Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/23/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/23/2009It seems that everyone wants to curry favor with Libya these days. The Swiss government has just apologized to Libya for last year’s arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi (the son of Muammar Gaddafi) for abusing the domestic help. Switzerland is unwilling to let the mistreatment of servants interfere with important oil deals, and the government’s humble apology has greased the skids for normal relations and new oil contracts.

In other news, in a gesture of ecumenical goodwill, synagogues in Northern Virginia are allowing Muslims to gather for Islamic prayers during Ramadan.

“Many see that observing Ramadan prayers in Jewish synagogue helps strength [sic] bonds between Muslims and Jews in the US.”

Uh-huh. OK. If you say so…

Thanks to A Greek Friend, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Paul Green, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Gulf Country Growth Under 1%, EU Experts
Hyperinflation in the USA?
U.S. Debt as a Percentage of GDP Means No Growth for 50 Years
Congressman Herger Calls Obama Plan ‘Threat to Democracy’
Developing World’s Parasites, Disease Hit U.S.
Hacker Attack Disables Michael Savage Website
Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire
Next Step in H1N1 Scare: Microchip Implants
Ramadan in Virginia Synagogues
Suicides Skyrocket Among Young Men and Women in the Military
White House Reveals Identity of Firm That Sent Unsolicited E-Mails on Health Reform
Europe and the EU
Art: Greece: Saudi Female Artists Exhibit Works in Athens
Cyprus: Common Action With Greece on Missing Persons Issue
Italy: Istat Confirms Zero Inflation in July
Libya Continues to Dominate Swiss Concerns
Quangos Blackball … Oops, Sorry … Veto ‘Racist’ Everyday Phrases
Sweden Democrats Gain in New Voter Poll
Sweden: Transgender Belly Dancer Helps Launch Arab Gay Initiative
Switzerland Apologises to Libya
The Mythical European Umma
Three Palestinian Refugees in Italy on Hunger Strike
UK: Dear Muammar… Happy Ramadan
UK: Equality Czar to Investigate Discrimination Against Nudists
UK: EU Membership to Cost Households an Extra £257 Next Year
UK: Family Told by NHS: Alzheimer’s is Not a ‘Health Condition’
UK: Lockerbie Bomber’s Release Linked to Trade Deal, Claims Gaddafi’s Son
UK: Mother Dies After Doctors Refuse to Save Her Life With Transplant Using Daughter’s Kidneys
UK: Police Charge ‘Suicide’ Man Who Delayed the Trains for Four Hours
North Africa
Algeria: Bouteflika, Hand Extended to Fundamentalists
Egypt ‘Hezbollah Cell’ On Trial
Italy-Libya: Berlusconi in Tripoli for Friendship Day
Jordan to Improve Nuclear Safety Standards
Libya-Switzerland: Gaddafi’s Son’s Arrest, Possible Apology
Morocco: Govt Crackdown on Beggars, 7,000 Arrests Since 2007
Nuclear: Mubarak Rejects US Defence Umbrella in Gulf Region
Israel and the Palestinians
Fatah: Many Fresh Faces in Revolutionary Council
Hamas Claims Abbas Foiled Schalit Deal
Israel Jewish State? Not Our Business, PNA Premier
Israel Presses Sweden for ‘Condemnation’
Israeli Lecturer Endorses International Boycott of State
Justice Minister ‘We Were Sodom, Now We Are Gomorrah’
Mahmoud Abbas: Attack by Hamas Inhuman
Palestinians Turn Jewish Skullcaps Into Business
Middle East
Energy: Saudi Arabia, Project for First Nuclear Reactor
Freed Egypt Sailors Cheered Home
French 007 Tells of Great Escape From Dubai Wearing a Wetsuit Under a Burka
Hezbollah Readies for War as UN Can Only Observe
Iraq Broadcasts Truck Bomber Video Confessions
Iraq: Jordanian Citizenship for Tariq Aziz’s Son, Press
Mubarak’s and Arab States’ Peace Plan: Israel Gives Everything, Arab States Think About it
Oman: Qatar Offer Normalisation; Israel Sceptical
Professor Richard Dawkins Wants to Convert Islamic World to Evolution
Tourism: Northern Cyprus, Culture and Uncrowded Nature
Turkey-Libya to Sign FTA in September, Minister Says
UAE Chosen as One of the Best Sites for FDI
South Asia
Afghan Challenger Alleges Fraud
Democracy? We’re Just Wasting Brave Lives on a Country We’ll Never Free
Malaysia: Beer-Drinking Model Planning Mecca Pilgrimage
Malaysia: ‘If You’Re Going to Cane Me, Then Do it in Public’
Australia — Pacific
Melbourne Cops Under Siege
Sub-Saharan Africa
Mali Protest Against Women’s Law
‘Several Dead’ In Somali Clashes
Israel: Ministers Clash Over Immigration, Inhuman Policies
Italy: Fall in Demand for Foreign Labour, -46% in 2009
Just 31/2 Years for DWI Killer
Obama Island’s Brazilian ‘Engine’
Tunisia: Emigration Office, Control of Illegals Successful
Culture Wars
Lutherans Accept Clergy in ‘Lifelong’ Same-Sex Relationships
US Lutheran Split Over Gay Clergy

Financial Crisis

Gulf Country Growth Under 1%, EU Experts

(by Chiara Spegni) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 14 — The economic growth of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar will remain for this year under 1% due to the repercussions of the economic crisis. It is a sudden stop after the increase of almost 6% registered in the 2006-2008 period. It is the estimate from experts of the EU Commission in recent analysis, according to which the real economy of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries will be hit the hardest due to smaller turnover from oil exports. A large number of countries in the region, according to the EU, will see two-digit deficits in 2009. In the opinion of the experts from the European Commission, the country that risks falling into recession the most is Kuwait, being strongly dependent on oil and having a scarcely diversified economy and which has slower growth than the other countries. Moreover, it suffers from political instability. The primary risk for the UAE on the other hand is the risk of the real estate bubble bursting. Dubai in particular, but also Abu Dhabi, are cities that are exposed to global trends. In Saudi Arabia the reduction of oil production has weighed on the economy, while the risk for Oman is that the tourism sector collapses. For this reason it will probably have to cut expenditure, damaging its economy at the same time. Bahrain also seems very vulnerable to the international crisis in that it is developing as a financial hub and possesses the largest banking sector out of all the countries in the GCC. Other prospects for Qatar, which according to the EU experts is in the best position to face the situation in that it is the largest exporter in the world of liquefied natural gas, as well as fast trade and residential investments. The population in 2008 grew by 8% due to the high level of immigration and thanks to long term contracts for the supply of gas the economy should continue with robust growth in the coming years. In general, how strong the economic slowdown is will depend on the political measures adopted. In the EU analysis, it is forecast that the countries to show GDP growth in 2009 will be Qatar (8.5% compared to 13.4% in 2008), Bahrain (2.4% compared to 5.6% in 2008) and Oman (1.9% compared to 6.4% in 2008). GDP in real terms will register negative on the on the hand for Kuwait (-1.8% compared to +8.5% in 2008), the UAE (-1.6% compared to +7.4% in 2008) and Saudi Arabia (-0.2% compared to +4.2% in 2008). All countries will be faced with a fiscal deficit, except for Qatar (+9.2% GDP). The worst will be Saudi Arabia with -8.7% GDP), then Bahrain (-7.4% GDP), Kuwait (-5.6% GDP), the UAE (-5.4% GDP), Oman (-2.3% GDP). According to the EU experts, fiscal expansion and lighter monetary policy could stimulate economic activity to eventually avoid a depression. Compared to other countries in the world in fact, those of the Gulf have the resources to adopt the necessary measures. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hyperinflation in the USA?

While the blame for this financial crisis can be spread fairly wide, the largest share of the blame must fall on the votrepreneurs (politicians) and the political system that produced them. After all, it was they who encouraged the growth of sub-prime lending so that they can win votes. That was how this mess got started. We need to reform the system in such a manner that the personal interests of the political class coincides with the nation as a whole. Unfortunately, the current system makes it worthwhile for the votrepreneurs to behave irresponsibly and betray the very people they were elected to serve.

What can be done about it? The key is to empower the taxpayers whose money is used to bribe voters so that votrepreneurs can win office. Paying taxes is the chief contribution an average citizen makes to his country. Those who pay more taxes must have more say as to how that money is to be spent. That is why America’s Founding Fathers restricted the vote to those who paid taxes. They understood the linkage between taxation and representation. That was why their complaint was, “Taxation without Representation is tyranny.” Today, all too often we have Representation without Taxation and it is also tyranny.Those who pay little or no taxes have more power to decide how to spend taxpayers’ money than those who paid most of the taxes. The result is to make everyone poorer. In my earlier article, Lessons from the Ancients, I have proposed some solutions that can empower the taxpayers without sacrificing the one-man-one-vote system. Its time for reform or America will go the way of hyper-inflation and economic decline leading to the collapse of democracy itself.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

U.S. Debt as a Percentage of GDP Means No Growth for 50 Years

Apparently, a bazooka wasn’t enough. Last summer, that is what then Secy. of the Treasury Henry Paulson asked for when he made his case for sweeping financial powers. Instead, Congress gave him a nuke, and apparently that wasn’t enough either. Making the jump from completely absurd to the absolutely ridiculous, Timothy Geithner became the latest in a long line of Treasury Chiefs to run to Congress to ask for an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling.

The fact that he is asking for the increase should not be a surprise to anyone given the massive deficits already racked up over the past 18 months. What would be laughable if it weren’t so serious, however, were the comments made in his request letter to Congress.

“It is critically important that Congress act before the limit is reached so that citizens and investors here and around the world can remain confident that the United States will always meet its obligations,”

How exactly does digging your hole even deeper inspire confidence? How does borrowing nearly 50 cents of every dollar you spend inspire confidence? How can anyone with two bits of common sense to rub together take this as anything less than an overt devaluation of the Dollar?

Yet his request was taken in a ‘business as usual’ manner by the media. Of course, this could be due to the fact that in our age of borrow and spend, these requests are becoming more and more commonplace. Perhaps this is one of the reasons people are so annoyed these days?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Congressman Herger Calls Obama Plan ‘Threat to Democracy’

Republican Congressman Wally Herger held a health care town hall meeting Aug. 18 at Simpson University in Redding, where a partisan crowd of over 2,000 people loudly cheered Herger’s position that a public option was “unacceptable.” Although Herger called several times for the audience to “respect each other’s opinions,” those opposed to president Obama’s health care were greeted with cheers while the few in favor were interrupted with catcalls. Herger did not hold back on his opinion of the health care plan and the administration’s appointment of “czars” to head various departments and task forces. “Our democracy has never been threatened as much as it is today,” Herger said to a loud standing ovation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Developing World’s Parasites, Disease Hit U.S.

Researchers Say Infections Spread by Bug Bites, Larvae Are Flourishing Along Border and in Other Pockets of Poverty

Parasitic infections and other diseases usually associated with the developing world are cropping up with alarming frequency among U.S. poor, especially in states along the U.S.-Mexico border, the rural South and in Appalachia, according to researchers.

Government and private researchers are just beginning to assess the toll of the infections, which are a significant cause of heart disease, seizures and congenital birth defects among black and Hispanic populations.

One obstacle is that the diseases, long thought to be an overseas problem, are only briefly discussed in most U.S. medical school classes and textbooks, so many physicians don’t recognize them.

Some of the infections are transmitted by bug bites and some by animal feces contaminated with parasite larvae; still others are viral. All spread in conditions of overcrowding, malnutrition, poor sanitation and close contact with animals receiving little veterinary care.

“These are diseases that we know are ten-fold more important than swine flu,” said Peter Hotez, a microbiologist at George Washington University and leading researcher in this field. “They’re on no one’s radar.”

The insect-borne diseases — among them, Chagas and dengue fever — thrive in shanty towns along the Mexican border, where many homes have no window screens and where poor drainage allows standing puddles for bugs to breed. Outbreaks of a bacterial infection transmitted in rat urine have cropped up among the urban poor in Baltimore and Detroit.

Such parasites as toxocara — shed in animal feces — thrive in the soil and sandpits where poor children often play. There are an estimated 10,000 toxocara infections a year in the U.S. Symptoms include wheezing, fever and retinal scarring severe enough to blind.

These diseases share a common thread. “People who live in the suburbs are at very low risk,” Dr. Hotez said. But for the 37 million people in the U.S. who live below the poverty line, he said, “There is real suffering.”

Consider cysticercosis, caused by ingestion of tapeworm larvae. Medical journals estimate 3,500 new cases a year in the U.S., mostly among Latin American immigrants. The larvae spread through the bloodstream and can damage the heart, lungs and brain.

Several times a year, pregnant women complaining of seizures come into Jeanne Sheffield’s obstetrics practice at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, which serves a mostly poor, Hispanic population. Dr. Sheffield orders MRIs and often finds lesions in the brain, a telltale sign of this parasitic infection.

In recent years, as the immigrant population has spread, Dr. Sheffield said, cysticercosis has cropped up in states that have never had to deal with it before, including Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Oregon. Treatment is available but complex; patients must remain on anti-seizure medicine for years.

Chagas disease, another troubling infection, begins with the innocent-sounding “kissing bug,” an insect endemic in parts of Latin America and also found in across the American South, especially Texas.

The bugs are often infected with a tiny protozoan parasite, which they excrete after snacking on human or animal blood. When a bite victim scratches, he may accidentally rub the parasite into his open wound — and an infection takes hold. Chagas spreads more easily in poor rural communities where homes without window screens get infested.

Many of those ill with Chagas are immigrants or travelers who became infected elsewhere; as many as half develop complications such as cardiac inflammation that can cause heart failure.

Most blood banks in the U.S. began screening for Chagas in the past two years, as concern about the disease mounted. Hundreds of cases have been detected, with especially high rates among Hispanics in Florida and California.

Nationally, one in 30,000 potential blood donors tests positive — yet many don’t seek treatment even after they are told they have Chagas, said Susan Stramer, executive scientific officer of the American Red Cross. Many are immigrants who don’t want to draw attention: “They’re afraid of the consequences of finding out they’re infected in the U.S,” she said.

