Friday, September 18, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/18/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/18/2009The big news from Down Under concerns former Guantanamo Bay client Mamdouh Habib, who is suing the Australian government for their alleged collusion in his purported torture at the hands of the Great Satan.

In other news, a 12-year-old schoolboy in Britain underwent a sex change over the holidays and returned for the autumn term as a girl.

Thanks to 4symbols, A Greek Friend, AA, C. Cantoni, CB, CSP, Diana West, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JCPA, JD, JP, KGS, Lurker from Tulsa, Nilk, TB, Tuan Jim, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Australia: NZ Succeeds at Fraction of Cost
Barack Obama and Free Trade
Slump Puts End to Spanish El-Dorado
Ben Lerner: Let Them Meet the Neighbors
Delivering the Goods
Diana West: When Did Opposition Become Racism?
Health Reformers Plan ‘Escalation’ Against ‘Enemies’
Huge Water Main Bursts, Floods Neighborhoods in Maryland City
Jindal Halts Funding of ACORN
Michelle Obama-Backed Farmers Market Knots Downtown Traffic
Natural Gas Producers to Start Lobbying Effort
Obama Sends Rosh Hashana Greeting to Jews Around the World
Obama Associate Implicated in Murder Plot
Obama’s Missile Offense
Obama’s Never Found Guilty by Association
Psychiatric Defense Likely in NY Wife Beheading
Sunstein: Obama, Not Courts, Should Interpret Law
Suspect in Terror Probe Admits Ties to Al Qaeda, Official Says
Threatening Note Forces Plane to Return to Miami
Unearthed! Obama’s Twisted ACORN Roots
Europe and the EU
Al-Qaida Threatens Terror Attacks in Germany After Election
Council of Europe Attacks Racism in Switzerland
EU: War on Homeschoolers Spreading?
Finland: Halla-Aho Case to Go to Court of Appeal
France: Happiness is No Metric for a Country’s Success
French Minister Besson to Visit Greece
Germany: Major Parties Court Immigrant Voters
Ireland: Four Reasons for a No, And Four More Not to Vote Yes
Ireland: Let’s Reassure the Greens and Embrace the Darkness
Italian Jewish Community: Fini Awarded Menorah on Campidoglio
Italy: Bossi: We Must Make Reforms, No Early Elections
Netherlands: Man Who Caused 11 Deaths Sent Home to Libya
Netherlands: Warned Court Let Notorious Human Trafficker Flee
Policing the English Defence League
Stubb: Missiles Will Stabilize the Baltic
UK: Atmosphere for Spies Called ‘Vile’
UK: British Police Training Libyan Force ‘Insult to Memory of PC Yvonne Fletcher’
UK: Children Given Police Escorts From School
UK: Mother Who Killed Disabled Daughter and Herself in Car Fire
UK: Sex Swap Children: Gender Dysphoria at a Young Age
UK: Schoolgirl Who Bit Police Officers Escapes Jail
UK: Woman Bleeds to Death After Doctor Accidentally Punctures Jugular While Inserting a Drip — and No Blood is Available for Transfusion
Ulster: Mob Tries to Spark Riot After Jailing of Dissident Mortar Trio
Who is Crazy in Holland Today?
North Africa
Threats for Breaking Morocco Fast
Israel and the Palestinians
Blocking the Truth of the Gaza War: How the Goldstone Commission Understated the Hamas Threat to Palestinian Civilians
Cast Lead: Goldstone, Laughable Anti-Semite Accusations
Meridor: Any Arab Acceptance of Israel Comes From Understanding of Its Strength
‘My Father is a Zionist, Loves Israel’
West Bank: Israel Captures Wanted Hamas Member
Window on Israel: The Goldstone Report — It’s So Bad, It’s Good
Middle East
Ahmadinejad: Iran Has No Need for Nuclear Arms, They Belong to the Past
Ahmadinejad Faces Test of Strength as Fresh Protests Sweep Iran
Lebanon-Press: Syria Protest to UN Over Hariri Death Inquiry
Obama, Sarkozy Discuss Bringing Iran ‘Into Compliance’
Sarkozy: Iran Working on Nukes Today
Soltanieh: Iran’s Nuclear Talks With West Are a ‘New Window of Opportunity’
Syria: Arab Press Freedom Website Blocked
Turkey: Syria Strategic Partners, Lift Visa Requirements
Turkey Aims at Full Economic Integration With Iraq, Minister
Frank Gaffney: “Reset” Translates as “Capitulation”
South Asia
Afghanistan: Adnkronos Reporter Shares the Daily Life of Italian Soldiers
Collusion Between Police and Extremists Cause of Deaths in Judicial Custody, Pakistani NGO Says
Malaysian Couple Face Cane Over Car Sex
Official: 25 Dead in NW Pakistan Suicide Attack
Thai Militants Kill 4 in South
Far East
Korea: We Must Remember the Incheon Landing
Philippines: Islamic Militant Arrested
Australia — Pacific
Australia: ‘One Woman Crime Wave’ Deported to NZ
Australia: Lawyer Tells Court Habib Case Outside Its Jurisdiction
Australia: Habib Case Raises Complex Issues
Australia: Keep Courts Out of Habib Case: Government Lawyersjoel Gibson
Australia: AFP Probes Colombian Rebel Links
Australia: Parents of Truants Face Welfare Cuts
Sub-Saharan Africa
Cast Lead: UN: Crimes Against Humanity. Shameful Report
Boat in Difficulty Rescued South of Malta
Britain ‘Should Take in Migrants When the Jungle is Razed’
Finland: More Cash for Refugee Centres
Frattini: Italy Respects All the Rules
Immigrants More Intolerant of Dutch Than Vice Versa
Korean Immigrants Fit in Better Than Other Ethnic Groups in U.S.
Obama: Legalize Illegals to Get Them Health Care
Spain: Rowboat Kids Transferred to Centre

Financial Crisis

Australia: NZ Succeeds at Fraction of Cost

WITH a fraction of the stimulus spending outlayed by the Rudd government, the battered New Zealand economy is on the verge of emerging from recession.

While Kevin Rudd concentrated on cash handouts and small-scale, shovel-ready projects, his cross-Tasman counterpart John Key took a different path.

The former international banker has focused on rebuilding confidence in the New Zealand economy, on seizing global opportunities and on “eliminating low-quality spending, and programs not aligned with the priorities of the new government”.

Wellington has spent only 4 per cent of its gross domestic product on stimulus.

Mr Key, who came to power at the height of the global meltdown, said four months ago: “It’s not a time to be dieting on debt. We have to make sure we don’t deliver deeper recession by allowing ourselves to blow our debt profile.”

He said that Australia was in a stronger economic situation when the global crisis hit, “so it has more room to move”.

He added that he got on well with the Prime Minister — who hosted a very successful official visit to Canberra and Sydney last month — but stressed that “I don’t believe we’re seeing the death of capitalism, or anything near it”, although recent history had shown the crucial importance of “properly functioning, well regulated financial markets”.

