Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/15/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/15/2009A “Swede” — it seems that a lot of today’s “Swedes”, for the sake of journalistic accuracy, must be enclosed in quotation marks — has been sentenced in New York to life in prison. His crime was planning to set up an Al Qaeda training camp in the USA. He was apprehended in Prague four years ago while en route from Sweden to Lebanon.

In other news, Australian soldiers in Afghanistan are suffering from malnutrition due to inadequate rations.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, CB, JD, Lurker from Tulsa, REP, Sean O’Brian, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Stimulus Project Scrapped; Questions Remain Why it Was Ever Approved
“Scientific Consensus” Should be Put on the Stand
American Airlines Asking Fliers to Provide More Information
Axelrod Says ‘Tea Party’ Protesters Are ‘Wrong’
Couple Robbed While Inside Dumpster
Czarist Washington
Globalism vs. Americanism
Just How Many Marched on D.C.?
New York Homes Raided in Terrorism Probe
Obama Inspires Islamists’ D.C. Prayer Rally
Soldier Ordered Not to Challenge Obama’s Eligibility?
State Treasurer to Release Oklahoma Revenue Numbers Today
Swedish Terrorist Gets Life Sentence
Europe and the EU
EU Countries Practice ‘Secret’ Diplomacy, Hamas Says
FPÖ Wants Turkey’s EU Accession Negotiations Ended
Italy: Man Arrested Over Gay Attack in Florence
Italy: PM Ally Takes Action Against Berlusconi Newspaper
Mafia ‘Sank Nuclear Waste Ship’
NATO’s Failings Turn Eastern Europe Away From the US
Q&A: The Lisbon Treaty
Spain Urged to End Detention Law
UK: Analysis: Democracy and the Extreme Right
UK: Claim Back Holidays Lost to Sickness, Says European Court of Justice
UK: Lord Tebbit Warns David Cameron That Tories Must Hold EU Poll or Risk Losing Voters
UK: Simply Fowl: Asda Workers Film Former Colleague Licking a Raw Chicken…
Bosnia: UN War Crimes Tribunal to Free Former Serb Leader
Croatia: Italian Flag With Provocative Content Raised in Rijeka
Israel and the Palestinians
Is Not Just the Fault of “Others” If Jerusalem and Palestine Are Emptied of Christians
Israel’s Initial Reaction to the Report of the Goldstone Fact Finding Mission
Israel to Reopen Jenin Checkpoint
Israeli Arabs and Hizbollah’s Covert War Against Israel
Middle East
Guide to a Big Mistake: U.S. Decision to Talk With Iran
Iran: Obama ‘Held Captive’ By Republicans, Ahmadinejad Aide Claims
UAE: Wave of Arrests Follow Plot to Blow Up Dubai Tower
Extreme Islamist Homepage in Sweden Disturbs Russia
Stalin Grandson in Court Fight to Clear Dictator’s Name
South Asia
Dhaka: Wife and Daughter Tortured for Converting to Christianity
India is ‘Losing Maoist Battle’
India: Maoist Kid Soldiers Draw Blood
Indonesian Rights Groups Condemn New Stoning Law
Pakistan-Punjab: Muslim Extremists Burn Church Over Alleged Blasphemy Case
Pakistan: Minorities and Education: Equal Rights for All Students Guaranteed by the Constitution
Sri Lanka: The West and Its Despicable ‘Love Affair’ With Terrorism
Far East
Does Japan Face Same Defense Challenges as Britain, France During Rise of Nazis?
South Korea: Is Racism Serious Here?
Australia — Pacific
Aussie Diggers Wasting Away on Inadequate Rations
Sub-Saharan Africa
Somali Fury at ‘Al-Qaeda Killing’
Culture Wars
Campaign Pushes for Open ‘Gays’ In Armed Forces
No Christmas in Texas?
Obama Chief: Embryos Are ‘Just a Handful of Cells’
Airline Group Predicts 2009 Losses of $11 Billion
Animal Instincts

Financial Crisis

Stimulus Project Scrapped; Questions Remain Why it Was Ever Approved

HARDESTY, Oklahoma — There’s controversy surrounding a guardrail project that landed on a list to receive $1.2 million in stimulus funds.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to use the money to replace guardrails on a federal road across the Optima Lake Dam in the Oklahoma panhandle.

“My personal opinion is they’re wasting a lot of money, it’s not going to the right places,” said Ted Keeling, the Texas County Commissioner District One.

And, he’s not the only one criticizing the project.

“It just seems to us, maybe they could spend that money wiser somewhere else,” said Guymon City Manager Ted Graham.

There are several reasons why city and county leaders, even U.S. Senators, call the new guardrails wasteful. First of all, the road’s not used that frequently. County officials estimate 15 people drive their cars on the road everyday.

Secondly, the lake is not really a lake at all. The federal government spent $46 million constructing the Optima Lake Dam about 30 years ago, but the lake never filled up with water.

Ross Adkins, a Corps spokesman, said they picked Optima Lake to receive new guardrails for safety reasons and because they could be built quickly.

“Somebody could, with slight inattention to what they’re doing, drive off the side with disasterous results. We don’t want that to happen,” Adkins said.

But, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn doesn’t believe new guardrails are necessary. When he and Sen. Jim Inhofe heard about the guardrails, they sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They expressed “serious concern regarding funding decisions” in Oklahoma.

The Corps’ Tulsa District office was in the process of evaluating its list of projects when the letter arrived. They decided to pull the plug and not spend the money on guardrails. Instead, the Corps will dish out $1,000 to close the road.

We’ve also learned, the Corps plans to spend $200,000 in supplemental stimulus funding to demolish restrooms and camp sites at Optima Lake. Senator Coburn said he does not want another penny spent on the project.

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


“Scientific Consensus” Should be Put on the Stand

An issue for which the science is supposedly “settled” by a complete “consensus” of scientists would seem to offer the perfect opportunity to win over a skeptical public once and for all. But look no further than global warming movement’s effort to ignore the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s call to put the science on trial, involving cross-examinations, witnesses, and a judge to make a final ruling.

Climate fear promoters, knowing that they will lose an open, honest public debate, fear a trial moreso. There are some important pieces of evidence that cast into serious doubt the case for manmade global warming.

Just this year came a series of inconvenient developments for the promoters of man-made global warming fears. A small sampling of developments include: New peer-reviewed studies, real world data, a growing chorus of scientists dissenting (including more UN IPCC scientists), open revolts in scientific societies, more evidence that rising CO2 is a boon for the atmosphere, and the Earth’s failure to warm.

Those are just the broad strokes. What about the specifics? As the climate fear activists point fingers and regress into amusing rants, the global warming fear movement is collapsing.

There has been no significant global warming since 1995, no warming since 1998 and global cooling for the past few years. This follows a peer-reviewed analysis showing that the 20th century was not unusually warm.

In addition, a global temperature analysis on April 24, 2009 found that “no continents have set a record high temperature since 1974.”

On May 1, 2009, the American Physical Society (APS) Council decided to review its current climate statement via a high-level subcommittee of respected senior scientists. The decision was prompted after a group of over 80 prominent physicists petitioned the APS revise its global warming position.

The physicists wrote to APS governing board: “Measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th-21st century changes are neither exceptional nor persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today.”

There has been the failure of the oceans to warm, and Antarctic ice continues to grow. Even the poster child of the warming fear campaign, the Arctic, is not cooperating. Sea ice there grew more than the size of Texas over the last two years.

The hits keep coming from Down Under too. New Zealand Climate Scientist Chris de Freitas revealed on May 1, 2009 that “warming and CO2 are not well correlated.” De Freitas added, “the effect of CO2 on global temperature is already close to its maximum. Adding more has an ever decreasing effect.”

Australian Geologist Dr. Ian Plimer wrote on August 8, 2009: “At present, the Earth’s atmosphere is starved of CO2…One big volcanic eruption can add as much CO2 in a day as humans do in a year.”

Perhaps this body of evidence, bolstered by a good deal more, is why a U.S. government scientist said recently that if a climate trial occurred “only those with religious convictions of warming would continue to hold any support for man-made global warming.”

Certainly there is enough strong evidence to knock back overreaching efforts to legislate and regulate everyday activities that involve carbon dioxide. If global warming activists and the Administration continue to avoid an official court hearing, we will have to continue putting the “science” on trial.

In a world where there’s more than a reasonable doubt about catastrophic global warming, the verdict is easy to predict.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

American Airlines Asking Fliers to Provide More Information

If American Airlines Inc. seems a little nosier today, there’s a reason.

American is rolling out the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight program, which means the carrier will be asking for more information when customers book their tickets.

The airline now will be asking for date of birth and gender for all travelers. Customers must give their full names, including middle names, and the names given must match a government-issued photo ID.

American spokesman Tim Wagner said Monday that one aim of the program is to enhance safety by preventing people on the government’s no-fly list from getting on flights.

But it also is designed to help identify travelers who are not on the watch list but have similar names, he said.

“All of this takes place behind the scene before the passenger gets to the airport,” Wagner said. “This should smooth the airport experience.”

At present, airlines require customers to give their names, but not their dates of birth or gender. The additional information is designed to better identify which John Smith or Jane Jones is using the ticket.

People who have been misidentified have been given “redress numbers” from the TSA clarifying that they are not the similarly named person on the watch list. American will be asking for that number when applicable.

The TSA doesn’t disclose what airlines have begun participating in the Secure Flight program or when they’ll start it up. However, airlines were able to begin asking for the additional information Aug. 15.

“TSA anticipates all domestic airlines will participate in Secure Flight in early 2010,” spokesman Greg Soule said Monday.

The agency’s goal is to check out all passengers on domestic flights by early next year and all international passengers into and out of the U.S. by the end of 2010.

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

Axelrod Says ‘Tea Party’ Protesters Are ‘Wrong’

White House senior adviser David Axelrod says that the demonstrations in Washington, D.C., Saturday do not represent the views of the broader public when it comes to health care reform.

The White House has a message to the tens of thousands of protesters who railed against big government during a rally in Washington Saturday: You’re wrong.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that the protesters, part of the “tea party” movement, do not represent the views of the broader public when it comes to health care reform.

“I don’t think it’s indicative of the nation’s mood,” Axelrod said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “You know, I don’t think we ought to be distracted by that. My message to them is, they’re wrong.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Couple Robbed While Inside Dumpster

WICHITA — A man and woman decided to give the phrase “dumpster diving” a new twist over the weekend, crawling inside one on North Waco so they could be alone.

But while they were engaged in what Wichita police described as “an intimate moment,” they were robbed by a man armed with a pocket knife.

It all unfolded shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday in the 700 block of North Waco, police said, when the man and woman, both 44, crawled into a dumpster for privacy.

A short time later, a 59-year-old man and his 64-year-old companion interrupted the couple inside the dumpster.

With the older man encouraging him, the 59-year-old man pulled out a pocket knife and took shoes, jewelry and the 44-year-old man’s wallet.

Police were notified, and officers found the two suspects a short time later. The stolen property was recovered.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

Czarist Washington

The Framers of the Constitution knew that the document founding our democracy must be the anchor of liberty and the blueprint for its preservation. Wisely, they provided a balance of powers to ensure that no individual and no single arm of government could ever wield unchecked authority against the American people.

Nearly 250 years later, these critical lines of separation are being obscured by a new class of federal officials. A few of them have formal titles, but most are simply known as “czars.” They hold unknown levels of power over broad swaths of policy. Under the Obama administration, we have an unprecedented 32 czar posts (a few of which it has yet to fill), including a “car czar,” a “pay czar” and an “information czar.” There are also czars assigned to some of the broadest and most consequential topics in policy, including health care, terrorism, economics and key geographic regions.

So what do these czars do? Do they advise the president? Or do they impose the administration’s agenda on the heads of federal agencies and offices who have been vetted and confirmed by the Senate? Unfortunately — and in direct contravention of the Framers’ intentions — virtually no one can say with certainty what these individuals do or what limits are placed on their authority. We don’t know if they are influencing or implementing policy. We don’t know if they possess philosophical views or political affiliations that are inappropriate or overreaching in the context of their work.

This is precisely the kind of ambiguity the Framers sought to prevent.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Globalism vs. Americanism

Where Beijing was responsible for 60 percent of the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods in 2008, in the first six months of 2009, China accounted for 79 percent of our trade deficit in manufactured goods.

How can we end this dependency and begin building factories and creating jobs here, rather than deepening our dependency on a China that seeks to take our place in the sun? The same way Alexander Hamilton did, when we Americans produced almost nothing and were even more dependent on Great Britain than we are on China today.

Let us do unto our trading partners as they have done unto us.

As they rebate value-added taxes on exports to us, and impose a value-added tax on our exports to them, let us reciprocate. Impose a border tax equal to a VAT on all their goods entering the United States, and use the hundreds of billions to cut corporate taxes on all manufacturing done here in the United States.

Where they have tilted the playing field against us, let us tilt it back again. Transnational companies are as amoral as sharks. What is needed is simply to cut their profits from moving factories and jobs abroad and increase their profits for bringing them back to the USA.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Just How Many Marched on D.C.?

Estimates start at 60,000, rise to as high as 2 million

Just how many people turned out at the Sept. 12 march on Washington?

Politifact reported that Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the Washington, D.C., Fire and Emergency Department “unofficially” estimated that between 60,000 and 75,000 people attended the march.

Officers with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department told WND the department does not provide crowd estimates. Capitol police declined to comment.

However, Wizbang estimated between 500,000 and 1 million. The blog displays the following time-lapse image of the march…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New York Homes Raided in Terrorism Probe

NEW YORK, Sept 14 (Reuters) — New York City police and the FBI raided homes in the borough of Queens early on Monday as part of an investigation into suspected terrorism, focusing on one man who has been under surveillance, officials said.

