shows Lucas screaming ‘No, no, no’ and then throwing himself to the floor as a social worker tries to lift him up, before the front door is slammed in his mother’s face as she tries to say goodbye.

…Devon social services says it has a ‘duty of care’ to all children in the county and refuses to comment in detail on Angela’s case. But John Hemming, a Lib Dem MP who advises such families, says he knows of 15 mothers now on the run.

…Calling for the investigation into Devon’s behaviour, which he estimates cost £100,000, the MP said: ‘How can anyone in their right mind think that seizing a child for adoption from a decent mother is a good thing for the child? This is happening every week in Britain on the basis of accusations that parents are “emotionally harming” their children.

…One of the reports on Angela Wileman by Devon social workers states: ‘There is nothing to suggest that this mother is anything other than capable of meeting her son’s physical needs. All concerns have been based on the volatile and sometimes violent relationship towards her by her husband.’

           — Hat tip: Thrasymachus[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Attack by MEP ‘Unpatriotic’

Health Secretary Andy Burnham has accused a Tory MEP who attacked the NHS on American TV of being “unpatriotic”.

Labour has stepped up its criticism of Daniel Hannan, who waded into the debate over Barack Obama’s health bill.

They claim his view — that the NHS is outdated, unfair and should be scrapped — is shared by many Conservatives.

But David Cameron said Mr Hannan’s view was “eccentric” and accused Labour of making a meal of the row, stressing that the NHS was his top priority.

Mr Hannan has made a series of appearances on American television in recent weeks, describing the NHS as “60 year mistake” and saying that he “wouldn’t wish it on anyone”.

‘Ring-fenced funding’

He has stressed that these are his own views and not those of the party — but they were backed by fellow Tory MEP Roger Helmer, who told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “I think Dan has done us a service by raising these issues which need to be looked at.

“If 80% of Americans are getting better health care than we are in the UK then we ought to ask why, and we ought to ask how are we going to deliver equally good results.”

Tory leader David Cameron, who has vowed to protect health from spending cuts if he comes to power, has been at pains to stress his commitment to the NHS and distance himself from Mr Hannan.

“The Conservative Party stands four square behind the NHS,” he told BBC News.

“We are the party of the NHS, we back it, we are going to expand it, we have ring-fenced it and said that it will get more money under a Conservative government, and it is our number one mission to improve it.”

And he rebuked Mr Hannan, saying: “He does have some quite eccentric views about some things, and political parties always include some people who don’t toe the party line on one issue or another issue.”

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

UK: Officers Go Back to School to Learn Urdu (Rochdale)

Members of the Rochdale South Neighbourhood Policing Team went back to school to take the classes, which have been held in the heart of the community.

The classes were designed to help improve officers knowledge of the culture and to strengthen links with the local Asian community.

Twelve police officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) from the Kingsway and Milkstone and Deeplish wards started the six-week language course on 1 August. The classes have been taking place at Castlemere Community Centre, Deeplish Community Centre and Sparth Bottom Community Centre all in Rochdale. They have been so successful that future courses are now being planned.

PCSO Madasir Nasir arranged the classes, which were taught by town magistrate Ghulam Rasool Shazad. The first few lessons gave officers the opportunity to learn simple phrases such as ‘hi’, ‘how are you?’ and ‘my name is’.

These are the first to be delivered on Rochdale Division and it is hoped that the new language skills will help in everyday police work.

Inspector Michelle Hughes for the Rochdale South Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “The feedback we have had so far has been brilliant. Everyone who has done the course has been able to use it in their job and they have found that it immediately helps to break down barriers.

“It is really appreciated by members of the public who lack confidence in their English language skills and shows that our police officers are committed to strengthening their relationships with the local Asian community.”

Mr Shazad who is a trained Urdu teacher, said: “I have been very pleased with the commitment shown by these officers to the classes and by the speed that they have been learning.

“They have been excellent and have definitely exceeded my expectations. So far they have been learning the history of the language and its origins as well as being taught basic words and nouns as well as sentence structure.

“I do believe that these lessons will have huge benefits to both the police and the local community.”

           — Hat tip: Earl Cromer[Return to headlines]

UK: Off-Duty Police Officer Was Sexually Assaulted in Cinema

A MARRIED man who groped a woman in a cinema was soon arrested — because she was an off-duty police officer.

Mahesh Bhanji touched himself under a jumper as he watched the comedy Marley and Me, then began to stroke the officer’s leg.

The officer left the cinema to call for back-up but arrested Bhanji herself when the film ended and he was about to leave.

She told Nottingham Magistrates’ Court she had worked with sex offenders as part of her job but was left sick and dizzy when shock kicked in and she realised she had been a victim of sexual assault herself.

Bhanji, 53, of Oakington Close, Bestwood Estate, has been banned from entering any cinema for 18 months and will be on the sex offenders’ register for five years.

He was given an 18-month community order, during which time he will be supervised by the probation service.

Bhanji, who pleaded guilty to sexual assault, had no previous convictions.

The assault took place at Cineworld, in Nottingham’s Cornerhouse complex, on April 4.

Bhanji’s victim had gone to see the film with another female officer.

Paul Hughes, prosecuting, said they sat in the back row because there was more leg room.

“There were only 40 people in the cinema, which was for 200 people, but he came and sat directly next to her on the back row,” Mr Hughes said.

“He put a jumper over his groin and put his hand under there. The officers were suspicious. Then his hands started moving up and down during the film.”

One-and-a-half hours into the film, he started leaning over towards the officer.

She leaned away, but then felt something on her leg. She saw that he was stroking her leg with his left hand, while his right hand was still moving under the jumper.

The female officer then left the cinema to report him, while her colleague remained inside to ensure he did not leave.

When the film ended, they both approached and arrested him. The other police officers then arrived.

Bhanji must pay £70 towards the legal costs of prosecuting the case.

           — Hat tip: Earl Cromer[Return to headlines]

UK: Sensationalism is a Gift to Extremists

On Saturday 8 August a much-touted demonstration in Birmingham turned into a big brawl involving more than 100 people and pitched battles in the high street. In one corner a loose alliance of two groups — Casuals United and English Defence League — in the other, a counter-demonstration called by Unite Against Fascism.

The immediate background to this mass brawl was the protest against British soldiers by some Muslim extremists on 10 March. That was the spark that various far-right groups were looking for to pump up their rhetoric against Muslims. The National Front turned out a big demonstration in Luton on 13 April, which needed police reinforcements from London to control. Not long afterwards, the Luton mosque was fire-bombed.


But that doesn’t mean extremist Muslims should be let off the hook. In 2004 the extremist group al-Muhajiroun, in all likelihood also behind the Luton anti-soldiers demonstration, had planned a rally in London where Hindus and Sikhs would be openly converted to Islam. They nearly caused a mini-riot then because Sikh gangs and BNP members had also planned to show up.

Anjem Choudhary carried out a similar stunt recently by apparently converting an 11-year-old boy to Islam. Al-Muhajiroun has always been a small but highly vocal group, which seeks publicity for its stunts to polarise people. It is shunned by mosques across the country, but its stunts nevertheless inflame Hindu, Sikh and white groups thanks to incessant media coverage. Remember, only eight people were involved in the anti-soldiers march in a town with more than 25,000 Muslims, and yet they got front-page coverage.


But the real people to blame for these riots are the journalists willing to run inflammatory headlines — playing straight into the hands of extremists on both sides. Anjem Choudhary remains a constantly invited figure, even on the BBC, because he offers them entertainment. People are being sucked into a game of sensationalism, which contributed to the mass-brawl on Saturday. It’s time for people to stop being taken for mugs.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Pope Urged to Celebrate Mass in Rome Prison

Vatican City, 13 August (AKI) — The chaplain of Rome’s severely overcrowded Rebibbia prison has urged Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate mass there for the religious Assumption of Mary holiday on Saturday. “Dear Pope Benedict, after praying for the soul of another prisoner who died here yesterday, this is my dream,” Sandro Spriano wrote in an open letter to the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, on Thursday.

“That you, Holy Father, arrive at Rebibbia on Saturday without an an escort or insignia… that we listen devotedly to your homily.

“The inmates will give you a round of applause that will last at least 20 minutes,” Spriano said.

He said of the 1,600 prisoners pairs of inmates were being crammed into single-occupancy cells and four into cells designed for two people — for at least 20 hours per day.

A 45-year-old and a 51-year-old prisoner have died in the jail in recent days, Spriano said.

“Maybe they would have survived, had they received better medical care,” he said.

Besides severe overcrowding, the prisoners are currently enduring terrible heat inside the prison, a shortage of showers, and are rationed to one toilet roll each per month, he noted.

The prison houses drug addicts, HIV patients and lifers as well as “social outcasts who are driven to crime to achieve the idea of affluence that our relentlessly consumer society encourages”, said Spriano.

“Whoever has made mistakes and sinned — as we all do — even those who have committed terrible crime and caused dreadful tragedies, are the children of God and our brothers and sisters,” he stressed.

The pontiff, who is currently at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo outside the Rome, usually celebrates the Assumption of Mary — or ‘Ferragosto’ as it’s called in Italy with mass and a traditional prayer.

The Assumption is one of the most important Catholic holidays and is a public holiday in Italy and other Catholic countries in Europe, such as France and Spain.

The Assumption of Mary into heaven, also called the Dormition, is also taught by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental and Coptic Orthodox Churches.

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

Violence Against Officers on the Rise, German Police Union Says

The head of the German police union has expressed serious concerns over the increase in violence against police over the past few years, causing officers to avoid some areas out of fear for their safety.

Rainer Wendt, head of Germany’s DPoIG police union, in an interview with Deutsche Welle on Thursday, said there has been a worrisome decline in respect for police officers across Germany.

Wendt reported that the number of assaults on police officers in the line of duty had jumped nearly 25 percent in the last five years.

“We are witnessing this, not just among young people, but also across broad segments of the population,” Wendt said.

Police consider parts of Berlin and other industrial cities such as Duisburg no-go areas.

“There is less and less respect for police and other representatives of authority,” Wendt said. “They are not just being taunted and insulted, but are facing growing acts of violence, being physically attacked, kicked and spat on.” According to the police union’s newsletter Polizeispiegel, there were over 28,000 attacks against police in 2008.

Among the reasons for this trend, according to Wendt, is that budget cuts took 10,000 police officers off the streets in recent years.

He also asserted that penalties for resisting arrest or assaulting an officer were too mild.

Wendt had previously called for stronger tactics by police against rioters during the 2009 May Day protests, when he favored a visible show of strength by the police and use of water cannons to clear the streets of rioters.

During the May Day protests, 273 Berlin police officers were wounded in clashes with rioters throwing stones, as opposed to 112 in 2008.

A report presented in June by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble showed that, overall, violent crime was down 4.7 percent in 2008 from the previous year.

“That proves and emphasizes that Germany is a safe country,” Schaeuble told the Associated Press at the time.

But that same report showed that violent crime in public had actually risen 5 percent.

And it’s not just isolated incidents, according to Wendt.

“This is not just a single group, such as immigrants or young people,” he said. “This willingness to act violently runs deep into the middle class. We see this not only at demonstrations, but also public events, festivals, parades, soccer matches and even ordinary bar-room brawls, where violent individuals band together to attack the police.”

One of the methods that the union says could help stem the violence is longer sentences for resisting arrest, up to five years from two, which is currently the same as the sentence for illegal fishing.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Territory ‘A High Priority’ Says NATO Chief

Pristina, 13 August (AKI) — Kosovo will be a priority for NATO, its secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday during a brief visit to the territory, which declared independence from Serbia last year. During his visit, Rasmussen met with commander of international forces in Kosovo (KFOR), Italian general Giuseppe Emilio Guy and representatives of international organisations stationed in Pristina.

“The fact that I came to Kosovo only a few days after taking office, clearly indicates that Kosovo will have a high priority in my work,” Rasmussen said after talks with president Fatmir Sejdiu and prime minister Hasim Taci.

Rasmussen, who took office on 1 August, said he expected the present 15,000 NATO troops in Kosovo to be reduced to only a small “response force” by the end of his four-year term of office.

“I wish to point out that this decision reflects progress in the security situation in Kosovo,” Rasmussen said.

He underlined, however, that the reduction of NATO troops would depend on further improvements in security in the region.

“We would not make decisions which would negatively affect the security situation in Kosovo,” Rasmussen said.

Serbia, which opposes Kosovo’s independence, is unhappy with the reduction of NATO troops, saying minority Serbs still don’t have freedom of movement and their lives are often endangered. Last week two elderly Serbs were killed in a central Kosovo village of Partesh. No one has yet been brought to justice for the crime.