As with Australia, New Zealand, after six quarters of negative growth, is enjoying considerable help from China, whose economy, said the New Zealand Treasury in its latest monthly report, “is playing an important role in leading the recovery”.

The New Zealand Treasury’s latest monthly economic indicators confirmed that “stronger recovery is likely, due to improved global conditions, higher migration and increasing confidence”.

A spokesman for Mr Key said: “While our stimulus has not been as large as some other countries, notably the US, it has still been reasonably substantial.

“Unemployment is projected to continue rising. As the 2009 Budget shows, government debt is forecast to keep rising, as we borrow to maintain existing entitlements and maintain services. We continue to carefully monitor debt levels.

“Despite all this, Standard & Poor’s upgraded the NZ government’s rating after the 2009 budget, indicating confidence in the government’s fiscal strategy.”

Mr Key told reporters that “we may be out of the worst of the recession and starting to move into a growth phase”, adding that “lifting the long-term productivity of the economy is a completely different issue”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Barack Obama and Free Trade

Economic vandalism

A protectionist move that is bad politics, bad economics, bad diplomacy and hurts America. Did we miss anything?

YOU can be fairly sure that when a government slips an announcement out at nine o’clock on a Friday night, it is not proud of what it is doing. That is one of the only things that makes sense about Barack Obama’s decision to break a commitment he, along with other G20 leaders, reaffirmed last April: to avoid protectionist measures at a time of great economic peril. In every other way the president’s decision to slap a 35% tariff on imported Chinese tyres looks like a colossal blunder, confirming his critics’ worst fears about the president’s inability to stand up to his party’s special interests and stick to the centre ground he promised to occupy in office.

This newspaper endorsed Mr Obama at last year’s election (see article) in part because he had surrounded himself with enough intelligent centrists. We also said that the eventual success of his presidency would be based on two things: resuscitating the world economy; and bringing the new emerging powers into the Western order. He has now hurt both objectives. Deeply tyresome Last year the fear was that Mr Obama would give in to enormous protectionist pressure from Congress. By introducing the levy, Mr Obama has pandered to a single union, one that does not even represent a majority of American tyre-industry workers, and he has done so against the interests of everyone else (see article). America’s tyre-makers, who have more or less given up making low-end tyres at home in favour of importing them (often from joint-ventures in guess where) declined to support the application for import “relief”. Consumers will have to pay more. The motor and garage trades will be harmed. And no one can seriously imagine that any American tyre-making job will be saved; firms will simply import cheap tyres from other low-cost places like India and Brazil.

One might argue that these tariffs don’t matter much. They apply, after all, only to imports worth a couple of billion dollars last year, hardly the stuff of a great trade war. China is incandescent with rage; but China is a master of theatrical overreaction. Its actual response so far has been the minor one of announcing an anti-dumping investigation into American chicken and car-parts exports. The whole affair might blow over, much as did the furore surrounding George Bush’s selective steel tariffs (much worse ones than Mr Obama’s on tyres) back in 2002. Presidents, after all, sometimes have to throw a bit of red meat to their supporters: Mr Obama needs to keep the unions on side to help his health-reform bill.

That view seems naive. It is not just that workers in all sorts of other industries that have suffered at the hands of Chinese competitors will now be emboldened to seek the same kind of protection from a president who has given in to the unions at the first opportunity. The tyre decision needs to be set into the context of a string of ominously protectionist policies which started within weeks of the inauguration with a nasty set of “Buy America” provisions for public-works contracts. The president watered these down a bit, but was not brave enough to veto. Next, the president stayed silent as Congress shut down a project that was meant to lead to the opening of the border to Mexican trucks, something promised in the NAFTA agreement of 1994. Besides these sins of commission sit the sins of omission: the president has done nothing at all to advance the three free-trade packages that are pending in Congress, with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, three solid American allies who deserve much better. And much more serious than that, because it affects the whole world, is his failure to put anything worthwhile on the table to help revive the moribund Doha round of trade talks. Mr Bush’s tariffs, like the Reagan-era export restraints on Japanese cars and semiconductors, came from a president who was fundamentally committed to free trade. Mr Obama’s, it seems, do not.

America is needed to lead. The global trading system has many enemies, but in recent times the man in the White House could be counted as its main champion. As the driver of the world’s great opening, America has gained hugely in terms of power and prestige, but the extraordinary burst of growth that globalisation has triggered has also lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty over the past few decades and brought lower prices to consumers everywhere. The global recession threatens to undo some of that, as country after country is tempted to subsidise here and protect there. World trade is likely to slump by 10% in 2009, and a report from the London-based Global Trade Alert claimed this week that, on average, a G20 member has broken the no-protectionism pledge once every three days since it was made. For Mr Obama now to take up the no-protection cause at the G20’s forthcoming meeting in Pittsburgh would, alas, be laughable. But if America does not set an example, no one else is likely to.

Dumb and dumber Nor is the potential fallout from Mr Obama’s wrongheaded decision limited to trade. Evidence of a weak president being pushed leftward might cause investors to worry whether he will prove similarly feeble when it comes to reining in the vast deficits he is now racking up; and that might spook the buyers of bonds that finance all those deficits. Looming large among these, of course, are the Chinese. Deteriorating trade relations between the world’s number one debtor and its number one creditor are enough to keep any banker awake at night.

And America needs China for a lot more than T-bonds. Any hope of securing a climate-change agreement at Copenhagen in December on a successor treaty to Kyoto will require close co-operation between America and China. So does the work of negotiating with North Korea on its nuclear weapons. And as for Iran, where America is keen to seek a fresh round of UN sanctions in the hope of forcing it to scrap its nuclear programme, China holds a power of veto at the Security Council. Under the relevant trade laws, Mr Obama had the absolute discretion not to impose the recommended tyre tariffs on the grounds of overall economic interest or national security. Given everything that is at stake, his decision not to exercise it amounts to an act of vandalism.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Slump Puts End to Spanish El-Dorado