Authorities searched at least two apartments including one shared by five Afghan men, taking some of them in for questioning, said one man who was questioned.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Inspires Islamists’ D.C. Prayer Rally

Shariah experts to proclaim ‘Our Day has Come’

Muslims who are working to stage the “Our Day Has Come” day of prayer at the U.S. Capitol have discussed views that include an Islamic takeover of the White House, from where they say President Barack Obama is providing their inspiration.

Building on the Islamic interest in Obama’s inauguration, when Muslims claimed in a magazine that “It’s our time,” the event planners are calling for 50,000 Muslims to attend the 4 a.m. event on the National Mall on Sept. 25

The organizer is Hassen Abdellah, who leads a Elizabeth, N.J., mosque, and two special guests for the event, according to the website, will be Sheik Muhammad Jebril and Sheik Ahmed Dewidar.

According to the website, Jebril’s degree is in Islamic Law and he learned the Quran by the age of 9.

According to blogger Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs, Jebril specializes in Shariah law and served as the imam of an extremist mosque in Cairo starting in 1988.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Soldier Ordered Not to Challenge Obama’s Eligibility?

Army doctor claims she was barred from answering judge’s call to court

Capt. Connie Rhodes, who claimed her superiors had prevented her from attending her previous, emergency court hearing, finally stood before a judge today to question the constitutional eligibility of her commander in chief.

Rhodes, a medical doctor and Army officer, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ga., earlier this month, requesting a restraining order preventing her deployment overseas on the basis that the top of the chain of command, President Barack Obama, has not demonstrated himself to be a natural born citizen under the U.S. Constitution.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

State Treasurer to Release Oklahoma Revenue Numbers Today

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma officials and workers are bracing for more bad financial news as state Treasurer Scott Meacham prepares to release the state revenue report for August.

NewsOn6.com plans to livestream Scott Meacham’s news conference at around 3 p.m. today.

Meacham’s report is scheduled to be released sometime Tuesday. It’s expected to show additional steep declines in state revenue that agencies rely on to provide services to Oklahomans.

Last month, state financial officials ordered a 5 percent across-the-board cut in budget allocations to state agencies after Meacham reported that revenue fell by more than 26 percent in July.

Revenue was down in all major categories, income taxes, gross production taxes, sales taxes and motor vehicle taxes. Lawmakers say another dismal revenue report may force a special legislative session to rewrite the state budget.

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

Swedish Terrorist Gets Life Sentence

Swedish citizen Ousama Kassir was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday by a New York court after being after being found guilty earlier this year of planning to set up an Al-Qaeda training camp in the United States.

Kassir, a Swede of Lebanese origin, was convicted in May. He was extradited to the United States in September 2007 from Prague, where he was jailed after his arrest in 2005 during a stopover while flying from Sweden to Lebanon.

Prosecutors said in the jury trial at a federal court in Manhattan that Kassir, 43, tried to set up a “jihad” (holy war) camp in Oregon, in the northwest United States.

Kassir declared his innocence when he was charged last year, and his lawyer said his client had “a big mouth,” but was not a criminal.

Prosecutors said he reached the United States in 1999 and spent a year at an Oregon ranch, imparting religious teachings at a Seattle mosque before returning to Europe, according to the prosecution.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU Countries Practice ‘Secret’ Diplomacy, Hamas Says

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — High-ranking officials from European countries hold talks with Hamas on a weekly basis despite an EU ban on diplomatic contact, a spokesman for the group has told EUobserver.

“We meet a lot of them from France, from Spain, from Germany, from Italy, from England, from Luxembourg. When they listen to us and we spend a couple of hours with them, they understand what is the real image of Hamas,” the group’s spokesman, Ghazi Hamad, told this website in a telephone interview on Saturday (12 September).

“None of them are ministers in their governments … some of them are ambassadors. Some are assistants to ambassadors,” he said. “Some of them are very close to the president of their country, or to the foreign minister.”

Any high-level European visits would go against the spirit of a 2006 EU decision to halt talks with the militant organisation. The EU in 2003 also listed Hamas as a terrorist entity, putting a legal block on financial assistance.

“I can’t give any names,” Mr Hamad said. “Most of them want to keep it a secret. They want to continue contact but they don’t want to be pestered by the Israeli authorities when they come.”

He referred to Germany’s work in negotiations on the release of Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit, revealed last month by Egypt, as an example of useful European intervention.

“The Germans have come as a mediator. They try to contribute, to help with their experience of prisoner exchanges. Everybody sees that these people have an important role,” Mr Hamad said.

Hamas sees the European Union as a more neutral party than the US in the Middle East peace process. But it is critical of the EU’s acceptance of a US “monopoly” on the talks. It is also aggrieved at what it sees as EU double standards in maintaining normal relations with Israel.

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

FPÖ Wants Turkey’s EU Accession Negotiations Ended

By Lisa Chapman

FPÖ MEP Andreas Mölzer made fresh calls today (Mon) for a halt in negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

Mölzer, whose party had previously called for the negotiations to be halted, said 40,000 Austrians had signed an FPÖ petition against Turkish accession.

He said he would introduce two resolutions in the European Parliament (EP) this week calling for a stop to Turkey’s accession negotiations and the beginning of negotiations on an agreement for an EU privileged partnership with Turkey.

Mölzer claimed MPs from eight EU member states, including representatives of Italian governing party Liga Nord, supported the FPÖ’s effort to stop Turkey’s EU accession negotiations.

He added that Social Democrat (SPÖ) MEP Hannes Swoboda, the deputy head of the EP’s Social Democratic faction, and the People’s Party’s (ÖVP) Ernst Strasser, the head of the ÖVP’s EP delegation, should “show that their anti-Turkey attitudes during the EP election campaign had been serious by supporting us.”

Mölzer claimed Turkey was not ready to join Europe. “On the issues of Cyprus, Armenia, the Kurds, human rights and Islam, Turkey has not moved or has moved hardly at all. Turkey would be indigestible for Europe in terms of politics and population.”

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

Italy: Man Arrested Over Gay Attack in Florence

Florence, 14 Sept. (AKI) — Italian police have arrested a 32-year-old suspect in connection with the brutal beating last week of a young gay man in the central Italian city of Florence. The man, said to be a builder originally from the northern Italian city of Legnano, was arrested at his home on the outskirts of Florence.

To identify the suspect, police used CCTV footage and bloodstained clothing found at his apartment in Villamagna di Bagno a Ripoli identical to items worn by a man captured on video at the scene of the vicious attack in the early hours of last Thursday morning.

Police have also detained a 33-year-old man who was with the suspect on the night of the savage attack against the 26-year-old gay victim in the central Piazza Salvemini which left him with fractures to his cheekbones, jaw and nose.

He has undergone delicate facial surgery insert seven metal plates held together with 30 screws to try and repair the fractures.

The attack was the latest in a series against gays in Italian cities and the victim had only hours earlier attended a rally in Florence to protest what is perceived to be growing homophobia in Italy.

Florence’s branch of the gay association Arcigay has announced it will act as the plaintiff or claimant alongside the victim at a criminal trial. Arcigay urged the city council, the Province of Florence and the Region of Tuscany to do the same.

Florence’s mayor Matteo Renzi thanked police for the “prompt” arrests. “Our thoughts are with the physical and moral pain of the victim and his family,” Renzi stated.

The victim and other friends met the suspects by chance in Florence’s central Piazza Santa Croce, and agreed to go to a gay nightclub in the centre, where they spent part of Wednesday evening together, according to investigators.

The attack occurred after alleged “misunderstandings” and “unwelcome advances” made at the nightclub.

Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, has ordered more security cameras to be installed at city’s main gay venues following several recent homophobic attacks in the city.

Earlier this month, letter bombs were thrown at a bar in the centre of Rome, injuring several people, one of whom required hospital treatment.

A gay woman was threatened by a youth in the same street where the letter bomb attacks took place.

Last month, a gay disco in Rome’s northeastern Tiburtina district was set alight and two young gay men were attacked at one of the city’s main summer venues in the southern EUR district.

Gay rights groups and the Italian opposition say there is mounting intolerance towards gays in Italy and a growing number of homophobic attacks.

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

Italy: PM Ally Takes Action Against Berlusconi Newspaper

Rome, 15 Sept. (AKI) — The rift between the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and his main ally, Gianfranco Fini, deepened on Tuesday when Fini announced plans for legal action against the editor of the Berlusconi family owned newspaper, Il Giornale. Fini’s lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, announced that the speaker of the lower house of parliament, would take action against Vittorio Feltri, after he published an article alluding to a supposed “file from 2000 on red-light activities”.

“Following the mandate received by the president of the chamber of deputies, Gianfranco Fini, legal action was brought against the editor of Il Giornale, Vittorio Feltri, over the article “President Fini and the strategy of a slow suicide. Last call for Fini: he changes his way or he should leave the PdL (People of Freedom Party),” said Bongiorno, who is also an MP for the People of Freedom Party.

The newspaper, owned by the brother of scandal-plagued prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Paolo, has also accused Fini of drifting to the left of the political spectrum.

Feltri criticised 57-year-old Fini by accusing him of having “betrayed” Berlusconi and saying he should remember that “delegating magistrates to carry out political justice is risky.”

“Today it could be the premier’s turn (to face justice), but tomorrow it could be the parliamentary speaker’s turn,” said Feltri.

Feltri referred to a so-called “incident about red-light activities,” by members of the now-defunct and post-fascist National Alliance party, which Fini once led.

The National Alliance party merged earlier this year with Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.

Feltri also said that Fini “could not have one foot in the majority and the other on the opposition.”

Il Giornale is the same newspaper involved in the scandal surrounding Dino Boffo, editor of Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference. Boffo stood down claiming he was the victim of a ‘gay smear’ campaign mounted against him by the daily after Avvenire criticised Berlusconi’s private life.

The newspaper’s attack on Boffo sparked a rift between Berlusconi and the Catholic church.

The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in late August cancelled a dinner with the premier in the quake-stricken city of L’Aquila.

Feltri recently ran a diatribe against Fini and his supporters were enraged, while opposition politicians and commentators predicted the “beginning of the end” of the prime minister’s term of office.

In the article, “Comrade Fini” was accused of failing to support the prime minister over the continuing sex scandal allegations, and instead siding with the Left on issues from immigration and gay rights to euthanasia.

“You are being used by the Left,” thundered Feltri, addressing Fini directly. “Turn back to the right, otherwise you risk becoming even more ridiculous than you have often appeared in recent times.”

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

Mafia ‘Sank Nuclear Waste Ship’

A shipwreck that could contain nuclear waste is being investigated by authorities in Italy amid claims that it was deliberately sunk by the mafia.

An informant told a judge the ship was one of a number he blew up as part of an illegal operation to bypass rules on the disposal of toxic waste.

The sunken vessel has been found 30km (18 miles) off the south-west of Italy.

Murky pictures taken by a robot camera show the vessel intact and alongside it are a number of yellow barrels.

Labels on them say the contents are toxic.

The informant said the mafia had muscled in on the lucrative business of nuclear waste disposal.

But he said that instead of getting rid of the material safely, he blew up the vessel out at sea, off the Calabrian coast.

He also says he was responsible for sinking two other ships containing toxic waste.

Experts are now examining samples taken from the wreck.

Other vessels

An official said that if the samples proved to be radioactive then a search for up to 30 other sunken vessels believed scuttled by the mafia would begin immediately.

For years there have been rumours that the mafia was sinking ships with nuclear and other waste on board, as part of a money-making racket.

The environmental campaign group Greenpeace and others have compiled lists over the past few decades of ships that have disappeared off the coast of Italy and Greece.

Processing waste is highly specialised and is supposed to be an industry where security is the top priority.

If tests show that there is nuclear material on the seabed it will prove that the mafia has moved into its dirtiest business yet.

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

NATO’s Failings Turn Eastern Europe Away From the US

When Donald Rumsfeld was US secretary for defence in 2003, as George W. Bush’s administration was hell bent on war in Iraq, he managed to infuriate his European allies with one pointed observation: when he dismissed opponents of the war — particularly France and Germany — as “old Europe”.

There was a “new Europe”, he implied, consisting of all the new member states of Nato and the European Union — former members of the Warsaw pact — who were much more Atlanticist, pro-American, and ready to stand up and support the war on terror. “Old Europe” was feeble and unwilling to fight.

Mr Rumsfeld’s remarks were taken badly not just in Berlin and Paris. He managed to irritate most of the “old” member states of the EU, where anti-war feeling was rife and anti-Bush feeling pervasive. He was seen to be deliberately stirring up divisions within Europe.

What was particularly galling for many Europeans was that there was more than a grain of truth in his accusation: Europe was divided in its loyalties between “old” and “new”. On questions of security, at least, the former members of the Soviet bloc were much more likely to trust the US than their new partners in western Europe. The easterners did not much like the idea of fighting wars “out of area”, but for America, they would do it.

No longer. Something seems to have happened in the six years between then and now. European attitudes are turning back to front, the east becoming less Atlanticist, and less instinctively pro-American, than “old Europe” in the west.

That is a clear theme that emerges from the latest Transatlantic Trends survey carried out by the German Marshall Fund, published last week. Eastern Europe appears to be losing its love affair with the US.

Of course, it would be wrong to exaggerate. All the Europeans polled were much more positive about Barack Obama than they had been about Mr Bush. They are also clearly more pro- than anti-US. But suddenly the former eastern enthusiasm for the Atlantic relationship has been overtaken by that in western Europe. Some 53 per cent of eastern Europeans saw the US in a positive light in 2009, compared with 63 per cent in western Europe. In 2008, the comparable figures were 44 per cent to 40 per cent.

Mr Obama is not personally to blame. There was an “Obama bounce” across the continent — ranging from an astonishing 92 per cent approval in Germany (compared with 12 per cent for Mr Bush last year), to 55 per cent approval in Poland (compared with 44 per cent for Mr Bush). It is just that the easterners were slightly less anti-Bush, and now they are less pro-Obama, than their western counterparts.