One of the few Chagas clinics in the nation is run by Sheba Meymandi, a physician at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Dr. Meymandi hits the road one weekend a month with a car full of PVC piping and lengths of cloth, which she uses to transform church sanctuaries into makeshift clinics with curtained exam rooms. At each stop, she tries to persuade Latinos to be tested.

It is a hard sell. Those who feel fine see no need to be tested for what sounds like an exotic disease. And those who have heard about Chagas have also heard that the treatment is exceptionally grueling — three daily doses of a drug that can cause insomnia, nausea, memory loss and a possible lack of sensation in the limbs. The cure rate is about 70%.

Dr. Meymandi presses on, spurred by the reports that regularly cross her desk, such as the recent case of a 38-year-old gardener who dropped dead, his heart ruined by the parasite. “This is no longer an exotic disease,” Dr. Meymandi. “It’s prevalent.”

Public-health experts say the first step in fighting the infections is to learn more about them. “We understand the basic biology,” said Mark Eberhard, who directs the parasitic-diseases division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But we don’t understand that much about the burden of these diseases.”

Hoping to raise awareness — and money for research — the CDC is teaming with private foundations to organize a national summit this fall for doctors, nurses, community activists and politicians.

Health-care legislation pending in the House calls for a full report to Congress about the threat from this cluster of diseases, termed “neglected infections of poverty,” as their consequences threaten to increase U.S. health-care costs.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Hacker Attack Disables Michael Savage Website

Radio host wonders, ‘Would it not be possible the Brits ordered this?’

The website for radio talk show host Michael Savage was forced to shut down for nearly an hour this morning as technical experts attempted to undo the work of a computer hacker, who had snuck into the webpage’s server and damaged the site.


“Why on the day of the worldwide furor over the release of the Lockerbie Bomber by [British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown would Michael Savage’s website be hacked?” the radio host posited. “We cannot say who did this, but would it not be a possibility that the Brits themselves ordered this hack-attack?

“Why?” Savage asked WND. “Because the evidence that they placed me on this list with real murderers and terrorists was a political favor to some Islamic nation can be found in the recently discovered e-mails, hidden until now by the Gordon Brown government. Their own e-mail chain on banning Savage states, ‘There is no evidence of Savage advocating or inciting violence,’ yet, by including Savage on this banned list it would ‘help provide a balance of types of exclusion cases,’ in other words, the list would not only contain radical Muslims but also a white male conservative.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire

This is a transcript of Prof. Joseph Peden’s 50-minute lecture “Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire” given at the Mises Institute Seminar on Money and Government in Houston, Texas on October 27, 1984. The original audio recording is available courtesy of the Mises Institute.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Next Step in H1N1 Scare: Microchip Implants

Company developing under-the-skin devices to detect ‘bio-threats’

A Florida-based company that boasts selling the world’s first and only federally approved radio microchip for implanting in humans is now turning its development branch toward “emergency preparedness,” hoping to produce an implant that can automatically detect in its host’s bloodstream the presence of swine flu or other viruses deemed a “bio-threat.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ramadan in Virginia Synagogues

CAIRO — With mosques in the southern US state of Virginia are already bursting at the seams with worshippers, Muslims are turning to synagogues to perform prayers during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“We say our prayers, and a few hours later they meet for Sabbath and they say their prayers,” Rizwan Jaka, a leader at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling, told the Washington Post on Saturday, August 22.

Last year, ADAMS rented spaces at two synagogues to accommodate the growing numbers of Muslims worshippers during Ramadan.

“People may think it’s strange or odd, but we are simply grateful for the space.”

There are a few number of mosques in Virginia, leaving the already existent worship of places unable to accommodate the growing numbers of worshippers.

Several mosques have been built in Virginia suburbs such as Manassas and Ellicott City, but many have been full from the moment they opened.

To meet the overflow, Muslims started renting hotel ballrooms, office space and synagogues to handle the problem.

“We are a community with many people but not so much money,” Mohammad Mehboob, a community leader, told the Post.

“But Allah has always provided for us.”

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in the US, home to between six to seven million Muslims, on Saturday.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.

Muslim-Jewish Bonds

Many see that observing Ramadan prayers in Jewish synagogue helps strength bonds between Muslims and Jews in the US.

“The prophet Isaiah said our houses would be houses of prayer for all people,” Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation said.

“Now, I don’t know if Isaiah could have imagined us hosting Ramadan in the synagogue, but the basic idea is there.”

Nosanchuk said the idea, seems difficult, turned to be easy as their Muslim friends did not need much.

Muslims only needed wide-open space, carpet to cushion the floor and a place for their shoes and the synagogue’s social hall suited them perfectly.

The arrangement has led to the unexpected benefit of cultural exchange.

There have been pulpit swaps, with the imam and rabbi preaching to each other’s congregation and interfaith visits as well.

David Fram, 72, who sings in the synagogue’s choir, was recently invited to the Sterling mosque for daily prayers.

And a few weeks later, he found himself at Barnes & Noble buying a copy of the Nobel Qur’an to know more about Islam.

“It’s not like the UN here. We’re not looking to draft some final settlement agreement between Israel and Palestine,” Nosanchuk said.

“But we’re learning from each other, and we’re trying to give them the space they need and make them feel at home.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Suicides Skyrocket Among Young Men and Women in the Military

On July 23, 2009, the “Air Force Times,” reported that the US Senate has ordered “an independent study to determine whether an increase in military suicides could be the result of sending troops into combat while they are taking antidepressants or sleeping pills.”

Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Md), who pushed for the study, said he does not know whether there is a link, but he believes prescription drug use, especially when it is not closely supervised by medical personnel, needs a closer look, the Times noted.

“One thing we should all be concerned about is that there are more and more of our soldiers who are using prescription antidepressant drugs … and we are not clear as to whether they are under appropriate medical supervision,” Cardin told the Times.

“Surveys … have shown that as many as 12 percent of those who are serving in Iraq and 17 percent of those who are serving in Afghanistan are using some form of prescribed antidepressant or sleeping pills,” he said. “That would equal 20,000 of our service members.”

“Death by suicide is at record levels in the armed services,” according to Dr Peter Breggin, one of the top experts on psychiatric drugs in the US.

“Simultaneously,” he says, “the use of antidepressant drugs is also at record levels.”

“The army confirms that since 2002 the number of suicide attempts has increased six-fold,” he notes. “And more than 128 soldiers killed themselves last year.”

The FDA requires antidepressant makers to list the following adverse effects on the labels of their drugs: “anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity … and mania.”

“We are giving our troops drugs that provide a prescription for uncontrolled, disinhibited violence, including agitation, irritability, impulsivity, hostility, and aggressiveness,” Dr Breggin points out.

“During Vietnam, a mere 1% our troops were taking prescribed psychiatric drugs,” he reports. “By contrast, in the past year one-third of marines in combat zones were taking psychiatric drugs.”

“Instead of shortening tours of duty, instead of temporarily removing stressed-out soldiers from combat zones, and instead of providing counseling—the new army policy is to drug the troops,” he notes.

In his latest book, “Medication Madness,” Dr Breggin describes dozens of cases in which peace-loving citizens became suicidal, violent and psychotic from taking antidepressants.

[Comments from JD: Scroll down for the part about psychiatric drugs and the military.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

White House Reveals Identity of Firm That Sent Unsolicited E-Mails on Health Reform

The White House revealed to FOX News that it hired a private communications firm to distribute mass e-mails, including unsolicited spam to help sell President Obama’s health care plan.

The company, Govdelivery, describes itself as the world’s leading provider of government-to-citizen communication solutions and says its e-mail service provides a fully-automated on-demand public communication system.

It is still unknown how much taxpayer money the White House provides to Govdelivery for its services.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Art: Greece: Saudi Female Artists Exhibit Works in Athens

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 13 — A group of female saudi artists is showing in this days is works for the first time in Athens, according to daily Asharq Alawsat. The group, composed by 9 artist accompained by Director of the Saudi Society for Culture and Art Ibrahim Youssuf Bin Omar, present is works in the Divani Caravel Hotel in Athens, after receiving a personal invitation by the Saudi Ambassador in Greece. The works displayed regards in particulary paints from both abstract and realist style, most of them already winner of international prices in Bahrain and Yemen. The initiative, held by Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with Al-Sharqiyah governorate, aim to identificate common values beetwen middle east and greek artistic culture.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Common Action With Greece on Missing Persons Issue

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, AUGUST 12 — The President of the Greek Cyprus House of Representatives, Marios Garoyian, and the President of the Greek Parliament, Dimitrios Sioufas, agreed to undertake common action for a more intensive promotion of the missing persons issue, Cyprus news agency reports. According to an official announcement of the House of Representatives, Garoyian and Sioufas had today a telephone conversation on the missing persons’ issue on the occasion of the recent disclosures and evidence of Greek Cypriot hostages being murdered during the Turkish invasion of 1974. The two Presidents decided also that the Cypriot and Greek Parliaments request a more active mobilization of the international community in order to ascertain the fate of every missing person of the Turkish invasion and agreed that the efforts would be based on the relevant decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Cyprus has been divided when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory in 1974. A significant number of Greek Cypriots were reported missing during the invasion. Turkey has so far refused to provide information about the fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons who were last seen alive in the hands of the Turkish military during the 1974 Turkish invasion. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Istat Confirms Zero Inflation in July

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 12 — Italy’s year-on-year inflation rate in July was equal to zero and should current trends be confirmed inflation for all of 2009 should average out at +0.7%, national statistics bureau Istat confirmed on Wednesday. Italy’s inflation rate in July was the lowest since September 1959, when it fell by 1.1%, and down from 0.5% in June. There was also no variation in the consumer price index from June to July, Istat added. Using the European Union’s measuring stick, inflation in Italy fell by 0.1% over July 2008 and the consumer price index declined 1.2% from June of this year. Food prices fell 0.3% from June and were up 1.5% from in July of last year. Prices for bread and other flour products, which saw whopping increases over the past year, were 1.5% higher than July 2008 with year-on-year bread prices up 0.8%, but down 0.1% from June. Gasoline prices in July were down 1.5% for the month and 14.6% for the year, while diesel prices declined 0.3% from June and 28.4% from July 2008. Looking at costs in July for goods and services linked to the summer holiday season, Istat found that compared to a year ago seasonal rents were up 3.4%, bathing establishment prices were 4.3% higher, maritime transport fares climbed 8.8% and train tickets in one year climbed 6%. Air fares, on the other hand, were 18.4% lower than July 2008 and the price for ‘all-included’ holiday packages decline by 1.3%.. In July Istat recorded negative year-on-year inflation in 13 Italian cities including Turin (-0.2%), Milan (-0.1%), Venice (-0.6%), Florence (-0.6%), Genoa (-0.2%), Bologna (-0.6%) and Palermo (0.2%). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya Continues to Dominate Swiss Concerns

The Swiss justice minister says there may be legal problems over a tribunal set to look into last year’s detention in Geneva of a son of Libyan leader, Moammar Gaddafi.

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the legal basis was questionable, adding that the issue would be put forward at next Wednesday’s meeting of the seven-member Swiss cabinet.

The Swiss president, Hans-Rudolf Merz, apologised on Thursday in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for the detention of Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife Aline in July 2008 after Geneva police received reports of the mistreatment of two domestic staff.

The apology has led to widespread criticism in Switzerland and called into question the competence of the cantons, which are responsible for police matters.

Widmer-Schlumpf told the Sonntag newspaper that she had been surprised by an accord signed by Merz and the Libyan authorities setting up the tribunal, which will be based in London.

At stake are not only relations between Switzerland and Libya, but also the future of two Swiss who have been detained in Libya and are not free to leave the country.

Sunday newspapers reported that Merz had become increasingly “politically isolated” because the two Swiss had not been released immediately, adding that Merz had become the third hostage to Libya.

Widmer-Schlumpf said that if the two were not released soon, the issue would become “politically very difficult”.

Economics Minister Doris Leuthard told Swiss radio the affair had to be discussed at the cabinet to clear up possible conflicts between the finance and foreign ministries.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey told two Sunday newspapers that it was important for the two Swiss to be released soon, after being detained for just over a year.

But she did not wish to be drawn on other questions about the case. and agencies

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Quangos Blackball … Oops, Sorry … Veto ‘Racist’ Everyday Phrases

It could be construed as a black day for the English language — but not if you work in the public sector.

Dozens of quangos and taxpayer-funded organisations have ordered a purge of common words and phrases so as not to cause offence.

Among the everyday sayings that have been quietly dropped in a bid to stamp out racism and sexism are “whiter than white”, “gentleman’s agreement”, “black mark” and “right-hand man”.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has advised staff to replace the phrase “black day” with “miserable day”, according to documents released under freedom of information rules.

It points out that certain words carry with them a “hierarchical valuation of skin colour”. The commission even urges employees to be mindful of the term “ethnic minority” because it can imply “something smaller and less important”.

The National Gallery in London believes that the phrase “gentleman’s agreement” is potentially offensive to women and suggests that staff should replace it with “unwritten agreement” or “an agreement based on trust” instead. The term “right-hand man” is also considered taboo by the gallery, with “second in command” being deemed more suitable.

Many institutions have urged their workforce to be mindful of “gender bias” in language. The Learning and Skills Council wants staff to “perfect” their brief rather than “master” it, while the Newcastle University has singled out the phrase “master bedroom” as being problematic.

Advice issued by the South West Regional Development Agency states: “Terms such as ‘black sheep of the family’, ‘black looks’ and ‘black mark’ have no direct link to skin colour but potentially serve to reinforce a negative view of all things black. Equally, certain terms imply a negative image of ‘black’ by reinforcing the positive aspects of white.

“For example, in the context of being above suspicion, the phrase ‘whiter than white’ is often used. Purer than pure or cleaner than clean are alternatives which do not infer that anything other than white should be regarded with suspicion.”

The clampdown in the public sector has angered some of the country’s most popular writers.

Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider children’s spy books, said: “A great deal of our modern language is based on traditions which have now gone but it would be silly — and extremely inconvenient — to replace them all. A ‘white collar worker’, for example, probably doesn’t wear one. An ‘able seaman’, under new regulations, could well be neither. ‘Spanish practices’ can happen all over Europe. We know what these phrases mean and we can find out from where they were derived. Banning them is just unnecessary.”