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 17 — The time has come to bid farewell to the Spanish El Dorado as a wished-for destination for immigrants arriving from Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The trend is visible in the figures published in today’s edition of El Pais, showing arrivals in Spain and returns to homeland, the former in continual decline, the latter growing day by day. And the trend has been confirmed to ANSAmed by sources inside Spain’s Interior Ministry, who stressed that, more than the economic recession, the country is becoming less attractive to would-be immigrants through the increasing number of repatriations and preventative measures thanks to cooperation between police forces and the accords being reached with countries of origin, which is proving the best deterrent to the flow of irregular migrants. And the new reform of legislation affecting foreigners, the fourth in the past nine years, which should be getting past its first parliamentary hurdle today, will increase restrictions further and lead to that “more orderly immigration”, wished for by the socialist government. On the one hand, the first seven months of 2009 has seen the number of boat landings diminish by 40%; on the other, the number of family members arriving in Spain to join partners already there has sunk, with 38,279 residence permits being granted up to June 30 2009 compared to the 84,410 for the whole of 2008 and the 128,161 for 2007. (ANSAmed). “In order to have a member of your family come to join you in Spain, you have to provide evidence that you can support them financially and that you have all the other requisites,” Gustavo Fajardo of the Association of Colombians told El Pais, ‘7,000 breadwinners have been unable to bring their children to Spain because they have lost their jobs; many have also lost their accommodation, have run out of unemployment benefit and have gone underground”. Confirmation of this trend comes in the figures for enrolments of foreign-born school children at the start of this school year: although the numbers are still rising, the rise 50% down on that for last year. Meanwhile, Spain’s record level of unemployment, already at the level of 18.5% on EU figures, and heading for 20% of the working population by 2010, has, according to the OECD, caused a precipitous slide in the number of immigrants being taken on in their countries of origin. The authorities in Cordoba province, a destination for armies of seasonal workers on the olive harvest, have today communicated that no foreign workers will be included for the coming harvest season as priority in filling the estimated 5,300 vacancies is to be given to unemployed Spaniards. Many Moroccans have opted to return to their homeland for the time being without taking advantage of the voluntary return programme offered by the government, which would bind them to promising not to return to Spain over the coming three years. Catholic NGOs are opposing the restrictive regulations contained in the law reforms as discriminatory, leaving illegal immigrants without healthcare or education. But support for their protests is not very widespread in a country feeling the bitter winds of economic recession. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Ben Lerner: Let Them Meet the Neighbors

The people representing the town of Standish, Mich., recently learned that they will not be allowed to see the Guantanamo Bay detention facility firsthand and gather information on what is involved in handling the prisoners who may soon be their newest residents. Why is Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates denying them the opportunity to visit Gitmo and see the dangers presented by more than 200 of the most hard-core jihadists in the world?

As President Obama scrambles to meet a self-imposed deadline of January 2010 for closing down Gitmo, he has his eye on a maximum security prison in Standish as a possible destination for transferring detainees. Some local leaders representing Standish support such a measure — the community’s economy has been hit hard these past few months, and Michigan’s own budget woes are forcing the state to consider shutting down its “Standish Max” prison, a major employer in town. Sending Gitmo detainees to Standish Max, they argue, will save the prison and the jobs that go with it…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Delivering the Goods

The United States rose up from a handful of rebellious colonies to become the richest and most powerful nation in the world. Why? Because we led the world in production. For 200 years, America delivered the goods.

But, in the 1970’s, all that suddenly changed. For the first time in history, the U.S. started having trade deficits. That means our net consumption exceeded our net production. And, every single year since 1975, our nation has consistently consumed more than it produced. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that’s not sustainable.

The depressing truth is America is no longer a world leader in production. We are trailing the pack. We are now a debtor nation, and our biggest creditor is China. — What the hell happened? And how will we ever recover? And, the more disturbing question is, what will happen to America if we don’t?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Diana West: When Did Opposition Become Racism?

The answer, of course, is when we elected president a Marxist with an African father. Used to be, what with lefties of the Caucasian variety in the White House, or in the majority in Congress, political opposition was marginalized as “partisanship” (often modified by “rancorous”), and denounced as the “politics of personal destruction.” The people didn’t like partisanship, we were incessantly told, an argument that ultimately peters outs into nonsense.

But “racism” — what a gift. People abhor racism, and certainly don’t want to tarred as racists. Thus, the new tack: opposition as racism, which is the subject of this week’s column. Jimmy Carter has taken the lead in this shameful strategy, attempting, as noted below, to asphyxiate democratic debate with racism’s stranglehold charge. Lawrence Auster takes this spectacle to its logical conclusion, raising the specter of “a dictatorship enforced by the charge of racism.”

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Health Reformers Plan ‘Escalation’ Against ‘Enemies’

The field plan for a series of grassroots demonstrations Tuesday to push President Obama’s health care agenda show the events will be tightly scripted with plans for “escalation,” but organizers insist there is no comparison to rowdy town hall meetings and “tea party” protests challenging White House policies that they say were staged by conservatives.

Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which is backed by a coalition of labor unions and liberal groups including ACORN and, organized the protests to target insurance companies and drafted the field plan that describes the demonstrations as part of its “insurance enemies project.”

The document, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, details specific talking points, tactics, props and strategies to escalate the protests. It lists goals that include action that “mobilizes our base by animating existing anger about private insurers.”

“There is nothing top-down about this,” said HCAN national spokeswoman Jacki Schechner, who authenticated the documents. “It is how you run a campaign.”

The HCAN field plan dictates that each protest will include a minimum of 30 participants, target only health care insurers CIGNA, WellPoint and United Health Care and showcase what it calls “victims,” or people who have either lost insurance, can’t afford it or were denied coverage because of preexisting medical conditions.

“We built a campaign to win health care reform and that is exactly what we are working on,” Ms. Schechner said.

The field plan says the protests should attract media coverage that “creates villains or enemies that serve as a contrast with our side; validates the need for affordability and the public health insurance option; [and] forces the other side to respond.”

David Palombi, senior vice president of corporate communications for WellPoint, said the “enemies project” is counterproductive to the debate and will do nothing to expand access, reduce costs or improve the quality of health care in the United States.

“It is extraordinarily disappointing that it comes at a time when [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] and others are calling for a civil discussion.”

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, became emotional at a press conference Thursday where she expressed fears that the harsh rhetoric of the debate would lead to violence.

The White House and congressional Democratic charged that the fierce protest against the health care plan this summer at town hall meetings and widespread “tea party” protests were “Astroturf,” or fake grassroots uprisings manufactured by conservatives to undermine the reform effort.

Still, the anger expressed at the town halls were credited with turning some lawmakers against the health care plan and raising doubts about the bill passing this year.

Conservative activists defended the outpouring of opposition to the Democrat’s agenda as genuine.

“The politicians in Washington who think this movement is Astroturf had better think again,” said Dennis E. Whitfield, executive vice president of the American Conservative Union. “This is the grass roots coming alive. … This is for real.”

HCAN designed the demonstrations set for Tuesday to “help shape new national narrative around the national healthcare debate” by vilifying insurance companies, according to the field plan.

The strategy aims to sway Capitol Hill lawmakers by making them chose between voting for the president’s health care reforms or siding with insurance companies.

The field plan outlines demonstrations for cities and towns across the country will share banner “Big Insurance: Sick of It,” and the slogan, “If the insurance companies win, we lose.”

The protestors are instructed to confront top officials at the insurance companies and demand they sign a declaration titled, “Stop Denying Our Care.” The declaration pledges the company will not meddle in patient’s medical decision, deny or drop coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition, terminate any policy or reward employees for denying care or rejecting claims.

The declaration concludes with a pledge not to “use any resources — including funds, employees, and facilities — to oppose any aspect of the health reform proposals supported by President Obama and being considered by members of the United States Congress.”