In eastern Europe, far fewer people (25 per cent) believe that relations between the US and Europe have improved in the past year, compared with western Europe (43 per cent). And most ominous for loyal Atlanticists, only 53 per cent of easterners believe that the Nato alliance is essential, compared with 63 per cent in the west.

Russia is clearly a factor in the changing climate, including nervousness about what Mr Obama may mean by seeking to “reset” US-Russia relations. So was the outcome of last year’s Russian war with Georgia, a conflict that Nato and the US (under Mr Bush) proved powerless to prevent.

If resetting relations means giving way to Russia on matters affecting security, that would be unpopular. Even though neither Poles nor Czechs were keen on having US missile installations on their territory, they are even less keen on having them withdrawn if it looks like giving in to Moscow’s objections.

As for attitudes to Nato, it looks as if the combination of Georgia and Afghanistan is proving poisonous.

The former demonstrated that the alliance could not offer conventional military protection to a would-be member against overwhelming Russian force. That must scare those who are already members, including the three tiny Baltic republics.

The fact is that east Europeans want Nato as a protection against Russia — not as an expeditionary force in places such as Afghanistan. If it cannot do either job, then the old enthusiasm seems certain to wane.

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

Q&A: The Lisbon Treaty

Why is Lisbon in the news again?

On October 2, the Irish people will vote for a second time on the Lisbon Treaty. It has essentially been ratified by the rest of the EU; Ireland, racked by economic crisis and ruled by an all-time unpopular government, decides its fate. Sullen Irish voters are not happy with having to vote again on a text that is much the same as the one they rejected last June, and was constructed from the corpse of the deeply unpopular EU Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in June 2005.

What happens if the Irish vote yes?

Leaders, governments, officials, diplomats and most mainstream politicians across the EU will breathe a huge sigh of relief. The Lisbon Treaty, billed as the final word on EU institutions until 2020, will then, notwithstanding some griping from the Czech and Polish presidents, enter into force early next year. If elected next year, a Conservative government whose leader has pledged “not to let the matter rest” would only be able to reopen the treaty with the consent of a majority of the EU’s other leaders. In 1985, Margaret Thatcher, even with the support of Greece and Denmark, was powerless to stop work starting on the Single European Act.

And if they vote no?

The EU will be plunged into a political crisis. Some countries will call for vengeance against the Irish, taking away the country’s commissioner and pushing Ireland to the political margins. Others will talk of clubbing together in “fast speed” groups, taking a pick-and-mix selection of the best of the treaty. And, while Lisbon will finally be dead, there will quickly be moves to introduce as many elements of it by the backdoor of a new EU membership treaty for Croatia in 2010.

What changes will the Lisbon Treaty bring?

Although the planned EU Constitution was dropped, the major institutional innovations remain.

• President of the European Council will become a permanent post, the most powerful the EU has ever created — a full-time Brussels official for a two and a half year term, chosen by Europe’s leaders but unelected by voters. He or she will also be eligible to be European Commission President, creating the risk of further centralising power in Brussels. Tony Blair is current favourite for the job.

• The old Constitution created an EU “Foreign Minister”, the new Treaty a “High Representative”: the new “High Rep” will run a powerful EU diplomatic service, with up to 160 representations around the world; he will be more important on the global and European stage than national foreign ministers, and will be able to make foreign policy without a full British national veto, which could tie the UK’s hands where there is a divergence between London and other EU capitals.

• An entirely new body, the Standing Committee on Internal Security, dubbed an “Interior Ministry” by civil liberties campaigners, will centralise databases holding fingerprints and DNA as part of an emerging EU “home affairs” policy.

• Forty national vetoes — allowing member states to block EU measures that are against their national interests — are scrapped outright. And the treaty contains a “ratchet clause”, meaning that national vetoes can be scrapped one by one without superheated EU summit rows leading to calls for referendums.

[Return to headlines]

Spain Urged to End Detention Law

Spain must end the practice of holding suspects incommunicado, without access to lawyers of their choice and without telling their families, activists say.

Spain’s criminal law allows suspects to be held incommunicado for five days.

Amnesty International says it is among the strictest systems in Europe, facilitates torture and breaches international human rights standards.

The Spanish government says its system is no more restrictive than in other countries, and is overseen by judges.

It has previously defended its programme is a necessary counter-terrorism measure.

‘Severe restrictions’

Amnesty says that under the law, detainees cannot:

  • Contact their own lawyer, but can only receive legal assistance from an appointed lawyer
  • Consult any lawyer in private
  • Have their family informed that they have been detained or where they are held, while foreign nationals cannot inform their embassy
  • Choose to be examined by their own doctor, but can only use a state-appointed one

Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia programme director, said: “Incommunicado detention must be relegated to the past. No other European Union country maintains a detention regime with such severe restrictions on the rights of detainees.

“It is inadmissible that in present day Spain anyone who is arrested for whatever reason should disappear as if in a black hole for days on end. Such lack of transparency can be used as a veil to hide human rights violations.”


Spain contested some of the findings in the report. A statement from the interior ministry said “the regime in Spain does not imply more restrictions on rights than those published in the legislation of other EU countries. In some cases our system is less strict.”

The statement said detainees had access to a state-appointed lawyer and doctor throughout, and that the process was overseen by a judge.

It said in Spain the maximum period of incommunicado detention was eight days, whereas in Germany it was indefinite.

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

UK: Analysis: Democracy and the Extreme Right

[audio recording]

A storm has been brewing in the UK over a decision by the BBC to invite the British National Party onto its flagship political panel programme. The BNP — which bases its appeal on British ethnicity, won two seats in the European Parliament this year. How do democracies respond to the rise of the far right?

[Return to headlines]

UK: Claim Back Holidays Lost to Sickness, Says European Court of Justice

Workers who fall ill during their holidays could now claim the time back from their employers following a landmark European Court of Justice judgment that lawyers warned was open to abuse.

The court ruled that employees had the right to ask for statutory leave to be “reallocated” when it was spoilt by sickness.

Under the terms of the judgement, employees would even be allowed to carry any annual leave ruined by illness over into the next holiday year.

The ruling is effectively a new interpretation of the European Working Time Directive on workers’ hours, which applies in Britain across the entire private and public sector.

Leading employment lawyers warned it would be costly for businesses and that it left “the door open for abuse” by unscrupulous employees seeking to bolster their holiday entitlement by simply claiming to have a cold or flu while on leave.

A worker could phone up while on holiday and report in sick in the normal way — taking the day off sick, rather than counting it against their annual leave entitlement.

The decision has its origins in a separate ruling on a case brought by a group of British workers earlier this year which said that workers were entitled to accrue holiday during sick leave. However, that had left open the question of what would happen if sickness coincided with scheduled leave.

The new ruling, over a case in Spain, is likely to mean that employers will end up paying for both their employees’ sickness absence and a rescheduled holiday.

Owen Warnock, a partner at the law firm Eversheds, said: “Many employers take the view that if an employee is sick while on holiday, that is just bad luck for them.

“The European court has now said that this is not allowed by the working time directive.

“The danger of abuse is clear: an employee could increase his or her holiday entitlement by ensuring that in most years they alleged they were sick while on holiday. It may only be the occasional ‘bad penny’ who does this, but the resentment that it would create with colleagues should not be underestimated.”

Katja Hall, Director of HR Policy at the CBI, said the ruling was a “concern”.

“Many firms already take a common sense and sympathetic approach. But allowing employees to re-classify their holiday as sick leave opens the door to abuse.”

Naomi Feinstein, of law-firm Lovells, added that the ruling was “unexpected” and raised serious concerns for employers.

“This could effectively be interpreted as meaning that you are only sick on your employer’s time, and not your own,” she said.

The way in which holidaying workers will have to prove their sickness will depend upon individual employers and their absence policies.

Currently, under the terms of statutory sick pay, workers can “self-certify” their illness for up to seven days by calling in sick. For any longer they require a doctor’s note to confirm their continued illness, although authorities have been considering extending the period to a fortnight to allow for the recent outbreak of swine-flu.

The wording of the ruling does not make it clear at what stage the employee should contact their bosses, but lawyers warned there was no reason in principle why an employee whose holiday had already started could not claim the right to reschedule their leave.

“The proof of sickness is for the employer to decide — it could be that they take the employee’s word for it or they could request a doctor’s note,” said Miss Feinstein.

Mr Warnock added: “Until the European or UK courts say otherwise, our view is that employers are entitled to require workers to produce convincing evidence of their illness while on holiday and that it would have rendered them unfit for work before allowing workers to ‘reallocate’ holidays.”

The ruling came in a Spanish case heard at the European Court of Justice regarding the Working Time Directive, to which Britain is signed up.

Francisco Pereda, who works for a vehicle impounding department at Madrid city council, was scheduled to take a month’s annual leave in the summer of 2007.

He was injured shortly before the annual leave was due to start and was refused a request to move his holiday by his employer, Madrid Movilidad.

Judges decided that the employee should have been allowed to take his holiday at another date — and if necessary that it could be carried forward to the next holiday year.

Although the case related to someone who had booked his holiday and then become ill beforehand, the judgment specifically says that if a “worker does not wish to take annual leave during a period of sick leave, annual leave must be granted to him for a different period”.

The latest ruing comes three months after the House of Lords ruled that workers could accrue holiday entitlement while on long-term sick leave.

The so—called Stringer case brought forward by a group of former HMRC staff in Britian found that a worker could carry leave forward, even into the next year, if he or she was “unable to take leave through no fault of his own”.

Lawyers said that the latest judgment appeared to flout the current rules of the working time directive, which require employees to use all holiday within a year or lose it.

Employers will be particularly concerned about the effect of this decision for employees on long term sick leave, according to Lovells.

“Depending on how the decision is interpreted, this may imply that employees on long term sick leave should be able to elect to carry leave over from one year to another. This would obviously give rise to substantial costs on the employee’s return to work or the termination of employment,” a spokesman said.

Long-term sickness is believed to be the most damaging area of absence for businesses.

It cost the economy £5.3 billion in 2007, according to the CBI, and is thought to be rising.

Levels of sick pay came under scrutiny recently when figures revealed that there was an average of 6.4 sickness absence days a year in the private sector, compared to 9.7 days lost in the public sector.

The recent Boorman report on sickness absence levels in the NHS disclosed that more than 10 million working days are lost to staff sickness in the NHS at a cost of £1.7 billion.

Dr Boorman estimates that if NHS absence were to be reduced to the same level found in the private sector, almost 15,000 additional staff would be available for work every day.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Lord Tebbit Warns David Cameron That Tories Must Hold EU Poll or Risk Losing Voters

Lord Tebbit has warned David Cameron that he must hold a referendum on the European constitution or risk losing voters to the UK Independence Party.

The former Conservative cabinet minister said the leader must toughen his stance on the issue or face dissent from euro-sceptics at next month’s party conference in Manchester.

Mr Cameron is facing pressure over the Lisbon Treaty, which the Irish are expected to ratify in their own referendum just before the Tory gathering.

His comments came as a YouGov poll revealed 57 per cent of voters want a Conservative government to hold a referendum regardless of the result of the Irish vote.

Lord Tebbit claimed the row ‘could cause ructions at conference’, adding: ‘The bigger problem is that with the lack of a satisfactory assurance, our supporters will vote UKIP at the next election or stay at home.’

Mr Cameron has backtracked on a pledge to hold a vote if, as expected, the Irish vote ‘Yes’ because the constitution would already be in force by the time he came to power.

He and Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague will now only say that they would ‘not let the matter rest’ — hinting that they might try to negotiate to take back some powers from Brussels.

Lord Tebbit said: ‘It’s perfectly clear that that when David Cameron originally gave his undertaking it was nothing about the Irish vote at all. It was an undertaking that there would be a referendum. End of message. Full stop. And I think the party would expect that he would stick to that undertaking.

‘My understanding is that they’ve reneged on that commitment and if the Irish vote “Yes” and the treaty is ratified throughout the community, Mr Cameron’s only commitment is that he will not let the matter rest there. I don’t know what that means.’

Lord Tebbit said Mr Cameron should conduct a referendum and then tell Brussels that Britain wants to reclaim its Budget rebate — negotiated by Margaret Thatcher and surrendered by Tony Blair — and claim back control of its own courts.

He said Mr Cameron should tell fellow European leaders: ‘We have these requirements and unless they are met, we should withdraw from the community.’

Lord Tebbit added: ‘It requires an acceptance that the British Parliament is the sovereign parliament of this nation and that we’re not governed by Brussels.’

His comments will create a new headache for Mr Cameron, who is reluctant to take on a figure respected by the Tory grassroots.

Members of Mr Cameron’s top team admit he must act quickly to clarify the demands that a Tory government would make to Brussels if the Treaty is ratified or risk having the referendum issue overshadow their conference.

A senior frontbencher said: ‘We can’t stick with the position we’ve got at the moment. We’ll have to be more specific if the Irish vote ‘No’. It’s a real headache.’

The source said that Mr Cameron has told colleagues his foreign policy priority is Afghanistan and that he ‘wants to avoid a long running battle with Brussels’.

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

UK: Simply Fowl: Asda Workers Film Former Colleague Licking a Raw Chicken…

…before putting it back on display at flagship store

The scene comes at the end of a shocking video which shows Adeel Ayub running amok in Asda’s store in the Fulwood area of Preston.

He is seen:

  • Urinating in a toilet bin
  • Slashing furniture and colleague’s coats in the staffroom
  • Setting off a fire extinguisher
  • Filming firefighters responding to a false alarm
  • Playing cricket and football with stock
  • Poking his fingers in, stamping on and licking an uncooked chicken
  • Smashing boxes of eggs in the stockroom

The same Asda store features in a new TV advertising campaign filmed in May.

A spokesman for Asda said: ‘We are absolutely disgusted and appalled by the behaviour of this man.

‘Despite leaving our business three years ago, we now have video evidence of criminal damage and we have taken this matter up with the police.’