Marie Clair, spokeswoman for the Plain English Campaign, said: “Political correctness has good intentions but things can be taken to an extreme. What is really needed is a bit of common sense.”

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

Sweden Democrats Gain in New Voter Poll

Sweden’s centre-left opposition parties maintain a slight lead over the governing centre-right Alliance parties, while the far-right Sweden Democrats have enough support to gain a seat in the Riksdag, according to a new poll.

According to the latest poll of voter sympathies carried out by the Sifo polling firm, the red-green parties have support from 48.1 percent of the voters, while the four Alliance parties together garner 45.2 percent.

But if the election were held today, the Sweden Democrats, which have crossed the four-percent threshold, would be the kingmakers.

Support for the Sweden Democrats rose from 3.1 percent to 4.2 percent, giving them the ability to tip the scales of power in a Swedish parliament where the two main political blocs are only separated by 2.9 percent, according to the Sifo poll.

Both the Social Democrats and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of the Moderate Party, however, have said repeatedly that neither party has any plans to cooperated with the Sweden Democrats or become dependent on them to form a coalition.

In a statement regarding the Sifo poll results, the prime minister said that support for the Sweden Democrats would likely drop when the 2010 parliamentary election campaign heats up and that both blocs plan on moving ahead with platforms lacking input from the Sweden Democrats.

For the most part, Reinfeldt didn’t want to comment on possibility of the Sweden Democrats being kingmakers or other theories about possible partnership with the party.

“I don’t want to give them any unnecessary attention,” he said.

According to political scientist Sören Holmberg, Swedish democracy may be in for a “difficult situation” if the Sweden Democrats end up as the party that could give either political bloc a majority in the Riksdag.

“We may have a thorny discussion about what sort of influence the Sweden Democrats can have in Swedish politics. But we should also be reminded that the government doesn’t need to resign [if it’s unable to achieve a majority],” he told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“There needs to be a majority for a no-confidence vote and then the opposition and the Sweden Democrats would have to support it.”

The poll results were published on Sunday in the Göteborgs-Posten, Svenska Dagbladet, and Skånska Dagbladet newspapers.

The results come from responses given by 1,911 people who were asked between August 10th and 20th to say which party they would vote for if Sweden’s parliamentary elections were held today.

The parties’ figures are given below in percentages, with changes from the previous poll given in parentheses.

Social Democrats: 32.8 percent (no change); Moderates: 27.6 (-0.6 percent); Green Party: 9.2 percent (+0.7); Liberal Party (Folkpartiet): 6.8 (-2.0); Left Party: 6.1 (+0.9); Centre Party: 6.1 (+1.1); Christian Democrats: 4.7 (+0.5); Sweden Democrats: 4.2 (+1.1).

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Transgender Belly Dancer Helps Launch Arab Gay Initiative

As a human rights group publishes details of a bloody campaign of hate being waged against gays in Iraq, Rami Abdelrahman speaks to members of a recently founded initiative for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Arabs in Sweden.

Dressed in a flashy black belly-dancing outfit, Nancy is a hobby transgender dancer from Iraq, ready to take to the stage with full make-up and skinny high heels. She is preparing to entertain more than 200 other Arab gays, lesbians and transgender people in Stockholm, Sweden.

The setting is the Stockholm headquarters of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL). The occasion is the launch of Arab Initiative, the first Arab LGBT rights group in Europe.

Nancy has been in Sweden six years now. She lives with her Iraqi family in a Stockholm suburb and hides her preferred gender identity and hobby from her family.

“I was a hobby trans even back in Iraq. I believe most of my friends back then were bisexuals, they just refused to admit it, even if I had a relationship with them,” Nancy says, as she keeps watch of the entrance to the RFSL party premises.

She lets a fellow Iraqi in, and kisses him on both cheeks. Turning around, Nancy says her family would never accept her lifestyle and explains how she has to stay out with other Iraqi friends when she’s in town dressed up as the person she prefers to be.

“However, people here are more open to accepting a transgender belly dancer than in the Middle East.”

Ali, who started the Arab Initiative, takes some time off from serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to members and their friends to speak about the purpose of the organization.

“Our aim is to create new bridges between European and Arab cultures, spread information about the Arab world in Sweden, support LGBT people with an Arabic background, and hopefully to bring more tolerance and understanding of their issues and defend their rights in Sweden and abroad,” he says.

“We as Arabs are discriminated against in general as an immigrant group, and then we are discriminated against again amongst our own minority for being gay,” he adds.

Ali and his peers have received funding from the European Union, which supports several LGBT organizations for immigrant minorities around Europe.

Since its establishment last May, the Arab Initiative has held parties, partaken in two Pride festivals, arranged three film showings, and four seminars.

“We have been making connections with LGBT groups in the Middle East, promoting ourselves locally through word of mouth, and standing up for LGBT rights against media producers who portray this particular group in a negative way.”

Ali adds that it is not a political organization, but mostly a place for Arab LGBT people to find support and meet their peers.

Karin Båge, head of RFSL in Stockholm, says that her group was contacted by the Arab Initiative. RFSL quickly gave the group full access to its premises, skills, and contacts.

The difficulties faced by gays in Iraq was brought into sharp relief this week as Human Rights Watched published details of a murderous militia-led campaign against homosexuals in the Middle Eastern country. In response, RFSL called on the Swedish government to halt all deportations to Iraq of people who have sought asylum on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.

“We urge Sweden to investigate the possibility of evacuating homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people who are at risk of being subjected to ‘sexual cleansing’,” RFSL chairperson Sören Juvas wrote in a press release on Monday.

Sa’ad Ibrahim, 37, is an Iraqi citizen who was granted asylum last May after being threatened with death due to his sexual orientation.

“One day in 2006, I received a call between 8 and 9 in the evening when I had arrived home from work. A friend of mine told me that another friend of ours had disappeared. So we asked around and after ten days we found out that his dismembered body had been found. Three of my friends were killed this way. I am the only one alive in my previous circle of friends,” Sa’ad tells The Local.

He had previously received written threats in his ladies’ shoe shop in a conservative Shiite district of Baghdad, where he was told he was a “fag” and that “God hates fags.”

“Around 9.30 to 10 at night there were six people asking about me around the corner. I got the message to leave before they made it to my shop: I escaped through the back door and left everything behind me. I went far away to my uncle’s place where I stayed for the next five months. Every day I would imagine myself torn to pieces.”

He made his way to Sweden through a smuggling network, using up all the money he had managed to gather. When he came to Sweden he was devastated and lonely, he says.

“Now I am very happy because here I am able to mingle and mix with all sorts of people. I met an Iranian man who became my boyfriend. I fell in love with him, as he took me to the Pride festival, which turned my life around 180 degrees. I was totally amazed by the energy of the festival.”

Meanwhile, it was time for Nancy to mount the stage and wow the crowd with her belly dancing shakes to Arabic music. Swedes, Arabs, Africans and people of other ethnicities, men and women, straight and gay, gathered around the stage and clapped to the rhythm — a sight unseen in any Arab country.

Ali said the Arab Initiative will be organizing similar parties this autumn. The soonest will be in observation of Ramadan, the holy fasting month in the Islamic calendar, which starts this Saturday.

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

Switzerland Apologises to Libya

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz has apologised in Tripoli for the arrest in 2008 of one of the sons of the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

Two Swiss businessmen currently detained in Libya would be released “soon”, according to a finance ministry statement.

“I express to the Libyan people my apologies for the unjust arrest of Libyan diplomats by Geneva police,” Merz said in English at a joint news conference, according to AFP news agency.

Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi said the two countries had agreed on a “normalisation” of their relationship — a decision that was confirmed by Merz — and they would set up a joint committee to examine what he called the “tragic incident” in Geneva.

Relations between the countries have been strained since July 2008 when Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were arrested in Geneva, charged with assaulting two domestic employees.

The couple were freed after two days in custody on bail of SFr500,000 ($470,000) and the charges were later dropped, but Libya responded by suspending oil deliveries to Switzerland, withdrawing assets worth an estimated $5 billion (SFr5.3 billion) from Swiss banks, ending bilateral cooperation programmes and placing restrictions on Swiss companies.

In its statement on Thursday, the finance ministry said both countries would set up an independent court to look into the circumstances surrounding the arrest, and that Switzerland was “prepared to apologise for the improper and unnecessary arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi and his family by the Geneva police”.

Merz told a journalist from AFP that the Libyans had promised him that the two Swiss hostages would be released before September 1.

“Today I have fulfilled my mission and achieved my goals of wiping the slate clean of last year’s incident and opening the Libyan market [to Swiss firms],” he said, before returning to Bern on Thursday evening.

“It is a satisfying outcome for me.”

Oil supplies

Geneva’s prosecutor dropped the case in September last year following the withdrawal by the plaintiffs of their formal complaint after they reached an undisclosed settlement with the Gaddafis.

Charles Poncet, a Geneva lawyer representing Libya, said on Thursday he was “very happy” that Bern and Tripoli had managed to overcome their differences. He added that a hearing on the civil suit due next month would be “suspended” as a first step and “certainly withdrawn”.

Geneva authorities had rejected Libyan calls for an apology. “We have found that the rule of law was respected, that international conventions were not violated and in the final analysis, there was perhaps a problem of a lack of tact,” the cantonal government president, David Hiler, said in January.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey last month said Switzerland intended to seek a meeting with the Libyan leader in order to help settle the dispute.

For Switzerland the dispute is “a matter of law, while for Libya it is a matter of honour”, she said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Mythical European Umma

Muslims in Europe are secretly amassing an arsenal of the deadliest in biological weaponry: the demographic time bomb. The first phase of the Muslim invasion — or should I say reinvasion — of Europe has already begun with the deployment of an expeditionary force of womb-men: a fearsome army of mutant ninja warriors whose function is to go forth and multiply. Their turbo-charged and perhaps even genetically modified uteruses mass produce the deadly biological agent which is currently being stockpiled in Muslim homes across the continent.

And their mission: to create Eurabia — or, better said, since many European Muslims are not Arabs, to turn the EU into the European Umma. Having been driven out of Europe once and unable to reconquer it through force of arms, those crafty and cunning Muslims are back to do it through the Trojan horse of immigration and reproduction.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Three Palestinian Refugees in Italy on Hunger Strike

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 21 — “Ours is a human cause, not a political one”, stated Mohammad Said Siyam, one of the three radical Palestinian representatives wanted by Israel for terrorism, who escaped to Italy in 2002. He explained to ANSA the motivations behind the hunger strike yesterday after the Italian government decided not to continue to supply them with economic assistance and protection as a part of an EU agreement that guarantees their well-being. The three Palestinians have been in Italy for the last 7 years, thanks to an agreement mediated by Brussels to put an end to the Israeli siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where they were surrounded together with another 30 or so militants. “We do not see the reason for which the agreement has not been renewed”, Siyam said, who together with the other two Palestinians (Ibrahim Salem Ubayyat and Khalud Abu Nijmah) found refuge yesterday in the offices that represent Palestinians in Rome, beginning a hunger strike “which will last until the Italian government renews the agreement”. The agreement ended in 2005, but according to Siyam, it would be impossible to return to Bethlehem at the moment. “We would run the risk of facing criminal charges from the Israeli government”, he said. The man, father of two and who suffers from cancer, declared that “the Interior Ministry has not provided them with protection and economic assistance since April”. Since then, the three refugees, which on the basis of the agreement are barred from engaging in work in Italy, have “lived with ever increasing economic restraints”. Last July they made their first appeal to the Italian government. “They promised us a response in a few days time, 50 days have passed and nothing has happened”, Sayim said. “We are grateful for what the Italian government and people have done for us so far, the ex-militant concluded, stressing however the motive behind the request: “We are only asking for the agreement to be respected, or we will let ourselves die of hunger”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Dear Muammar… Happy Ramadan

Brown’s letter to Gaddafi as FBI boss launches blistering attack at Lockerbie bomber’s release

The the British and Scottish governments were facing acute pressure today over the release of the Lockerbie bomber after the most stinging criticism yet of the move.

In an unprecedented attack, FBI director Robert Mueller told the Scottish Justice Secretary he was ‘outraged’ at the release of Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi, saying it made a mockery of the law and gave comfort to terrorists.

Former Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell also slammed the decision, saying it was a ‘grave error of judgment’ which had damaged the reputation of Scotland.

Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi kisses the hand of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli two days ago

The blistering comments came as Downing Street released the full text of a letter sent by Gordon Brown to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in which the Prime Minister wished the Libyan leader a happy Ramadan.

The letter, which was addressed to ‘Dear Muammar’, asked Gaddafi to ‘act with sensitivity’ over Megrahi’s homecoming.

‘A high-profile return would cause further unnecessary pain for the families of the Lockerbie victims. It would also undermine Libya’s growing international reputation,’ Brown wrote.

Instead, Megrahi was given a hero’s welcome in scenes described by President Barack Obama as ‘highly objectionable’.

The Prime Minister also faced calls to explain a meeting he had with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi when he apparently discussed the case.

Mr Brown has yet to make a public comment following the Libyan’s release on Thursday, with senior ministers stressing it was a matter for the devolved Scottish government alone.

Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (front row 2nd R) and his family pose for a photo with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (R)

Libyan newspapers bearing front-page stories on freed Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi’s return to Libya are displayed at a stall in Tripoli

Opposition parties have also spoken out after Col Gaddafi’s son Saif claimed that the decision to free Megrahi was tied to a trade agreement.

Colonel Gaddafi’s son buys £10m Hampstead mansion

Libyan television yesterday showed pictures of Col Gaddafi himself meeting Megrahi and praising ‘my friend’ Gordon Brown and the British government for their part in securing his freedom.

The Foreign Office minister responsible for Libya is also said to have written to the Scottish government, encouraging officials to send home Megrahi.

Ivan Lewis wrote to Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill on August 3 after Libyan officials allegedly threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Britain which could have affected commercial interests in the country.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said the British government ‘urgently needs to clarify the approach that it took’ to negotiations with Libya.

But Business Secretary Lord Mandelson dismissed suggestions of a deal as ‘offensive’.

‘The idea that the British government and the Libyan government would sit down and somehow barter over the freedom or the life of this Libyan prisoner and make it form part of some business deal …. it’s not only wrong, it’s completely implausible and actually quite offensive,’ Lord Mandelson said.