Tactics listed in the field plan include “large scale rally or march to insurance company with victims leading delegation in to speak to CEO or other spokesperson.” It suggests materials/props including signs, pictures and “good stories that embody our key message.”

Under the heading “escalation,” the plan advises: “We could start with a delivery to the office and then escalate by bird-dogging the CEO or company by bringing smaller delegations every day to this location or others until we get an answer.”

Another tactic described in the document is “vigils featuring faith lenders [or] clergy” who visits insurance company office with the demand. For props, it suggest using “spokespeople who can wear clerical uniforms.”

It directs the protestors to “escalate by increasing the involvement of congregations to take small actions; hosting more vigils that invite the insurance companies to repent.”

The HCAN demonstrations are planned throughout the country, with flagship protest Atlanta, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Ind., Minneapolis, Minn., and Milwaukee, Wis. — cities where the targeted health insurance companies have a large corporate presence.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Huge Water Main Bursts, Floods Neighborhoods in Maryland City

(CNN) — A huge water main burst under a road in the suburban Baltimore community of Dundalk, Maryland, Friday, sending muddy water erupting over neighborhood streets and down highway ramps, officials said.

Muddy water envelops the community of Dundalk, Maryland, on Friday. Many were left without power.

1 of 2 The 72-inch main was shut about two hours after it ruptured, Baltimore County Chief Executive Jim Smith told CNN.

No injuries were reported, Smith said, but he urged residents to “shelter in place” and not to go into the knee- to chest-high water under any circumstances.

“This is not a game,” Smith warned.

Authorities set up a command center near the site of the break and swift-water boat rescue teams were standing by, he added. See water main break damage “

Resident David Johnson said he felt helpless as he stood outside his house and watched the dirty brown water creep up his lawn and approach his front door. It stopped inches away and his basement stayed dry. The worst part now, Johnson said, is the smell.

“Like sewage,” he said.

Shannon Woerner was at home in nearby Essex, Maryland, when he heard the news about the water main break — and the call for boats.

He loaded his kayak in his truck and headed to the scene.

“I just wanted to see if I could help,” he said. Woerner said he assisted by ferrying car keys and other items across flooded streets to people who were cut off from their homes by the water.

Standing at the corner of Court and McShane streets, Mike Pell, 34, watched the water slowly recede after the main was shut.

Water covered the wheels of his pickup truck.

“My basement’s done,” he said, pointing to his shoulder to show the height of the water inside, where he and his fiancée had their bedroom. “All of our clothes are ruined,” he said.

He managed to get his two children, ages 2 and 3, to a dry area on the first floor of the house. “Now I wonder who’s going to pay for this. We don’t have flood insurance — this area doesn’t flood,” Pell said, shaking his head.

Samantha Hansley, 21, could only watch from a dry hill and wonder if her truck would survive the deluge. It sat a block away in 2 feet of water. Hansley and her boyfriend had been driving out of the floodwaters when they stopped to try to help some stranded drivers. “Our truck just died,” she said.

A manager at the Box and Save grocery store not far from the break site said the entire parking lot was flooded.

Cathy Geisler said customers were still in the store Friday afternoon when police came to tell everyone to evacuate, except for essential personnel.

“We had customers, we were still doing business, then the electricity went out and we escorted everyone out of the store,” Geisler said.

She and another manager stayed behind in a building with no power. As she spoke on the phone with CNN, Geisler said police had come back to tell them to leave immediately and she abruptly hung up the phone.

Aerial video from CNN affiliates WMAR and WBAL showed a collapsed roadway with massive amounts of water exploding over the area. Entire neighborhoods had flooded streets, and many residents were evacuated, authorities said.

Eric Braughman, who lives on one of the flooded streets, told CNN he had “thought something was up” with the water Thursday when his faucets discharged brownish-orange water.

“My wife didn’t give the baby a bath because it didn’t look safe,” Braughman said.

Nearly 1,000 customers were without power, according to Baltimore Gas and Electric Company’s Web site.

Dundalk sits just outside of Baltimore, between the Patapsco and Back rivers.

[Return to headlines]

Jindal Halts Funding of ACORN

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal today cut off state funding for the community activist group ACORN.

Jindal has also blocked any state agency for entering into contracts with the organization.

The executive order also cuts off any future state funding of ACORN, on the heels of a series of embarrassing incidents for the organization.

The governor’s action follows a subpoena of documents from the group’s national headquarter office in New Orleans.

According to Jindal’s executive order, “ACORN’s actions make clear that financial involvement with ACORN is contrary to the public policy of the State of Louisiana and the best interests of its citizens.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Michelle Obama-Backed Farmers Market Knots Downtown Traffic

A farmers market inspired and endorsed by first lady Michelle Obama snarled traffic Thursday in downtown Washington as commuters and pedestrians found themselves trying to navigate a security gantlet. FreshFarms Market had lobbied furiously to peddle its wares on Vermont Avenue between H and I streets NW, every Thursday for the next six weeks. Its organizers promised to bring locally grown food to Washingtonians in the shadow of the White House. They dropped the first lady’s name in their conversations. The result: The market was opened to the public Thursday. It closed down Vermont Avenue. “It’s a great day for farmers,” said Mary Ellen Taylor of Virginia’s Endless Summer Harvest, which offered customers hydroponic lettuce. It wasn’t such a great day for commuters. Through the day, traffic near McPherson Square was in turmoil and the cacophony of horns and squeaking brakes could be heard. A woman in a wheelchair had to pick her way through a maze of iron gates to get to work at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s good to have a choice,” said hot dog vendor T.K. Woldemak, who had to move his stand around the block to make way for Thursday’s vendors. “But is it worthwhile to block the whole road?” D.C. Department of Transportation officials initially balked at granting a permit for the market but relented quickly and on Thursday morning, a fleet of bright orange trucks pulled up in front of the Veterans Administration building, police were dispatched and gates went up. DDOT didn’t bother to inform the public of the shutdown until 10 a.m. “I didn’t know about it,” cab driver Derishe Alambo said as he hastily handed over the luggage to a fare, unable to get his client to his destination and forcing the man to walk a block out of his way. After buying some cheese, eggs, potatoes and kale, Michelle Obama hailed farmers markets as a great way to get healthy food to inner cities. “The kind of food that we put into our body gives us the energy to get through the day,” she said. Passengers on Metro’s L2 found out on their way to work that their bus would have to take a detour around McPherson Square to accommodate Thursday’s shutdown. “The farmers market has been causing some angst,” Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told WTOP radio. The VA seemed to have been caught off guard. With the Vermont Street entrance closed, some 50 regularly scheduled visitors and contractors were turned away because they didn’t have the appropriate government pass to enter on the I Street side, a security guard said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Natural Gas Producers to Start Lobbying Effort

WASHINGTON — Natural gas producers are planning a major lobbying effort to shape climate change legislation in the Senate, aiming for incentives to boost the use of their resource in power plants and vehicles.