Inspector Jameel Murtza of Lancashire Constabulary, Fulwood said: ‘We are currently in the process of reviewing CCTV footage of the incident.

We are liaising with the management at Asda with the aim of identifying any criminal offences that have taken place.’

Ayub worked at the supermarket between 2005 and 2008. At the start of the film, Ayub is seen wearing Asda’s distinctive green uniform as he lets off a fire extinguisher and gloats as the fire service respond to a false alarm at the supermarket.

The film, which was left anonymously in a brown envelope at the front desk of a local newspaper, was then passed to Asda, who are now investigating the incident.

The thug makes no effort to conceal his identity as he gloats and boasts throughout the film as he wreaks havoc in the aisles.

He then returns to the store in 2009 dressed in a hoodie — after he has left Asda’s employment — where he is first seen stamping on whole chickens out on display.

The vandal then picks one out, tears off the plastic wrapping and licks the breast before placing the bird back on the shelf.

The mobile phone footage is thought to have been filmed by a fellow Asda employee over a series of night-time shifts.

Ayub is heard referring to the film as a ‘top secret video’ that is ‘never going to get released’.

In increasingly vulgar footage, Ayub uses a craft knife to slash furniture in the staffroom, which led to it being closed and a £50 reward offered for information.

He also breaks trophies awarded to the store, hurls boxes of eggs around the warehouse, and plays ‘Asda football’ with boxes of stock.

The footage begins with the man in his Asda uniform in the staff section of the superstore releasing a fire extinguisher.

As firefighters are filmed attending the call out he is heard to boast: ‘I think this baby is my last video because if I get caught I’ll probably get sacked.’

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, which confirmed it received two false alarm calls to the store in 2008, today condemned the footage.

Spokesman John Taylor said: ‘We deplore this behaviour. Hoax calls take up firefighters time and setting off an alarm system takes crews away from genuine emergencies. It’s a criminal activity.’

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: UN War Crimes Tribunal to Free Former Serb Leader

The Hague, 15 Sept. (AKI) — The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is to free former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic. Plavsic, 79, will be released at the end of October after serving two-thirds of her sentence due to ‘good behaviour’ and health problems, the court said.

Plavsic was sentenced to 11 years in jail by the ICTY in 2003 and is serving a jail term in Sweden. She surrendered to the tribunal in 2001 and first denied all charges against her.

She later later pleaded guilty to a single count of persecution, a crime against humanity perpetrated as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign to drive Muslims and Croats out of Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia.

Her guilty plea came as part of a plea bargain to have other charges, including genocide, dropped. She is one of few suspects to admit their crimes to the tribunal and to have expressed remorse.

Plavsic, a biologist, was a member of the highest Bosnian Serb leadership during the war and served as vice-president of the Bosnian Serb entity.

She replaced Serb entity president Radovan Karadzic in September 1996, after he was forced by the international community to step down and quit politics, but was indicted herself in 2000.

Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade a year ago and is awaiting trial before The Hague tribunal on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Court president Patrick Robinson praised Plavsic for “accepting responsibility at an early stage of the trial” and for testifying against the former speaker of the Serb entity’s parliament , Momcilo Krajisnik.

Krajisnik was sentenced to 27 years for crimes against Bosnian Muslims, including persecution and deportations, but an appeals panel reduced the sentence to 20 years in March this year.

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

Croatia: Italian Flag With Provocative Content Raised in Rijeka

Police are searching for whoever raised an Italian flag with provocative content on ‘Trg Rijecke rezolucije’ (Rijeka resolution square) in Rijeka last night (Sun/Mon).

The flag, raised on the official flagstaff for the city flag bears a comment in Italian: “We will come back to Istria, Rijeka and Dalmatia.”

After removing the flag, police also found leaflets saying: “Viva Italian Rijeka- viva Arditi- 1919 — 2009.”

Arditi was the name of Italian Army elite storm troops during World War I.

The name Arditi was also used by the supporters (often war veterans) of Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio during his occupation of Rijeka in 1919-20. Their use of a uniform with a black shirt and a black fez was taken up by Benito Mussolini and his supporters. The word Arditi then became a synonym for fascist activists.

Hina news agency has reported that Croatian MP Furio Radin has condemned the flag-raising, saying it was obviously a provocation by someone who wanted to disturb good relations between Italian and Croatia, especially at a time when Croatia was engaged in EU accession negotiations.

Radin added: “That it happened on the anniversary of D’Annunzio’s occupation of Rijeka on 12 September is the link between the present and 90 years ago.”

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Is Not Just the Fault of “Others” If Jerusalem and Palestine Are Emptied of Christians

Mgr. Rafik Khoury, of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in a series of conferences in Lebanon underlines the need for unity of Christians to stop their exodus from the Holy Land. But unity and ecumenism are often merely statements of principle, not specific implications. It imposes the need for a new evangelization of Christian Palestinians.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — The ‘haemorrhage’ of Christians from the Middle East, and especially from the Holy Land, can not only be blamed on “others” but also on Christians themselves, who do not understand the necessity of their unity, because “in the East, or we will be united or we will not be at all”. The sentence first pronounced in 1992 the first Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs of the East was once again among the reflections of Msgr. Rafik Khoury, of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, a professor at the Catholic University of Bethlehem who was recently in Lebanon at the invitation of the Episcopal Commission for Christian-Muslim dialogue of the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon (APECL).

In a series of conferences to raise awareness about the challenge to the Christian presence in Palestine and other Arab countries, including Lebanon, Mgr. Khoury highlighted that only 50 thousand Christians remain in the West Bank, while another ten thousand in Jerusalem. The Christians of Palestine, he said in an interview in L’Orient Le Jour, are only 1, 6% of the 3.6 million inhabitants, whereas in the middle of last century, they were approximately 15%.

Msgr. Khouury himself is from Taybi — the Ephraim of Chapter 11 of the Gospel of John — a wholly Christian village near Ramallah, which today has 1400 inhabitants and 14 thousand emigrants. The prelate, however, has three passports — Palestinian, Jordanian and Vatican — in order to be able to move freely in his homeland.

Emigration, said Msgr. Khoury, is a question of stability, since it is directly linked to the climate of instability in which the Palestinians live. This causes two types of exodus: external to the West, and internal. The latter is a movement of geographic retreat of Christians from their communities. This stems partly from practical factors. Restrictions on movement created by Israel, have dramatically separated the Palestinian public services, schools, hospitals, homes are often separated on either side of the separation barrier. Jerusalem is detached from the West Bank and is not accessible, with the pass that must constantly be renewed. The fixed and mobile checkpoints of the Israeli army fragment the country, which makes movement painful and uncertain.

The political and sometimes military instability in which the Palestinians live give rise to ideological and religious factors. They provoke fundamentalists of all kinds: Muslims, Zionists, and even Christians. The latter are those Protestants who openly support Zionism and the colonies, in the naive belief it will hasten the conversion of Israel to Christianity.

The responsibility of Christians

But we cannot always blame “others” for all our problems: Msgr. Khoury notes that part of the answer to the exodus of Christians lies in their own hands. Like every Christian, he felt humiliated, at Easter, seeing in television the outrageous confrontation between Greek and Armenian monks in front of the chapel of the Resurrection. In his eyes, unity of Christians should be considered a priority concern, among Catholics, but also between Catholics and Orthodox. And he recalls, in this regard, the assertion of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the East “or we will be united or we will not be at all”.

But what the patriarchs do in favour of such unity, beyond asserting its necessity, is quite a different matter. In practice, almost nothing, apart from some miserly housing project; this falls far short of stemming the exodus. In reality, each one continues to work for his own parish, deaf to the pressures of the faithful, who are known to favour unification since the episode at Easter. Each one speaks modestly of a lack of solidarity. But it is, in fact, lack of charity.

“Christians do not understand the divisions among Christians,” said Msgr. Khoury, arguing that in the ecumenical field a middle ground between the impatience of the faithful and the slowness of the hierarchy is needed. Moreover, how is it possible not be saddened seeing how, in the name of past “wounds”, Orthodox and Catholics jeopardize their future? Mgr. Khoury affirms the need for a new evangelization of Christians in Palestine, or Palestinian Christians, a step that must reawaken Christians to the missionary dimension of their presence in the Arab-Muslim land, of which they constitute one of the most ancient and noble components. Why should this missionary awareness be a privilege of “kibboutzniks” and why not voluntarily accept some sacrifice, if it can help the spread of Christianity? Obviously an Arab world without Christians would not be the same.

To stem the tide of emigration, finally, a role can be played by the powers, big and small. Without getting too deeply into political debate, Mgr. Khoury notes that Vatican diplomacy could be more rigorous towards the State of Israel. The Holy See he says has officially recognized Israel without getting in return the facilities that it has the right to expect; that State creates great difficulty in granting visas to priests and employees who are from the West and of which the local Church has great need to be able to accomplish its mission.

Returning to the theme of the new evangelization, Mgr. Khoury recalles that in their fourth message to the faithful, the Catholic Patriarchs of the East have called them to be “less community and more church”, less closed in on themselves and more open. A victory of the Church over the “community” will be essential if Christians want to stay in Arab territory.

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

Israel’s Initial Reaction to the Report of the Goldstone Fact Finding Mission

Israel’s Analysis and Comments on the GAZA FACT FINDING MISSION REPORT


Israel is appalled and disappointed by the Report published on 15 September 2009 by the Gaza Fact Finding Mission. The Report effectively ignores Israel’s right of self defense, makes unsubstantiated claims about its intent and challenges Israel’s democratic values and rule of law.

At the same time the Report all but ignores the deliberate strategy of Hamas of operating within and behind the civilian population and turning densely populated areas into an arena of battle. By turning a blind eye to such tactics it effectively rewards them.

The Report barely disguises its goal of instigating a political campaign against Israel, and in its recommendations seeks to involve the Security Council, the General Assembly the International Criminal Court, the Human Rights Council, and the entire international community in such a campaign.

The Mandate of the Mission:

The one-sided mandate of the Gaza Fact Finding Mission, and the resolution established it, gave serious reasons for concern both to Israel and to the many states on the Council which refused to support it — including the member states of the European Union, Switzerland, Canada, Korea and Japan.

It also troubled many distinguished individuals, including former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who refused invitations to head the Mission and admitted that it was “guided not by human rights but by politics”.

The Conduct of the Mission:

These concerns were exacerbated by the conduct of the Mission itself, including reports in the Palestinian media that, throughout its visits to Gaza, it was continuously accompanied by Hamas officials and its refusal to recuse members of the mission with clear political views on the issues under investigation. One mission member signed a letter to the Sunday Times saying that Israel’s actions against Hamas attacks were acts of “aggression not self-defense”, prejudging the investigation before it had even begun.

The unprecedented holding of telecast hearings also gave cause for concern. The fact that all the witnesses were prescreened and selected, and none were asked questions relating to any Palestinian terrorist activity or the location of weaponry and terrorists in civilian areas only supports concerns that they were part of an orchestrated political campaign.

A “non-judicial” document

Justice Goldstone as Head of the Mission repeatedly insisted that the Mission was not a judicial inquiry and so “could not reach judicial conclusions”. On this basis that he justified the inclusion of partisan mission members, admitting that their involvement “would not be appropriate for a judicial inquiry’. The Report however is highly judicial in nature, reaching conclusive judicial determinations of guilt, and including ‘detailed legal findings’ even in the absence of the sensitive intelligence information which Israel did not feel able to provide. These determinations are made notwithstanding the Report’s admission that it does “pretend to reach the standard of proof applicable in criminal trials”.

Elements Ignored by the Report:

The Report all but ignores the deliberate terrorist strategy of operating in the heart of densely populated civilian areas which dictated the arena of battle. Even when the Hamas terrorists mixed among civilians, the Report rejects the notion that there was an intention to put the civilian population at risk.

Astonishingly, despite the many widely reported instances in the international press of the abuse of civilian facilities by terrorist groups, and the statements of Hamas own leaders praising women and children who acted as human shields, the Report repeatedly stated that it could find no evidence of such activities. This, even despite its admission that those interviewed were “reluctant to speak about the presence or conduct of hostilities by the Palestinian armed groups”.

The Report also ignores Israel’s extensive efforts, even in the midst of fighting, to maintain humanitarian standards. While it does, reluctantly, acknowledge Israel’s “significant efforts” to issue warnings before attacks, it does not find any of these efforts to be effective

While the Report passes judgment against Israel in respect of almost any allegation, it seeks to absolve the Hamas of almost any wrongdoing. The word “terrorist” is almost entirely absent. Soldier Gilad Shalit, now held incommunicado in captivity for over three years, was “captured during an enemy incursion” and the Hamas members that the Mission met with in Gaza are thanked as the “Gaza authorities” for extending their full cooperation and support to the Mission.

Even the thousands of rocket attacks against Israelis which necessitated the Gaza Operation are given the most cursory treatment, and indeed the Report indirectly blames Israel even for these by terming them “‘reprisals”.

Rejection of democratic values:

In a Report which relies so heavily on Israeli human rights organizations and which also petitions on sensitive security issues to Israel’s Supreme Court the Report devotes considerable attention to “repression of dissent in Israel”. It bases this assertion in large part on the widespread support for the military operation in the Israeli public, assuming that Israel has “created a political climate in which dissent is not tolerated. The notion that the majority of Israelis genuinely supported action to bring years of continuous rocket and missile attacks against Israeli civilians to an end does not appear to have occurred to the members of the Mission.

The Report is also critical of Israel internal investigations even though these compare favorably to investigations of allegations in military matters in most western countries, and have regularly resulted in criminal investigations and convictions.


The Report’s recommendations are as one-sided as its findings. It seeks to harness the Human Rights Council, the Security Council the General Assembly, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court and the international community as parts of its hostile political campaign.

Despite token recommendations in respect of the Palestinian side, all the international pressure is directed solely against Israel.