However, in transcript of a meeting between Saif Gaddafi and Megrahi as the pair flew home from Glasgow, the son of the Libyan leader says: ‘You were on the table in all commercial, oil and gas agreements that we supervised in that period.

‘You were on the table in all British interests when it came to Libya, and I personally supervised this matter. Also, during the visits of the previous prime minister, Tony Blair.’

Megrahi, who is terminally ill with prostate cancer, was freed by Mr MacAskill on compassionate grounds after serving eight years of a life sentence.

He returned home to Libya to jubilant scenes that included people waving Scottish flags.

Former US prosecutor Mr Mueller, who played a key role in the investigation into the 1988 bombing which killed 270 people, told Mr MacAskill in a letter: ‘Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice.

‘Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world.’

He added that he normally did not comment on the actions of other prosecutors, but he had been forced to abandon the rule because ‘I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of ‘compassion”.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond today defended the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber as the right decision for the right reasons.

Mr Salmond told BBC Radio 4: ‘No one I think seriously believes we made any other decision except for the right reasons.

‘I think it was the right decision. I also absolutely know it was for the right reasons.’

Mr Salmond insisted the decisions were made to the letter of Scots law.

He said there had been wide consultation with American families and politicians, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mr Salmond said: ‘I understand the huge and strongly held views of the American families but that’s not all the families who were affected by Lockerbie.

‘As you’re well aware, a number of the families, particularly in the UK, take a different view and think that we made the right decision.

‘I would never criticise anybody in terms of who comes forward from the affected families.

‘I don’t think Rob Mueller’s correct in believing that all the families have the same opinion — clearly that’s not the case.’

Mr Salmond said his Justice Secretary had not invited the two applications, one for prisoner transfer and one for compassionate release.

He continued: ‘An important point is that Robert Mueller, who is I’m sure extraordinarily distinguished in all sorts of things, but that aspect — particularly of compassionate release — is not part of the United States judicial system.’

A Scottish government spokesman said Mr MacAskill would respond to Mr Mueller’s letter ‘in due course’.

He will face questions from his peers when the Scottish Parliament is recalled a week early tomorrow.

Labour’s Mr McConnell, who preceded the SNP’s Alex Salmond, said it was up to the Scottish Parliament to take action to repair some of the ‘damage’ caused by Megrahi’s release.

He told the BBC: ‘The way in which the decision has been made and the decision itself have damaged the reputation of the Scottish justice system — historically our legal system has had a fantastic international reputation.

‘It’s damaged that reputation, but much more significantly it’s also damaged the reputation of Scotland internationally.

‘I think it’s absolutely vital that the Scottish Parliament now takes action to limit that damage and to give a clear indication to the rest of the world that when the Scottish Government made this decision they were not acting with the support of the people of Scotland.’

A spokesman for Mr MacAskill said he would answer ‘any and all’ questions put to him by MSPs at Holyrood in line with the proper parliamentary process.

Opposition parties have spoken out after Col Gaddafi’s son Saif claimed that the decision to free Megrahi was tied to a trade agreement.

Libyan television yesterday showed pictures of Col Gaddafi himself meeting Megrahi and praising ‘my friend’ Gordon Brown and the British government for their part in securing his freedom.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson dismissed suggestions of a deal as ‘offensive’.

The Foreign Office said in a statement: ‘No deal has been made between the UK Government and Libya in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in the country.’

The letter sent by FBI director Robert Mueller to Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskillDear Mr Secretary

Over the years I have been a prosecutor, and recently as the Director of the FBI, I have made it a practice not to comment on the actions of other prosecutors, since only the prosecutor handling the case has all the facts and the law before him in reaching the appropriate decision.

Your decision to release Megrahi causes me to abandon that practice in this case. I do so because I am familiar with the facts, and the law, having been the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation and indictment of Megrahi in 1991. And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of “compassion”.

Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world who now believe that regardless of the quality of the investigation, the conviction by jury after the defendant is given all due process, and sentence appropriate to the crime, the terrorist will be freed by one man’s exercise of “compassion”. Your action rewards a terrorist even though he never admitted to his role in this act of mass murder and even though neither he nor the government of Libya ever disclosed the names and roles of others who were responsible.

Your action makes a mockery of the emotions, passions and pathos of all those affected by the Lockerbie tragedy: the medical personnel who first faced the horror of 270 bodies strewn in the fields around Lockerbie, and in the town of Lockerbie itself; the hundreds of volunteers who walked the fields of Lockerbie to retrieve any piece of debris related to the break-up of the plane; the hundreds of FBI agents and Scottish police who undertook an unprecedented global investigation to identify those responsible; the prosecutors who worked for years — in some cases a full career — to see justice done.

But most importantly, your action makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own on December 21, 1988. You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution. You could not have visited the small wooden warehouse where the personal items of those who perished were gathered for identification — the single sneaker belonging to a teenager; the Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by a college student returning home for the holidays; the toys in a suitcase of a businessman looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and children.

You apparently made this decision without regard to the views of your partners in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Lockerbie tragedy. Although the FBI and Scottish police, and prosecutors in both countries, worked exceptionally closely to hold those responsible accountable, you never once sought our opinion, preferring to keep your own counsel and hiding behind opaque references to “the need for compassion”.

You have given the family members of those who died continued grief and frustration. You have given those who sought to assure that the persons responsible would be held accountable the back of your hand. You have given Megrahi a “jubilant welcome” in Tripoli, according to the reporting. Where, I ask, is the justice?

Sincerely yours,

Robert S. Mueller, III


           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Equality Czar to Investigate Discrimination Against Nudists

Promoting claims naturists suffer prejudice like ‘gays,’ ethnic minorities, elderly

HARRIET HARMAN is set to embrace yet another minority group who claim to be victims of discrimination — naturists.

The Government Equalities Office, which is overseen by Labour’s deputy leader, is promoting claims that devotees of skinny dipping and nudist campsites suffer prejudice equivalent to that experienced by gays, ethnic minorities and the elderly.

A submission written by British Naturism has been included in a review into discrimination. “Naturists encounter prejudice in employment,” it reads.

“This is a particular problem for people in the caring professions and education. Any occupation requiring an enhanced Criminal Record Bureau check is potentially a serious problem.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: EU Membership to Cost Households an Extra £257 Next Year

Every household will have to pay £257 towards the EU next year after Labour signed away much of Britain’s hard-won budget rebate.

Official figures show that our share of the EU budget is to soar by almost 60 per cent to reach £6.4billion next year.

The increase, which works out at £92 per household, is detailed in a Treasury document released quietly by the Government just before Parliament rose for its summer break.

As usual, the bulk of the budget will go on aid to the EU’s poorer countries and lavish agricultural subsidies.

This year Britain will pay £4.1billion net to the EU — £800million more than the £3.3billion forecast by the Treasury — and by 2009-10, the net figure will be £6.4billion.

The increases have been caused by extra demands for funding by new EU members, including Bulgaria and Romania.

Britain’s contribution to the EU budget will continue to shoot up as the Government’s surrender of billions of pounds of rebate payments begins to bite. Margaret Thatcher famously won the rebate in 1984.

It was designed to compensate the UK for the massive costs of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which benefits Britain much less than other countries because of its relatively small farming sector.

Critics have attacked former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as Chancellor for agreeing in 2005 to give up a large chunk of British taxpayers’ money for no return.

There have even been suggestions that the deal may have been struck to smooth Mr Blair’s chances of becoming the first president of the EU.

As part of the agreement, Britain secured promises of cuts to the CAP subsidies paid to farmers. But not have materialised, thanks to the resistance of France and other EU governments that rake in billions in subsidies.

The CAP helps ensure that the French, who benefit most from lavish subsidies to their farmers, get back 98 per cent of their total contributions to the EU budget.

The increased budget payments have made Britain the highest contributing member apart from Germany.

They are likely to fuel controversy over how much Britain benefits from EU membership, after more than a quarter of voters in this year’s European elections backed parties which want to take Britain out of the EU.

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond accused the Government of ‘incompetence’.

‘The consequences of Labour’s rebate sell-out are becoming clear,’ he said.

‘Gordon Brown and Tony Blair signed away billions of pounds of our money in return for absolutely nothing. At a time when our economy is in recession and public service budgets are under pressure, Labour’s incompetence is allowing billions of pounds to be siphoned off to Brussels.’

The scale of the increase in the net contribution between this year and next is by far the largest between any two years since 2003, according to the Treasury figures.

In 2003/4 Britain’s net contribution was £3.2 billion, and in following years was at £3.9 billion, £4.4 billion, £3.5 billion, £4.2 billion and £3.0 billion before hitting £4.1 billion this year under current spending plans.

The CAP, critics say, adds further big indirect costs to British membership of the EU.

Experts say the agreement costs a British family of four an additional £20 on their weekly food bill — or £1,000 per year.

About half of this is made up of higher taxes in order to subsidise farmers, and half through higher food bills compared with what we would pay for the same food on the world market.

The Common Fisheries Policy, meanwhile, which has allowed EU fleets to ravage Britain’s fishing grounds, costs at least £1billion a year to Britain in lost jobs and reduced catches.

Business also complain that the tide of regulations from the EU is increasingly costing business dear, adding to the indirect costs on Britain.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Family Told by NHS: Alzheimer’s is Not a ‘Health Condition’

A family has won £130,000 from an NHS trust after it refused to pay for their mother’s care fees, claiming her Alzheimer’s was not a health issue.

NHS Worcestershire ruled that Judith Roe, 74, did not qualify for NHS funding because her condition was a “social” rather than “health” problem, even though she was so ill she could not make a cup of tea and regularly left the stove on.

She was forced to sell her £200,000 home to pay her £600-a-week nursing home fees, which would have been funded if she had been categorised correctly.


“We are still very concerned that older people may wrongly be forced to pay for their care when it should be free.

“We strongly encourage anyone who believes they are unfairly missing out on NHS support to fight for their rights.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Lockerbie Bomber’s Release Linked to Trade Deal, Claims Gaddafi’s Son

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif, claimed the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, was linked to trade deals between Britain and Libya.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Mother Dies After Doctors Refuse to Save Her Life With Transplant Using Daughter’s Kidneys

A mother has died a year after being denied a kidney transplant from her dying daughter because of rules banning donor requests.

Rachel Leake, 41, was admitted to hospital with an infection three months ago and died earlier this month from blood poisoning.

Her sister Carole Saunders said: ‘She had no fight left in her, to be honest, when she lost her daughter. We are all devastated, absolutely devastated.’

Mrs Leake hit the headlines in April last year when she spoke out to condemn rules preventing her from receiving a kidney from her 21-year-old daughter Laura Ashworth.

Before she died from a suspected asthma attack, Miss Ashworth told friends and family she wanted to give one of her kidneys to help her seriously ill mother.

But she never began the formal process of becoming a ‘living donor’ and when she died suddenly the authorities insisted her organs go to strangers at the top of the waiting list.

Ironically, the government announced a change in rules in March, allowing people to donate healthy organs to family or friends when they die. However, at the time of Miss Ashworth’s death the policy was under review and a blanket ban in place.

She was carrying an organ donor card and her kidneys were given to men in Sheffield and London and her liver transplanted into a 15-year-old girl.

Mrs Leake underwent a kidney transplant in 2003, but the organ failed and she desperately needed another. Her daughter regularly spoke about donating one of her kidney’s, but her mother refused to take he up on the offer.

Following Miss Ashworth’s tragic death Mrs Leake had hoped to be given a kidney by her sister Carole Saunders, 52.

However, her health deteriorated and she died after allegedly contracting septicaemia in Bradford Royal Infirmary.

Mrs Leake, who was a diabetic, had been admitted for treatment because of an infection in both her feet due to poor circulation.

It is not known if or to what extent her death was related to her need for a transplant.

Mrs Saunders said:’Rachel was a lovely, lovely person, a beautiful woman and a friend to so many people. She had a big heart. She was very caring and even though she had a lot of problems herself and suffered an awful lot of pain she still had time to listen to other people.’

When her daughter died Mrs Leake took over the job of caring for her granddaughter Macie, despite her own poor health.

She lobbied her local MP over the transplant donor rules and said at the time of her daughter’s death last year:’I am angry, really angry. I am not finding comfort at the moment in the fact that she helped three people.

‘All I wanted to do was carry out her wishes. She would have been so upset that she was able to help other people and not her own mum.

‘Everyone has gone mad and everyone is disgusted. The thing that hurts the most is how Laura would feel. She would be devastated that she was not able to help me.’

She said her daughter had regularly expressed her wish to donate a kidney, but she never took up the offer because of her age or other reasons such as pregnancy and health problems.

Tragically Miss Ashworth was herself rushed to hospital after suffering breathing problems and collapsing in her mother’s arms at home.

The next day doctors revealed she had no hope of recovery and discussed organ donation. A family friend asked if a kidney could be used to help Mrs Leake, but she was told ‘there’s a law which prevents directed donorship’ and the organs went to strangers.

In March Baroness Thornton announced people will be able to make a ‘preferential donation’ request about who should receive their hearts, liver, kidneys or lungs if there is no critical need for them nationally.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Charge ‘Suicide’ Man Who Delayed the Trains for Four Hours

In what is thought to be the first case of its kind, Michael Finnegan, 26, has been charged with trespassing on railway property, causing a public nuisance and obstructing a train, a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.

Mr Finnegan climbed on to a bridge near Gallions Reach station on the Docklands Light Railway in East London on July 16.

After four hours, a police negotiator, together with a friend of Mr Finnegan, persuaded him to climb down from the 50ft-high bridge.

He was arrested at the scene but police decided his mental condition meant he was

not fit to be detained and bailed him until July 29, pending a medical evaluation.

He then agreed to enter a psychiatric unit at Queen Mary’s Hospital in South-West London where he received treatment and counselling.

According to Mr Finnegan, on the morning of his release from hospital on July 29, an officer from the British Transport Police allegedly contacted him by telephone offering to drive him to a Central London police station, where he was scheduled to be questioned for the first time about the alleged offences.

Mr Finnegan, a voluntary worker from South London, told The Mail on Sunday that he was questioned about the incident and told that the Crown Prosecution Service had authorised the three charges to be brought against him.

He spent the night in a police cell. The following morning, he was handcuffed and driven to Stratford magistrates court in East London in a prison van operated by security firm Serco.