The aggressive push is meant to make up for the gas lobby’s relative absence from climate-change negotiations in the House, where a bill that passed in June reserved most goodies for coal-burning utilities and manufacturers seeking incentives to shield them from the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s only when legislation is introduced that changes it from a level playing field to an unlevel playing field that we say, ‘Wait a minute, you are rewarding those fuels that are less clean than natural gas,’ “ said Larry Nichols, chief executive of Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy.

For many of the companies, Washington’s preference for coal couldn’t come at a worse time. After several years of high prices and massive new discoveries such as North Texas’ Barnett Shale, the price of gas has fallen to a seven-year low.

A supply glut is partly to blame. So gas kingpins like Dallas’ T. Boone Pickens have asked Congress to underwrite new uses for natural gas, including a program to convert trucking fleets from diesel to natural gas.

Other gas producers are also touting the fuel’s green credentials, since it emits 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal. They emphasize that new fields are near East Coast cities — trying to break the view that gas is found only in Texas and Louisiana — and echo Pickens’ argument that domestically produced gas could help reduce oil imports.

The gas lobby’s new outfit, the America’s Natural Gas Alliance, plans an $80 million campaign to tout its aims with ads in national and regional publications. The group is united in opposition to new oil and gas taxes proposed by the Obama administration, as well as a House bill that would federally regulate hydraulic fracturing — the water-and-chemical-infused drilling method used to produce most gas in the U.S.

They’re also winning some allies in the environmental lobby. The Sierra Club, for instance, agrees that natural gas could be a bridge fuel as power plants reduce their use of coal. On Thursday, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope lobbied Capitol Hill along with Aubrey McClendon, chairman and chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, one of the biggest players in the Barnett Shale.

“Basically, the House promised coal that it will get a shot at the future by investing heavily” in clean coal, said Dave Hamilton, director of global warming and energy programs for the Sierra Club. “The problem is by not inserting incentives for fuel switching, they are just passing on what are millions and millions of tons of quick carbon dioxide reductions.”

The gas lobby wants senators to create a “bridge fuel credit,” which would reward utilities that switch from coal to natural gas.

Fuel switching raises concerns in Texas, where gas price volatility has wreaked havoc with consumers’ electric bills. The gas producers say today’s huge reserves mean that gas won’t be in short supply anytime soon, so prices are likely to stay between $5 and $8 per thousand cubic feet.

“Abundance is what will ensure price stability,” said David Trice, chairman of Newfield Exploration Co., a Houston-based independent oil and gas producer.

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

Obama Sends Rosh Hashana Greeting to Jews Around the World

US President Barack Obama recorded a video greeting to Jews around the world on Thursday, just ahead of Rosh Hashana.

“As members of the Jewish faith here in America and around the world gather to celebrate the High Holidays, I want to extend my warmest wishes for this New Year. L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu — may you have a good year, and may you be inscribed for blessing in the Book of Life,” Obama said in the greeting

On Israel, he said, “Let us work to achieve lasting peace and security for the state of Israel, so that the Jewish state is fully accepted by its neighbors, and its children can live their dreams free from fear. That is why my Administration is actively pursuing the lasting peace that has eluded Israel and its Arab neighbors for so long.”

“Michelle and I wish all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah a healthy, peaceful and sweet New Year,” Obama said at the end of the greeting.

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

Obama Associate Implicated in Murder Plot

The sub-headline over the article says it all: “The investigation into a cop killing in the ‘70s leads to a law professor who helped launch Barack Obama’s political career.” The law professor is former Communist terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, a leader of the Weather Underground known for praising mass murderer Charles Manson.

Writer Peter Jamison, who is based in San Francisco, where the cop killing occurred, spent months working on the story and developed many different sources of information. Jamison, who can’t be dismissed as a right-winger pursuing a partisan agenda designed to make Obama look bad, examined the evidence in the 1970 Park Police Station bombing case. He finds that it goes straight to Dohrn and other members of the Weather Underground, including her husband, fellow terrorist Bill Ayers, now a professor of education at the University of Illinois.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Missile Offense

It’s better these days to be a U.S. adversary than its friend.

President Obama promised he would win America friends where, under George W. Bush, it had antagonists. The reality is that the U.S. is working hard to create antagonists where it previously had friends.

That’s one conclusion to draw from President Obama’s decision yesterday to scrap a missile-defense agreement the Bush Administration negotiated with Poland and the Czech Republic. Both governments took huge political risks-including the ire of their former Russian overlords-in order to accommodate the U.S., which wanted the system to defend against a possible Iranian missile attack. Don’t expect either government to follow America’s lead anytime soon.

“If the Administration approaches us in the future with any request, I would be strongly against it,” Jan Vidim, a conservative Czech lawmaker who voted for the system, told the Associated Press.

The White House justifies its decision by claiming to have new intelligence showing that Iran’s long-range missile capabilities are not as advanced as previously believed. Instead, it intends to upgrade and deploy currently available missile interceptors that are useful mainly for intercepting short- and medium-range missiles, where, it says, Iranian capability “is developing more rapidly than previously projected.”

We’re all for deploying interceptors to stop Iranian missiles of every range. But the Administration’s argument is difficult to credit, not least because our sources told us as early as February that the Administration was prepared to abandon those sites-which is to say, well before the allegedly new intelligence became available.

It’s also hard to square the intelligence community’s sanguine assessment with Iran’s successful launch of the solid-fuel Sejil missile in May. With an estimated range of 1,560 miles, the Sejil could deliver a one-ton payload as far as Warsaw. That cannot be comforting when the International Atomic Energy Agency is now saying that Iran has “sufficient information” to build an atomic bomb and will also “overcome problems” involved in its delivery system.

The Administration’s likelier motive for scrapping the interceptors is that it hopes to win Russia’s vote at the U.N. Security Council for tougher sanctions on Iran. Maybe the Russians have secretly agreed to such a quid pro quo, though publicly they were quick to deny it following yesterday’s decision.

And as Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov has noted, Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin benefits by keeping the Iranian crisis on a low boil, because the threat of a Middle East crisis drives energy prices up while putting U.S. interests at risk. Russia also likes spooning out dollops of diplomatic help at the U.N. in exchange for material Western concessions. This time, the concession was missile defense. Next time, perhaps, the West can be seduced into trading away the pro-Western government of Georgia, or even Ukraine.

That’s hardly an idle fear. It has been the tragic fate of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe to be treated as bargaining chips in the designs of their more powerful neighbors. Their inclusion in NATO and EU was supposed to have buried that history, but Russia’s new assertiveness, including its willingness to cut off energy supplies in winter and invade Georgia last year, is reviving powerful fears. Officials in Warsaw surely noticed that President Obama cancelled the missile system 70 years to the day that the Soviet Union invaded Poland as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany.