The true test of such a Report can only be whether in future conflicts it will have the effect of increasing or decreasing respect for the rule of law. Regrettably a one-sided report of this nature, claiming to represent international law, can only weaken the standing of law in future conflicts. At the same time, it will broadcast a deeply troubling message to terrorist groups wherever they are that the cynical tactics of seeking to exploit civilian suffering for political ends actually pays dividends.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Israel to Reopen Jenin Checkpoint

Defense Minister Barak orders reopening of Jalame checkpoint, just north of the West Bank city, to civilian vehicles as part of financial peace vision

Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized Tuesday the reopening of the Jalame checkpoint, north of the West Bank city of Jenin, to civilian vehicles.

The move, he said, “Is part of the important cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which will boost local commerce.”

The Jalame checkpoint was closed in 2000, shortly after the al-Aqsa Intifada began. Nevertheless, the close relationship between Jenin Governor Kadura Musa and Gilboa Regional Council Head Danny Atar has proven useful; eventually leading to the checkpoint’s reopening.

“Anyone comparing the situation in Judea and Samaria today to the way things were two years ago, cannot help but be impressed by the things people like Kadura and Atar have done on a regional level,” said Barak.

The defense minister, who toured the Gilboa area Tuesday, also mentioned Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad government’s efforts, alongside Israel the US and Europe’s, “To promote peace, normalcy and the chance for peace.”

The checkpoint will be completely operational within several weeks and 400-500 cars are expected to pass through it daily.

“We’ll have to make arrangements for this checkpoint to be efficient… there are ideas for a joint venture in producing olive oil and herbs. It’s time to push the economy and there’s no economy without freedom of movement,” added Barak.

The joint venture, added Atar, “Is critical to future relationships and is a significant turning point. If the financial situation won’t improve, the current calm will not last,” he said.

Kadura expressed his hopes that Israel will release Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture ahead of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting of Ramadan, a request Barak promised to give “serious consideration.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Israeli Arabs and Hizbollah’s Covert War Against Israel

In August 2009, Rawi Sultani, a young Arab resident of Taibe, was arrested on suspicion of having spied for Hizbollah. According to the indictment, Sultani contacted a Hizbollah agent last year while at a summer camp for nationalist Arab youth in Morocco as a member of the delegation of the Balad party. Sultani told his Hizbollah contact that he works out at the same gym as IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. The ensuing contact between Sultani and Hizbollah handlers, which lasted about a year, included a meeting in Poland and frequent communication in which Sultani was instructed to gather precise information about the security arrangements surrounding Askenazi during his routine visits to the Kfar Saba gym. In addition, Sultani was instructed to gather information about other senior personnel and potential targets for attack.

On one level the affair may indeed be much ado about nothing, and as claimed by Sultani’s father and attorney, “His entire crime was boasting that he works out with the chief of staff at the same gym.” At the same time, it is one more in a series of incidents where Israeli Arabs have spied for Hizbollah. Thus the question is if there are distinguishing characteristics to this affair, or is it merely another attempt at espionage? The answer to the question may be found both at the personal level, i.e., the motivation for the action, and in the socio-political setting for Sultani’s actions.

On the personal level, Rawi Sultani was apparently ideologically motivated. As reported in the Israeli media, while at camp in Morocco Sultani contacted the Hizbollah agent who lectured to the campers on Hizbollah’s war against Israel. Sultani initiated contact with the Hizbollah representative to inform him that he had access to the Israeli chief of staff. Any individual who contacts an element hostile to Israel and volunteers information of this sort does so for two possible reasons: to receive money or some other benefit, or for ideological reasons. The immediate context in which the contact was made — after a lecture on Hizbollah’s struggle against Israel — and the fact that Sultani never collected any significant amount of money during the year he was in contact with his Hizbollah handler indicate that his actions were ideologically driven, and that he had a genuine desire to assist the Lebanese organization’s campaign against Israel.

Is this how the Sultani affair differs from the previous espionage cases? Judging at least from the incidents that have been publicized to date in which Israeli Arabs gathered information for Hizbollah, the answer is yes. In the vast majority of these cases, the accused were motivated by promises of drugs or money or both. The most famous of these incidents involved Omer al-Hib of Zarzir, who served as a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army and was arrested in October 2002. Al-Hib was in contact with a Lebanese drug dealer named Kamil Nahara, who operated in southern Lebanon at the behest of a senior Hizbollah operative. Al-Hib and his partners, some of whom were family members who had also served in the IDF, were asked to gather information about IDF deployments on the northern border, supply military code maps, identify sites for tank ambushes, supply information about cameras and other intelligence gathering equipment placed along the bother, and so on. In exchange for this information, Hizbollah, which at the time was in control of the border area, approved the transfer of large amounts of drugs to the espionage ring. Al-Hib and his associates then sold the drugs on the local market.

A similar incident was exposed a year later and likewise involved an espionage ring that dealt in security information in exchange for drugs. At the ring’s center was Saad Kahamoz, a resident of the village of Rajar, who was also recruited into Hizbollah by the Lebanese drug dealer Nahara and another Hizbollah operative. Kahamoz’s handlers demanded that he supply them with information of all types, starting with security in the north — assessments of IDF forces stationed in the region of Rajar, and photographs of IDF bases and other targets in the northern sector, such as Kiryat Shmona and the cable railway at Manara Cliff. In order to complete these missions and in order to bring the drugs into Israel, Kahamoz recruited a network of operatives that included a number of family members as well as a number of Israelis, including his domestic partner, a resident of Kiryat Shmona. In exchange for the information, the network received and then smuggled drugs into Israel through Rajar and succeeded in bringing over 4 tons of hashish into Israel. Similarly, in July 2006 Riyad Mazarib, a resident of the village of Mazarib in the Jezreel Valley, was arrested. He too had contacted a Hizbollah operative in order to deal in drugs, and provided him with information about developments in Israel during the Second Lebanon War. In February 2008, an IDF NCO, Louis Balut, a resident of the Galileean village of Fasuta, was also arrested and charged with passing on information to Hizbollah as part of a ring that was smuggling drugs into Israel.

In this sense, the Sultani affair — assuming, of course, that he is guilty of the charges against him — is unusual and particularly worrisome. Perhaps the affair could be dismissed as a case of a wayward Arab youth with nationalist feelings: a member of Balad, a political party whose leader, Azmi Bashara, has also been accused of spying for Hizbollah. Bashara is suspected of having maintained a longstanding relationship with Hizbollah intelligence agents who were in charge of gathering information about Israel. Bashara allegedly regularly advised Hizbollah and provided various assessments to Hizbollah intelligence before the Second Lebanon War. When the war began, Bashara changed the nature of the information he supplied and started to advise the organization on how to conduct the campaign against Israel: he transmitted information that was meant to intensify the damage to Israel, and supplied information on possible targets for rocket fire. He is also accused of relaying assessments of possible Israeli responses should Hizbollah extend its missile range beyond Haifa. In addition, he advised Hizbollah how to conduct psychological warfare against Israel via media messages directed to both the Jewish and Arab populations of Israel during the war. According to the accusations still pending against him, Bashara received hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange. In the wake of these accusations, Bashara fled Israel.

Indeed, as Balad has noted in its response to Sultani’s arrest: the crimes and suspicions attributed to Sultani “are very far from the party’s political platform and its mode of activity.” Nevertheless, if we put the two cases — Sultani’s and Bashara’s — together, it may be possible to conclude that Sultani’s actions are not completely isolated from their socio-political context that provided the camp experience in Morocco. In other words, Sultani acted within an environment that may be defined as enabling, even if formally, as noted in Balad’s response, the party’s political platform is binding on all its members and “sets clear boundaries for youth.” Using requisite caution, the public can infer that at least in Sultani’s case, it seems that the written guidelines were one thing and the actions were another.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Guide to a Big Mistake: U.S. Decision to Talk With Iran

by Barry Rubin

Forgive me for a bit of repetition but what has just happened is so important that it deserves the closest attention and clearest analysis. A more comprehensive explanation is here. This article presents these themes in a brief, straightforward manner.

1. President Barack Obama produced the theme of U.S. engagement with Iran and proposed a world free of all nuclear weapons as a goal.

2. The United States had tried to engage with Iran but that country refused. Nominally this can be attributed to being busy with stealing an election and repressing the opposition but it would have happened any way.

3. Iran is now governed by its most radical government since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini twenty years ago. Extremist and adventurist, anti-American and antisemitic, this is a government bent on getting nuclear weapons (at least as leverage, not necessarily to use), destroying U.S. influence in the region, and wiping Israel off the map.

4. Seeing that engagement wasn’t working, the U.S. government made a plan to bring together key countries and raise the level of sanctions in late September, just two weeks from the time the Iranian letter was received. The key G20 meeting was set for September 24-25.

5. Seeking to stall such measures in order to consolidate the regime, which is relatively weak given domestic opposition, the Tehran regime at the last minute sent an insulting note to the United States trying to change the subject. Rather than focus on the nuclear weapons’ drive, they called for changing the UN to empower non-Western states (an old regime theme) and rid the world of all nuclear weapons. In other words: Iran will be the champion of the Third World in getting rid of great power vetoes at the UN and keep on developing nuclear weapons until the United States gets rid of all those it has.

Remarkably, Obama accepted the Iranian offer.

7. Since the U.S. proposal was for unconditional negotiations this means that it cannot ask Iran to do anything—reduce sponsorship of terrorism, decrease internal repression, slow its nuclear program—as long as the talks are going on.

8. Apparently, the United States is not going to pursue the plan for increasing sanctions while the talks go on.

9. The U.S. government is also not setting a deadline for progress. Talks are scheduled to begin October 1.

10. This means: By sending a five-page insulting letter the Iranian government has derailed the sanctions’ project and will gain in prestige without any cost.

11. In addition, the Iranian regime suffers no cost for stealing the election, repressing the opposition, and appointing a wanted terrorist as defense minister. One might expect international outrage and isolation of Iran on those points alone. Here, too, the regime has won a total victory.

12. The cover story is: The U.S. government offered to engage so it must keep its word. Supposedly, various factors will be impressed by this effort and be more willing to support sanctions after talks fail.

13. Yet it is never explained who these parties are? France, Germany, Britain, and other European states are ready to support sanctions increases now. Russia and China oppose raising sanctions now and will continue to do so. Even American domestic opinion doesn’t need this: if Obama, who is wildly popular on the left and seems to own much of the media, wants to raise sanctions what significant forces would oppose it?

14. In short, engagement has no positive function in terms of gathering support for sanctions.

Even the New York Times questions this decision, albeit only indirectly…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Iran: Obama ‘Held Captive’ By Republicans, Ahmadinejad Aide Claims

Tehran, 14 Sept. (AKI) — United States president Barack Obama is being held “captive by extremist Republicans”, said the media advisor and close aide to Iran’s hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday.

Ali Akbar Javanfakr, quoted by Iran’s student news agency ISNA, said Obama’s stance and behaviour regarding Iran shows that “he is held captive by extremist Republicans and has been very unsuccessful with keeping George Bush’s ideas out of the White House.”

In addition, Javanfekr said Obama also needs to find radical solutions for problems if it wants sustainable relations with Iran.

“If Americans favour sustainable and trustworthy ties with Iran, they must welcome radical settlement of issues.”

Ahmadinejad’s aide also repeated calls for a debate with Obama and the Iranian president at the United Nations General Assembly.

“Holding a free debate in presence of reporters and envoys of other countries will turn a new page in international ties and in light of this debate, Iran and US can establish new ties based on friendship, mutual respect and guarantee for mutual interests,” he said.

However, Javanfekr also announced Ahmadinejad had no plans to hold talks with US officials while in New York for the UN General Assembly.

Washington has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when university students loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini took over the US embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Since that time the relationship between the two countries remains strained.

The US and other western countries suspect Iran may covertly be building nuclear weapons.

However, Iran has consistently claimed its uranium enrichment programme is entirely peaceful and aimed solely at civilian nuclear power, in line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

On Friday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country would not compromise on its right to nuclear energy.

The United Nations Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran since 2006, targeting Iranian companies and individuals linked to the nuclear programme.

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

UAE: Wave of Arrests Follow Plot to Blow Up Dubai Tower

Month and a half after plan to blow up tallest skyscraper in world exposed, 45 more suspects arrested in addition to eight arrested when plot unraveled. Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese among those detained. Iran suspected to be mastermind behind plot

The defense apparatus in the United Arab Emirates arrested 45 suspects, most of them Palestinian and Lebanese, after the plot to blow up Burj Dubai (Dubai Tower) was uncovered. Dubai Tower, currently under construction, is the tallest building in the world.

The current wave of arrests adds to the eight other suspects detained immediately after the plot was revealed one and a half months ago. The detainees were apparently sent as agents of Iran.

Kuwaiti newspaper, al-Jareeda, reported a month and a half ago that UAE security officials arrested “an armed network affiliated with one of the countries in the region that operated on Ras al-Khaimah.” Dubai was apparently hesitant to say so explicitly, but the implication was towards Iran as the responsible party for the terror network.

Ras al-Khaimah was is the northern-most emirate in the United Arab Emirates and borders the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, both of which run parallel to Iran.

The Kuwaiti newspaper reported that of the eight detainees, two are UAE citizens and the rest are Syrians and Palestinians. They were transferred to Abu Dhabi for investigation under a strict media blackout. According to the report, UAE officials found a weapons cache in a house in which the detainees were staying. One of the detainees with UAE citizenship works in the pharmaceutical industry, and the other UAE citizen is “a member of a well-known family in Abu Dhabi.”

Officials connected to the case reported to Ynet that some of the detainees said in the investigation that they plotted to crash a plane into the Burj Dubai. The plan apparently was to carry out the attack close to the inauguration of the building upon its completion at the end of 2009. According to these same sources, it was possible that the plane would await them in an unofficial airfield in Iran.