At court, he had to wait in a cell for around seven hours until his case was called at 3.30pm.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on bail.

Mr Finnegan will appear at a committal hearing on September 10.

His trial is expected to take place at Isleworth Crown Court in Middlesex.

Research carried out by the Rail Safety and Standards Board in 2005 estimated that there are an average of 70 incidents of suicide on British railways each year, costing the industry more than £11 million in train delays and lost working time as a result

of trauma suffered by staff.

It is understood to be the first time someone has been prosecuted in such circumstances.

A British Transport Police source, who did not wish to be identified, said he found Mr

Finnegan’s case ‘unusual’.

He added: ‘In almost 20 years, I have never heard of a case like this. I don’t know of any other.’

Earlier this month, a 13-year-old boy in Liverpool died after being electrocuted at a railway maintenance site.

A source said police are deciding whether to prosecute two other boys, who survived, for trespassing.

Mr Finnegan, now unemployed, was until recently working as an outreach worker for a


He is a member of the Bank of England rugby team, although he has never been employed by the bank.

A CPS spokesman said: ‘The police took the decision to charge this case on July 29.

The first hearing was on July 30. The CPS is conducting a thorough review of the evidence.’

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Bouteflika, Hand Extended to Fundamentalists

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 20 — Algeria “extended a hand” towards armed Islamic fundamentalists and the “hand will remain extended” even if the fight against terrorism moves forward, declared president Abdelaziz Bouteflika during a speech given for World Moudjahid Day (fighters in the war for independence). “It is necessary to unite the right conditions to development giving an occasion to those who have gone astray”, Bouteflika said, “having mistaken over religious references or for having been tricked by mercenaries that work for organised crime and the destruction of Algerian society”. In spite of the fact that the door to national reconciliation remains open, “the state remains determined to face those that refuse the hand that has been offered”, he added. After the law on Civil Agreement of 1999, that during the first mandate of Bouteflika brought the release of thousands of ‘penitents’, in 2005 the Charta referendum was approved for peace and national reconciliation offering pardon to those who put down their weapons. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt ‘Hezbollah Cell’ On Trial

A group accused of plotting attacks in Egypt for the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah has gone on trial in Cairo.

The 26 men, arrested in April, deny spying on ships in the Suez Canal and plotting attacks on holiday resorts popular with Israelis in Sinai.

At least one man said he had been tortured. Four defendants are on the run and being tried in their absence.

Hezbollah’s leader has said one of the men was an agent for the movement but denied any plan to harm Egypt.

The 26 men — two Lebanese, five Palestinians and 19 Egyptians — are charged with spying for a foreign group and planning attacks against tourists and shipping in the Suez Canal.

They are also accused of sending operatives into the occupied Gaza Strip to help Palestinian militant groups there.


As the charges were read out, several of the accused reportedly shouted: “We live and die as Egyptians. We will never betray our country.”

At least one of the accused said he had been tortured while in Egyptian custody, Reuters news agency reported, adding that he had been referred for medical checks.

A lawyer for the men said the charges against them were “absolutely not true”.

“There was never any question in this case of a plot for the assassination of figures inside Egypt,” said the lawyer, Montaser al-Zaiat.

Hezbollah has said the charges are politically motivated and in revenge for the movement’s stance on Egypt’s support for the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Hezbollah supports Hamas — the Islamic movement which controls the coastal enclave — and has strongly criticised Egypt for not opening its border with Gaza to relieve the blockade.

The trial has been adjourned until October.

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

Italy-Libya: Berlusconi in Tripoli for Friendship Day

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 19 — Silvio Berlusconi will be in Tripoli on August 30 to celebrate the first anniversary of the signing of the Italy-Libya Friendship, Partnership, and Cooperation Agreement signed by the two leaders a year ago in Bengasi, as he promised Gaddafi when he was invited to the event in March. The agreement ended the dispute over Italy’s colonial past, with 5 billion USD in financing over 20 years and an apology from the Italian premier and was heralded as the beginning of “a new era”. For this reason, August 30 in Libya has become the ‘Day of Friendship between the people of Libya and Italy’. Two days later, in early September, Libya will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Libyan revolution. An exhibition by the Frecce Tricolori is set to take place for the national festival, with a flyover of Tripoli, and an air show alternating with about 60 Libyan aircrafts as well as aeroplanes from various other countries. But Friendship Day will also be a chance for Berlusconi and Colonel Gaddafi to discuss various aspects of the agreement, particularly a recent issue involving accusations of Italian fishing boats trespassing into Libyan waters. In the past weeks, after two fishing boats from Mazara del Vallo were stopped and released after a week, Tripoli announced more severe measures against reported trespassing violations and Berlusconi assured Sicilian fishermen that he would speak to Gaddafi about the matter on August 30. Among the points of last year’s agreement is also the fight against illegal immigration, which in the past months has raised doubts in the UNHCR and created internal controversy regarding the treatment of migrants by the Libyan authorities. After the new of the murder of 20 Somali citizens and injury of over 50 in a detention centre in Bengasi in the past weeks, radical members of the Democratic Party (PD) presented an urgent parliamentary question yesterday and asked Berlusconi to not go to Tripoli to celebrate the agreement.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan to Improve Nuclear Safety Standards

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JULY 23 — As the Kingdom preparers to join the league of peaceful nuclear energy owners, officials said today they are in the midst of preparing a legislation to ensure safety from potentially lethal impact on the enviornment in Middle Eastern neighbours. The state-run Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission (JNRC), which has been at the centre of this multi-billion project, is working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to improve nuclear standards and make them up to international level, according JNRC Director Jamal Sharif. Current laws on Radioactive Protection and Nuclear Safety and Security Law deal in small-scale radioactive materials and must be improved in the near future, he said. “We have to amend our laws in line with international treaties and agreements we signed,” said Sharif. “We want to protect people, their property and the environment,” he said, adding that the bill intends to ensure proper handling of nuclear materials. In the meantime, experts from Jordan are working with the IAEA to map radioactive levels ahead of the launch of uranium mining in order to detect potential future changes in radiation levels. The commission has set up 13 air monitoring stations across the kingdom to keep watch of nuclear activities, he said. Jordan turned to nuclear energy to save public expenditure on fuel and provide the 5.6 million population with desalinated water. Several agreements have been signed with the US, Japan, France and other countries to develop the nuclear programme. The kingdom has no natural resources and buys most of its energy needs from neighbouring countries. Oil is purchased from Saudi Arabia and Iraq while most needs of gas and electricity are imported from Egypt. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya-Switzerland: Gaddafi’s Son’s Arrest, Possible Apology

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, AUGUST 20 — A delegation from the Swiss government on a visit to Tripoli will probably apologise to Libya for the arrest last year of Hannibal Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi, and his wife in a Swiss hotel, said a source in the Libyan government. “Negotiations are proceeding well and we expect the Swiss President to apologise for the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi,” said the source. Motassin Bilal, called Hannibal, and his wife Alina, were arrested halfway through July of 2008 in a Geneva hotel on charges of mistreating two domestic employees, a Tunisian and a Moroccan, who then withdrew the accusations. Hannibal and Alina were released from a Swiss jail after paying bail. The matter created a diplomatic incident between Libya and Switzerland. Tripoli cut oil supplies to Bern and withdrew over 5 billion dollars from Swiss bank accounts. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Govt Crackdown on Beggars, 7,000 Arrests Since 2007

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 19 — Despite difficulties and resistance, the Moroccan government is continuing with its campaign to crack down on beggars in the country’s streets, according to the informational website The campaign, which began 3 years ago, has recently been extended to two other Moroccan cities, Tangiers and Laayoune. The government initiative, which has led to almost 7,000 arrests by the police since 2007, has met with a great deal of resistance. Many times beggars have railed the authorities, according to reports in the Moroccan press, but not only them: citizens also seem dissatisfied with the results achieved. “We have been told that the government stepped up its campaign, but we have not noticed any difference here,” commented Salima Sefrioui, who lives and works in Rabat, a city with one of the highest numbers of beggars according to data supplied by local police forces. Also the Minister for Special Development, Nouzha Skelli, confirmed that the initiative had met with difficulties, due mostly to those who call themselves ‘professional beggars’. In any case the government, concluded Skelli, intends to go forward with it, continuing to broaden the scope and financing of the programme.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nuclear: Mubarak Rejects US Defence Umbrella in Gulf Region

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, AUGUST, 17 — President Hosni Mubarak said Monday that Egypt will not be a party to any US nuclear umbrella to protect the Gulf states and cover Egypt and Israel in an interview to Al Ahram daily newspaper. Mubarak, who is in a several days visit in the US and should meet president Barak Obama tomorrow said “we did not get official contacts on this suggestion and if such reports were true Egypt would not be part of such umbrella”. “A nuclear umbrella would entail accepting foreign troops on our soil and a regional nuclear power”, two issues which are totally unacceptable, he said. “The Middle East is not in need of any unclear power whether in Iraq or Israael but rather in need of peace, security, stability and development”, the president said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Fatah: Many Fresh Faces in Revolutionary Council

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH — Fatah’s new Revolutionary Council brought in at the sixth congress of the party (which has just come to an end in Ramallah) has a number of new members. For technical reasons, the overall number of members — as specified by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas — rose from 80 to 81, with 70 new ones. Palestinian press report that among those elected is the lawyer Fadwa Barghouti, wife of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti (serving a life sentence in Israel but also elected to the party’s Central Committee). Yesterday Mahmoud Abbas called together in the Ramallah Muqata (headquarters) all the members of the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council. Among the new members on the Revolutionary Council were a large number of party member leaders from East Jerusalem, including Hatem Abdel Qader and Afif Safeya, former Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) ambassador to the US. There were 11 women elected to the Revolutionary Council and four Christians. However, the person who has given rise to the most curiosity was Uri Davis, an Israeli and British professor of anthropology at the West Bank University. Born Jewish and raised in Israel, Davis (66) was the first ever to refuse to do military service in Israel. Afterwards he developed a strongly anti-Zionist ideology and has been a Fatah member since the 1970s. A year ago he converted to Islam to marry a Palestinian woman, also a Fatah leader. Though holding an Israeli passport, Davis does not like being labelled an “Israeli”. “I am a Palestinian of Jewish descent (‘Ivri’ ‘ in Hebrew),” he told the Israeli military radio station, “I am an anti-Zionist, a citizen of the apartheid state of Israel as well as of the United Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy.” Davis was born in Jerusalem to a family of Jewish Zionists who had immigrated from Europe during the 1930s. Afterwards he developed a strongly anti-Zionist ideology, which led him from the small Israeli Trotskyist group Matzpen to Fatah. He also currently teaches at a British university. Davis has confirmed that he is no longer Jewish, after registering as a Muslim with the Israeli Ministry for Internal Affairs to get married. Davis is not the only Israeli to have reached a high position within the ranks of Fatah. In the 1980s the Israeli Ilan Halevi was also active in the movement in Paris, while in the 1990s an Orthodox, anti-Zionist rabbi, Moshe Hirsch, was chosen by Yasser Arafat as Minister for Jewish Affairs in the first Palestinian Authority government. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hamas Claims Abbas Foiled Schalit Deal

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas personally intervened to foil a prisoner deal between Hamas and Israel last June, a prominent Hamas official said on Saturday.

“We were very close to striking a deal that would have resulted in the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit,” said Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas legislator and spokesman.

“But Abbas personally intervened to prevent the prisoner exchange because he was opposed to the release of Hamas legislators and officials from Israeli prison.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel Jewish State? Not Our Business, PNA Premier

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) considers that it is not its duty to formally recognise Israel as the Jewish State, as requested by current PM Benyamin Netanyahu, and that at most it is up to Israel to define its own characteristics. The comments were made by PNA Premier, Salam Fayyad, in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz published today. ‘The nature of Israel is Israel’s business and no-one else’s,” said Fayyad, disapproving of Netanyahu’s attempt to insert a further precondition into the negotiations, a condition that have never been provided for by any preliminary agreement ever signed by the two sides. “Why try to solve this aspect now when no other aspect has been resolved?” wonders Fayyad, a non-partisan technocrat who is an ex World Bank official, involved in giving credit to the PNA. Similar concepts have been expressed recently by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The issue of the nature of Israel, of which the PNA has for some time recognised the full right of existence, as part of the “two-state for two people formula”, has been brought up by Netanyahu as a response to the fear of a possible demographic influx and as a sort of insurance against the invocation of the Palestinian refugees’ right to return following their exodus during the 1948 war. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel Presses Sweden for ‘Condemnation’

Israel on Sunday ratcheted up pressure on Sweden to condemn a Swedish newspaper report about alleged organ harvesting that has heightened tensions between the two countries.

“We are not asking the Swedish government for an apology, we are asking for their condemnation,” a senior official quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as telling ministers during a weekly cabinet meeting.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party said “the crisis will continue as long as the Swedish government doesn’t change its attitude toward this anti-Semitic article. Those who do not condemn it are not welcome in Israel.”

The comments came two weeks before Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was to visit Israel, with Stockholm currently holding the rotating EU presidency.

“There is no question of canceling or delaying this visit, but it is clear that this incident will cast a worrying shadow over meetings if it is not resolved,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper sparked the row last week when it published a report claiming Israeli soldiers snatched Palestinian youths to steal their organs and returned their dismembered bodies a few days later.

The Swedish government has declined to condemn the piece, saying it has to respect the principle of freedom of expression enshrined in its constitution.

The article has sparked outrage in Israel, with Netanyahu and scores of ministers and commentators calling it a “blood libel” smacking of anti-Semitic accusations against Jews.

“The Swedish government cannot keep silent any longer. In the Middle Ages, slander was spread accusing Jews of preparing Passover matza (unleavened bread) with the blood of Christian children,” Steinitz said.

“And today it is IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers who are accused of killing Palestinians to take their organs,” he said.

The head of the Israeli Government Press Office, Daniel Seaman, said on Sunday he would not give accreditation to two of the newspaper’s reporters.

“We are not obliged to accredit them. It will take time. We have to conduct verifications, maybe to examine their blood type to know whether they can be organ donors,” Seaman, known for controversial statements, told army radio.

Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, the Swedish ambassador to Israel, had initially expressed outrage at the article, but Stockholm distanced itself from her remarks several days later, drawing a stinging response from Israeli officials.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israeli Lecturer Endorses International Boycott of State

Dr. Neve Gordon, a political science lecturer at the Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba called for an international boycott of Israel in a Los Angeles Times opinion article published Thursday. Gordon, who wrote a book titled “Israel’s Occupation” thinks a boycott is the only way to save Israel from itself.

The University condemned Gordon’s statements Saturday, accusing him of crossing red lines.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Justice Minister ‘We Were Sodom, Now We Are Gomorrah’

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 19 — Israeli Justice Minister Yaacov Neeman, commenting today on the security situation in the country, which has been recently shaken by a wave of murders in the past weeks, said, quoting a phrase by the Prophet Isaiah, “We were Sodom, we now resemble Gomorrah”. The minister, according to reports, said this during an urgent session of Knesset’s internal commission, called to discuss security issues in the country. Neeman said: “We are in a very difficult situation. There is no doubt that the fight against organised crime, murders, what is happening on our streets, robberies, must be a priority.” Neeman said that partially worsening the situation is an excessive backlog of the judicial system. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mahmoud Abbas: Attack by Hamas Inhuman

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH (WEST BANK), AUGUST 17 — Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the moderate President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has described Saturday’s attack by Hamas radical militants on a group of even more hard-line separatists (Jund Ansar Allah), linked to Al Qaeda as “atrocious and inhuman”. The group was initially affiliated to Hamas. “The method used (an attack on a mosque in Rafah which led to the deaths of more than 20 people) was atrocious and inhuman” said Mahmoud Abbas outside a meeting of the PNA government in Ramallah. “I don’t know that group (Jund Ansar Allah), but I believe they came out of Hamas”, he added. Hamas rose to power in 2007 after a show of force against institutions loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, since when it has created a de facto entity in Gaza, separate from the West Bank, which is currently run by the PNA and the President’s Fatah party. Reconciliation talks mediated by Egypt have so far failed to heal this split. In recent days Mahmoud Abbas — despite the recent election of a Fatah administration which is more hard-line towards Hamas — announced his intention to proceed with talks in Cairo, but a Hamas spokesman today retorted that there would be no possibility of agreement as long as PNA security forces continue to strike at Islamic militants in the West Bank. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinians Turn Jewish Skullcaps Into Business

“We make qors (the Arab name for kippah translates as ‘disc’) while having a gossip,” said Umm Ali. “We meet each other and we make money at the same time,” added the mother of three, whose husband is unemployed.

The women make around five caps a day, worth about 12 shekels ($3) each.

“Women here can’t sit down without knitting. We’ve gotten used to it,” jokes Ruqaya Barghouthi.

Six Palestinian skullcap dealers distribute the wool, needles and the models to women in this village and 10 neighboring villages.

The finished articles are collected each week and shipped to Israeli retailers. The skullcaps are also exported to the United States.

“The kippah business is what makes my shop busy. Women buy stuff from the kippah money they earn,” said Riyad Ata, whose grocery store serves as a collection point for finished caps from some 100 women.

Merely business

Observant Jews wear a kippah, which means dome in Hebrew, to cover the head in acknowledgement of the supreme God.

The women of Deir Abu Meshal, known for its traditional dress embroidery, say that to them it’s merely a business.

They say they have no qualms about furnishing skullcaps for the people of the occupying power or the Jewish settler, who may be living on Palestinian land.

They say the work is convenient: they don’t have to travel.

“Without this knitting business, people here would be very poor,” said Nema Khamis, 50, who passed on her skills to her five daughters and daughter-in-law.

Palestinian weavers used to make the traditional keffiyeh, the chequered Arab headscarf that late leader Yasser Arafat made a national Palestinian symbol. But much of that business has now gone to China, where costs are lower.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Energy: Saudi Arabia, Project for First Nuclear Reactor

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 20 — The interest of Saudi Arabia in nuclear energy and its projects for the construction of its first nuclear reactor are moving forward, report Arab media quoting the Minister of Water and Electric Energy, Abdullah Al Hosain. “The kingdom is working for the construction of a nuclear energy plant”, Al Hosain declared to the daily Watan, adding that the national science institute, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, is working on the project. In May the French Minister of the economy, Christine Lagarde, declared that France and Saudi Arabia were close to reaching a cooperation agreement for civilian nuclear power. Similar agreements were signed last year by the US government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to develop a nuclear programme worth 41 billion dollars including the construction of three nuclear reactors. The path towards the nuclear was embarked on by Gulf Countries in 2006, but since 2008 there has been a significant acceleration in activity, with other international cooperation agreements between Bahrain-US, the UAE and Great Britain and Qatar-France. All of the agreements fit into the plan for the development of civilian nuclear energy, and representatives from the different countries stressed the issue, emphasising that the interest of the oil block towards nuclear power is not a response to the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the ‘Great Neighbour’ that resides on the other coast of the Gulf. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Freed Egypt Sailors Cheered Home

The crews of two Egyptian fishing boats who escaped from Somali pirates after months in captivity have arrived home to a hero’s welcome.

A military marching band and crowds of relatives and well-wishers greeted the crews as their two rusty ships docked at Attaka in the Gulf of Suez.

The 34 men, seized in April, reportedly freed themselves by seizing their captors’ weapons and overpowering them.

Two pirates were killed while eight have been taken to Egypt for trial.

Whirling dervishes danced for the crowd on the Attaka quayside and banners proclaimed: “Welcome to the sons of Egypt, the heroic fishermen.”

The sailors said that during their captivity they had been locked in the refrigeration compartments of the ships and treated badly.

“The pirates wanted to starve us to death. They gave us rice infested with vermin and we were unable to get a bath all this time,” said Mohammed Tolba el-Hebabi, one of the crew.

Their vessels, the Ahmad Samar and the Momtaz I, were seized by pirates off the Somali coast in April after they strayed from Egyptian waters.

The pirates demanded a ransom but the crew members’ families said they had no way of paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars asked for.

Pirates ‘drugged’

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Cairo says there are conflicting reports about exactly how the fishermen managed to escape.

One of the crew, Sayyed Sobhi, said they had disarmed the pirates while they were sleeping.

But the owner of one of the ships has told reporters that he helped intelligence services to carry out what was code-named “Operation Egyptian Dignity”.

He said he travelled to Somalia and was taken out to sea to visit the crew by local people.

Once on board, he managed to drug the pirates, allowing the sailors to overpower their captors, he said.

“This is a story of Egyptian heroism,” said Bakri Abul Hassan, the Red Sea director of the fishermen’s trade union.

Eight of the pirates were captured and have been returned to Egypt where they are expected to stand trial.

The Egyptian authorities said they would be treated “in accordance with international law”, the AFP news agency reported.

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

French 007 Tells of Great Escape From Dubai Wearing a Wetsuit Under a Burka

A former spy convicted of fraud in the United Arab Emirates has told how he made a bid for freedom by donning a wetsuit disguised under a burka before diving into the ocean.

Frenchman Herve Jaugbert, an ex-naval officer, alleges the Dubai secret police had threatened to insert needles up his nose and that he was about to be thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

The 53-year-old explained how on the night of his escape last summer he stepped into a full-length diving suit, complete with breathing equipment, before adding padding to cover the shape of the kit.

Jaubert, who designs and builds leisure submarines, then disguised himself in a burka and walked down to the water’s edge.

From there, he swam underwater to the nearby coastguard station, on a remote outpost, where he cut the fuel lines on a police patrol boat. He knew it was the only one in the area, and the coast would now be clear.

He then swam back to the beach, got into a Zodiac dinghy and headed back out to sea. Six hours later he was 25 miles off-shore and outside Dubai’s territorial waters. Another former French agent met him in a yacht, he claims.

The pair then sailed to Mumbai, India, which took a week. Jaugbert told the French consul that he had lost his passport and was given a new one.

Jaubert had been working as a contractor for ship-builder Dubai World in 2007 when he was called in for questioning by police, he told The Sunday Times. An executive at the firm had reported finding bullets in Jaugbert’s office and police thought he was a mercenary or hitman. At the same time, the company accused Jaubert of billing for goods that did not arrive.

According to Jaubert, his employers had run out of money and wanted to find a way of sacking him without paying benefits that would have been due under a five-year contract.

‘The police had interrogated me for hours and threatened me with torture,’ he said from his home in Florida, where he now lives with his wife and two children. ‘I lived with a ball of fear in my stomach.’

He said that if he hadn’t left, he’d be ‘stuck in the same nightmare as the others’, referring to the dozens of expatriate businessmen who are languishing in Dubai jails for alleged ‘economic crimes’.

As the economic slump deepens, foreigners are being jailed for misdeeds not generally considered as crimes, such as the bouncing of a cheque.

To the Emirati authorities, however, Jaugbert — who is writing a book about his experiences — is a liar and convicted fraudster. He was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison after his escape in the dinghy.

A spokesman for Dubai World said Jaubert had been dismissed because ‘he was found stealing from the company’, adding that his five-year sentence was ‘entirely appropriate’.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]

Hezbollah Readies for War as UN Can Only Observe

In a Lebanese village 10 miles west of the Israeli border, black-capped Hezbollah militiamen stand guard in front of a suspected weapons cache.

Even though they are unarmed, their presence deters United Nations peacekeepers from approaching the house in Khirbet Silim, preventing the UN troops from fulfilling their mission, which is to stop Hezbollah from rearming.

“The UN can’t just come around here and go into people’s houses,” said Rassan Salim, a municipal official in the village and a Hezbollah militia member. “Our weapons are to defend Lebanon.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iraq Broadcasts Truck Bomber Video Confessions

Iraq on Sunday showed a video of a Saddam Hussein loyalist confessing to orchestrating one of two massive truck bombings that killed 95 people and maimed hundreds more in Baghdad four days ago.

Former police chief Wissam Ali Kadhem Ibrahim, who appeared oddly calm for someone accused of taking part in the bloodiest attack of the year in Iraq, said he had orchestrated the bombing together with a leader of a branch of the now outlawed Baath party who was living in Syria.”I received a call a month ago from my boss in the (Baath) party Sattam Farhan in Syria to do an operation to destabilize the regime,” Ibrahim said in the footage, alluding to Saddam’s now outlawed political movement.

The 57-year-old suspect said the truck bomb was prepared in Khalis, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and that he had called a contact in the nearby town of Muqdadiyah to ensure its safe passage to the capital.

Ibrahim, who said he was a chief of police in Diyala until 1995 under Saddam’s rule, said he had worked as a lawyer until 2002 but then became a leading Baathist official in the restive province northeast of Baghdad.

Many Saddam loyalists fled to Syria after the fall of Saddam in 2003, and Iraqi officials frequently blame neighboring countries for fomenting violence in Iraq.

Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Iraqi army’s Baghdad operations

Baghdad security spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi, who showed the video to the media, had previously announced the arrest of a group of Baathists he alleged were responsible for Wednesday’s bombings, which devastated the foreign and finance ministries.

His office said on Sunday shortly after the taped confession was aired that every police officer manning checkpoints on the day of the blasts between Baghdad and Diyala province, where the prisoner said the attack was put together, had been arrested.

Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Iraqi Army’s Baghdad operations, told reporters that Ibrahim was the main person responsible for the attack at the ministry of finance.

The second truck bombing on Wednesday occurred just minutes later at the ministry of foreign affairs.

Toughening securityGovernment officials meanwhile told AFP that they had halted the dismantling of blast-proof concrete security walls in Baghdad following last week’s devastating attacks.

The decision is a step back from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s plan to remove the walls to show that Iraq’s security situation was improving.

The decision to stop dismantling the so-called T-walls was taken shortly after the truck bombings, high-ranking officials from the defense and interior ministries said on condition of anonymity.

The sources did not say whether some of the barriers that have already been taken down would be re-erected in the wake of Wednesday’s attacks, the deadliest since U.S. forces pulled out of urban centers at the end of June.

The walls are T-shaped concrete barriers about three meters (10 feet) high and linked with heavy-duty metal cables to protect against explosives.

On Sunday, foreign ministry staff were seen erecting a new line of T-walls and the nearby streets remained closed to traffic.

“We will re-examine our strategy on security matters,” Baghdad governor Salah Abdul Razzaq told AFP during a visit near the ministry.

“It is possible we will close certain places to ensure security,” he said, adding that the bombers had exploited the Iraqi people’s desire to see the concrete barriers removed, ultimately making it easier to conduct the attacks.

Premier Maliki said on Saturday that Iraq had taken “decisive measures to tackle the weak points” exposed by Wednesday’s bombings.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Jordanian Citizenship for Tariq Aziz’s Son, Press

(ANSAmed) — BAGHDAD, AUGUST 18 — The Jordanian authorities have decided to grant Jordanian citizenship to Ziad Aziz, the elder son of former vice premier of Iran, Tariq Aziz. The news was reported today by the Iraqi paper Azzaman, quoting “trustworthy sources”, according to whom Ziad Aziz, a 43-year-old architect, will receive citizenship together with his wife and their four children. “I’ve haven’t yet been officially informed by the Jordanian government,” said Ziad, adding that he presented an application for citizenship for his whole family (including his mother and his brother who lives in Yemen) to King Abdullah II of Jordan one year and 8 months ago. Ziad Aziz, who has lived in Jordan with his family since 2003, has expressed gratitude to the Jordanian government and said that he is “proud” to have Jordanian citizenship as he is of his Iraq roots. On August 2, Tariq Aziz, 73, Christian former right-hand man of Saddam Hussein, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in deporting Kurdish people from the fuel-rich areas of north Iraq. In March he was sentenced to a further 15 years for his part in the execution of 42 tradesmen and businessmen in Baghdad in 1992.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mubarak’s and Arab States’ Peace Plan: Israel Gives Everything, Arab States Think About it

by Barry Rubin

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in a major interview, August 17, explained his position on regional peace with Israel. The problem is to understand what it means in practice.

Here’s what he said in his briefest explanation of this policy:

“I affirmed to President Obama in Cairo that the Arab initiative offers recognition of Israel and normalization with it after, and not before, achieving a just and comprehensive peace,”

What does this mean?

In order to get normalization with the Arab world, Israel must first meet the terms of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Consequently, Arab states give the PA veto power over their actions, a major reason why the conflict has been sustained for decades and will continue for decades more.