The U.S. decision also undermines the credibility of the U.S. nuclear defense umbrella. The Bush Administration sought to develop a global defense posture in part to reassure allies that they don’t need their own nuclear deterrent, even as rogue regimes seek nuclear arms and the missiles to deliver them. America’s Europe reversal tells other countries that they can’t rely on the U.S. so it’s best to follow the Israeli path and develop their own weapon and defenses. For that matter, this also makes the U.S. East Coast less safe; the ground-based system in Alaska and California covers the East, but barely. The Polish and Czech sites were to provide added protection.

The European switcheroo continues Mr. Obama’s trend of courting adversaries while smacking allies. His Administration has sought warmer ties with Iran, Burma, North Korea, Russia and even Venezuela. But it has picked trade fights with Canada and Mexico, sat on trade treaties with Colombia and South Korea, battled Israel over West Bank settlements, ignored Japan in deciding to talk with North Korea, and sanctioned Honduras for its sin of resisting the encroachments of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

We’re reminded of the rueful quip, by scholar Bernard Lewis, that the problem with becoming friends with the U.S. is that you never know when it will shoot itself in the foot.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Never Found Guilty by Association

Suppose it was revealed that the pastor who had married George and Laura Bush, baptized their two daughters and ministered to their spiritual needs for 20 years was a raving white supremacist who, from the pulpit, preached the separation of the races, claimed that the promiscuity of African-Americans had quickened the spread of AIDS and mused about how America might be improved if black people were sent back to Africa.

Or what if Mr. Bush, while president, had appointed an admitted neo-Nazi to a senior advisory post within his administration, a man who openly endorsed the use of child labour in Third World sweatshops and accused all Muslims of being terrorists or terrorist sympathizers hellbent on the destruction of Western civilization?

Or how about former vice-president Dick Cheney, the American left’s favourite dark prince? What if it were revealed he had been one of eight members of a foundation board that had also included an ex-mercenary who, while never convicted of an assassination, nonetheless boasted about of having shot at several Third World leaders and lamented aloud how he’d wished he’d done more?

The leftist blogosphere would never believe that Messrs. Bush and Cheney were unaware of the radical positions taken by these associates. Lefty bloggers like Daily Kos and Moveon.orgwould see these affiliations as proof positive of a secret Evangelical- fascist agenda submerged deep within the administration bent on provoking wars of aggression for commercial gain. And the bloggers would be cheered from the sidelines by CNN, the New York Times, CNBC, CBS and National Public Radio.

Now what if on top of all this, it was revealed that George Bush had once done work for an organization that then stuffed ballot boxes to get him elected and routinely counselled clients on how to cheat on their taxes?

Barack Obama is guilty of associations similar to all of these less than eight months into his administration.

The most recent disclosures are about Acorn, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, of which Mr. Obama was not only once a prominent member, but which he had hoped to involve in, among other things, next year’s U. S. census that will help determine the number of Congressional districts in Democratfriendly inner cities.

Several Acorn employees have recently been caught on tape counselling apparent inner city residents on how to cheat on their taxes, and more than a dozen others have been charged with submitting fraudulent voter registrations on behalf of the Democrats in last fall’s presidential election.

Most members of the American media are wilfully blind to the possibility of a pattern in all this. They refuse to see how the President’s past associations might reveal a reflexively radical nature Mr. Obama has worked had to disguise.

The minister who performed Mr. Obama’s marriage to Michelle, Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, who baptized their two girls and was the family’s pastor for 20 years, of course has said many famous and inflammatory things. Best known is Rev. Wright’s call for blacks to sing God Damn America, rather than God Bless America. Even since Mr. Obama’s inauguration, though, his former preacher has continued to blame plots by whites and Jews for America’s troubles.

Then there is Van Jones, Mr. Obama’s so-called “green jobs czar,” who resigned earlier this month after it was discovered that he was a self-described “rowdy communist” and black nationalist who had as recently as four years ago signed a “Truther” petition. (A Truther is someone who believes the Bush White House or CIA were really behind the 9/11 attacks.) On the night after the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Jones had helped organize a vigil at which speakers denounced America, expressed sympathy for “America’s victims” around the world and stated their solidarity with Muslims.

And, of course, Mr. Obama had sat for three years on the eight-person board of Chicago’s Woods Fund with William Ayers, an unrepentant ‘60s radical and former member of the Weather Underground, who still brags about setting bombs in laboratories and businesses with connections to the Vietnam war.

On far less evidence, most Western journalists were able to convince themselves that George Bush was the most dangerous, illegitimate president ever. Yet they give Barack Obama a free ride.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Psychiatric Defense Likely in NY Wife Beheading

(AP) — BUFFALO, N.Y. — A man accused of beheading his wife at the Muslim-American television station they founded is likely to pursue a psychiatric defense in the murder case.

Muzzammil Hassan (moo-ZAHM’-mel HAH’-sahn) is scheduled to be tried in January for the killing of Aasiya (AH’-see-ya) Hassan at the offices of Bridges TV in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park.

During a pretrial hearing in Erie County Court on Friday, attorney James Harrington says a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Aasiya’s estate is holding up psychiatric testing. But he says he’s considering a defense of extreme emotional disturbance focusing on his client’s state of mind at the time he’s accused of killing his wife in February.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Sunstein: Obama, Not Courts, Should Interpret Law

‘Beliefs and commitments’ of nation’s leader should supersede judges

The interpretation of federal law should be made not by judges but by the beliefs and commitments of the U.S. president and those around him, according to President Obama’s newly confirmed regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein.

“There is no reason to believe that in the face of statutory ambiguity, the meaning of federal law should be settled by the inclinations and predispositions of federal judges. The outcome should instead depend on the commitments and beliefs of the President and those who operate under him,” argued Sunstein.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Suspect in Terror Probe Admits Ties to Al Qaeda, Official Says

(CNN) — Najibullah Zazi, the man at the center of a probe into a suspected terror plot against a target in the New York area, has admitted ties to al Qaeda, an administration official familiar with the matter told CNN Friday.

Either a plea deal or charges are possible, the official said.

The terror plot that came to light this week following raids in New York may have been targeting a major transportation center, sources close to the investigation told CNN on Thursday.

There was planning and preparation for an attack, presumably in the New York area, where there would be a large number of people and where security screening is lax such as a large railroad or subway station, essentially where there is no airport-style screening, the sources said.

Zazi, a 24-year-old Colorado resident, met this week with FBI agents in Denver as his lawyer disputed a report that bomb-making plans were found on the man’s computer.

Federal agents searched Najibullah Zazi’s apartment and another home in the same Denver suburb on Wednesday in connection with the terrorism investigation. A law enforcement official told CNN that diagrams showing how to make bombs were found on the computer that Zazi had with him when he was stopped in New York during a recent visit, but his lawyer, Arthur Folsom, dismissed that allegation.