During the brief visit, Rasmussen also Slobodan Petrovic, the leader of a minor Serb party, the Independent liberal party. He is one of few minority Serb leaders who have joined Kosovo’s government.

Petrovic said he told Rasmussen that the Serbian community still has no trust in the 2,500 strong Kosovo security force (KSF), which has been armed and trained by NATO. Belgrade sees the force as an embryonic Kosovo army and a potential source of instability.

Rasmussen said, however, NATO will continue to help train and arm the KSF.

Most of the tiny minority of 100,000 Serbs remaining in Kosovo are boycotting its institutions and are operating parallel institutions with the help of Belgrade.

Kosovo’s independence was recognised by 62 countries, including the United States and most NATO and several European Union countries.

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

North Africa

Algeria: Goodbye Islamic Weekend, Stop on Friday-Saturday

(by Laura De Santi) (ANSAmed) — ALGIERS — It may be down to the winds of crisis that have not left the gas giant Algeria unscathed, but the Algerian government has given in to the necessity of the industrialised world in order to avoid losses which have been estimated at 1 billion dollars per year by saying no to the traditional Islamic weekend, Thursday and Friday, that has reigned in the country for the last 30 years. The Maghreb country will in this way align itself with other Arab countries like Jordan, Syria and the Monarchies of the Persian Gulf, while Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania have accepted the Western weekend for years. So the new ‘mixed weekend’ begins from this week (Friday and Saturday), semi-universal, in line with the precepts of Islam that call for Friday as a day of rest and prayer, while at the same time keeping an eye on the economy. It was a ‘conciliatory’ decision welcomed positively not only by businessmen, who have been putting pressure on the government for years for a change in the weekend, but also from the population which insisted on respect for the holy Friday. The decree which will come into force on August 14 “was an unavoidable economic necessity”, commented Reda Hamiani, president of the Managers’ Forum, “seen as 70% of Algeria’s trade is with the European Union, the United States and Japan who have the universal weekend”. “It was impossible to continue working practically just three days a week”, explained Slim Othami, general director of NCA, the leader in the market for non-alcoholic beverages, who together with other private companies like Arcelor Mittal, Peugeot Algerie, Schneider Electric and the Algerian subsidiary of Seimens, had already introduced the Friday to Saturday weekend. The abandoning of the universal weekend in 1976 decided by the former president Houari Boumediene to signify a break with the former French colonisers, cost the country between 700 million and a billion dollars per year, according to estimates from the International Finance Corporation, a subsidiary of the World Bank, which has forecast GDP growth of 3%. It will certainly be a change of habit for the population, according to sociologists, “a couple of weeks will be enough to forget the tradition. Vacations and Ramadan (which will begin August 20 or 21, ed.) will help with the rhythm”. From tomorrow, the working hours will come into effect for public offices and companies, while some doubts remain for the scholastic and university calendar. Until today, students went to courses on Thursday morning, and has caused some controversy over the possibility of going to school on Friday morning. The General Student Union, UGEL, has already said no to lessons on the day of prayer. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt Makes First Arrest Over Female Circumcision

An Egyptian man has been charged with illegally circumcising a young girl on Thursday, making him the first person to face the law since Cairo criminalized the controversial practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM.

Ahmed Gad al-Karim, 69, was charged with inflicting injury on an 11-year-old girl after a local hospital notified the police when the young girl was brought in suffering from heavy bleeding following a circumcision.

The Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, 600 kilometers south of Cairo, was told that the girl’s mother gave Karim 150 Egyptian Pounds ($ 27) to circumcise her daughter, who remains in critical condition.

Karim said he performed the operation at the girl’s house and said he had used a scalpel.

According to the World Health Organization and estimated 100 to 140 million females worldwide currently live with the consequences of FGM, which is internationally recognized as a human rights violation.

First arrest

Karim’s arrest is the first since Egypt passed law number 126 in 2008, which criminalizes FGM due to the physical and psychological damages it inflicts on the victims.

In 2008, the law was met with objections by the Muslim Brotherhood and independent MPs, who argued that female circumcision is part of the Shariah law as it protects a woman’s chastity.

But Dar al-Iftaa, the government institution in charge of issuing religious edicts for contemporary issues, ruled that circumcision is not part of Islam and is a cultural practice.

“The government wants to protect Egyptian children and give them a healthy environment,” the prosecutor general said in a statement of which Al Arabiya obtained a copy.

“Although the new law criminalizes female circumcision, girls in the Egyptian countryside still undergo these operations,” he concluded.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Fatah Change, Barghuti in and Arafat Era Ends

(by Alessandro Logroscino) (ANSAmed) — BETHLEHEM (WEST BANK) — The huge image of Yasser Arafat behind the presidential desk and the election of his nephew to the Central Committee (CC) are all that remains of the late leader, almost. From now, Fatah, the historic party of the Palestinian cause, is turning a page. If it is a political change or a generational reshuffle no one can yet say. It is certain that the Congress of Bethlehem, the first in over 20 years, closed with an expected internal vote, but not taken for granted. It was a vote that decimated the survivors of the Arafat era, freeing 14 of the 18 seats up for grabs and bringing in the influence of the 50 somethings, symbolised by Marwan Barghuti, leader of the second Intifada in prison in Israel since 2002, among others. The results of the consultation, after over a week of work and postponements, were long awaited for. For the moment they are still unofficial. The overview of a congress called for the reaffirmation of the objective of a Palestinian state and the commitment to negotiate, but without giving up the “right to resistance” in the case of a stalemate appears clear. The moderate president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen), re-elected as leader of the movement, has taken on the restructuring that he wanted in order to give back a little lustre to his power and to re-propose himself, in spite of the scepticism of many in the Israeli government, as the only true interlocutor in the peace process that the Obama Administration in the US is set on re-launching. He has done so through making the movement younger, that at 74, was the first to call for a party that was unburdened from inefficiency, corruption, the competition from radical-Islamist Hamas and the loss of control in the Gaza Strip. The 18 seats of the Central Committee (the other 4 will be attributed for co-options) result as assigned in large measure to the newly elected at the expense of the old guard on its way out (14 survivors, 10 candidates, 4 confirmed). Among the exclusions, it is above all the 72 year old ex-Premier Abu Ala (Ahmed Qrea), a key figure in the Arafat season, to make news after being voted out by two votes. Among the winners is the name of Barghuti, 50, condemned to 5 life sentences in Israel as a suspected organiser of attacks for which he has always claimed to be innocent, remaining the charismatic symbol of resistance for many Palestinians and the potential man for the future for the many observers that call for his release from prison. Third among the contenders (one of the three to receive the 1,000 preferences necessary out of 2,300 delegates), Barghuti, from his cell, does not seem intent on casting his shadow over Abbas, at least not for the moment. The same for the varied front of the Colonels, united by a sort of generational pact that doesn’t hide rivalries and differences, that doesn’t end with the entrance in to the CC of Mohammed Dahlan, 48, ex-strong man from Fatah’s security forces in Gaza and US protege’ (back in the game despite criticism of not knowing how to handle the situation with Hamas in 2007) and his ex-counterpart in the West Bank Jibril Rajub, 56. Not to mention the head of negotiations Saeb Eerekat, a diplomat that was very well-liked by Washington, and Nassar al-Kidwa, Yasser Arafat’s nephew, also famous for being “moderate”. For Rajub “a revolution” took place in Bethlehem that is destined to create a Fatah “that is both stronger and more united”. Ami Masri, an authoritative Palestinian analyst, suggests prudence, reserving himself to verifying what impact the changes brought about by the congress will have on the peace process and on the struggle with Hamas. Mahmud Abbas recognises that “it has come out stronger. But to say that eight days were enough to change Fatah is difficult to say”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Interesting Times: The Power of Truth

The great debate of the last century was over the essence of the Cold War. As Joshua Muravchik writes in a seminal essay in the current World Affairs, Americans were divided over whether the nuclear standoff originated from Soviet belligerence or mutual distrust. America was either fighting a defensive war or the two superpowers were like “scorpions in a bottle,” as Paul Warnke, Jimmy Carter’s chief arms negotiator, put it.

Mikhail Gorbachev, Muravchik argues, dramatically ended that debate. “Virtually the moment Gorbachev ended Soviet global ambitions and hostility to the West, the Cold War ended. The Kremlin was able to call it off because the conflict had all along been its own doing.”

In retrospect, it is obvious that it was the Soviet system that needed conflict with the West to distract from tyranny and economic failure at home. Not only was the conflict useful to the Soviet regime as a cover for crushing dissent, but foreign conquests could be used to exploit other countries and intimidate the West into providing trade benefits and other payoffs. The Soviets were the last colonialists.

NOW THE Obama team is faced with what seems to be a messier picture. There is an amorphous network of jihadi terrorists, epitomized by al-Qaida, working to attack and defeat America and its allies. There are countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, led by unpopular and rickety governments loosely allied with the US, and yet which are also breeding grounds for the jihadi network. There is the Arab-Israeli conflict, which the US seems determined to resolve, both for idealistic and strategic reasons. Finally and above all, there is the potential of a nuclear Iran, creating the first nuclearized terrorist regime.

The White House seems to be torn about how to address all this. On the one hand, President Barack Obama is all about “engagement” in order to transform the world from “multipolar” to “multipartner.” On the other, as Roger Cohen summarized the new approach in The New York Times, “A sobered America is back in the realpolitik game. A favored phrase in the Iran team goes, ‘It is what it is.’“

The seeming opposition between the idealist and realist schools, however, amounts to two sides of the same coin. In practical terms, both schools subscribe to a Warnke-style view of the conflict — that is, that both sides are more or less equally to blame. Pushing for engagement is another way of saying that the the conflict with radical Islamists is a misunderstanding. The idealists may be more optimistic than the realists about the power of diplomacy, but the realists also do not see the conflict as having a source that can be addressed, but as an array of competing interests to be managed.

At the same time, the different parts of the conflict form a spectrum of engageability. On one end is al-Qaida, which all agree must be fought and cannot be engaged. Next comes Iran, which the Obama team claims is worth engaging, but even the White House seems to assume will not budge without the imposition of further sanctions. Finally comes the Arab-Israeli conflict, which in the Obama team’s eyes is a full-blown misunderstanding of the scorpions-in-a-bottle variety.

To be fair, it is not just Obama who sees the Arab-Israeli conflict in symmetrical terms. Perhaps to different degrees, but Republican and Democratic administrations have seen the job of peacemaking as dragging the parties into a room and pressing them to do what they both understand to be in their interest. Alternatively, they believed that the parties were not ready for a deal, so all that could be done was wait for a more propitious moment for the eventual head-banging session.

The problem is that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not based on a misunderstanding. Arabs and Israelis are not interchangeable “scorpions in a bottle.” The conflict has a source, and it is the refusal to acknowledge that source — rather than any failure to “engage” — that is the main reason for the failure of decades of peacemaking.

Under the conflict-as-misunderstanding model, the more one side takes “confidence-building measures,” the more the other side will reciprocate. Israel has been going along with this idea for years, most dramatically by unilaterally withdrawing from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005. Yet instead of reciprocating, the Arab side became more belligerent, filling the respective vacuums with Hizbullah and Hamas.

This pattern has been especially evident over the past few weeks. In short order, Obama started a fight with Israel over settlements, gave a conciliatory speech to the Arab world in Cairo and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu endorsed the two-state solution for the first time. All this should have produced a marked softening on the Arab side, according to the engagement theory. Instead, even “moderates” like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas have come out swinging, the former saying that Arabs will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state and the latter claiming all of Jerusalem and talking about reviving terrorism.

There should be no mystery here. The pattern is clear: The more Israel is blamed or acts as if it is responsible for the conflict, the more radicalized the Arab side becomes.

The engagement school sometimes notices that Israeli concessions do not bring Arab reciprocation, but they think that they just need to push harder. The idea that pressing both sides is how you make peace has become so ingrained that no alternative is ever considered. Indeed, many seem to think that Israel needs to be pressed harder because it is the “occupier” and therefore the obstacle to a two-state solution.

There is, however, an alternative paradigm that has never been tried, either by Democrats or Republicans. The alternative is to recognize, intellectually and publicly, that the engine of the conflict is the Arab refusal to accept Jewish history, peoplehood or sovereignty anywhere in the Land of Israel.