I think anyone will find it very hard to discover a single instance of any Arab country pressing the PLO or PA toward a more moderate policy at any time over the last 25 years. That isn’t going to happen now either, though the idea of their doing so is a central element in the current U.S. policy.

Think about what has just happened: in a face-off between the United States (and not just any U.S. government but the “wildly popular” President Obama) and the PA, the PA won. Obama requested that Arab states take steps toward normalization or confidence-building with Israel to promote peace and to persuade Israel to stop construction on settlements.

The PA called on Arab states not to do so.

They aren’t doing so.

Mubarak, however, notes one small exception:

“I told him that some Arab states which had mutual trade representation offices with Israel could consider reopening those offices if Israel commits to stopping settlement [building] and resumes final status negotiations with the Palestinian Authority where they left off with Olmert’s government.”

In fact, it has been reported that the two countries in question—Qatar and Oman—might do so. This is the sum total of U.S. success in getting Arab states to offer to do something…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Oman: Qatar Offer Normalisation; Israel Sceptical

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 14 — Omar and Qatar are prepared to begin normalising relations with Israel (as Washington has asked of moderate Arab countries) so long as the Israeli government agrees to halt settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in line with what has been asked by the American administration and the international community. Reporting on the matter today were Israeli media online, underscoring however that the Israeli government seems to be reacting rather coolly to the move. The offer made by the Gulf countries has come out in the Arab press over the past few hours, with its being the first overture of the type since US president Barack Obama urged the countries to make such a move. It is an overture which shows a complete turnaround compared to the decision with which the two emirates — after having already begun rapprochement with Israel in previous years — decided to sever all formal ties. In the case of Oman, this happened in 2000 in relation with the Israeli reaction to the second Palestinian intifada, while Qatar broke off relations only a few months ago in protest against Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. The signals from Doha and Muscat have met with scepticism from Israeli government sources closely linked with Benyamin Netanyahu (at the moment against a total freeze on settlements), who have said that the conditions laid down are “premature” and would not lead to “significant changes” in the short term. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Professor Richard Dawkins Wants to Convert Islamic World to Evolution

“I would like to see my books translated into Arabic. They haven’t been. They are all translated into Hebrew. Persian, I’m not sure. My books are translated into Turkish and they regularly get censored and suppressed.

“The experience of my Turkish publisher of The God Delusion was that he was threatened with arrest for blasphemy. He may even have been arrested, and my website has been banned in Turkey. I feel amused really. There’s something to be said for being suppressed, it makes people want to read you.”

[Comments from JD: One alternative is to self-publish the Arabic versions and go on a book tour.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tourism: Northern Cyprus, Culture and Uncrowded Nature

(by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 14 — Long, sandy beaches, unpolluted nature as in the large natural reserve on the Karpaz peninsula, a cultural and archaeological inheritance dating back nine thousand years, customs and traditions from the Turkish Islamic tradition for centuries at close contact with the Greek Orthodox culture. And the chance of a holiday far from more crowded resorts of Southern Cyprus. This is what the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) has to offer, in the area above the ‘green line’ which has divided the island in two since the Cyprus Republic, founded in 1960, separated into two ethnically and politically distinct entities, in a process ending in the Turkish invasion of 1974 and in the formal constitution of the TRNC in 1983. The green line which divides the island, passing through the centre of Nicosia and including in the Turkish side also the Famagosta fortress which was the theatre to the tragedy of Othello, is still the cause of questions from the tourists who want to visit Northern Cyprus. Even though negotiations between the two sides over the reunification of the island are under way, under the auspices of the UN, it still is a thorny issue and source of contradictory reports relating people’s freedom of movement. Therefore the Turkish Cypriot authorities offer precise directions through the TRNC Office of Representation in Rome (, which also has details about specialist tour operators. EU citizens can move freely between Northern and Southern Cyprus by showing their identity card or passport at the check points: those renting cars in the south must have extra insurance in order to drive in the north, while those who rent a car in the north must rent a different vehicle in the south if they want to visit that part of the island. North Cyprus, which is home to around 300,000 inhabitants, 99% of them Muslims, welcomed around 400,000 tourists in 2007 according to official statistics; there were 130 hotels, 16,000 beds and a total revenue for 2006 of 300 million US dollars. The north is most popular among Turks and Syrians, but there is also a European presence of 150,000, mainly British — Cyprus was a British protectorate from 1878-1959 — Germans and Dutch. What are they attracted to? A rich and interesting cultural heritage — says Sadettin Topukcu, who represents the Northern Republic in Italy — but not just that. The northern coast of this third largest island in the Mediterranean has beaches where you can see sea turtles layinig their eggs, countryside with wild asses, clear, unpolluted seas, miles of rocky, sandy coastline, nine thousand years of archaeological history where the Persians and Alexander the Great were followed by the Romans and Crusaders, the Templars and Hospitallers, to the Venetians, who held Cyprus from 1489 until the Ottoman conquest in 1571. Visitors can choose between Gothic churches, castles from the time of the Crusades, ruined temples, monasteries, and a Roman amphitheatre in the archaeological region of Salamina. There are also festivals and the chance to go hiking or horse-riding in the hills and villages, tennis and water-skiing, as well as underwater diving in search of relics and archaeological remains. As for the city of Nicosia, the Ledra Palace check point marks the border between two realities which are similar, but with several significant differences: less tourism, few bars and restaurants, and the great Belediye Pazari covered market, the Buyuk Haman Turkish baths, the majestic Selimiye mosque, which was formerly a Gothic cathedral, and the Buyuk Han caravanserai. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey-Libya to Sign FTA in September, Minister Says

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 13 — Turkey and Libya may sign a free trade agreement (FTA) in September, Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Çaglayan said as reported by daily Today’s Zaman. Following a meeting with Libyan Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Public Works Muhammad Matuq, who is also the co-chair of the Turkey-Libya Joint Economic Committee in Ankara, Çaglayan told reporters: “Talks on establishing an FTA are still continuing. A delegation from the Turkish Foreign Trade Undersecretariat will pay a visit to Libya to have talks on the agreement on September 7 and 8. I hope that the agreement will be signed in September.” The mutual trade volume between the two countries reached $1.4 billion last year, and Turkey’s exports to Libya was $1.1 billion of this amount, the minister said, noting that the government expects to double this amount by the end of the year. “We are working to increase this figure to $5 to $10 billion in the coming years,” he said, adding that Turkish contractors have undertaken projects worth $9 billion in Libya and are eager to take part in more infrastructure projects there. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UAE Chosen as One of the Best Sites for FDI

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, AUGUST 13 — The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was chosen as one of the best sites for the 2009-11 year of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), according to a survey report prepared recently by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). UAE’s ministry of foreign trade said it has analyzed thoroughly the report’s expectation for the 2009-11, including aspects of foreign trades and investment in UAE. The report concluded the UAE has surpassed Turkey in terms of FDI when compared to the UN 2008-10 annual report which put the UAE, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia among the best FDI sites. The report noted that UAE and Turkey are considered among the best Foreign Direct Investment. The report explained that consequences of the global financial crisis on global plans for non-national companies resulted in minimizing such forecast in the report. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Challenger Alleges Fraud

The main challenger in presidential elections held in Afghanistan last week, Abdullah Abdullah, has alleged widespread fraud.

Mr Abdullah said he had evidence that voting had been widely rigged in favour of incumbent President Hamid Karzai.

The allegations had been sent to the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) for investigation, he said.

A leading group of election observers has also said intimidation and voting fraud occurred in Thursday’s poll.

The campaign teams for Mr Karzai and Mr Abdullah — a former foreign minister — each claim their candidate won an outright majority.

Preliminary results are due in the coming days, but the final result is not expected for several weeks.

‘Alarming reports’

Mr Abdullah said his team had been told that voter turnout had been significantly inflated in some areas where few votes were cast, with the extra ballots marked in favour of Mr Karzai.

“The initial reports we are receiving are alarming,” Mr Abdullah was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

“There might have been thousands of violations throughout the country, no doubt about it.”

Meanwhile, the ECC said it had received more than 200 complaints about the electoral process.

ECC spokesman Grant Kippen said the watchdog was aware of “significant complaints” of irregularities, including voter intimidation, violence, ballot box tampering and interference by some Afghan election officials.

But, he added, there were no specific charges against individual candidates such as Mr Karzai.

Afghan and Western officials have declared Thursday’s poll a success, despite concerns about the turnout.

Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan, said allegations of fraud were to be expected.

“We have disputed elections in the United States,” he said. “There may be some questions here. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Mr Holbrooke said Washington would wait for rulings from both Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission and the ECC before commenting on the election’s legitimacy.

The credibility of the vote may be brought into question by reports that turnout in some areas, such as the restive Helmand province, was as low as 5%, analysts say.

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

Democracy? We’re Just Wasting Brave Lives on a Country We’ll Never Free

by Peter Hitchens

It is certain that British troops will quit Afghanistan in the next few years, leaving that country, as it is now, corrupt, repressive and ruled either by warlords or mullahs.

When that day comes, what will politicians of both major parties say to the families of those soldiers who die between now and then?

Or to the many who will be horribly injured in the same period?

How will they dare to live in the same country, to walk to work, to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, to greet their families, watch their children grow, knowing all the time that they have, through cowardly negligence, ensured that scores of others will never do these things again?

How can they bring themselves to send people into dreadful danger for a cause that is already lost?

Who do they think they are, that they are entitled to avoid this question, while they send others to a place where they cannot avoid death or dreadful wounds?

I have little enough time for our present political class, and (having spent years in their company back in the Eighties) do not have much to do with most of them now.

Not all of them are wholly contemptible. Some show brief, flickering signs of intelligence and integrity.

But I cannot forgive any of them who do not now begin to demand our immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The justifications for our presence there, where they are not drivel, are lies.

If you doubt it, look at the bitterly comical ‘election’ which has just taken place. Nobody can conceal the truth. Huge numbers of voters stayed away out of fear.

Revolting war criminals such as ‘General’ Dostum are officially on ‘our’ side, in which case I can see no moral difference between ‘our’ side and the Taliban.

Votes were bought, ballot boxes stuffed, figures fiddled.

To my grim delight, I observed the BBC’s doughty defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt, reporting wanly from some dubious polling station, her head swathed in an Islamic veil and her torso defended by a bullet-proof vest.

So far as I know, Ms Wyatt is not a Muslim, so why the head-bandage, if we have

liberated the Afghans from the mullahs?

As for the armour, I don’t blame her. The place isn’t safe for Westerners, and it never will be.

But the combination of the two garments rather sums up the situation, doesn’t it?

Start saying it. Start putting stickers in your car and in your front window. Get out of Afghanistan — now.

And remember, when we do leave, those who did not have the courage to say so when it mattered.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend[Return to headlines]

Malaysia: Beer-Drinking Model Planning Mecca Pilgrimage

A Muslim model who is to be caned for drinking alcohol said she is planning a pilgrimage to Mecca, and seeking solace in prayer as she prepares to face her punishment this week.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno will be the first Malaysian woman to be caned under Islamic laws applicable to Malaysia’s Muslims, who account for 60 percent of the 27-million population.

She was sentenced to six strokes after pleading guilty to drinking alcohol at a hotel nightclub in Dec. 2007, and is expected to receive her punishment this week at a women’s prison in Kajang, south of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Public caningKartika cried when the verdict was handed down last month but in an interview at her home in a small Malay village, the slim and soft-spoken Kartika was composed about her fate.

“Sometimes I feel sad and stressed as I have tarnished my family’s name. But now after spending time reading the Quran, I feel calm and am not afraid of being caned,” she said.

The part-time model and mother of two, who lives in neighboring Singapore, has called for her punishment to be carried out in public but it is not clear exactly how it will be conducted.

Officials from the sharia religious court are expected to detain Kartika on Monday and take her to prison where she will undergo a medical check.

Islamic scholars have backed the sentence, and said it would be carried out when she was fully clothed and with a cane that is smaller and lighter than the heavy length of rattan used in criminal cases.

Malaysia, a multicultural country with large Chinese and Indian communities, has a dual-track legal system and sharia courts can try Muslims for religious and moral offences.

Critics say the unprecedented caning will damage Malaysia’s international standing as a progressive and moderate Islamic country.

“Mother of all sins”Kartika said she never expected the court to impose the sentence.

“But I accept it as consuming alcohol is the mother of all sins for a Muslim,” she said.

Sitting between her doting father Shukarno Mutalib, 60, and her 56-year-old mother Badariah Mior Salim, Kartika said her family and the 500 people of their village in Perak state have rallied around her.

Religious authorities caught her drinking at a hotel in Kuantan, the state capital of the central Malaysian state of Pahang.

Kartika said she had three glasses of beer before the hotel was raided in what she said was her second time drinking alcohol. She and the other patrons were asked to provide urine samples.

“I was initially angry. But I did not scold her,” said Shukarno, who operates a lodge by the Perak river in nearby Jawa village.

“I believe my daughter is the chosen one by Allah to remind Muslims not to drink. I heard many (Muslims) were arrested for beer drinking that night but were mysteriously freed,” he said with a smile.

She is strong and is ready to accept the caning. But many people warn me that she will be traumatized. So we have a plan to send her to Mecca to overcome her painful ordeal,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Malaysia: ‘If You’Re Going to Cane Me, Then Do it in Public’

Model’s stand after conviction for drinking alcohol exposes brutality of Malaysian law

She says it was only the second time she had drunk alcohol in her life, and even then it was just a few of glasses of beer. But it was enough for a Muslim court in Malaysia to order Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a part-time model and mother-of-two, to be caned. The corporal punishment case has divided the Asian nation and led human rights campaigners to urge the authorities to show restraint.


Her father, Shukarno Abdul Muttalib, has also suggested that the caning should take place in public. “As a Muslim, I agree with her punishment, but I don’t agree that it should be done in jail, she is not a prisoner,” he told Bloomberg News. “If the authorities want to use this as an example, then the caning should be done in public.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Melbourne Cops Under Siege

EXCLUSIVE: POLICE are under orders to patrol Melbourne’s streets in groups of at least three because gangs of thugs have made it too dangerous for them to work in pairs.

Melbourne police division chief Supt Stephen Leane said police were no longer patrolling in pairs because of the dangers posed by groups of young thugs, often called together by mobile phone, who confronted officers.