Ynet has learned that the UAE has embarked upon an additional wave of arrests as the case has developed. Recently, 45 more suspects were arrested. Most of the detainees in this round of arrests are Lebanese and Palestinian with various citizenships. A majority of them were expelled from the country. The UAE has denied these allegations.

Increasing Iranian influence in Ras al-Khaimah

The Kuwaiti news report claimed that UAE defense officials have followed radical religious and political activists in recent years out of a concern that they would seek to exploit the country’s relative openness to deepen their hold on the local population and carry out terrorist attacks on UAE territory. This concern was made particularly poignant following the significant entry easements made recently for foreign nationals, including people holding Iranian citizenship.

This is a particularly sensitive report that UAE officials, who are very concerned about Iran, would prefer not be published. According to sources linked to the case, the Iranians have real foothold in the UAE, particularly in Ras al-Khaimah. Iran has cultivated close business relations with Crown Prince Saud bin Saqr al-Qasimi and his close associate, Lebanese Shiite businessman, Massad Khater.

According to these sources, this is not merely an innocent business relationship. Khater is a partner in a ceramics factory called Ras al-Khaimah Ceramics. This factory, the sources claim, directly aids Iran’s weapons and missiles industry. The factory even has a branch in the Iranian city of Natanz, where parts for Iranian warheads are produced.

Khater is also one of the owners of the pharmaceutical company at which one of the detainees arrested for the Burj Dubai plot works.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Extreme Islamist Homepage in Sweden Disturbs Russia

A prosecutor in Russia has asked Swedish authorities for information about an extreme islamist homepage in Sweden. The reason is that a threat towards a Russian civil servant has been published on the homepage. This is reported in the Swedish Public Radio broadcaster SR in the programme ‘Medierna’.

The homepage is called Kavkaz Center (kavkazcenter.net/eng/) and has substance with encouragement to Jihad and extreme violence. It describes itself as an independent Chechen news source and it is formally based in Sweden. The homepage shows for example videos of successful bombings and assasination combined with suggestive religious music. According to Medierna, there is also an explicit threat towards a Russian civil servant written by an anonymous person on the homepage.

What is special with this homepage is that in the middle of all this, there is a text claiming that the site is protected by the Swedish constitution of press freedom. This is the reason for Russian authorities to ask Sweden for help.

The Russian presecutor wanted to know who made the anonymous threat. The question was forwarded to Swedish Attorney-General, Göran Lambertz., who said no to the Russian demand.

The reason was, according to Lambertz, that the homepage has been granted authorization to publish which means that they have a strong protection in the Swedish constitution. This means that it is forbidden to give out the names of anonyme writers in the specific media source. The condition is that the news source must have a specific person that is entitled ‘legally responsible publisher’.

But Medierna did some research about Kavkaz Center and it turned out that they might not have a legally responsible publisher. The person who was registered as the repsonsible publisher was telephoned by the Radio programme and he said that he had left the newspaper. He thought it had become too extreme.

Than, Medierna called the person who is, on the homepage, written down as the official publisher. This turned out to be a very young man who is studying in a small town in north-Sweden. He said on the phone to Medierna that he is certainly not the publisher of the site but that his uncle in Turkey convinced him to put his name on the paper.

Formally therefore, the news source seems not to have a legally responsible publisher. This does not mean however that their protection is taken away directly, but that it will be investigated.

Medierna brings in their programme an intricate question to debate. Is it possible that extreme organizations abroad use the strong Swedish press freedom to cover threats and extreme propaganda? It is obvious in this case that people in Sweden have been pressured to put their names on it to position the website in Sweden with its strong protection.

Kavkaz Center’s news site was started in Lithuania in the late 1990’s. After pressures from Russia it was however closed down. Then the site moved to Finland but the same thing happened. Now it has moved to Sweden and has a much stronger protection.

Medierna asked Mr Lamberts how this situation could be possible.

Lambertz: I have never seen this kind of situation before. If there is no legally responsible publisher, the authorization to publish and therefore the consittutional protection should be withdrawn. We might have to take a closer look at this.

Medierna: Is there a risk that Sweden becomes a free haven for spread of terror?

Lambertz: No, I do not think so. If you commit a crime in Sweden the authorities will take you.

Medierna: But, here they commit a crime (threats) without any reaction from Swedish authorities. You have not done anything in this case.

Lambertz: I do not act at all if there is no legal charge put up against them.

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

Stalin Grandson in Court Fight to Clear Dictator’s Name

Sitting in his front room at home in Moscow, surrounded by shelves of books on 20th-century history, Leonid Zhura recounts how life was better under Stalin. “It was a heroic epoch. It was the first time in human history that a society was founded on fair principles,” he says, adding that Stalin did not commit any crimes.

Zhura’s views are not greatly unusual in today’s Russia. What distinguishes the amateur historian from other Stalin fans is that he is going to court to prove his assertion that Stalin never killed anybody. And he claims to have an impeccable witness — Stalin’s 73-year-old grandson.

At lunchtime tomorrow Yevgeny Dzhugashvili — the offspring of Stalin’s ill-fated son Yakov, from the dictator’s first marriage — is due to appear at Moscow’s Basmanny court. Dzhugashvili lives in Tbilisi, Georgia. But at Zhura’s invitation, he is flying to Moscow to take part in a libel action against Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading liberal newspaper.

“He’s retired and normally lives with his family in Georgia. But he’s decided he wants to make a stand on this,” said Zhura, 63, a former trade official.

Dzhugashvili is demanding $299,000 (£180,000) in damages from the paper after it said that his grandfather personally signed politburo orders to execute civilians. Author Anatoly Yablokov — who wrote the piece — says such a legal case would have been unthinkable until recently, but is now depressingly possible.

“There is a change in society’s view of Stalin,” Yablokov said last month at a preliminary court hearing. “We hear much more now about how much of an effective manager Stalin was, much more than in the 1990s, and much less about the repression.”

According to Zhura, however, Stalin created a society superior to its capitalist rivals, not just in the field of scientific endeavour but also on the football pitch. “During a tour of Britain in November 1945, Moscow Dynamo FC thrashed Manchester United. We even beat your Arsenal,” Zhura noted.

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

South Asia

Dhaka: Wife and Daughter Tortured for Converting to Christianity

The two women follow the lead set by the family’s eldest son who converted to Christianity before going abroad. The husband reacts by burning a copy of the Bible, promising a “similar treatment” for them. The daughter forgives the father and prays he might find the “love of Christ.”

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Khainur Islam was tortured by her husband because she did not tell him that their son had “converted to Christianity”. The Bangladeshi woman now fears for her life because her husband has threatened to kill her. Despite what she has gone through, neither her relatives nor police have provided her with any protection. Yet she and her eldest daughter, Arifa Sultan, have converted as well. Her daughter is also praying that one day her father might “feel the love of Christ.”

“My son Jahirul Islam lives in Sydney, Australia. He went there for a higher education in 2006. In Bangladesh he never said anything to us about his conversion to Christianity,” Ms Islam said (pictured with her daughters). In fact, she can still remember “exactly the day when she heard about her son’s conversion: 18 June 2009. I was shocked.”

Her husband, Aminul Islam, has spent the past 22 years working in Saudi Arabia. When he came home in June on a holiday he began pressuring Jahirul to marry a Muslim woman after making Hajj in Makkah, plans his son rejected because of his “Christian faith.”

“When my husband became insistent, I told him about the conversion,” she said. “He really got mad and began beating me, accusing me for allowing him [their son] to study abroad, at Notre Dame College, a Catholic university in Sydney,” she said.

After that, not only did her husband continue to beat her, but he also forbade her from talking to their son.

Instead, Jahirul spoke to his mother, telling her to turn to Rev Alex Khan, who first accompanied him on his path towards conversion. Because neither her relatives nor police did anything for her, the clergyman became her only support, an experience that gave her comfort and peace.

“I found the love of Christ,” she explained, “and began reading passages from the Bible with the help of the pastor and my daughter Arifa.”

A few days ago, she told her husband Aminul that she too had converted to Christianity. In reacting to her announcement, he tied her and her eldest daughter and brutally beat both of them in front of her youngest daughters. He also set fire to a Bible, threatening them that they would get a “similar treatment”.

“We are scared,’ she said, but praying has become a source of comfort for her.

“We pray regularly,” her daughter said, “that one day my father might find the love of Christ. I forgive him even if he beat me like a dog. I am not afraid to be burnt my father as he did with the Bible.”

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

India is ‘Losing Maoist Battle’

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says his country is losing the battle against Maoist rebels.

Mr Singh told a meeting of police chiefs from different states that rebel violence was increasing and the Maoists’ appeal was growing.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor.

They operate in a large swathe of territory across central India, and in some areas have almost replaced the local government.

More than 6,000 people have been killed during their 20-year fight for a communist state.

‘Going up’

“I have consistently held that in many ways, left-wing extremism poses perhaps the gravest internal security threat our country faces,” Mr Singh told a conference of Indian police chiefs in the capital, Delhi.

“We have discussed this in the last five years and I would like to state frankly that we have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace.”

The prime minister said that despite the government’s best efforts, violence in Maoist-affected areas was going up.

The prime minister admitted that the Maoists had growing appeal among a large section of Indian society, including tribal communities, the rural poor as well as sections of the intelligentsia and the youth.

Mr Singh said a more sensitive approach was necessary in dealing with the Maoists.

“Dealing with left-wing extremism requires a nuanced strategy — a holistic approach. It cannot be treated simply as a law and order problem.”

The rebels operate in 182 districts in India, mainly in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

In some areas they have virtually replaced the local government and are able to mount spectacular attacks on government installations.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of poor peasants and landless workers.

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

India: Maoist Kid Soldiers Draw Blood

Midnapore, Sept. 14: Boys with guns but hardly any facial hair shot dead a local CPM leader this morning at Salboni near Lalgarh, with horrified villagers saying some of the attackers looked “as young as 14”.

Maoist sources confirmed police claims that they had introduced the child soldier — widely used by the Tamil Tigers, Khmer Rouge and African militias — into Bengal’s western theatre of conflict.

Officers said some 200 young boys were part of the “local action squad” the rebels had raised since entering Lalgarh 10 months ago, and had been trained to use firearms and set off improvised explosive devices.

When 10 of them walked into Burisole from a nearby forest around 9am, the villagers thought they had come to participate in a sports tournament. The oldest among the boys was hardly 17.

“I would never have imagined that boys so young could be Maoist killers,” said villager Anil Mahato. “They barely had any facial hair. I thought they had come for the foot tennis (soccer with a tennis ball, a popular local sport) tournament being held nearby.”

But the boys headed for the cigarette and betel shop of Sambhu Mahato, 40, the CPM branch committee secretary.

“Seven of them stood at a distance while three walked to the shop. One of them pulled out a revolver from under his shirt and shot Sambhu kaka behind his right ear,” said Jalad Mahato, 33, who was sipping tea at a tea stall across the road.

“They were so young we thought we would be able to overpower them and took a few steps forward.”

But the seven other boys whipped out revolvers and pipe guns and aimed them at the villagers. “They told us to quietly go home, and we obeyed,” Jalad said.

The boys vanished into the forest from where, 15 minutes later, came the sound of a few shots. An officer later said the boys had chased and shot twice at a CPM supporter, Anath Mahato, who was cutting grass for his cattle, but he escaped.

West Midnapore superintendent of police Manoj Verma said all the child soldiers were local boys. The Maoists had recruited them from Salboni, Binpur, Goaltore and Lalgarh, another officer said.

“Some 200 of them should now be in the rebels’ forest camps. They are difficult to identify because they don’t have a police record,” the officer said.

Suspected Maoists shot dead a second CPM leader inside a school in Lalgarh around noon as his stunned students looked on. Teacher Kartick Mahato, 36, of Barajamda village was a CPM branch committee member.

The police said the killings were in retaliation for the resistance by some villagers, who have killed two Maoists. The rebels have killed nine CPM supporters in the district this month.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesian Rights Groups Condemn New Stoning Law

BANDA ACEH — Indonesian rights activists condemned as “cruel and degrading” on Tuesday a new Islamic law calling for adulterers to be stoned to death in the country’s staunchly conservative Aceh province.

The law — which also allows punishments of up to 400 lashes for child rape, 100 lashes for homosexual acts and 60 lashes for gambling — was passed unanimously Monday by lawmakers in the region at the northern tip of Sumatra island.

The law replaces elements of Indonesia’s criminal code with sharia, or Islamic law, for Muslims. It allows the death penalty for married people and 100 lashes for unmarried people found guilty in cases of adultery.

“The laws that have been approved in Aceh are cruel and degrading to humanity,” National Commission on Human Rights head Ifdhal Kasim told AFP.

The law undermines the secular basis of Indonesia’s law, Kasim said, adding the rights group was appealing to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to review the legislation.

“This will bring Aceh back to the past. Throwing stones is like Aceh in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries,” Kasim said, adding the law would likely embolden conservatives pushing for sharia on a national level.

The controversial legal change was passed in Aceh just weeks before a new, more moderate provincial assembly — dominated by the Aceh Party of former separatist fighters of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) — is due to take power.

The administration of Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, himself a former GAM fighter, is opposed to the strict sharia law, but has said it is powerless to stop the law, which will come into effect in 30 days with or without his signature.

“(The law) only deals with petty crimes, adulterers, but it doesn’t deal with (significant crimes such as) corrupt officials,” Human Rights Watch spokesman Andreas Harsono said.

“In our opinion it is against the principle of human rights,” he said.

Human Rights Working Group head Rafendi Djamin said the punishments set out in the law were “humiliating and degrading” and a product of politicking among local leaders.

“They’re more interested in private issues than issues of the wider public interest like corruption and measures to empower people who have been suffering in the wake of conflict,” Djamin said.

Arif Budimanta, a senior official of the opposition Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, condemned the law — despite local members having supported it in the Aceh assembly.

“We are deeply concerned about this cruel law as it is against our national ideology and values of pluralism,” he said.