The reason this is important is not as part of a childish blame game. It is important because the Arabs will not end the conflict that they started so long as they still have hopes that Israel will become delegitimized and will weaken and disappear. When these hopes are dashed by unmasking the true nature of the conflict, then eventually the Arab world will see that there is no alternative to making real peace with Israel.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As late as a year before that inspiring day, it was unimaginable, let alone the evaporation of the Soviet Union. In retrospect, Ronald Reagan’s breaking out of the engagement paradigm and instead calling on the “evil empire” to “tear down this wall” was not just telling the truth, but contributed directly to the Soviet downfall.

The Arab-Israeli conflict desperately needs such truth-telling. Someday, the United States and Europe will, for the first time without equivocation, call on the Arab states to lead the way toward ending their conflict with Israel. When that happens clearly and consistently enough, and provided that radical Islam’s bid for an Iranian nuclear umbrella has been defeated, real peace could come more quickly than anyone now imagines.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Kidnapped Soldier Claim, No Confirmation

(ANSAmed) -JERUSALEM, AUGUST 13 — An unknown group of Palestinians, known as the Al Quds Army (Jerusalem)’ has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier inside Israeli territory, not far from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. Palestinian press agency Maan reported the news, while an Israeli military spokesman refused to confirm or deny the report. An unusual deployment of road blocks was carried out in the afternoon in central Israel and towards the border with the West Bank, resulting in traffic snarl-ups. This action has not yet been explained by the authorities. According to Maan, the kidnappers made themselves known through a statement which read that ‘a group of fighters in our resistence has captured an Israeli soldier close to Tel Aviv airport and withdrew with him without incident. We will supply details on the captured soldier forthwith” the statement continues. Maan reports that the alarm was raised after a telephone call by the soldier in which he confirmed that he had been seized. Israeli sources report the deployment of road blocks between Tel Aviv and Modin, along the busy road to Jerusalem — and serious traffic jams along the roads connecting the nearby Ben Gurion airport. There have been widespread checks at the borders with the West Bank — where the kidnappers may have fled — but leaving and not entering as usually happens. The media report that the checks are the result of ‘a specific alert” currently concealed by army censorship. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Oslo Revisited: Are the Fundamental Assumptions Still Valid?

In a Newsweek interview on June 22, 2009, former prime minister Ehud Olmert stated that in his talks with Mahmoud Abbas, he had made fairly detailed offers towards an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, including:

a. Willingness by Israel to give the Palestinians 93.5-93.7 percent of the territories. The Palestinians would receive an additional 5.8 percent as part of a land swap.

b. A safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Olmert did not state who would have sovereignty and control over this passage.

c. Israel is not willing to accept the Palestinian demand for the right of return. At the same time, in the framework of a humanitarian gesture, Israel would be willing to accept the return of a defined number of refugees. Olmert did not specify a number, but made it clear that it would be “a very, very limited number.”

d. On Jerusalem, Olmert proposed that the Holy Basin be under no national sovereignty and be managed jointly by Israel, Jordan, the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

Saeb Erekat, who was responsible for negotiating on behalf of the Palestinians, confirmed that Olmert’s statements were correct.

There can be no doubt that this was a far reaching proposal, perhaps more so than all other offers ever made to the Palestinian leadership. Commentator Aluf Benn wrote (Haaretz, June 26, 2009) that Olmert offered to internationalize the Old City and its environs, i.e., he was willing to concede Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, and perhaps even the City of David, and hand it over to a consortium with an Arab majority. No Israeli leader before Olmert supported internationalization of any part of Jerusalem. Even Yossi Beilin’s Geneva accord spoke of dividing sovereignty in the Old City between Israel and a Palestinian state, not handing it over to an international entity.

The rejection of Olmert’s offer as well as previous offers by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David (July 2000) and the Clinton parameters cast a heavy shadow of doubt over fundamental assumptions underlying the Oslo process. Two of these assumptions were:

a. The Palestinian Authority, represented by the PLO, was working to realize the Palestinians’ right to self-determination by forming a Palestinian state on territory conquered by Israel in the Six Day War.

b. The Palestinian Authority was willing to reach an historic — and territorial — compromise with the State of Israel and the Zionist movement.

The rejection of the Barak and Olmert offers reflects what much of Israeli public opinion has long felt, namely, at critical moments the Palestinians find it difficult to make a decision in favor of a pragmatic compromise and almost perforce miss opportunities to realize their national aspirations. They thereby confirm the longstanding Israeli line, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” This assessment contrasts sharply with the model of the Zionist movement, which in its desire to obtain any territory whatsoever for the persecuted and existentially threatened Jewish people adopted a radically pragmatic attitude and was willing to accept almost any diplomatic plan, provided only that a sovereign Jewish state would be established in its framework.

The Palestinian leadership has demonstrated a radically different approach and seemingly operates on the principle of all or nothing. This questions the sincerity of the drive to establish an independent Palestinian state as a concrete political plan, as opposed to a vision for future generations. It is hard not to wonder whether the Palestinian leadership is intentionally blinding itself, thereby ignoring the fact that the dream of a Palestinian state is rapidly evaporating — although certain Palestinian leaders have admitted in recent months that the goal of establishing a Palestinian state is running aground on the shoals of reality.

Jewish communities in the West Bank have grown by major proportions. These communities have expanded under all Israeli governments, including significantly left wing governments. This clearly demonstrates that the process of Jewish settlement in the territories is deeply rooted within Israeli society, governing institutions, bureaucratic labyrinths, and political systems. Realistically, the Palestinians must conclude that barring anything drastic in the near future, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will expand with time, while the dream of a Palestinian state will consequently wither.

Following the withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 and the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, the belief among much of the Israeli public in the land-for-peace formula has eroded. In contrast to the original optimism, withdrawal led to escalation and two bloody military confrontations. The results of Israel’s February elections likely reflect this turnaround.

Any move towards a settlement that includes the formation of a Palestinian state, however small, will almost certainly require the evacuation of about 100,000 Israelis from the West Bank. The political reality in Israel gives rise to serious doubts regarding the likelihood of any government in the foreseeable future that would be able to carry out such a measure in the Israeli political arena.

Rejection of the Olmert plan may indicate that the Palestinian leadership regards the establishment of a state as part of its long term national vision, but not as an element in its concrete work plan. If (and this is a significant “if”) this is indeed the Palestinian leadership’s position, it can be explained in part by its serious concern that establishment of a Palestinian state will necessarily be accompanied by an almost complete withdrawal of IDF forces from Judea and Samaria. This would mean that the massive preventative actions conducted daily by the IDF and other security forces against terrorist organizations throughout the West Bank would be almost completely halted. In these circumstances, the status of the current Palestinian leadership would be greatly weakened. It is very likely that within a short time Hamas would succeed in driving it out of power. Therefore, the current leadership would presumably try to preempt any such scenario, even though it will never be able to admit this.

Another possible explanation is that the Palestinian leadership believes that time is on its side. From an historical perspective, the Palestinian national leadership can look back at recent decades with great satisfaction. The combination of diplomacy and violence brought a national movement that was rejected and ostracized both internationally and in the Arab world to the status of a powerful organization that frequently receives a highly significant place on the global agenda. This organization has to a great extent redesigned the political map in Israel, and was perhaps responsible more than any other factor for the rise and fall of Israeli leaders in recent decades. It caused a dramatic movement on the Israeli right towards the center and even to the left. The speeches by Palestinian leaders at the Fatah summit (August 2009) demonstrate that they continue to endorse the combination of political activity with popular resistance as a winning formula.

It is thus possible that the Palestinian leadership believes it has no reason to accept a compromise, even an offer as magnanimous as Olmert’s; after all, historic experience indicates continual erosion in Israeli positions with respect to “the territories.” In these circumstances, they might believe that future Israeli governments will have to make much more generous offers to the Palestinians. President Obama’s determined efforts to halt Jewish settlement in the West Bank, including Jerusalem while ignoring understandings on this issue with the preceding US administration, and the erosion in the Likud’s position on the issue of the establishment of a Palestinian state, as reflected in Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar Ilan University, are likely to reinforce these Palestinian assessments.

In any case, the rejection of the Olmert proposals questions the validity of the assumptions regarding the willingness of the Palestinian leadership to reach an historic territorial compromise with Israel — assumptions that formed the basis of the decision to embark on the Oslo process. The phrase “territorial compromise” is basically an abstract concept that is difficult to translate into concrete physical terms. What many Israelis regard as a compromise, even a far reaching one, is not necessarily regarded as such by the Palestinians. Moreover, for significant parts of the Israeli public, the Olmert plan presumably represents less of a compromise and more of a yielding to the dictates of the Palestinian Authority.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Rafah Gun-Battle Goes on, 16 Killed, 120 Wounded

GAZA, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) — After eight-hour armed fighting between Gaza ruling Hamas security forces and militants of a pro-al-Qaida group in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on Friday,16 people were killed and 120 wounded, medics and witnesses said.

According to medics at the Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in the town, 16 people were killed and 120 wounded in fierce armed clashes between the two sides near the Iben Taymeyah mosque in the town that belongs to the group.

The police of the deposed Hamas government imposed a strict curfew on the town, according to local residents, who said dozens of the group’s members fled the area and hid into underground tunnels near and under the mosque.

The residents said they were locked into their homes and they still heard explosions and gunshots from time to time, believing that Hamas police and security forces are still chasing the members of the group.

They also said that dozens of Hamas policemen, security officers and militants controlled the mosque and detained dozens of the group’s members held up inside, including the group’s spiritual leader Sheikh Musa, better known as Abu Noor al-Maqdisi.

Musa, leader of the extreme Islamic group, better known as the Jihadi Salafi (a radical Sunnite group) affiliated with the internationally-banned al-Qaida, announced earlier that his group is to establish an Islamic emirate in Gaza.

He slammed Islamic Hamas movement for not implementing the Sharia (Islamic Law) in the Gaza Strip, and announced before prayers during Friday prayers at the mosque that his group is exerting efforts to reinforce the rules of Sharia in Gaza.

Musa’s fate is still unknown after his house was blown up by Hamas security forces, according to the residents and other security sources in Rafah.

Hamas interior ministry’s spokesman Ihab al-Ghussein told Xinhua he has no information if Sheikh Musa is dead or alive, adding “we can’t certify or deny his death or if he was detained.”

Al-Ghussein fully held Musa responsible for the clashes, and accused him for having direct ties with the leaders of the security apparatuses of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Hamas police spokesman Islam Shahwan announced that the police operation in Rafah is still going on and hasn’t ended yet, expecting that “it may continue until tomorrow (Saturday) morning.”

Al-Ghussein has also accused the radical Sunnite group of being activated by the Israeli security apparatuses “to strike on Hamas,” adding that Hamas had dismantled in the past such kinds of groups who were sponsored by Israel.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

Texas Gov. Compares Gaza to Mexico

Besides the lone star that sits boldly on both of their flags, Texas and Israel have much in common, and a sturdy relationship that should continue to grow, according to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is in the country on a visit aimed at strengthening economic ties between the Jewish State and his own.

“I come from a pro-business, pro-prosperity point of view,” Gov. Perry told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, “And the first goal of this trip was to further some of the economic development that already exists between Texas and Israel, and to recruit some of the Israeli businesses we visited here to expand and come to Texas.”

Perry also recalled the Texas-Israel Exchange — a body that supports the trade of agricultural know-how between Texan and Israeli scientists — which he established in 1991, while serving as the Texas Agriculture Commissioner.

“We have a connection that goes back many years,” he said. “And Israel has a lot that we can learn from, especially in the areas of water conservation and semi-arid land — Israeli technology has helped us a lot in dealing with drought.”

“But also,” the governor continued, “when I was here for the first time some 18 years ago and I was touring the country, the comparison between Masada and the Alamo was not lost on me. I mean, we’re talking about two groups of people who were willing to give up their lives for freedom and liberty.” Beyond the comparisons, Gov. Perry said another point of his trip here was to show other people “what was really going on”, with regards to the military threats facing the country, and in particular the IDF’s recent Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

“We went to the border with Gaza and received a briefing from the army there, and we went to Sderot and saw the police station with all the Kassam rockets piled up, we saw playgrounds that had to be covered from rocket fire. It’s a powerful place.” In that vein, the governor said he was also interested in learning more about security aspects while in the country, as Texas has a large, porous border with Mexico, and the recent violence in that country had unnerved many Texans.

“Israel is a leader in security technology, and another reason for our visit to the Gaza border was to see some of the security measures being used there,” said Perry.