The revelation came as new figures revealed almost a third of assaults in Melbourne’s CBD were carried out by two or more assailants. Experts said there was a growing culture of pack violence.

Twelve out of 15 high-profile cases in the past three years, which resulted in a death or a serious injury, allegedly were carried out by groups that outnumbered victims — in some cases by 10 to one.

The dangerous trend has baffled police and criminologists, who cannot explain why young people are increasingly prepared to viciously attack hopelessly outnumbered victims.

“It’s called swarming,” Supt Leane said.

Supt Leane said: “It’s not just a matter of being punched in the nose. Their mates are joining in and you’re getting punched on the nose and getting kicked to the ground.

“You’re ending up in a fight with more than one person. It continues when you’re on the ground.”

Supt Leane said police now patrolled Melbourne’s streets at night in groups of at least three because of the potential threat posed by groups of people acting aggressively.

“You won’t see two police by themselves. The minimum you’ll see is three,” he said.

“The days of being able to put two police out on foot patrol have unfortunately passed us by for the moment. We’ll stop someone for a chat on the footpath and someone else who’s not involved in the discussion is texting and the next thing there’s a group of people there.”

Supt Leane said police in Melbourne hoped to one day to go back to paired foot patrols.

A snapshot of assaults in the Melbourne division from July to September 2008 showed 30 per cent of all assaults were carried out by more than one offender.

Deakin University criminologist Dr Ian Warren said CCTV surveillance was highlighting group violence more and more.

However, a lack of research meant it was not known why people were engaging in violent swarming behaviour.

Dr Warren said people could be less inhibited in their behaviour if they were within a group.

“When you’re part of a group you’re more anonymous; it can make you more willing,” he said.

Dr Warren said there appeared to be a change developing where people were prepared to use extreme violence.

“If there is a change in the way our society does group violence it’s possibly a trend . . . when the intention is to pulverise or really cause real damage.

“The brutality of some of this stuff is really worrying.”

Dr Warren said more research was needed to determine why people were attacking in packs and why they were using such extreme levels of violence.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mali Protest Against Women’s Law

Tens of thousands of people in Mali’s capital, Bamako, have been protesting against a new law which gives women equal rights in marriage.

The law, passed earlier this month, also strengthens inheritance rights for women and children born out of wedlock.

The head of a Muslim women’s association says only a minority of Malian women — “the intellectuals” as she put it — supports the law.

Several other protests have taken place in other parts of the country.

The law was adopted by the Malian parliament at the beginning of August, and has yet to be signed into force by the president.

One of the most contentious issues in the new legislation is that women are no longer required to obey their husbands.

Hadja Sapiato Dembele of the National Union of Muslim Women’s Associations said the law goes against Islamic principles.

“We have to stick to the Koran,” Ms Dembele told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme. “A man must protect his wife, a wife must obey her husband.”

“It’s a tiny minority of women here that wants this new law — the intellectuals. The poor and illiterate women of this country — the real Muslims — are against it,” she added.

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

‘Several Dead’ In Somali Clashes

A number of people have died in further fierce fighting in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, between Islamic militants and government forces, officials say.

The conflict comes despite a call by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Some of Saturday’s fighting centred on a strategic road linking the capital with the town of Afgoye.

A government official said 10 Islamist fighters had been killed.

The Somali Minister of State for Defence, Yusuf Mohamed Siyad, said on Saturday that the final number of militants killed in the operation was not known.

“They left behind some dead bodies and took others. They also took some of the injured militias — for that reason we do not have the exact number of their casualties.”

The road to Afgoye is used to transport supplies to camps where tens of thousands of displaced people are living.

At one point in the fighting, the militants also came close to the presidential palace.

According to local media reports, each side accused the other of starting the fighting. A number of civilian deaths and injuries were also reported.

On Friday, more than 20 people were killed in Mogadishu in heavy battles between Islamist militants, who are fighting to overthrow the government, and African Union peacekeepers.

Thousands of civilians have been killed and more than a million driven from their homes because of fighting in the past two years.

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


Israel: Ministers Clash Over Immigration, Inhuman Policies

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 17 — War has been declared between Israel’s Minister for Tourism and Minister for Immigration over immigration policy: draconian measures introduced by the latter which have been condemned as “inhuman” by the former. The controversy has hit the media since the Tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov, a Russian-speaking supporter of the Radical Right party (Israel Beitenu), wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister condemning as damaging to the country’s image a directive against illegal immigration issued by Minister for the Interior Eli Yishai: he is the leader of a religious Right-wing group (Shas). In particular, Misezhnikov has condemned the treatment of a Peruvian girl who had travelled to Tel Aviv to meet her Israeli boyfriend and was stopped by police. She was suspected of illegal immigration (the girl had little money on her), and — the critics say — she was a victim of the ideological hostility of the right towards mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews. Misezhnikov is calling on Netanyahu for a meeting to clarify the issue (his party largely represents communities like those of Russian origins where mixed marriages are widespread). These kinds of scandals “lead to an image of Israel as an insensitive and inhuman State”, he said. The damage “will be irreversible if the Ministry for the Interior’s current policies are not revised immediately”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fall in Demand for Foreign Labour, -46% in 2009

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The slump is continuing to affect Italian companies, which are still cutting costs and reducing on recruitment. This goes for immigrant labour as well. According to a study by trade association Unioncamere, offers for ‘full-time’ (non-seasonal) jobs to immigrant workers is due to halve in 2009 compared to last year. Forecast job offers total an estimated 93 thousand, down 46% on 2008. This is the lowest level in nine years, compared to the peak reached in 2003, when demand for full-time immigrant workers reached 227 thousand, or 33% of total hirings. In 2009, the percentage of foreign workers out of the total taken on stops at 17%. But demand for seasonal workers continues to rise (up 7.9% on last year), while companies are looking for ever more qualified immigrant labour — people with past experience specific to the field (offers are up from 46% in 2008 to 53% in 2009). “During this tough period,” said the Chair of Unioncamere, Ferruccio Dardanello, “one can understand the caution being shown by companies who, with a general demand for workers, are also cutting back on the numbers of immigrant workers, which have now reached a critical mass on the job market. Companies taking on this type of worker do so partly because they can’t find Italians who are prepared to carry out certain kinds of work, but the recruitment of immigrant personnel is increasingly part of a competitive strategy, which will lead them to seek out ‘the best”‘. SEASONAL WORK — Demand for foreign workers to carry out seasonal jobs continues to grow: an estimated 231 thousand workers have been taken on in 2009 (up 7.9% compared to 2008), equal to 27% of the total. Seasonal immigrant workers are sought after above all by agricultural business (+6% on 2008 at 161 thousand). PROFESSIONS MOST IN DEMAND — Companies are looking increasingly for immigrant labour in the higher professions, even though an ‘ethnicisation’ of job offers for some kinds of jobs is becoming more and more apparent, such as farm labouring or cleaning services, which are still considered typical ‘immigrant work’. Unioncamere has drawn up a list of the most sought-after professions: top of the list come cleaning staff, with around 14 thousand recruitments estimated in 2009. Jumping into second place (4th in 2008, 9th in 2007) are offers for professionals in the health-care sector: in 2009 almost 6 thousand foreign nurses and carers for the elderly will be taken on. There has been a fall in demand for waiters and shop assistants. EVER BETTER-TRAINED — The levels of training asked for is also increasing: in 2009, the number of immigrants with university degrees reached 5.2% (+1% over five years), while the percentage of immigrant employees with professional qualifications stood at 32% (+10% on 2004). OUTLINE OF RECRUITMENT — >From the geographical point of view, the readiness to take on immigrant labour is highest in the Centre-North (23-33% of total recruitment), while it is most modest in the Centre-South, where it rarely exceed 16% of the total. The provinces where immigrant staff are most sought-after are Asti, Biella, Parma and Forli’.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Just 31/2 Years for DWI Killer

An illegal immigrant — already under suspicion for a 2006 murder — will serve as little as 31/2 years for drunkenly killing two women in Queens after pleading guilty yesterday in the deadly crash.

Daryush Omar, 25, admitted that he was blitzed, with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, when he ran a red light and smashed into a livery cab in Astoria, Queens, in November.

The crash killed cabdriver Bessy Velasquez, 41, of Brooklyn, and her passenger, Panayiota Demetriou, 30, an aspiring child psychologist, of Astoria, just days shy of earning her doctorate.

Velasquez left behind two teenage daughters.

Omar, faces between 31/2 and 10 years for vehicular manslaughter, and will be deported back to Afghanistan after prison.

Manhattan prosecutors failed to build a murder case against Omar for the 2006 beating of a Hoboken, NJ, banker outside a Chelsea nightclub when two key witnesses vanished.

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

Obama Island’s Brazilian ‘Engine’

Barack Obama will soon follow in the footsteps of US Presidents Bill Clinton and John F Kennedy by holidaying on Martha’s Vineyard. But behind the scenes of the exclusive island getaway, BBC Brasil’s Bruno Garcez finds an army of immigrant Brazilian workers tending lawns and waiting on tables.


If Mrs Nascimento had a chance to meet the latest famous visitor to the island, she would ask him to help immigrants facing hardship in the US because of problems with their papers.

She said: “Obama represents hope.

“He should create a law that could help people like my husband who are good citizens, who never had any problem with the law, who pay their taxes and have a good credit history.

“I do have hopes that something will be done — I just fear it might take too long.”

Tensions between Martha’s Vineyard’s Brazilian and American communities were stoked last January when a young American girl, Brandy Gibson, was killed in a car accident.

The fact that the Brazilian van driver was unlicensed led to a wave of angry messages in the local press aimed at Brazilians — although immigrants who spoke to the BBC did not complain of prejudice.

Michael Dutton, Oak Bluffs’ town administrator, said: “Over the years, as with any first generation of immigrants, Brazilians ended up being blamed for many things unfairly.

“The Brazilian population has kept to itself. That is not good, because they remain a mystery to the rest of the island.”

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

Tunisia: Emigration Office, Control of Illegals Successful

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 20 — Tunisia has managed to control illegal emigration, thanks to the pace of the country’s development, a reduction in unemployment and levels of poverty, as well as efforts to combat economic marginalisation and a willingness to develop legal emigration, said Director General of the Office for Tunisians abroad (OTE), Fraj Souissi, who was speaking at a regional conference in Tunis on emigration in the Arab world, organised by the Social Liberal Party (PSL). The meeting took place in preparation for the meeting in Brussels in November between heads of liberal Arab and European political parties and organisations to discuss the issue. Souissi also stressed that the current difficult economic situation has reopened the issue of some rights in host countries. He called for the inclusion of the issue of emigration as part of the global approach in the euro-mediterranean partnership, inviting the Arab market to move towards new areas of employment in north America, Asia and Africa. Secretary General of the PSL, Mondher Thabet, expressed his wish that the Arab countries would present a series of joint proposals concerning emigration, which they would propose to their European colleagues at the meeting in Brussels. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Lutherans Accept Clergy in ‘Lifelong’ Same-Sex Relationships

After hours of back and forth between members, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America decided Friday evening to accept noncelibate clergy members and lay leaders who are in “lifelong” and “monogamous” same-sex relationships.


While the recommendations passed at the weeklong Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, Minnesota, do not address recognizing same-sex marriage or civil unions, they do allow congregations to support same-sex relationships among their members and allow individuals in same-sex relationships to hold clergy positions.

The previous policy of the 4.6-million member church allowed gay people to serve as members of professional rosters only if they were celibate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US Lutheran Split Over Gay Clergy

Traditionalist US Lutherans have warned they might leave to form another denomination after their Church voted to allow gay people to act as pastors.

Delegates voted on Friday to allow people in life-long monogamous gay relationships to become ministers.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Ecla) is one of the largest to open the role to gay men and women.

The decision comes a month after the Anglican Church in the US voted to allow the ordination of gay bishops.

Delegates in tears

Two-thirds of delegates voted in favour of the change at the Lutheran Church’s national assembly in Minneapolis on Friday.

It followed impassioned argument about whether or not the Bible forbids active homosexuality, and left a number of delegates in tears.

Some traditionalist clergy told the assembly they would leave the Church, and predicted an outflow of Lutherans to join other churches or create their own denomination.

The decision by the 4.5-million strong Lutheran Church is significant because of its position roughly in the middle of Protestant theology, and it will add to a sense of momentum towards a more liberal approach to homosexuality among American churches.

Other Protestant denominations — including the Presbyterian Church — have recently opted not to take a similar step, but by a narrower margin than before.

Anglicans who have left the Episcopal Church because it ordained a gay bishop have formed a rival traditionalist Church.

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


laine said...

So when can the Jews expect their return invitation to say their prayers in the friendly ecumenical mosque?

Western dunces who do not notice that there is never reciprocity for their bending over backwards to Muslims are dimmer than a five year old, who always extracts some concession for his co-operation.

Islam is a one way street, with everything going their way.

e.g. easiest religion to enter, by reciting a few words, but no legitimate way out of the steel trap than death.

e.g. every religion must respect Islam but Islam respects no other religion.

e.g. Muslims are allowed to proselytize to all Westerners, including prisoners while any other religion proselytizing in a Muslim country risks death.

e.g. mosques spring up like poisonous mushrooms throughout the west but no non-Muslim places of worship may be built in Muslim countries. Those that already exist are not allowed to be repaired etc.

Muslims must be granted equal rights in Western countries but no Muslim country grants equal rights to non-Muslims.

How willfully stupid do you have to be to ignore the obvious pattern? As stupid as a Western liberal. There is nothing denser in the universe. Western liberals are the black hole of stupidity. Nothing that goes in ever re-emerges as a coherent thought.

The Hilltop View of Morris County said...

Five year olds appear to be much
wiser than western liberals.
Now that the moslem camel has its
nose under the tent/synagogue....
will it be they are declared a
part of the ummah?

Anonymous said...

It is wrong to suggest that news comes from the UK now.

The item about the female Alzheimer's sufferer really only applies to England, where elderly people have to sell their homes to pay for social care. In Scotland it is paid for free at English taxpayers' expense. Scots keep their homes which allows them to passed onto loved ones as an inheritance. In England homes are sold and those people then pay over the odds to make sure other elderly people are cared for too.

The British establishment and media are insitutionally Anglophobic.

The UK only exists in name only and millions of English people wish it would end.