Authorities are taking the plot seriously, because, the sources said, they think it involves “real-deal terrorists” operating and planning an attack in America. Watch why Colorado man is being questioned by authorities “

Because of that fear, an unprecedented level of resources is being devoted to the investigation, the sources said. That includes the placement of a hostage rescue team in New York for possible raids and the deployment of additional resources to the Denver area in Colorado, where another phase of the probe is taking place.

The federal terrorism probe emerged Monday with a series of raids in the New York borough of Queens.

A former counterterrorism official who has been briefed on the investigation said bomb instructions were found, but could not say where.

The former official said backpacks, computers and maps were found during the searches in New York, and field tests turned up positive for explosives. But initial tests often yield false positives, and the former official was unaware whether more definitive tests had been concluded.

The backpacks support a theory that an attack similar to the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, Spain, was being planned.

The Madrid bombings — coordinated attacks on four morning-rush commuter trains — killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.

“There’s no diagram of a bomb. There’s no information like that,” Folsom told reporters as he walked his client to his second meeting with federal agents. If something like that had turned up on Zazi’s computer, he asked, “Do you really think the FBI would have allowed us to walk out of here last night?”

Zazi, an Afghan national, gave writing, fingerprint and DNA samples to FBI agents Wednesday during a “very friendly, very cordial” interview, Folsom said. He said Zazi has no ties to terrorism, and he thinks his client drew investigators’ attention “because he stayed at a house owned by an old friend of his who was under observation from the FBI.”

According to law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation, the Colorado searches were part of a probe that began with Zazi and led to New York.

Zazi has driven limousines for First ABC Transportation in suburban Aurora, near Denver International Airport, for about six months, according to a worker who answered the phone at the company.

The man, who identified himself only as “Joe,” said he was startled to hear Zazi was under investigation. He said Zazi was a hard-working man who was single-handedly supporting his family.

“He is a young, nerdy, kind of good kid — nothing to do with religious or anything,” the man said. “He is a kid.”

Joe said co-workers called Zazi “the bearded one” in a lighthearted way. When he heard that Zazi might be associated with a bomb plot, he said, “I was literally laughing.”

“I agree with his lawyer he has nothing to do with that kind of stuff. His character is much better than that,” Joe said.

The case began with a New York police informant, with authorized FBI wiretaps used to further develop the case, the former counterterrorism official said. Agents launched the raids after police stopped Zazi on the George Washington Bridge during a recent visit to New York, raising concerns that he would figure out he was under surveillance, the former official told CNN.

Wednesday, Folsom said Zazi stayed in one of the apartments that was raided after he drove to New York from Denver to sort out a business issue. Sources close to the investigation told CNN that the Queens raids were spurred by a confluence of events in the city — including the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session and President Obama’s Wall Street speech on Monday.

It’s thought to be the first time Afghan nationals have been suspected of involvement in a terror plot targeting the United States. But FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee Wednesday that he did not think the investigation had revealed any “imminent danger.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Threatening Note Forces Plane to Return to Miami

MIAMI (AP) — A threatening note forced a Boston-bound airplane to return to a Miami airport about 45 minutes after it took off.

Airport spokesman Greg Chin says a note found in one of the plane’s bathrooms Thursday night said an explosive device might be on board. American Airlines Flight 1640 had departed Miami International Airport about 9:30 p.m.

Airline spokesman Billy Sanez says the plane was searched after the 168 passengers and six crewmembers disembarked safely. He declined to say if anything suspicious was found.

The passengers stayed overnight in Miami and were scheduled to leave for Boston on Friday morning.

The threat remains under investigation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Unearthed! Obama’s Twisted ACORN Roots

Track timeline of president’s ties to group immersed in scandals

While ACORN remains riddled in scandal, lawmakers have voted to cut off federal funding to the group, the U.S. Census Bureau has severed ties to the organization — and the White House has blasted its behavior as “unnacceptable.”

But just how extensive are President Obama’s personal ties to ACORN?

The following is a timeline outlining some of the purported connections between the president and ACORN through the years:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Al-Qaida Threatens Terror Attacks in Germany After Election

By Yassin Musharbash, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark

In a new video message, the terrorist network al-Qaida has warned of attacks in Germany during the two weeks after the Sept. 27 election, if there are no signals of a withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan. Authorities are taking the threat seriously and have raised the level of security precautions.

If the sender of the video released on Friday afternoon was not in all likelihood al-Qaida, it would be difficult to take it seriously: The speaker has dressed for the occasion in an atypical style, in a black suit and blue tie. Standing in front of a red curtain, the Islamist Bekkay Harrach, who is originally from the German city of Bonn, utters his threats. Nothing in the video is reminiscent of the style of previous publications of this kind.

But his message is clear, and the German security authorities are taking it seriously. In the name of al-Qaida, the Islamist warns of terrorist attacks in Germany in the event that the result of the upcoming election does not reflect a desire on the part of the populace to withdraw the German army from Afghanistan.

“If the German people choose war, then they have delivered their own sentence,” says Harrach in the video, which has been obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE. Then jihad would come to Germany, he says. He advises Muslims in Germany to avoid all places which are “essential to daily life” — possibly meaning busy public places — for a period of 14 days after the election and to keep their children close to them. He says that “the city of Kiel” will remain safe in any case, for reasons that are not explained. In the message, Harrach also alludes to the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

On the other hand, Harrach, who is believed to be in the Waziristan region of Pakistan, says that Germany still has a chance to avoid the “imminent” events. The last mujahedeen will be recalled from Germany when the last German soldier is withdrawn from Afghanistan, he said. Harrach has already appeared representing al-Qaida in two videos this year which are considered authentic, under the name “Abu Talha, the German.”

Increased Security Measures

The video was circulated on Friday afternoon on several jihadist Web sites used by al-Qaida and other terrorist groups to distribute their propaganda. The video is around 30 minutes long and is titled “Security — A Shared Destiny.” Unlike in his earlier videos, Harrach this time shows his face, something that will presumably aid identification by the authorities.

German security authorities are currently analyzing the video. The means and location of its publishing speak for the video’s authenticity, as do the speaker’s voice and tone.

Sources in the German government say that there too the video is being regarded as authentic. Security authorities are taking Harrach’s threat seriously. For months now the signs have been accumulating that al-Qaida is preparing an attack against German targets. Al-Qaida sympathizers recently spoke on the Internet about an imminent “German 9/11.” According to the US government, the al-Qaida leadership in Pakistan has also instructed the group’s North African branch, al-Qaida in the Maghreb, to deliberately target Germans.

The Federal Criminal Police (BKA) is therefore expecting new kidnapping attempts. It is “feared that German hostages could be killed in connection with political demands, such as the withdrawal of Germany from Afghanistan,” a classified situation analysis by the BKA states. The document continues: “The many messages addressed directly at Germany are a new development. After the US, Germany is only the second country whose population is being addressed so directly, and in the language of the country, by al-Qaida and its allied organizations.”