“Kassam rockets have killed 28 Israelis over the last eight years. Well, 1,000 people have been killed in Juarez [Mexico, on the border with El Paso , Texas] since the beginning of the year [in drug-related violence]. So we’re trying to find ways to secure that border, because just like it’s important to Israelis to keep heavy security on their border with Gaza, it’s important to citizens of Texas to keep out the illegal activities that are going on with drugs [in Mexico].

Gov. Perry went on to describe his support for Israel from a religious point of view, saying, “I’m a big believer that this country was given to the people of Israel a long time ago, by God, and that’s ordained.”

The Obama administration’s pressure on the Israeli government unnerved the governor, saying he felt that, “Israel does all the giving and the other side does not reciprocate.”

“What I don’t understand, is this administration’s hesitancy to recognize the sovereignty of Israel,” he said.

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

Middle East

Iran: Two Iranian Women Arrested for Converting to Christianity

In a dramatic session before the revolutionary court this past weekend, documented by Elam Ministries, Maryam Rustampoor (27) and Marzieh Amirizadeh (30) were told to recant their faith in Christ. Though great pressure was put on them, both women have refused to give in. Maryam and Marzieh were originally arrested on March 5, 2009 and have suffered greatly while in prison, suffering ill health, solitary confinement and interrogations for many hours while blindfolded. In a dramatic court room, the deputy prosecutor, Mr. Haddad, questioned Maryam and Marzieh about their faith and told them that they had to recant in both verbal and written form. They responded, “We will not deny our faith.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iraqis Protest Govt Clampdown on Free Speech

Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets on Friday to protest moves by the government to control the flow of information both in print and online, which has raised fears of a crackdown on free speech reminiscent of the regime of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein.

Some 200 Journalists, writers and booksellers demonstrated in Baghdad’s Mutanabi Street in opposition of a governement decision to screen imported books that incite sectarianism and ban websites deemed pornographic or that encourage crimes such as bomb making, prostitution and “terrorism.”

Intellectuals said they worried such moves were a sign that the years of freer expression could be coming to an end and journalists worried a new draft legislation being mulled leaves them exposed to government interference in their profession.

“Blocking internet websites and censoring books is a new dictatorship,” said Muhammad al-Rubaie, a human rights activist.

“They want to stop the free word from unveiling corruption. We will work in parliament to cancel any censorship that limits the freedom of expression,” the head of Iraq’s Integrity Commission in parliament, Sabah al-Saedi, said.

Iraq’s 2005 constitution enshrines freedom of the press and publication unless they “violate public order or morality.”

“Journalists and media workers have lost 247 of their colleagues over the past six years because of attacks and violations,” journalist and writer Emad al-Khafaji told the crowd.

“The participants in this demonstration have confirmed they will not back down in the face of intimidation and threats.”

The crowd, carrying banners through the heart of the capital’s cultural district, shouted: “Yes, yes to freedom; no, no to being muzzled.”

Media fine

Under Saddam, heavy censorship was the norm. State propaganda dominated the media, glorifying the government and demonizing enemies like the United Sates, Iran and Israel.

Since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, a proliferation of media has given Iraqis a choice between some 200 print outlets, 60 radio stations and 30 TV channels in Arabic, Turkmen, Syriac and two Kurdish dialects.

Yet most media outlets remain dominated by sectarian and party patrons who use them for their own ends.

The government occasionally threatens to close the offices of media outlets that have offended it such as a recent incident when a television station was fined for a “personal attack” against Baghdad’s military spokesman.

Other countries in the Middle East also ban some websites that incite hatred or are seen to go against the moral codes of the country.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel Asks Syria for News on Soldier and Releases Prisoner

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — The Israeli government has asked Syria, by way of Russia, to pass on any information in its possession which could shed light on what happened to the soldier Guy Hever, who disappeared in the Golan Heights 12 years ago. According to the Haaretz newspaper, the request — which Israeli justified with humanitarian motives — was passed on to Syrian president Bashar Assad by way of the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov in a recent meeting in Damascus. President Assad, though preferring not to respond to the Israeli request, has promised to look into the case. Hever left the artillery unit in which he was serving in the Golan Heights on August 17, 1997, to go on leave. Since then nothing has been heard of him and much speculation surrounds the case. His family believes that the soldier crossed the border with Syria and is currently being held in the country. Meanwhile, the press in Damascus reported the liberation of a Syrian prisoner from the Golan Heights who was held in Israel. “Kamil Khater (33-years-old) has been freed after eight years,” was written on the front page of state-run newspaper al Thawra, specifying that the man, a barber, was arrested and convicted of “illegal weapons trafficking” in 2001 and sentenced to eight years in prison. The main websites of Syrian activists in the Golan Heights report that Khater returned on Monday to Majdal Shams, his city of birth and one of the four Syrian towns in the Golan Heights spared from the destruction carried out by the Israeli Army during the wars in 1967 and 1973-1974. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Religious Council Bans Virginity Tests

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, AUGUST 11 — Jordan’s top religious fatwa council has banned testing women for virginity in a bid to contain a growing social debate over the morality of testing women for virginity before marriage. Officials from the National Religious council, which comprises of prominent religious figures and independent scholars, moved to put an end for the phenomena following reports of a jump in the number of men expressing doubt about moral behavior of their future wives, said a council member today. The council’s religious decree urged medical staff to refrain from taking such actions, unless it was requested by court. “The body of human is sacred. Private parts should not be violated at the request of others,” said the religious degree. “Our women are more noble and dignified to be treated in such derogatory manner,” added the council. The grand mufti of Jordan recently refused to issue a verdict on this issue, a move that ignited a wide debate over the morality of such request in this male dominated society. According to officials from the national center for forensic medicine more men are asking their fiance’s to conduct the test, with women who prove to be not virgin end up being disgraced, and sometimes murdered by family members. A large segment of Jordan’s tribal society associates sound moral behaviour of women to their virginity status. The law makes it easier for family members to kill their sisters, daughters and mothers in case they are discovered to be not virgins. The fatwa is not obliging to individuals, but will allow officials at the national centre for forensic medicine a breathing space from the growing number of applicants. Private doctors said this phenomena is practiced in clinics and some doctors. The Jordanian law allows authorities to make such test in case of court order to verify legal evidence such as rape and adultery. But with women doing the tests willingly, legal experts say there is little that can be done to put an end to this practice. The council is headed by Nouh Qudah, former mufti of the armed forces and one of the most leading religious figures in the kingdom. There are no official figures on the number of tests being conducted, but a recent media report in al Ghad Arabic daily prompting officials to speak on the issue. Queen Rania of Jordan is known as vocal activist for the rights of women, but she is yet to make a position on this issue. The queen has been lobbying for greater freedoms of women since she was crowned ten years ago. The kingdom recently endorsed a controversial international accord on the rights of women, which allows them leave the country without permission of the husband or father. They are also allowed to have their own homes. But religious leaders from conservative parties blasted the agreement as a prelude towards immoral practices. Many Arab women from the oil rich gulf states often come to Jordan to repair their hymn in line with a tradition that a woman must bleed on her wedding night. Doctors are said to charge between USD 800 to 100 for a simple humn repair, a practice banned by the law. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Rape Victim Killed by Uncle to Cleanse Family Honour

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, AUGUST 12 — A Jordanian man killed his 16 year old niece by shooting her nine times in the body to cleanse the family honour “because she was raped by two men,” police sources said today. The uncle, whose name was kept due to social sensitivities, headed to his brother’s home in al Nasser area in east Amman with intent to kill his niece after learning about her ill fate from relatives, said the police source. The girl was recently rapped by two men near her family home, said the police official. The suspected rapists are currently waiting trial in a prison near Amman, said the source. “The girl was laying down on her bed, when the uncle approached her in the presence of the father. The victim was shot nine times by the uncle before he handed himself to us,” said the, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. The killer told investigators he wanted to cleanse the family honour on grounds that the girl was engaged in a sexual activity. Every year 15 to 20 women are killed in the name of honour, with killers receiving between three months to a maximum one year behind bars. Family members more often drop charges against the killer, making it easy for the judge to issue a mild verdict. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kuwait Braces for Increased Power Cuts During Ramadan

(ANSAmed) — KUWAIT CITY, AUGUST 13 — Increased power cuts could occur in Kuwait during Ramadan because of the rise in power consumption coupled with ageing plants, officials have warned. The Ministry of Electricity and Water said areas across the country could be plunged into darkness as rising temperatures put extra demands on the network. Consumption levels have already reached 9,783 megawatts daily, out of an available 11,000 megawatts produced by local power plants, the Kuwait Times reported the Arabic paper Al-Qabas as saying. A ministry official told the paper that problems at local power plants and substations, due to the age of equipment, were expected to continue adding further strain on demand. A series of “scheduled power cuts” will take place, the official said. The ministry said that it is planning to increase the number of maintenance checks being carried out to try to lessen the problems at plants which in turn effect supply. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Three Injured in Bomb Attack in Northern Port Cist

Tripoli, 13 August (AKI) — Three people, including a boy, were injured in a bomb explosion in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Thursday. Local media reported the bomb exploded in the area of Jabal Mohsen, home to the predominantly Sunni Muslim city’s Alawite minority.

The small explosive device went off near the home of Rifat Ali Eid, a leading Alawite politician.

More than 20 people were killed in Tripoli last year in sectarian fighting between Alawites in Jabal Mohsen and the neighbouring Sunni district of Bab Tibbaneh.

The conflict, which lasted four months, was halted by a reconciliation agreement signed in September.

There are an estimated 100,000 Alawis in Lebanon, where they are recognised as one of the 18 official Lebanese sects.

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

OIC Islamophobia Observatory Urges Danish Galleri Drauppner to Cancel Exhibition of Blasphemous Cartoon

A spokesman of the OIC Islamophobia Observatory in Jeddah today expressed concern over reports of an exhibition of blasphemous cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by caricaturist Kurt Westergaard at the Galleri Drauppner in Skanderborg, Denmark, beginning August 29, 2009.

The spokesman said that the exhibition of the cartoon could incite hatred and intolerance and hurt the sentiments of Muslims worldwide. He urged the authorities of “Galleri Draupner” to show their responsibility and good judgment by removing the controversial cartoon from the exhibition.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Saudi Activist: Gender Equality, The First Step to a True Social Development

Bahija Bint Baha Azzi denounces “cultural factors” that have led women to become “victims of attacks” and are the cause of “social conflict”. Laws based on the fatwa are “faulty” as incapable of “solving the problems of today.”

Jeddah (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A series of “cultural factors” have led to women, especially Muslim women, becoming “the victims of attacks” in the Arab world and beyond. Some societies are characterized by “cultures that marginalize women,” instilling “discrimination between the sexes, which results in conflict.” So says Bahija Bint Baha Azzi, secretary general of the International Organization for Muslim Women and the family (Imowf), in an interview to the Saudi “Female” magazine Roaa.

The activist, adviser to the Saudi Shura Council, says that “to exclude women from public affairs is not helping development”; real social growth needs a policy of “equal dignity” between men and women without discrimination”. Referring specifically to Saudi women, Bahija Bint Baha Azzi points to “an erroneous conception of habits and traditions” that have negative effects — even if specific cases were not cited — in the way they are treated.

Social problems and equality of treatment between men and women “can not be attributed to a single reason,” because “there is a culture made by customs and traditions” that led to “a loss, for women, of part of their status and certain rights. “ The Imowf, non-profit organization that counts on the support of donors, is working to “achieve social and family security”. “We try — continues the activist — to educate and promote social awareness by using all modern technologies such as internet and web sites devoted to the problems of women, children and the family. It is one way to communicate and interact with as many people as possible. “

Bahija Bint Baha Azzi also points denounces the use of fatwas — the responses of Muslims judges or experts on questions that may relate to any aspect of life — part of a “faulty” system of law. “Women are the first and only victims — the activist concludes — of these forms of independent law, although they are enacted with the best intentions, because they are not able to solve the problems of today.” The activists views add to small signs of change in Saudi society, that is characterized by its’ strict observance of the precepts of Islam. The life of a woman in Saudi Arabia is punctuated by the permissions that the men have to give before they can do everything from driving a car to staying overnight in a hotel for work reasons.

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

Saudi Arabia: A Minor Wedding to 70 Year Old Man

A seventy year old man celebrated his wedding to a 9 year old minor in Jeddah, West of Saudi, early this week.

The local Saudi news paper “ Alyaum” reported that the child’s divorced mother refused the marriage but the child’s father being the custodian approved the marriage.

The father received 20,000 riyals (1 dollar equals 3.75 riyals) as dowry and the step mother received 10,000 riyals.

The irony in the matter was reported by the child’s brother when he saw his sister in the morning of the wedding shopping for candies and ice cream from a nearby grocery store as she used to do every day.