Spokesmen for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a liberal ex-general re-elected by a landslide earlier this year, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ma’ruf Amin, the head of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, Indonesia’s top Islamic body, welcomed the new hardline law.

“The Council supports sharia law in areas where it is allowed, like Aceh, which has special autonomy. It’s not a matter of good or bad.

“For Muslims, sharia law is the best and can be implemented anytime, anywhere. As long as there is agreement from everyone, there’s no problem,” Amin said.

Aceh had previously adopted a milder form of sharia law in 2001 as part of an autonomy package from Jakarta aimed at quelling local separatist sentiment.

The sharia code enforced religious observation and offered lighter punishments — including caning — for gambling, drinking and association between unmarried members of the opposite sex.

Separatists in Aceh had been fighting the Indonesian government since 1976 until a peace deal in 2005 in a conflict that claimed over 15,000 lives.

Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 234 million people are Muslim, but the country also has significant Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Confucian minorities. Most Muslims practise a moderate form of the religion.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Pakistan-Punjab: Muslim Extremists Burn Church Over Alleged Blasphemy Case

The call to hunt Christians launched at local mosque after the Friday prayers. The mob stormed and set fire to the church, ransacked two houses. Muslims accuse a young Christian had desecrated the Koran. In reality the young man is involved with a Muslim girl.

Sialkot (AsiaNews) — A church burnt by a mob of angry Muslims, who attacked Christians for a new — alleged — case of blasphemy. This is what happened yesterday afternoon in a village in Punjab, Pakistan, where the Christian community was targeted by Islamic extremists.

“The extremists were protesting against the desecration of the Quran by a young Christian from the village” Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the Catholic Churches National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) refers to AsiaNews, “that is why they set fire to the church”. The priest, who heard the eye witness accounts of the inhabitants, adds that “the place of worship is used by Catholics and Protestants”.

NCJP sources report that yesterday, at about 12:30 local time, a Muslim mob gathered round the village church in Jaithikey, not far from the city of Samberial in the district of Sialkot (Punjab). They first damaged the building, then set it on fire. The extremists also looted two houses adjoining the church.

According to preliminary reports, the real cause of tension is a relationship between a twenty year old Christian, whose name is Fanish, and a Muslim girl. The young man was accused of having “provoked” the girl and “throwing away the Koran [the girl] had in her hands”.

“Muslims can not tolerate a Muslim girl falling in love with a Christian,” says father Mani, confirming the news of the young man’s arrest this morning by police officers. “The authorities — adds the priest — will not allow access to journalists, to verify the events firsthand”.

A statement released by NCJP explains that “The tense situation precipitated following the end of Friday prayers,” when a call to action “to give a lesson to the Christians” was launched from the mosque. Following the announcement, at least 35 families left the village for security reasons; others decided to remain in their homes anyway.

The police reached the village, while the crowd of Muslims gathered, wiping themselves up into a frenzy over the — alleged — case of desecration of the Koran. In the evening, the extremists were driven from the homes of Christian villagers, but hundreds remained in the area, under police surveillance.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, NCJP national director, Kamran Michael, the Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minorities and Nelson Azeem, a member of the National Assembly (the parliament of Pakistan) arrived in Samerial and, in close contact with local government and police, are following the evolution of events.

After the attack on Gojra in early August, in which seven people were killed, there is a real risk of a new massacre against the Christian community in the name of the blasphemy law.

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

Pakistan: Minorities and Education: Equal Rights for All Students Guaranteed by the Constitution

A Christian scholar says that it is necessary to develop curricula that promote tolerance and human rights in order to fight violence and extremism. As it stands the current school system favours Muslims, providing them with advantages and privileges. School textbooks nurture a “sense of segregation” among minorities.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — In a long article published in the Pakistan Christian Post Anjum James Paul wrote that real change can come to Pakistan only through education. For the university lecturer and founder of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association (PMTA), the spiral of terrorism and extremism can be brought to an end by preparing students as early as possible in their life and explaining to them the values of tolerance and respect for human rights. As an expert with a great deal of knowledge of Pakistan’s school system he took a look at the 2009 National Education policy, pointing out its flaws and violations of minority rights.

As a scholar Anjum James Paul believes that a “constructive” attitude is needed, inspired by the “teachings of the Father of the Nation”, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who presented his views to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947, and for whom freedom of worship was an essential feature of the country, stressing that the “the business of the State” was something distinct from “religion or caste or creed”.

Despite such lofty words minorities have been discriminated by successive governments, Paul said. But his criticism does not spare minority leaders, “who have never raised the issue of discriminatory policies.”

Text books and schools force minority students “to attend classes where one religion in particular, Islam, is promoted”, which tends to nurture a “sense of segregation”.

The role played by minorities “in the birth and building of Pakistan” is not included in any textbooks, and this creates a certain “distance between minority and majority students”. Although books should not cause controversies, it is “sad to see that minorities are not even mentioned.” Yet he is still hopeful that the Education Ministry will do something and adopt “special guidelines in the matter.”

Another case of discrimination between Muslim and non-Muslim students concerns the Qur’an. Those who learn sections of the Holy Qur’an by heart can jump to the 8th class examination, bypassing classes 6 and the 7, getting additional marks that are helpful in getting into higher classes. “Minority students are denied such privileges and it is harder for them to get a higher education,” he said.

By recognising that “Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan” (Art. 2), the constitution strengthens the cooperation among Muslim nations on the basis of Islamic unity and promotes Islamic values, history, and teachings, but it does so to the disadvantage of those who profess a different religious creed.

Finally, some of examples Anjum James Paul cites are in “open violation” of Article 25 of the constitution which says that “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.”

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

Sri Lanka: The West and Its Despicable ‘Love Affair’ With Terrorism

Moving from one issue to another to block a country’s progress, the West it seems, has found yet another ‘concern’ to criticize the Sri Lankan government. In a sense the Sri Lankan government may well have played in to the hands of the elements playing hell, with its warped sense of human rights, in deciding to deny visa to UNICEF spokesman Elder. If nothing else it has given the perfect backdrop with which to begin a fresh attack on the Sri Lankan government. And they would certainly prove successful, if the government continues to give in to criticisms that carry no weight back home. The government has bigger and more crucial responsibility in ensuring the welfare of the displaced to be dogged down by the agendas of those whose very survival remains upon the suffering of innocents in every conflict situation in the world. Having openly sided with, and attempted every despicable move to block the end of a blood thirsty terror group, that inhumanely held hundreds of thousands of the very people the LTTE claimed it was fighting for; the agenda of these elements in the West cannot become the concern of the government now. The warped mentality that gives life and arms the terror groups like the LTTE, to forcibly recruit innocent children for war, carries out genocide against another community, kills every member of its community that seeks peace or denies a large majority of its own people a peaceful life in the very ‘homeland’ it claims to free; must not remain a concern for the government. It is in fact desirable that the government does not provide credence to such criticisms by attempting to open itself to query by such elements.

Certainly the internally displaced is and must remain the priority concern of the Rajapaksa regime in the post war scenario. The government must ensure that every medical, food and social welfare measure of the hundreds of thousands left stranded followig the end of war is in place. But the fact that not a single displaced person has to date been recorded dead of malnutrition, or neglect must be appreciated. The continued provision of some one million meals a day for over three months is not an enviable task for any developing economy. The criticism of certain elements within the West that have refused to lift a finger in aid towards the welfare of the displaced would serve no real purpose for the government or the people. Such queries about the displaced must remain the prerogative of those rising to the occasion and assisting the government in this dire situation. As long as the questions on the West’s war against terror in Afghanistan or Iraq remain open, there are no justifiable grounds on which any finger can be raised against Sri Lanka.

The so-called concerned media and persons in West must understand the backdrop under which the cry of certain members of the Tamil Diaspora of human rights violations in Sri Lanka is raised. The Western voices giving strength to the allegations of the Tamil Diaspora must come to terms with the real concerns of a large majority of the Diaspora. For hundreds of thousands now enjoying the benefits of developed societies, the end of the war back home signals an end to their claims of refugee status. One cannot deny them the fears of a possible forced evacuation from these societies given there is no longer a political credence for their continued stay in these countries. Having lived in these countries and built up their lives these members of the Diaspora have now no desire to return home. Unless of course, they can keep a situation of so-called human rights violation going on so as to negate any questions raised on their continued refusal to return home. These so-called concerns for the displaced in the camps are therefore a lifeline that they must now not let go of.

Sadly the politics behind the ‘concerns’ of many agents of human rights concerns are no more noble. Given the manner in which aid agencies secure funding, the need for many number of them to grab hold of the situation in Sri Lanka is understandable. From local do-gooders who earn their living from conflict situations, to foreign aid agencies and human rights activists, whose very survival remains the continuation of suffering of civilian conditions; the ‘interest’ of these bodies to secure a share in the pie in understandable. Access to camps in the North, therefore is not just desirable but certainly crucial to such groups. Sadly, there would be little real contribution of such visits, aside of creating scenarios to further feed on the situation.

On the other hand, if it is the real concerns of the displaced that lead these groups to raise such concerns, why do we not hear a murmur of suggestion of aid to flow in so that the conditions could be better improved?

Politics apart, these aid agencies and so-called human rights activists must also ask themselves what the plight of the displaced would have been if they did not come under the care f the State in this interim period. Having lived a large part of their lives, three decades to be exact under the worst human conditions, with no proper livelihoods, no real schooling for their children and no medical care, what were they to return to immediately after the end of the war? If the government had refused them the care they now enjoy, what assurance was there that their lives would be any better? Certainly, no one can deny the fact that life back home, even possibly in those sad little huts they would have preferred to enjoy the final end of the LTTE, and not continue to remain in camps. That certainly is an ideal situation. But more remains undone if such an ideal situation is to have real meaning and viability.

As much as food and medical care of the last displaced is the concern of the government, so is the security of these civilians. It is at this stage unthinkable to have allowed the displaced back in to those heavily mined areas, without ensuring every security. No doubt simply throwing back these people to such unsafe and undesirous conditions would have served every interest of certain aid agencies, and the Tamil Diaspora. More importantly, such an inhuman condition would have also helped create the rift that these elements desire to appear between the State and the Tamil people of the country. In fact such a situation would have helped create the perfect scenario to justify the claims of discrimination the Diaspora needs to sustain their lives in the West.

It s in this scenario that the government use every opportunity in its reach to build the broken bridges and dispel the fears and suspicions, especially those forced in to the young minds under the LTTE to give strength to the terror it unleashed. The government must ensure that the untruths of discrimination that the LTTE used, have no longer any room to take up arms.

Procrastination, either in the camps or in the decision making discussion rooms, must have no place in this path. It is in the genuine commitment to ensuring human dignity, and the expediency with which the government enables this process to take life that will finally help it win these people over. Such victory over these innocent civilians however, must not remain a mere political concern for the government. The baseless criticisms and untruths of the West must not be the basis upon which the government weighs its successes either. The fact remains that it is finally the people of the country who will pass judgment on the success of the regime in winning the peace. Such judgement, the government must remember, has the potential to prove fatal if it seeks to play politics over greater human concern.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

Does Japan Face Same Defense Challenges as Britain, France During Rise of Nazis?

I once visited the Yamamoto Isoroku Memorial Museum in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture. A poem for which Yamamoto, an avid calligrapher, had a special appreciation originated in a Chinese classic on military strategy: “A nation, no matter how great, will perish if it is fond of war/A nation, no matter how peaceful, is in danger if it forgets war.”

Having spent time in the U.S., Yamamoto was keenly aware that Japan had no chance of winning a war against the U.S. From the course Japan had taken through the Sino-Japanese War, the Tripartite Pact, and expansion in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, he knew that 1930s Japan was headed straight for the downfall described in the poem’s first line.

While the latter line is necessary to compose a couplet, it did not apply to Japan’s circumstances at the time and Yamamoto sometimes omitted it when repeating the poem. The latter line is more pressing, however, to us living in the post-war era. Taking peace for granted, will we, too, lose sight of the horrors of war and find ourselves in danger?

History tells us that we cannot afford to be naive. The ravages of World War I led to a rise of pacifism in its wake. Still, in Europe in the 1930s, Hitler took over government and spurred a military resurgence. The British and French public, shirking from war and longing for peace, refused to see Nazi Germany’s aggressive preparations for a military breakthrough for what they were.

One man, however, urged the people to take the Nazi threat seriously. The man, Colonel Charles de Gaulle, pushed for the development of a mechanized military and warned that without one, the nation was in grave danger. The French public, however, not only failed to support his argument, it denounced de Gaulle for being a warmonger trying to upset a peaceful order. It took the country’s stunning fall at the hands of Nazi Germany to convince the French that de Gaulle had been right all along.

In Britain, the same thing happened with Winston Churchill. While Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was showered with praise for protecting “peace for our time” by signing a non-aggression pact with Hitler in Munich, Churchill, then a member of the House of Commons, was blasted for his remark: “The belief that security can be obtained by throwing a small state to the wolves is a fatal delusion.” It wasn’t long before history proved that Churchill, isolated for throwing cold water on the public’s strong longing for peace, had been correct.

Today, while there is increasing discussion advocating Japan’s development of deterrence capabilities that exceed defense purposes in light of threats from nearby North Korea, there remains a great deal of hesitation over any expansion of Japan’s military capacity.

The belief that not possessing weapons that could enable Japan to go to war with foreign countries is the key to peace has dominated the post-war era. But such a line of reasoning is accurate only in a specific case, namely, that in which the Japanese military is the root cause of a regional and global menace. Today, with a neighboring country in possession of nuclear arms and missiles at the source of such danger, the argument against Japanese rearmament merely misses the point.

Is Japan facing the same challenges, then, as Britain and France during the rise of Nazi Germany? It probably isn’t. What’s crucial is that the nature of our current threat be assessed, and that a wide range of countermeasures be considered.