The newlywed husband reported to the local police that his wife is missing and he called her father thinking that she might have escaped to her mother’s house.

Several human right specialists and clerics demanded the State to establish laws to stop minor marriages and they emphasized that a minimum marriage age should be enforced.

It should be noted here that several similar marriages took place in Saudi. There is no law for minimum marriage age in Saudi.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Syria: US Military Delegation and Mitchell Envoy Arrive

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 12 — Two months after the visit by USA special envoy George Mitchell to Damascus, a military delegation from the United States Central command for the region and central Asia (Centcom) arrived in the Syrian capital today. According to the BBC’s correspondent in Damascus the delegation led by General Michael Moeller and including members of the ministry of defence and the State Department arrived today in Syria. Talks with the Syrian authorities will focus on the issue of security along the borders between Syria and Iraq, say American sources quoted by the BBC. The news website also says that political talks between US delegate Frederic Hof from George Mitchell’s office and Syrian representatives are talking place today in parallel. The meeting, which follows the one held in June between Mitchell and President Bashar al Assad of Syria, is looking into a possible mediatory role which Syria could assume in the Israel-Palestinian issue and in the controversy between the USA and Iran. After four years of tension the USA has renewed diplomatic contact over the last few months with Syria, which has been under economic sanctions imposed by Washington since 2005. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Kuwaiti Refinery Targeted by Al Qaeda

(ANSAmed) — KUWAIT CITY, AUGUST 12 — An oil refinery was among Al Qaeda’s targets in Kuwait, according to the plan revealed yesterday by the emirate’s authorities and cited in today’s Al-Anbaa. The terrorist group, as the paper reported in citing sources with inside knowledge on the inquiry, was to have targeted the Shuaiba plants with their 200,000-barrel-a-day output. Yesterday Kuwait authorities reported having foiled a plan thought up by a 6-member Al Qaeda cell to attack a US base and other unspecified objectives. According to the Ministry for Internal Affairs, the six have confessed and been arrested. Al Qaeda was allegedly to carry out an attack on the US military base Camp Arifjan — which holds troops on their way to Iraq — and other “important installations” of the Gulf principality. Considered a ‘moderate’ Arab country, 70% of Kuwaiti inhabitants are Sunni and the remaining 30% Shia. Since September 11, 2001, the country has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists in the region aiming to export their “anti-Western” projects to nearby theatres. The oil-rich emirate, an ally of the United States and under the dominion of the Al Sabah tribal Sunni clan for about three centuries, has one of the highest concentrations of American military installations in the region: seven (before 2004 they had been double this figure) over an area as small as the Italian region Lazio. The latest terrorists to give rise to fear in local authorities were the “Lions of the Peninsula”, an emblem reportedly showing a link to Al Qaeda, made up of Kuwaitis as well as Jordanians, Saudis, Somalis and even an Australian who had converted to Islam. Effects of the alleged terrorists from Kuwait have spread far and wide since 2004, however — all the way to the Balkans, where according to Bosnian and Macedonian authorities certain ‘dormant’ cells were active on behalf of the most powerful Saudi groups in the financing of fundamentalist proselytising and the planning of anti-American attacks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Dagestan: Seven Women Shot Dead in Sauna

SEVEN women have been shot dead in a sauna in the republic of Dagestan, in Russia’s north Caucasus region.

Growing lawlessness and Islamist violence in Dagestan, Chechnya and neighbouring Ingushetia are undermining the Kremlin’s control of its southern flank.

The attacks are the latest in a sharp upswing in violence against civilians across the region, where a local minister was shot dead in his office earlier this week.

The seven women were shot by rebels at around the same time as separatists attacked and killed four policemen manning a nearby checkpoint in Buinaksk, a town 41 km from the local capital, Makhachkala.

“At least four died when they attacked the traffic police. Around the same time they entered the sauna and shot seven women,” a spokesman for local police said.

Separately, four policemen and two separatists died in a shootout in Chechnya, Russian news agencies reported today.

The Chechen deaths occurred in an abandoned house near the capital Grozny, RIA news agency said.

Five other security force officers were also injured in a separate clash in the republic on Thursday, Interfax reported.

On Wednesday, Ingushetia’s construction minister was shot at close range in his heavily guarded office.

In Chechnya three human rights activists have been shot and killed in the past month, two earlier this week and one in July.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Taliban Now Winning

U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Warns of Rising Casualties

The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means U.S. casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the commander offered a preview of the strategic assessment he is to deliver to Washington later this month, saying the troop shifts are designed to better protect Afghan civilians from rising levels of Taliban violence and intimidation. The coming redeployments are the clearest manifestation to date of Gen. McChrystal’s strategy for Afghanistan, which puts a premium on safeguarding the Afghan population rather than hunting down militants.

Gen. McChrystal said the Taliban are moving beyond their traditional strongholds in southern Afghanistan to threaten formerly stable areas in the north and west.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Asia: Chinese Essay Sparks Outcry in India

Indian academics are up in arms over what they regard as provocative incitement of the country’s demise by a Chinese essayist.

“China can dismember the so-called ‘Indian Union’ with one little move!” claimed the essay posted last week on China International Strategy Net, a patriotic website focused on strategic issues. The writer, under the pseudonym Zhanlue (strategy in Chinese), argued that India’s sense of national unity was weak and Beijing’s best option to remove an emerging rival and security threat would be to support separatist forces, like those in Assam, to bring about a collapse of the Indian federal state.

“There cannot be two suns in the sky,” wrote Zhanlue. “China and India cannot really deal with each other harmoniously.” The article suggested that India should be divided into 20 to 30 sovereign states.

Such was the outcry about the article that the Indian government issued a statement reassuring the country that relations with China were calm.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India: No Nuke Cargo on N. Korea Ship

PORT BLAIR (India) — INDIAN authorities have found no nuclear cargo aboard a North Korean ship held in the Bay of Bengal, but will proceed with investigations to ensure crew statements contain no discrepancies, officials said on Friday.

The MV Mu San dropped anchor off Hut Bay island in the Andaman islands last week without permission and was detained by the coastguard after a more than six-hour chase.

Officials said they were trying to determine whether the vessel had been anywhere near Myanmar, suspected to be seeking help from North Korea to build a nuclear reactor.

Crew members have provided no explanation why the ship had anchored near Hut Bay, a populated island.

‘We have not found any nuclear material on board the ship,’ Ashok Chand, a senior police officer, told Reuters from Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. ‘But we are continuing our investigation to check any discrepancies in statements by crew members.’

Indian officials said they were taking no chances in view of North Korean sales of missiles and other weapons materials to tense regions of the world. A Korean interpreter was helping with interrogations of the 39-member crew.

‘Once we are fully convinced, then only we will decide what will be the next step,’ Mr Chand said.

The ship could now be escorted to Andhra Pradesh state, where its consignment of sugar could be checked further, a police officer unauthorised to speak to the media said.

India has also tightened security in the Andamans and were looking for foreign ships which had strayed into Indian waters.

UN member states are authorised to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo, and seize and destroy goods transported in violation of a Security Council resolution in June following the North’s nuclear tests. — REUTERS

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

India: Govt to Holbrooke: Can’t Just Walk in and Out of India

NEW DELHI: Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy on Af-Pak, is finding the going very difficult when it comes to India. For the second time in a month, Holbrooke has had “scheduling” problems in India.

The foreign office has told Holbrooke in very polite diplomatic terms that he cannot walk in and out of India at will. Holbrooke, senior officials said, had a habit of unilaterally deciding when he wanted to come to India and then demanding to see his top foreign policy interlocutors.

The MEA found it offensive, to say the least. Consequently, Holbrooke has discovered that soon after he announces to the world about his India travel plans, the relevant officials are invariably unavailable.

Holbrooke will be visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan starting on August 15, but will, once again, skip India. And this after having announced three weeks ago that he would be in India in mid-August.

Senior government sources, speaking on background, said Holbrooke’s mandate did not include India, so there was little need for him to visit India every time he was in the region. “It sends the wrong signals of hyphenation that we want to avoid,” they said.

Holbrooke, said sources, tried hard to come along with secretary of state Hillary Clinton during her maiden visit here last month but was discouraged. Sources said he tried hard to get Clinton to visit Pakistan, but between Clinton and Barack Obama, there was a decision to deal with India without the Pakistan baggage. So that did not happen either, much to Pakistan’s chagrin.

He had announced that he would visit India after Clinton’s visit, but that did not happen. Answering questions at a press conference in Washington at the end of July, Holbrooke, however, denied any “complications”. “There were no complications. I have three or four people in India who are my main policy interlocutors. All but one of them were going to be out of the country, so…” Then he had said he would be in India in mid-August.

On Wednesday, Holbrooke was once again telling an audience in Washington that his trip to the region involved only Pakistan and Afghanistan, not India. Describing India as a “dominant power” in South Asia, Holbrooke said the Obama administration was keeping New Delhi informed about its policies in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. “The Indians are a major factor in the region. They are a dominant power,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesia Gripped by Terror Psychosis as Manhunt for Noordin Continues

Private firms, foreign companies and government offices told to be on maximum alert for potential “intruders”. Jemaah Islamiyah doubles its recruitment campaign. Marriot “florist” was planning to hit presidential palace on 17 August, Independence Day.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Fear of terrorism is gripping Indonesia after the authorities announced that their Most Wanted fugitive, Malaysian-born Noordin Moh Top, was still alive. Private firms, foreign companies, government offices, all are on maximum alert against potential “intruders”. Human resources managers are being told to “scrutinize” and “re-check” their list of operational employees, regardless of their background, for any potential “terrorist”. All this is happening after police disclosed the real identity of the terrorist shot dead in last week’s raid.

The authorities confirmed that the body recovered after the shootout was not that of public enemy number one, Malaysian-born Noordin Moh Top, but that of Ibrohim alias Boim, 40, the Marriott florist who went missing after last month’s attack against the hotel. The forensic evidence had a 100 per cent match between the tissue from the dead man, a native of Cilimus, Kunginan, West Java, some 250 kilometres east of Jakarta, and material taken from relatives.

This means that Noordin must be presumed to be still alive, hidden in secure place in central Java where a huge man hunt is underway to find him.

Brigadier General Eddy Saparwoko also confirmed that Eko Joko Sardono, alias Eko Peyang, and Air Setiawan, both from central Java, were shot dead last week. Like Boim the two were linked to the Malaysian terrorist.

Police spokesman Inspector General Nana Sukarnan said that that Boim had been tasked with a series of attacks on 17 August, anniversary of Indonesia’s independence. The presidential palace and foreign diplomatic missions were among the targets.

Boim joined the jihad after extended contacts with his brother-in-law Saeffudin Zuhri, who recruited the two teenage suicide bombers who died in the attacks against the Marriot and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

With police on his tail, Zuhri is also said to have received three billion rupiahs (US$ 90 million) from unknown overseas donors to finance his terror plans.

In the meantime panic is spreading across the country as Indonesians fear more attacks.

The chief of police urged all citizens to be prudent and remain on guard because “there are many more terrorists whom we are hunting down.”

Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamist movement close to al Qaeda, is reorganising and recruiting more fighters for the holy war.

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

Myanmar: UN Fails to Slam Conviction

UNITED NATIONS — THE UN Security Council on Thursday opted not to condemn the extended detention of Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi but unanimously issued a fresh call to the military regime to free all political prisoners.

After two days of closed-door bargaining, the 15-member body could only agree on a watered-down statement expressing ‘serious concern at the conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and its political impact’ and reiterating ‘the importance of the release of all political prisoners’.

Britain’s UN Ambassador John Sawers, the council chair this month, described the non-binding statement as ‘an important expression of serious concern about the outcome’ of the Suu Kyi trial.

A court at Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison on Tuesday sentenced Ms Suu Kyi to three years’ imprisonment and hard labor for breaching the terms of her house arrest following an incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside residence in May. Than Shwe, head of the ruling junta, commuted the sentence to 18 months under house arrest but the trial and the verdict have created international outrage.

‘I think we all know that different members of the Security Council have different views on the situation there and that the strong views in various Western capitals are not entirely shared in countries elsewhere,’ Mr Sawers noted as he sought to explain why an initial US draft was watered down.

The tougher US draft which would have condemned Ms Suu Kyi’s conviction ran into opposition from China, a key ally of Myanmar, as well as from Russia, Vietnam and Libya. The four countries invoked the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of a UN member state.

The text approved on Thursday noted the decision by the Myanmar government to reduce Ms Suu Kyi’s sentence and urged the military regime ‘to take further measures to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation’.

It also affirmed the council’s ‘commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar’ and reiterated that ‘the future of Myanmar lies in the hands of all its people.’ On Tuesday, the council’s 15 ambassadors adjourned formal, closed-door consultations without agreement on a condemnation of Suu Kyi’s extented detention.

Veto-wielding council member China urged the international community to ‘fully respect Myanmar’s judicial sovereignty.’ In a related development, the European Union on Thursday broadened its sanctions against Myanmar in the wake of the Suu Kyi trial.

Brussels imposed a visa ban and asset freeze on members of the judiciary and in what it called ‘targeted measures,’ the 27 EU nations widened the bloc’s existing assets freeze to cover businesses ‘owned and controlled by members of the regime’ and their associates.

Ms Suu Kyi has been confined for 14 of the past 20 years, ever since the military regime refused to recognize her National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in the last elections held in 1990.

Unless she qualifies for an amnesty, the 64-year-old opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate will not be able to contest elections planned for next year. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Taliban Militants Clash With Rivals in Border Region

Tank, 13 August(AKI/DAWN) — Fierce clashes broke out between supporters of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and rival Turkistan Bhittani in Jandola near the Afghan border on Wednesday with each side claiming heavy casualties against the other.

According to sources, militants loyal to Baitullah, who is believed to have died in a drone attack last week, attacked Bhittani’s men in Soor Gher area and torched 33 houses.

They said seven supporters of Bhittani were killed and 15 were captured.

Meanwhile, Bhittani’s men claimed to have killed over 50 attackers.

Two intelligence officials said militants used rockets, mortars and anti-aircraft guns against Turkistan’s men.

The officials, who cited wireless intercepts from the area, confirmed at least 70 people had been killed.

There was no way to independently confirm the death toll, as the fighting was taking place in a remote, mountainous area.

A senior official confirmed the clash but did not give details about casualties.

“The local administration has no writ in the area and we have no information about the number of casualties,” he added.

Meanwhile, a BBC Urdu report said that as clashes escalated, spreading to various areas, helicopter gunships could be seen flying over the region.

Helicopter gunships subsequently targeted three vehicles used by Baitullah Mehsud’s fighters. At least 15 men travelling in those vehicles were killed, the BBC report said.

Commander Bhittani, who enjoys the support of the government, has emerged as the main challenger to the Baitullah group in the tribal region.

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

Row Over the Indian Government’s Economic Programme

Presented in July, the programme includes US$ 500 billion in infrastructural spending over five years and the creation of 12 million new jobs. Experts criticise India’s model.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A row has developed over the feasibility of the Indian government’s spending programme presented last 6 July. It includes investing US$ 500 billion in infrastructural development between 2007 and 2012, but a well-known management consulting firm has raised doubts about it, saying it contains broad uncertainties and inefficiencies.

The government’s detail economic programme is supposed to attract foreign investment and is designed to restore the country to 9 per cent economic growth and create 12 million new jobs per year. In order to achieve such a goal, the programme is expected to increase investment in infrastructure to more than 9 per cent of GDP by 2014.

India’s Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath left for Zurich this week to attract foreign investors to local road building projects. Bidding is expected to start soon on 139 projects covering 14,395 kilometres at a cost of about US$ 21 billion.

But for McKinsey, a management consulting firm, these projects will experience a 25 per cent time and cost over-run on average, which in some sectors could go as high as 50 per cent.

In fact, over the past two years there had been a shortfall of 30 per cent in awarding projects in power generation, national highways and major ports, something that cannot be changed overnight.

What is more, decades of underinvestment in roads, ports, airports and power has left the country crippled by a severe infrastructure deficit.

Some experts suggest that comparing India and China in terms of efficiency is misleading because the two countries have very different legal and political systems. In China for instance the government can seize land by force despite protests by residents, whereas in India the authorities have to take into consideration due process and the rights of citizens.

In the end foreign investments will play a crucial role. Foreign investors are already playing a positive role in telecommunications, energy, ports, airports, roads and railways.

New Delhi is also expected to provide long term financing in these sectors.

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

Far East

China: Tan Zuoren Tried: He Sought the Truth About the Death of Thousands of Schoolchildren

Tan, human rights activist, for months had investigated the collapse of schools in the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008. Arrested in March, yesterday was tried behind closed doors for “incitement to subversion”. Entry forbidden to hundreds of activists.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The closed-door trial took less than two hours the before the court in Chengdu (Sichuan) against activist Tan Zuoren for “incitement to subversion against state power.” The Chinese Human Rights Defenders and rights activists complain that he only sought the truth about the deaths children in the earthquake in Sichuan in May 2008.

Around 500 human rights activists and parents of dead children asked to attend the trial, but a hundred police officers were deployed at the court and prevented them from entering, even Tan’s brother. His wife, daughter and friend were only allowed entry. Other activists, including the renowned architect Ai Weiwei, were forcibly detained and mistreated at their residences and were not able to even go to court.

The process began at 10 am and was concluded shortly after noon, but the court has not yet announced the decision.

In the Sichuan earthquake thousands of schoolchildren died in the collapse of schools. The parents complain that schools came down like “tofu puddings”, while the surrounding buildings withstood. The government replied that the only cause of the collapse was the violence of the earthquake and have refused any other explanation or investigation.

Tan has written articles critical of the government and investigated the quality of school buildings. On March 28 the police arrested him. Among other things, he is accused of having spoken with foreign journalists, about the earthquake, and of having made comments detrimental to the image of the Communist Party and the government. He is also accused of having collaborated with “foreign hostile forces” that organized events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989.

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

Philippines: Muslim Rebels Killed in Army Attack

Manila, 13 August (AKI) At least 43 people have been killed in clashes between Muslim separatist militants and government forces on a remote island in the southern Philippines, an army commander said on Thursday.

Maj Gen Benjamin Dolorfino said 400 troops had launched attacks on a camp belonging to Abu Sayyaf rebels on the southern island of Basilan.

He said soldiers recovered home made bombs and 13 weapons.

At least 30 guerillas were killed in the military assault and troops were scouring the area to see if two targeted Abu Sayyaf leaders had been killed.

The Abu Sayyaf group has been linked to regional Islamist networks and has a history of criminal brutality and high-profile kidnappings, targeting Christians and foreigners.

In January, militants kidnapped three staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

While two were freed in April, the third hostage, Italian Eugenio Vagni, was released in July after being held for nearly six months.

The troops launched “a decisive law enforcement operation” targeting the Abu Sayyaf’s main training camp in the province, the military said.

The army suffered heavy losses in the conflict and some analysts have already suggested the military offensive will do little to neutralise the strength of the rebel group in the predominantly Muslim south of the Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf is committed to an independent Islamic state in Mindanao and the Sulu islands, but the government views the rebels as little more than criminals.

Abu Sayyaf — which means “Sword of God” in Arabic — split from another separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 1991, under the leadership of Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, who was killed in a clash with police in December 1998.

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

S. Korea: [Editorial] Recall Vote for Jeju Governor

Campaigning is underway in Jeju Special Self-governing Province ahead of a public vote Aug. 26 to determine whether Jeju Gov. Kim Tae-hwan should be recalled. The southern tourist island’s government does not expect the recall vote to get the required one-third support from eligible voters and the required 50 percent of votes needed for approval. Even if Kim is recalled through the vote, the naval base project on the island will continue. If a governor is dismissed through a public recall due to his support for a national project, no other province will risk pushing a NIMBY project widely rejected by the public. Kim’s dismissal could lead to a considerable delay of the project, which is scheduled to be launched in December.

The confidence vote over the Jeju governor has revealed the irrationality of the public recall system. Since the law does not define which acts are subject to a recall, all acts conducted by governors or municipal chiefs seem subject to the law. Acts subject to recall will not be limited to abuse of power or inappropriate police decisions, and so even the justified exercise of power can ignite a dispute. The so-called Public Recall Campaign Headquarters claims that Kim ignored the democratic process in pushing for the construction of the base in the village of Gangjeong near Seogwipo.

The Jeju government, however, held public hearings and conducted public opinion polls in accordance with the law, and signed memorandums of understandings with the Defense Ministry and the Land, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry. If 10 percent of Jeju residents can collect voter signatures to stop the project despite that the province followed legal procedures, the future of pursuing national projects could be in doubt. A similar problem surfaced in the 2007 recall vote for Hanam Mayor Kim Hwang-shik, who proposed building a metropolitan cremation site. The recall against him failed because of lack of sufficient votes (31.1 percent). More people are saying the recall vote for the Jeju governor is reason why public debate over a revision to the Public Recall Act is needed.

Kim Tae-hwan said campaigns for and against the recall are turning into a gauge of the local elections next year. President Lee Myung-bak pledged in his 2007 presidential campaign to build a naval base on Jeju Island with the function of a beautiful tourist port. On July 1 this year, he said, “I think recalling a governor who is conducting a national project is undesirable.” The administration, however, chose to do nothing after the recall vote schedule was announced. It must strictly crack down on illicit campaigning, including advance electioneering for next year’s local elections or systematic mobilization of residents on Election Day, in the upcoming recall vote for the Jeju governor.

The Jeju naval base is a strategic project for the country and closely linked to national security and sea route development. More than anything, the government must show a strong will to pursue the project without fail.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

S.Korean’s Release is Not the End of the Matter

North Korea on Thursday released a South Korean staffer at the Kaesong Industrial Complex 136 days after he was suddenly arrested on March 30. The release of Yu Seong-jin, which came during a visit to North Korea by Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun, is welcome news not only for his family but for all South Koreans.

We will soon find out what Hyun discussed during her trip to North Korea when she returns to South Korea. Hyundai Asan has been the main South Korean business partner of North Korea after agreeing nine years ago to operate the Kaesong Industrial Complex with the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. Asan is also the operator of package tours to Mt. Kumgang, which have been halted for more than a year. The results of Hyun’s trip to the North will determine the future of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the tours.

But Yu’s release does not mean that all the problems have been solved. North and South Korea have many issues that need to be addressed so that incidents like the one involving Yu do not happen again. The fundamental problem is that South Korea remains helpless if North Korea chooses not to abide by an agreement signed by the two sides in 2004 regarding entry and sojourn within the Kaesong Industrial Complex. South Korea strives to abide by these rules under the principles of good will and sincerity, but North Korea has demonstrated its willingness to ignore them at whim.

Article 10, Clause 3 of the agreement contains the guarantee of personal safety, stating clearly that the basic human rights of a South Korean under investigation must be guaranteed. But during the 136 days Yu was detained, North Korean authorities did not allow a South Korean official or attorney to meet him. Article 12, Clause 1 of the agreement concerning cooperation and exchange of information stipulates that North and South Korea must notify each other of information necessary for the fulfillment of the terms of the agreement and respond to requests for information by the other side. But North Korean authorities refused to state the specific reason that led to Yu’s arrest and did not tell the South where he was being detained.

Article 10, Clause 4 of the agreement states that if a South Korean in the Kaesong Industrial Complex violates North Korean law, the North will investigate the matter and inform South Korea of the details of the violation and deal with the offense with a warning, fine or deportation. But the North Korea “investigated” Yu for 136 days without giving a detailed explanation or account.

The two sides must immediately look for ways to resolve problems in the implementation of the agreement and come up with any supplementary measures necessary. Discussions must take place on the scope of Article 10, Clause 2, which concerns “grave violations.” The guarantee of an individual’s safety is the most fundamental factor among many that determine the success or failure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The project cannot succeed unless North Korea resolves fears of sudden arrest and indefinite detention among South Korean workers there.

Yu may have been released, but the four crew of the fishing boat 800 Yeonan, which strayed into North Korean territorial waters in the East Sea on July 30 due to instrument failure, are still being detained by North Korean authorities. The North must send them back as soon as possible, abiding by a 20-year customary convention of returning fishermen who have accidentally crossed over into the other side’s territorial waters.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Why Did N. Korea Release Hyundai Asan Worker?

Why did North Korean leader Kim Jong-il choose this moment to release a South Korean who had been detained in the North for the 136 days? Kim appears to have summoned Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun to North Korea on Monday after deciding to free the Hyundai Asan employee following the release of the two U.S. journalists during the visit of former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

It seems that Kim intended to use the U.S. journalists and Yu Seong-jin as tools in diplomatic games with the United States and South Korea. His basic strategy was to turn to South Korea when relations with the U.S. were yielding no benefits and to show more flexibility in dealings with Washington when relations with Seoul chilled. But contrary to expectations, the Lee Myung-bak and Barack Obama administrations maintained solid cooperation in their responses to the North’s provocations, so Pyongyang apparently accepted the reality that it would not be able to reap any benefits if it held them any longer even as international sanctions started to bite.