In the next five or 10 years, the risk of a North Korean outburst is likely to grow. North Korea likely acknowledges the success of its brinkmanship, in which it has threatened its neighbors only to be rewarded. The decision to end this game, relinquishing nuclear weapons in return for security provided by the U.S., is one that is left up to a dictator. However, increasing impairment in judgment due to illness and old age and the struggle to establish a successor make such a major decision requiring self-restraint and perspective even more difficult. Plus, it’s not easy to give up the hard-line stance that has proven so successful in the past. We’re facing a state of affairs where the dangers of this unmanaged game of “chicken” keep growing.

The current situation poses a specific threat to Japan on two levels. The first is that of abductions, spy ships, and subversive acts committed by intelligence agents. It appears that strict measures enforced by the Japanese government in recent years have suppressed the possible recurrence of abductions and the entry of unidentified ships in nearby waters. Japan is able to deal with such factors through their own efforts, such as enhanced information systems and deployment of high-speed missile boats.

Nuclear weapons and missiles comprise the second level of threats to Japan. It is astounding that the missile-defense system Japan decided to adopt six years ago has already attained some level of success. Efforts must still be made to improve the quality of our current system, but regardless, it would be impossible to shoot down all of the more than 200 Nodong missiles said to exist.

It is important that we keep North Korea from shooting the missiles in the first place, and to this end, Japan must engage in diplomacy and international cooperation; develop its own deterrence capacity; and utilize U.S. enlarged deterrence under the Japan-U.S. alliance. Since Japan will not be strengthening its military deterrence capacity for the time being, the alliance between Japan and the U.S. is of critical importance. This alliance is an asset to Japan — one that both Britain and France lacked during the aforementioned war.

The North Korean threat is a limited one compared to that of Nazi Germany, and can be overcome through the appropriate combination of Japan’s self-reliant efforts and international cooperation. The possibility of an outburst exists, however, and what is being sought now is an objective assessment and serious handling of the situation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Korea: Is Racism Serious Here?

When Bonojit Hussain from India recently claimed victory in a racial abuse case at a Seoul court, it again brought into the spotlight the uncomfortable subject of racism in Korea.

Many claim the lid has been unscrewed on a rampant problem, but another body of opinion says that racism is no worse here than in any other country.

But with an anti-racism bill pending in the National Assembly and the head of the Korea Immigration Service admitting this week that racism is a grave problem confronting the nation, it is becoming ever clearer the matter is one stoking genuine concern.

In a bid to shed further light on the subject, The Korea Times was in Itaewon over the weekend to ask foreigners if they believed racism is a genuine issue in Korea.

For Canadian English teacher Patrick Diplock, the answer to the racism question is a little more complex than a simple “Yes” or “No.”

He says it doesn’t occur here in a uniform manner, but rather is generational.

“I have been the victim of numerous threats, assaults and stalking,” he said.

Referring to his experiences as a teacher, Diplock continued, “My students are not of a racist mind-set or prejudiced, but they could act in what is perceived as a discriminatory way as a result of parental influence.

“Limits are placed on children, as they will choose not to associate with foreigners in an effort not to cause disunion in the family.”

But he believes some behavior may be misinterpreted, pointing to the strict hierarchical structure in the military that sees some look down on those who they see as inferior, including foreigners.

Bangladeshi man Khaled Rahman, a student here, says he has experienced no incidents of racism during his six months in Korea.

“Koreans are very polite, kind and always courteous. Racism has not been obvious to me.”

Ugandan student Chris Bridge agrees. He says Koreans are not racist, but believes problems do arise when foreigners are not able to speak English — a characteristic he believes locals expect of foreign nationals.

An Ethiopian man, who asked to remain anonymous, reckons there is an element of prejudice here.

“To an extent, Korea is a racist society,” he said. “I have had slurs and funny looks.

“Some Koreans try to fit you into their social fabric, not accepting you for who you are.” He suggested this was perhaps due to a historical lack of exposure to other cultures.

But he added that he has also experienced the “welcoming and embracing” side of Koreans toward foreigners.

Alphonso, a South African English teacher in Boryeong, South Chungcheong Province, who has been in Korea for five months, believes racism is more prevalent outside urban areas.

He said, “In rural areas there is more racism, maybe because of less direct contact with foreigners.”

But he continued, “It is not normal racism; it is not about your skin color, but about if you are Korean or not.”

Alphonso believes the problem is one among the nation’s youth. “Older people are nice and very friendly,” he added, explaining that he thinks wisdom comes with age.

“In five to 10 years, racism will be gone; Korea will be totally different.”

Senegalese man Diouf Serigne, who came here in 2005 and works on the American military base in Yongsan, says any racism in Korea is more a problem of institutions than people.

He gave the example of non-Koreans born in Korea not being issued with passports.

He said, “Without a Korean father, they will not recognize you as a citizen,” claiming such individuals are “citizens of this land and should have the same rights, including the right to leave, which they are being denied.”

Muneer Ahmad, who is from the disputed region of Kashmir on the Indian sub-continent and runs an Islamic book center in Itaewon, says Korea has no more of a problem than any other country.

“Korea is not racist — it is not right to judge an entire country,” he continued.

“There are some bad people here, but every country has the same problem. Racism is all over the world.

“There are all types of people in Korea, and racists are certainly not the majority.

“Every nation has people who are proud, and pride is a form of ignorance and arrogance, out of which racism is born.

“Knowledge is the answer. If you have a proper understanding of justice then you cannot be racist.

“Korea is not an enlightened country, so they can have a tendency to look down on you if you are not born here.”

A female Canadian English teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believes there is a lot of misunderstanding in Korean society.

She said many of the issues can be put down to ignorance, a lack of acceptance and even fear — all of which she has encountered.

One-year resident Mark Rogers, an English businessman, was among the naysayers. He said, “(Korea) is not a racist society. The only unpleasant thing I have noticed is bad behavior by youths.

“Koreans are the most welcoming people in the world. Many places are much more racist than Korea.”

Rogers reckons many issues may simply be put down to the language barrier.

“Sometimes, if you cannot speak Korean, they can seem as if they are being isolating, which may appear discriminatory, but, it is not intended as such.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Aussie Diggers Wasting Away on Inadequate Rations

SOME of Australia’s front-line troops are enduring dangerous weight loss, months after The Courier-Mail exposed their inadequate diets.

Some Diggers in Afghanistan have lost 15kg in a month, prompting doctors at the Tarin Kowt hospital to express grave concerns about malnutrition among troops.

“There are some serious nutritional issues out there,” one medico said.

It follows the revelation that they were forced to pay for their own combat boots and life insurance.

The worst-affected troops are those with 1st Battalion’s combat teams, who travel around Oruzgan Province.

They are restricted to an occasional fresh meal consisting mainly of meat.

But nutrition has improved for those at the main base camp at Tarin Kowt and forward operating bases elsewhere in Oruzgan province.

There are now 10 army cooks in the country and US forces have opened one of their dining facilities to relieve pressure on the much-criticised Dutch mess.

Field kitchens feed troops at the forward operating bases, with cooks such as Private Steven Trezise, from Myrtleford in Victoria, and Queenslander Lance Corporal Nathaniel Murdock preparing meals.

With limited equipment, their weekly menu includes barbecued spare ribs, pasta in sauces, curries, chicken fillets and bacon and eggs.

“It is a juggling act, especially the gas supply,” Private Trezise told The Courier-Mail at Combat Outpost Mashal in the Chora Valley as he prepared pasta bolognaise with vegetables and pork spare ribs.

“The soldiers are happy to see a fresh feed when they come back from patrol rather than a plastic bag.”

Private Trezise provides up to two fresh meals a day with occasional treats such as ice-cold soft drinks and ice cream.

In May this year, The Courier-Mail revealed the Defence Department had written to hundreds of Diggers being deployed to Afghanistan, advising them to buy extra life insurance to top up existing “inadequate” compensation.

Soldiers were required to sign a form either accepting or rejecting the extra insurance, costing up to $100 a month.

In earlier reports, The Courier-Mail revealed some soldiers were paying hundreds of dollars to replace ill-fitting combat boots with ones that wouldn’t hurt their feet.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somali Fury at ‘Al-Qaeda Killing’

Somali Islamists will avenge the raid in which a top al-Qaeda suspect was reportedly killed in Somalia, an al-Shabab commander has told the BBC.

Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan is believed to have been killed in a US military helicopter raid on Monday.

US agents have been hunting Nabhan for years over attacks on a hotel and an Israeli airliner in Kenya in 2002.

It is believed he fled to Somalia after the Mombasa attacks and was working with the al-Shabab group.

The al-Shabab commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak publicly, said the insurgents would retaliate against US interests.

“They will taste the bitterness of our response,” he told the BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan in the capital, Mogadishu.

Somali sources told the BBC that six helicopters were involved in the attack on Monday afternoon on two vehicles in the southern coastal town of Barawe, which is controlled by al-Shabab.

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

Culture Wars

Campaign Pushes for Open ‘Gays’ In Armed Forces

With allies in Congress, coalition hopes to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Throughout the summer and continuing into this fall, advocates of repealing both the U.S. military’s ban on homosexuality and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies instituted by President Clinton are touring the nation, hoping to persuade America that the time is ripe — with a Democratic president and Congress — to open the military to openly “gay” soldiers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

No Christmas in Texas?

As expressed in one of my favorite Christmas songs, as a transplanted Texan from Washington state, I still have difficulty getting in the mood of the season. As the hilarious country song “White Christmas in Houston” quips, “While you’re freezin’, throughout this Christmas season, we’ll be down here with Christmas cheer and flip-flops in the sand.” We may not have white Christmases in Houston — but some in the educational elite want to make sure it is not in Texas textbooks in any form.

A recommended revision to social studies books being proposed to the Texas State Board of Education would remove any reference to Christmas as part of our cultural heritage in favor of the well-known (?), highly recognized (?) and widely practiced (?) Hindu holiday of Diwali. The reason? A note from the “experts” explains that this assures that “the examples include the key holiday from each of the five major religions.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Chief: Embryos Are ‘Just a Handful of Cells’

Argues cloning ban ‘silly,’ scoffed as those who find it morally repugnant

TEL AVIV — There is no moral concern regarding cloning human beings since human embryos, which develop into a baby, are “only a handful of cells,” argued President Obama’s newly confirmed regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein.

“If scientists will be using and cloning embryos only at a very early stage when they are just a handful of cells (say, before they are four days old), there is no good reason for a ban (on cloning),” wrote Sunstein, who was confirmed by the Senate last week as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

“It is silly to think that ‘potential’ is enough for moral concern. Sperm cells have ‘potential’ and (not to put too fine a point on it) most people are not especially solicitous about them,” Sunstein wrote in a review of the 2003 book “Our Posthuman Future” by Francis Fukuyama.

Sunstein’s comparison is not firm, however, as sperm cells, unlike embryos, do not have the potential to develop into life on their own.

Sunstein, nevertheless, expounded on his attitude toward human cloning in a 2002 paper for the Harvard Law Review, “Is there a constitutional right to clone?”

WND obtained and reviewed Sunstein’s 17-page article in which he scoffed as those who find human cloning morally repugnant.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Airline Group Predicts 2009 Losses of $11 Billion

The International Air Transport Association projected Tuesday that the airline industry worldwide will lose $11 billion in 2009.

Together with 2008’s losses of over $16 billion, the industry will lose $27.8 billion in 2008 and 2009, giving the industry its worst two-year loss in history, IATA said.

IATA director general and chief executive Giovanni Bisignani noted that the industry group had previously projected a $9 billion loss for 2009, but the first-half loss alone was $6 billion.

This year, airlines will bring in $80 billion less in revenues than last year, and “an industry that loses $80 billion is in real trouble,” Bisignani said at a press conference to outline the trade group’s latest projections.

IATA, which cited a slow economic recovery underway, predicted a $3.8 billion loss for 2010, assuming that crude oil averages $72 a barrel, the average passenger fare paid increases 1 percent and gross revenues climb 4.6 percent over 2009’s.

While there is evidence that the worst is over, Bisignani raised concerns about the impact of the prolonged losses.

Large airlines were able to raise $15 billion “war chests” in the past 10 months, he said, but $12 billion of that was debt. Keeping so much money in reserve “means that critical investments in new fuel-efficient planes have been postponed,” Bisignani said.

“We have already seen that the price of oil is rising, and this could come back to bite us if we don’t convert this war chest into strategic investments at the right moment,” he said.

Other airlines have been unable to borrow money or sell stock to raise money, and banks aren’t loaning, he said.

“We could see some more casualties in the coming months,” he said.

Prior to 2008-2009, the industry’s worst period came in 2001 and 2002 after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks drove down demand. Bisignani said it took the industry 31/2 years to recover from the Sept. 11 attacks.

“This could be a long-lasting, structural change,” he said. “Even with better volumes, we don’t see industry revenues returning to 2008 volumes until 2012, 2013 at the earliest.”

For North American carriers including those in the United States, IATA is projecting a 2009 loss of $2.6 billion after a 2008 loss of $9.5 billion. In 2010, it sees a $1.9 billion loss for this region.

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

Animal Instincts

Zoophiles love and have sex with animals. Will the world ever accept them?


Being a “zoophile” in modern American society, Beck says, is “like being gay in the 1950s. You feel like you have to hide, that if you say it out loud, people will look at you like a freak.”

Now Beck believes he and other members of this minority sexual orientation, who often call themselves “zoos,” can follow the same path as the gay rights movement. Most researchers believe 2 to 8 percent of the population harbors forbidden desires toward animals, and Beck hopes this minority group can begin appealing to the open-minded for acceptance…

[Return to headlines]


Fred4Pres said...

Since I am part Norwegian, I do not truest Swedes.

Tuan Jim said...

I did forget to post a story about it - but the Norwegian Storting elections were on Monday. The Progress Party picked up a couple of seats (and is still the second largest party), but will apparently remain in the opposition because nobody wants to form a coalition with them (sound familiar?).