Suh Jae-jean, president of the Korea Institute for National Unification, said Clinton’s demand that North Korea release not only the U.S. journalists but also Yu and the crew of the fishing boat 800 Yeonan, who were towed to the North on July 30, probably had something to do with Yu’s release. Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University, said by releasing Yu, the North “intended to fix an obstacle in its relations with South Korea which could have impeded its relations with the U.S.”

In talks over the release of the two U.S. journalists, North Korea is said to have made informal contacts with South Korean civic groups over the release of Yu. One South Korean government source said, “I know that North Korea tried to contact the South through civic group Korea Sharing Movement to discuss Yu’s release. The government tried to secure Yu’s release through various channels, including civic groups and Hyundai Asan.”

Some see Yu’s release as a gift to the Hyundai chief, whose company pioneered business with North Korea. Others point out that nothing comes without a price tag in relations with North Korea and Pyongyang probably expects some sort of financial compensation from Seoul for Yu’s release.

Kim was paid US$500 million for the first inter-Korean summit with South Korean president Kim Dae-jung in 2000, and fertilizer aid has been paid in exchange for granting reunions between families separated during the Korean War. From this context, some experts believe North Korea may be seeking the resumption of food aid from South Korea, which was halted in 2007.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

NZ: PM Flexible on Anti-Smacking Law

The Prime Minister expects a resounding ‘No’ vote in the smacking referendum will lead to changes surrounding the law.

So far, nearly 1.4 million voting papers have been returned with the question ‘Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?’

John Key is expecting more people to tick NO than yes. He says if the law does not work and good parents get criminalised for lightly smacking a child, the law should be changed.

But he says it is hard to put up a case to change the law when no one has yet been prosecuted. The smacking referendum closes in a week.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Plan to Change Punjab Place to Oak Tree Place in Logan

THE man who called a Queensland street Punjab Place said an attempt to change the name was “clear cut racism”.

Developer Manjit Bopirai said he was responsible for the subdivision at Boronia Heights, in Logan south of Brisbane in 2005, and the street was named at his request.

Residents of the Oak Tree Lifestyle retirement village have lodged a petition with Logan City Council seeking to change the street’s name to Oak Tree Place.

Mr Bopirai told The Courier-Mail would fight for the name Punjab Place.

“It’s our heritage, it’s our money. We can name it whatever we like,” Mr Bopirai said.

“I have never called Australia a racist country but in this instance I will.

“These elderly people just want to make a noise. What’s wrong with that name Punjab Place?”

Mr Bopirai chose the name Punjab Place because he was from the northwest Indian state of Punjab.

“I’m a proud Punjabi. It’s just a name we like and it lets everyone know we are successful people.”

Due to accusations of racism the name change petition may be withdrawn from council.

‘Nicer name’

Yesterday residents said they still wanted the street renamed Oak Tree Place, after the Oak Tree Lifestyle Village that dominates a quarter of the streetscape.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Egyptians Escape Somali Pirates

A group of Egyptian fishermen have overpowered their Somali captors to break free from four months of captivity.

The crew were being held by the pirates off the coast of Puntland and are now sailing to Yemen, officials say.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that some of the pirates had been killed during the escape late on Thursday.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, said: “The fishermen were said to have used machetes and all other kinds of weapons to overpower the pirates.”

It is not yet known how many people escaped, although some reports suggested the presence of at least 30 fishermen.

“Their escape comes at a time when their families in Egypt were collecting funds from friends for their release and the negotiator in Puntland was said to have offered the pirates $200,000 for their release just a day before the fisherman secured their freedom,” Adow reported.

However, the authorities in Puntland, a breakaway region of Somalia, said that the fishermen had been arrested by local security forces for illegal offshore activities in April.

Local accounts

Residents of Lasqorey, a coastal village near where the Egyptians were being held, confirmed seeing two boats leave the coast.

Ali Guled, a pirate in Lasqorey, told the AFP news agency: “I think some of the pirates are dead because one of them told me that the crews fought them and managed to get away with the boats.”

Adow said the pirates had been celebrating the release of an Italian tugboat which had been taken alongside the two Egyptian fishing boats and for which they had been paid $4m in ransom.

“The five pirates guarding the boats were said to be drunk, and the fishermen took advantage of that and attacked the pirates. They are said to have killed two of them and sailed off to Yemen.”

The case highlights how illegal fishing off Somalia’s coast is one of the “core issues creating the continuation of piracy”, our correspondent said.

“The Somali pirates say they are just guarding their country’s resouces. All kinds of people from different nationalities are coming in to take advantage of their country’s lack of central authority, they say.”

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


Boat Rescue Off Malta, Baby on Board

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, AUGUST 12 — About 84 migrants on a broken-down vessel were rescued by two merchant ships and a Maltese patrol boat approximately 30 miles from Valletta. The illegal aliens included a woman and the child she gave birth to on the boat while crossing the Channel of Sicily. The mother and baby were transferred to Malta’s Mater Dei hospital. The others will be transferred onto a patrol boat and carried to the island later tonight. The migrants, which included 20 women, alerted the rescue coordination centre of the Italian air force (Centro Coordinamento Soccorso dell’Aeronautica italiana) by using a satellite phone. The operation was also joined by a helicopter of the Maltese Navy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Finland: Professor: Position of Foreign Berry Pickers Unconstitutional

Seppo Koskinen, Professor in Labour Law at the University of Lapland, says that foreigners hired to come to Finland to pick berries are being treated unconstitutionally. According to Professor Koskinen, pickers are being exploited and they should be paid better wages.

Koskinen points out that traditionally Finland has been a welfare state that has observed the principle that anyone working in the country is also covered by Finnish labour practices.

“Looking at it from this perspective, the situation is not even in line with our labour legislation. Indeed, it is illegal, one could say it is unconstitutional, in violation of the good principles behind the law. This abuse should be stopped,” Seppo Koskinen told YLE.

He added the opinion that Finnish operators who hire foreign pickers are responsible for paying a decent wage.

“Perhaps there would be a realistic way to handle the matter. Finnish employers could take care of it at least somewhat better. The other way would be for labour protection authorities to devote more effort to the inspection of employment conditions,” Professor Koskinen suggested.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Mark Steyn: We Can’t Talk About Immigration

In fact, we’ll blame anything rather than confront the truth about what’s happening

Christopher Caldwell’s new book is called Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. And, if you don’t quite get the Burkean allusion, his subtitle spells out his real concerns: “Immigration, Islam and the West.” Given my own obsessions in recent years, you’d expect me to be favourably disposed to it. And I am, my enthusiasm only slightly tempered by the instant conventional wisdom that, if you’re only going to buy one Islamophobic Euro-doom-mongering diatribe this summer, Caldwell’s is the sober and respectable one, in striking contrast to certain others we could mention. “Unlike [Oriana] Fallaci and Mark Steyn, Caldwell does not rant or sneer,” writes Matt Carr of Britain’s Institute of Race Relations. Caldwell, says The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, is not a “Steynian hysteric.” Oh, dear. I think I prefer the droll Irish commentator “P O’Neill”: “Someone has to say it,” he smirked. “Caldwell is the thinking man’s Mark Steyn.”

But enough about me. On to the book… actually, hold on a minute. One more thing about me. Let us put Islam aside for the moment, as my views have been well aired in these pages, and consider the author’s other theme. As it happens, for all his non-ranting, non-hysterical sobriety, Mr. Caldwell is somewhat more “extreme” than I am on immigration. For a notorious blowhard, I can go a bit cryptic or (according to taste) wimpy when invited to confront that particular subject head on. On the CBC last year, I was tap dancing around various socio-cultural generalities when the host, George Stroumboulopoulos, leaned in in that way he has and cut to the chase: “You mean [pause and knowing glance to camera] immigration?”

I thought of bolting for the nearest exit, but, at such moments, I usually take refuge in the formulation that a dependence on mass immigration is always a structural weakness and it would be prudent to address it as such. But in the end my line’s a bit of a dodge. As Christopher Caldwell sees it, no country truly “depends” on mass immigration. Ultimately, it’s a choice, or a fetish, or a fit of absentmindedness for which, in the event that one is called upon to justify it, there is no rationale. Indeed, it’s the defining irrationale of the age: a hitherto all but unknown phenomenon that is now regarded either as inevitable or the essential moral component of an advanced society…

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

Patrols and Crime of Illegal Immigration, New Rules in Italy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 11 — In a marked difference from Spain, patrols have been legal since August 8, with the entering into vigour of the security bill that became law on July 2. The following are some of the new measures: YES TO PATROLS — The law allows for citizen associations, registered on lists and made up of mostly ex-officers, to patrol the territory and communicate with law enforcement on situations involving social problems or potential danger. CRIME OF ILLEGAL RESIDENCE — Illegal immigration is now a crime. Illegal immigrants don’t risk being arrested, they risk having to pay a fine of 5-10 thousand euros, with immediate expulsion. The regulation also requires immediate reporting of illegal immigrants to authorities, except for doctors and headmasters who have a special waiver. The regulation is not to be confused with the current law on immigration, which already leads to the arrest of those who have not left the country after expulsion proceedings. Regularisation only of domestic help and assistants that have been working since April 1 2009 must take place in September. 180 DAY MAX STAY IN IMMIGRATION CENTRES — A Non-EU citizen that arrives in Italy without a stay permit can remain in an Identification and Expulsion Centre up to a maximum of 180 days. Until today the period was two months. 200 EURO TAX FOR CITIZENSHIP — It is necessary to pay 200 euros to have Italian citizenship. For the stay permit, the tax will be set by the ministers of the interior and the economy at between 80 and 200 euros. CONTROVERSY OVER ‘INVISIBLE CHILDREN’ — Jurists and politicians are divided on the possibility for illegal immigrant mothers to recognise their children as born in Italy now that illegal residency has become a crime. According to the ruling majority there will not be any problems, since the regulations set up by the Bossi-Fini law gives the possibility for the women to have a stay permit until the baby reaches the age of six months. According to the opposition and various jurists, the fact that illegal immigration has become a crime obstructs the application for the temporary stay permit because it would be necessary for the official at the records office to report the woman immediately. PRISON FOR RENTING TO ILLEGALS — Up to three years in prison is the risk for those who rent a room or a home to illegal foreigners at the moment of establishing or renewing a rental contract. But there also has to be an illicit gain. NO MIXED MARRIAGES OF CONVENIENCE — The new regulations do not introduce the prohibition of mixed marriages but they intend to contrast those that are aimed solely at acquiring citizenship. This does not take place until after 6 months have passed any longer, but after 2 years and it is necessary to present a valid stay permit for a foreigner to marry an Italian. The terms have been halved for couples with born or adopted children. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Speaking in Mexico, Obama Calls American Opponents of Immigration Amnesty ‘Demagogues’

( — At a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Guadalajara, Mexico on Monday, President Barack Obama referred to American opponents of amnesty for illegal aliens as “demagogues.”

Obama was in Guadalajara for a trilateral summit with Calderon and Harper.

Obama was asked by a reporter whether “given the fight that you’re having to wage for health care, I wonder if you can tell us what you think the prospects are for immigration reform, for comprehensive immigration reform, which you’ve said is your goal; and whether you think that the blows you’re taking now on health care and that the Democrats are likely to take around the midterm elections will make it hard, if not impossible, to achieve comprehensive immigration reform in this term and what you’ve told President Calderón about that?”

Obama gave a long answer indicating that he believed he could secure an immigration reform package that included a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. In his answer, he characterized opponents of this “pathway” as “demagogues.”

“Now, am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No,” said Obama. “This is going to be difficult; it’s going to require bipartisan cooperation. There are going to be demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form of pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable. And those are fights that I’d have to have if my poll numbers are at 70 or if my poll numbers are at 40. That’s just the nature of the U.S. immigration debate.

“But ultimately, I think the American people want fairness,” Obama continued. “And we can create a system in which you have strong border security, we have an orderly process for people to come in, but we’re also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don’t have to live in the shadows, and their children and their grandchildren can have a full participation in the United States. So I’m confident we can get it done.”

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

USA: Student Held as Family Takes Citizenship Oath

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Samir Megahed planned to take his oath as an American citizen Friday with an odd mix of pride and pain, knowing his adopted country considers his son a terrorist and is trying to deport him.

Megahed, a 62-year-old Egyptian, expected that his son Youssef would be standing to take the oath with him and other family members at the Tampa Convention Center.

Instead, 23-year-old Youssef Megahed waits in a South Florida jail to see if he’ll be deported — even though a federal jury acquitted him on all criminal charges and some of the jurors say he shouldn’t be made to leave the country. His immigration trial begins Monday in Miami.

“I’m deeply saddened that Youssef is not with us,” Samir Megahed said this week at the family’s comfortable north Tampa town house. “He fulfilled the obligation for citizenship with us.”

In August 2007, two weeks after applying for U.S. citizenship, Youssef Megahed was arrested along with a fellow University of South Florida engineering student not far from a military base in rural South Carolina.

Both are Egyptian and dark-skinned. They acted nervously. And they had some homemade model rocket parts in the trunk that looked like pipe bombs to the deputies who stopped them for speeding.

Authorities thought they had found a couple of fledgling terrorists and charged them with possessing explosives that could be fashioned into a destructive device. There was no evidence that the two, who said they were on a road trip to see the Carolina beaches, planned a crime.

A federal jury acquitted Megahed on April 4 at the end of a three-week trial. Three days later, as Megahed and his father left a Tampa Wal-Mart, immigration authorities showed up and seized him.

Megahed has said he didn’t know anything about the items in the trunk, which trial witnesses described as low-grade explosives used to power model rocket engines.

More troublesome for Megahed now, though, is being associated with Ahmed Mohamed, the USF student who was his traveling companion on the Carolina road trip.

Based on what authorities found on Mohamed’s laptop computer in the car, he clearly sympathized with Palestinian terrorists. Stored on the hard drive was a video he made demonstrating how to convert a remote-controlled toy car into bomb detonator.

During the tutorial, which he posted on YouTube, Mohamed said he wanted to teach “martyrdoms” and “suiciders” how to save themselves so they can continue to fight invaders, including U.S. soldiers. Mohamed pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in December.

Megahed claimed he had never seen the video and was not charged in connection with it. The jurors in his trial weren’t allowed to hear about it, although jury foreman Gary Meringer said some of them probably knew about it.

Meringer and other jurors have spoken out against the effort to deport Megahed, saying it discounts the work they did in considering the evidence and finding that he did not commit any crimes.

Meringer said he sent a note to Samir Megahed congratulating him on attaining U.S. citizenship.

“I’m delighted the rest of the family is being treated fairly,” Meringer said. “(The government) could have concluded that they were all terrorists.”

Ivan L. Ortiz-Delgado, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Friday that Youssef Megahed’s criminal charges and deportation proceedings have nothing to do with his family members becoming U.S. citizens. He declined to comment further.

Despite what has happened to his son, Samir Megahed, who moved his family to the United States from Cairo in 1998 for better educational opportunities, has never wavered in his desire to be an American citizen. Taking the oath of citizenship with him were his wife, Ahlam, 55, and oldest son, Yahia, 26, who graduated from USF in 2004 with a degree in computer science.

“I came for the future of my sons,” Samir Megahed said. “They can find a good life, good people.”

Having come so close to that goal, Megahed said he will abandon it and accompany his son back to Egypt if the U.S. deports him. Youssef Megahed has lived in the United States since he was 11 and has never been back. The Megaheds have no family there now.

“He is my son, and I must follow my son,” Samir Megahed said. “But we will fight to the end to let him stay here. And he will win. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Canadian Doughnut Mogul Walks Away From Marriage Day

Tim Hortons buckled when sponsorship of heterosexual event blasted by leftist blogs

Canadian doughnut mogul Tim Hortons has walked away from a plan to sponsor a Rhode Island event promoting heterosexual marriage after word of the company’s involvement caused an Internet dustup that flooded the Canadian news media.

The flap started when local organizers approached a regional Tim Hortons executive and asked whether the company would sponsor “Rhode Island’s First Annual Celebrate Marriage and Family Day!” on Sunday, Aug. 16, at Warwick’s Aldrich Mansion. Tim Hortons agreed to donate coffee and won itself a mention on the invitation.


Canada legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2005.

Inundated with criticism, Tim Hortons pulled its sponsorship Monday, announcing on its home page that company does not sponsor events “representing religious groups, political affiliates or lobby groups.”

“It has come to our attention that the Rhode Island event organizer and purpose of the event fall outside of our sponsorship guidelines,” the statement read. “As such, Tim Hortons cannot provide support at the event.”

Tim Hortons spokesman David Morelli said the company had no further comment Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Euthanasia Advocates Authored Part of Obamacare

‘Self determined dying’ compared to ‘women’s reproductive health’

Part of the controversial Obamacare proposal pending in Congress that discusses “end-of-life” counseling and medical procedures that could be rationed based on the age of the patient and other factors was written by suicide advocates who argue openly for the “right” to death, according to reports.

The sources for the Obamacare provisions have been documented on a blog for Family Research Council Action and discussed by prominent pro-life columnist Jill Stanek.

“Come again that promotion of euthanasia isn’t part of Section 1233?” Stanek wrote in her new explanation of the dangers of Obamacare. “Kudos to FRC’s The Cloakroom …for drawing attention to the fact that the two authors of Section 1233 are major proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Hate Crimes’ Brings Pro-’Gay’ Cash to Your Town

The probable new “hate crimes” law may lead to prosecution of pastors, Christian leaders and even “Joe-Christian-on-the-street” for having the wrong opinion about homosexuality or cross-dressing. A lesser-discussed evil twin product of this legislation, however, is federally financed youth and police indoctrination programs.

The House and Senate versions of the bills (H.R. 1913 and S. 909) both say this:

The Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice may award grants, in accordance with such regulations as the Attorney General may prescribe, to State, local, or tribal programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles, including programs to train local law enforcement officers in identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes.

This broadly worded funding extravaganza appears in Section 4 of the House version, Section 5 of the Senate version. A preceding section also invites grants relating to local prosecution, which can “… ensure that the concerns and needs of all affected parties, including community groups and schools, colleges, and universities, are addressed. …”

So, this funding stream will generate “prevention” training for schools, police and communities. Local activists must be appeased, too. Such fascist programs exist now, but will go viral with congressional backing. These curricula can now claim more boldly than ever that homosexuality and gender change are inborn, respectable, moral and medically neutral, and anyone who says differently is an accessory to violence.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mandatory ‘Gay’ Lessons Spark Lawsuit

Parents have ‘right to remove children from controversial program’

Parents in the Alameda, Calif., school district who have been told their children will be required to undergo a controversial homosexual instruction program have sued the district to protect their children from the indoctrination.

The action was filed this week by Pacific Justice Institute, which said it will be defending the parents’ rights to remove their children from such programs.

WND earlier reported when the district was accused of violating federal law for approving a mandatory homosexual curriculum for children as young as 5 — without allowing parents to opt-out of the lessons.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

School Officials Face Jail Time for Meal-Time Prayers

Attorney believes accusers are students who recently graduated

A principal and an athletic director are facing criminal charges for a lunch-time prayer.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Pace High School in Santa Rosa County, Florida. The ACLU claimed some teachers and administrators were endorsing religion, but the school chose to give in to the ACLU’s demands rather than fight them in court. According to the settlement, all school employees are banned from engaging in prayer or religious activities before, during, or after school hours. Now two school officials are facing criminal charges for offering meal-time prayers at an appreciation dinner for adults who had helped with a school field house project. Principal Frank Lay and athletic director Robert Freeman are scheduled to go on trial next month on criminal contempt charges. If convicted, both are subject to fines and imprisonment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Abortions on Under-14s Revealed

Abortions were carried out on almost 100 girls aged 14 or younger last year in Scotland, figures have shown.

The statistics were contained in response to a freedom of information request by a Scottish newspaper.

Almost 3,000 girls under 15 had terminations between 2001 and 2008, eight of whom were 12-years-old.

Previous official figures have only given numbers for the under-16 age group in general, with no further age breakdown.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison said the figures, obtained by the Daily Record newspaper, gave “cause for concern”.

She said: “The number of 12 and 13-year-olds who get pregnant and have terminations is low but it is still a cause for concern.

“It is, however, important to note that the latest statistics show no rise in pregnancies in under-16s.”

Sex education

She said the government was working with health boards and councils to ensure “appropriate” education on sex and relationships was delivered in all schools.

The figures revealed 343 abortions were carried out on girls under 16 last year.

Of these, 248 were 15, 82 were 14, and 13 were under 14.

Since 2000, a total of 2,871 abortions were performed on girls under 16.

Of these, 2,081 were aged 15, a further 695 were 14, 87 were 13, and eight were 12.

‘Wrong strategy’

Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said: “These are appalling and distressing statistics.

“If anything it indicates that the government’s sexual health strategy, which was created by the last administration and perpetuated by the current administration, is working perfectly.

“Because part of that strategy was fast and instant access to widespread abortion services. Unfortunately, it is completely the wrong strategy.”

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


End-Times Muslim Beheadings on the Rise

I recently had the opportunity to have dinner with a very well-known Christian leader, scholar and missionary to the Muslim world. Among the various subjects upon which the conversation focused that evening, was the thesis of Dr. Philip Jenkins, British historian and author of several books, including “The Next Christendom,” published in 2002. In this book, Jenkins theorizes that in the next few decades, the world may expect to see Christianity continue its decline in both Europe and the United States as it makes a drastic demographic shift to the south and the east. Jenkins claims that the United States will quickly lose its status as the Christian stronghold of the globe, and instead, Christianity will see its greatest strength in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Jenkins also ends his book with some dire warnings. With the rise of both Islam and Christianity together in many heavily populated Southern Hemisphere nations, we may expect to see a wave of religious clashes. Jenkins is not a wild-eyed alarmist. As a noted historian, his warnings are thoughtful, well supported by observable evidence and eloquently argued.

Among the nations Jenkins predicted we should watch, most notable is the African nation of Nigeria. The missionary with whom I was speaking agreed. As a well-known leader among the Christian missionary community worldwide, this individual is very well-connected and informed regarding the many trends in the global Christian and Islamic movements. He had some very relevant thoughts regarding the future of Africa. “What most of the missiologists are saying now is, ‘As goes Nigeria, so goes Africa.’ And it doesn’t look very good for Nigeria right now.” He stated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Prophet Mohammed: A Pioneer of the Environment

“There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift [for which there is great recompense].” [Al-Bukhari, III:513].

The idea of the Prophet Mohammed as a pioneer of environmentalism will initially strike many as strange: indeed, the term “environment” and related concepts like “ecology”, “environmental awareness” and “sustainability”, are modern-day inventions, terms that were formulated in the face of the growing concerns about the contemporary state of the natural world around us.

And yet a closer reading of the hadith, the body of work that recounts significant events in the Prophet’s life, reveals that he was a staunch advocate of environmental protection. One could say he was an “environmentalist avant la lettre”, a pioneer in the domain of conservation, sustainable development and resource management, and one who constantly sought to maintain a harmonious balance between man and nature. From all accounts of his life and deeds, we read that the Prophet had a profound respect for fauna and flora, as well as an almost visceral connection to the four elements, earth, water, fire and air.

He was a strong proponent of the sustainable use and cultivation of land and water, proper treatment of animals, plants and birds, and the equal rights of users. In this context the modernity of the Prophet’s view of the environment and the concepts he introduced to his followers is particularly striking; certain passages of the hadith could easily be mistaken for discussions about contemporary environmental issues.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UN Chief’s Warning — The End of the World is Nigh!

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has such a low profile on the world stage that he’s referred to as “the invisible man”. Perhaps in an effort to boost his press coverage he’s given a speech in Incheon, South Korea (hat tip: Drudge), that can only be described as a bizarre PR stunt, with the sort of cataclysmic environmental statements doled out in scientifically dodgy disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow or the forthcoming 2012.

In his address to the Global Environment Forum this week (read talking shop for unelected, overpaid bureaucrats), Ban warned of impending “droughts, floods and other natural disasters”, as well as mass social unrest and violence — “the human suffering will be incalculable” — if the world’s leaders did not “seal a deal” on climate change at a summit in Copenhagen in December. In the Secretary General’s ominous words:

“We have just four months. Four months to secure the future of our planet.”

In reality, the United Nations can’t even maintain its own headquarters, manage its own books and keep its tens of thousands of peacekeepers under control, let alone save the world. The UN is an extraordinarily badly run institution, rife with corruption and mismanagement, that shields some of the most odious tyrants on the face of the earth. Surely it should be focusing on implementing some much-needed management reform, cracking down on rampant corruption within its ranks, and preventing its peacekeeping troops from raping refugees in war-torn places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and southern Sudan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]