From Bonn to Waziristan

The crucial question now is whether Harrach is only making a threat, or if there will really be a green light for a previously prepared attack after the German national election on Sept. 27. Probably not even the Islamist himself believes that German troops will really be withdrawn immediately from Afghanistan. Both the Social Democrat’s chancellor candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel have expressed their support for the mission in Afghanistan. The only major political party that supports an immediate withdrawal of Bundeswehr troops from Afghanistan is the left-wing Left Party.

On Friday, the German government and the interior ministers of Germany’s federal states increased security measures as a precaution. Harrach is considered to belong to the middle level of al-Qaida’s leadership and is believed to be a member of a committee that plans attacks abroad. The security authorities therefore trust him to follow up on his words with deeds.

Bekkay Harrach comes from the district of Bad Godesberg in Bonn and studied laser technology and business mathematics for a time. In 2003, he traveled to the Palestinian territories and was injured by the Israeli military. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, he traveled twice to Iraq.

German security authorities have evidence that Harrach traveled in 2007 to Waziristan in the Pakistani-Afghan border area. He was apparently in possession of a letter of recommendation from an alleged al-Qaida member who was recently convicted in the German city of Koblenz. Harrach apparently did in fact come into direct contact with al-Qaida in this way.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Council of Europe Attacks Racism in Switzerland

Racism is widespread in Switzerland, despite authorities’ continuing efforts to end discrimination, a Council of Europe commission has found.

A report highlights problems of direct racial discrimination in gaining access to employment, housing, goods and services. The victims are mainly Muslims and originate from the Balkans, Turkey and Africa.

The findings published on Tuesday in a report compiled by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), chart the progress made by Switzerland in implementing recommendations for action in curbing racism made in 2004.

Anti-racism bodies within Switzerland mainly agreed with the findings, but the report was lambasted by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which was singled out for criticism for promoting racist generalisations.

On the plus side, the ECRI noted that various measures had been taken to foster the integration of immigrants in areas such as employment, housing and health. State bodies for anti-racism and migration had continued to raise awareness of racism and racial discrimination and steps had been taken to combat rightwing extremism.

However, it noted there had been a dangerous growth of racist political discourse against foreign nationals, Muslims, blacks and other minorities. The ECRI found the Swiss People’s Party to be part of the problem, saying the party had taken on a “racist and xenophobic tone” in recent years, leading to racist generalisations.

“Repeated attacks by Swiss People’s Party members against foreigners’ fundamental rights and against the prohibition of racism and xenophobia have created a deep sense of unease in Swiss society generally and especially in minority communities,” the report said.

Immigrant children have disadvantages in education, some Swiss media have reinforced racist stereotypes, and neo-Nazi and far-right groups have been active in the country.

Finally, the report said legislation had not been adequately developed to deal with direct racial discrimination.

“ There is a need for further campaigns to sensitise the public to various aspects of racism and discrimination that still persists. “

Michael Chiller-Glaus, Swiss foundation against racism and anti-Semitism Constructive criticism

It recommended more training in anti-racism laws for police and judges and better resources for anti-discrimination bodies. Swiss authorities should also step up efforts to combat racism in public discourse and review the effectiveness of their integration measures.

The Federal Commission against Racism said it shared the report’s criticism of the “vilification” of immigrants and religious minorities as well as the lack of protection from discrimination. The commission said it too had observed that migrant groups were attacked during political campaigns and xenophobic speeches had been tolerated.

The commission added that it would publish its own recommendations into toughening laws against discrimination later this year.

Michael Chiller-Glaus of the non-governmental foundation against racism and anti-Semitism told the report was “fair and balanced” and contained “constructive criticism”, but it showed Switzerland still had some way to go to counter racism.

“The report rightly notes that progress has been made in reducing racism in Switzerland. Nevertheless, there is a need for further campaigns to sensitise the public to various aspects of racism and discrimination that still persists.”

“Public funds to finance such campaigns have noticeably been reduced in recent years, as has been the support for efficient non-governmental organisations tackling racism. This is an objectionable development playing into the hands of the political rightwing mentioned in the report.”

“ Public opinion is so poisoned by this dialogue that asylum and refugees are a problem, that it is very difficult to get away from this. “

Susanna Bolz, Swiss Refugee Council International interference?

The Swiss People’s Party responded saying the report was flawed as it had misunderstood its policies, which were not against foreigners per se but rather foreign criminals and those who refused to follow Swiss laws.

“We understand: it is easier to blame the People’s Party for alleged xenophobia than to reflect the real issue of foreign criminals,” the party said in a statement. It called on the government to reject such “interference” in Switzerland’s internal affairs.

“International organisations, spurred on by the Swiss political left, regularly criticise us.”

The Swiss Refugee Council agreed with the report overall and told the government needed to improve communication about its asylum policies before public opinion and discrimination could change.

“Public opinion is so poisoned by this dialogue that asylum and refugees are a problem that it is very difficult to get away from this. You need to start again with a totally new communication. If you want to stop asylum seekers being seen as a problem then you need to communicate in a totally different way, you need to show positive examples of integration,” said the Council’s Susanna Bolz.

Jessica Dacey,


People and places

Migration in pictures: an inventory



Switzerland should ratify a number of international legal instruments including Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for a general prohibition of discrimination.

Authorities should pursue efforts to train police officers, prosecutors, judges and future legal professionals in the scope and application of Article 261bis of the Criminal Code, which is intended to prohibit racist acts.

Authorities should reinforce the legal framework for combating racial discrimination, in order to cover all types of discrimination.

Consolidate and further develop the resources of bodies such as the Federal Commission against Racism, the Federal Service for Combating Racism and the Federal Commission for Migration Issues.

Authorities should assess the integration measures taken in order to determine which additional steps should be adopted to promote integration and counter racism and racial discrimination.

Authorities should reinforce their efforts to combat racism in political discourse and in the media and also to counter all forms of racist violence.

Authorities should ensure that all members of the police, whether already in active service or in initial training, follow training and awareness-raising courses regarding the need to combat racism and racial discrimination in policing, including racial profiling.



The Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) is an independent human rights monitoring body specialised in questions relating to racism and intolerance.

ECRI’s country-by-country monitoring deals with all member states of the Council of Europe in five year cycles, covering nine to ten countries per year.

On Tuesday it released three new reports on the Czech Republic, Greece and Switzerland. The reports are part of ECRI’s fourth monitoring round, which focuses on the implementation of previous recommendations. A follow-up assessment will be done in two years.

Preparation of the reports involves documentary analyses, a contact visit to the country concerned and confidential dialogue with national authorities.

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

EU: War on Homeschoolers Spreading?

Advocacy group challenges authorities to explain abduction of 7-year-old

The desperate situation of a 7-year-old homeschooled child who was nabbed by Swedish police from an airliner as his family was departing on a move to India and has been kept in custody for weeks is drawing international attention, with officials for the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association now pressing authorities for help.

The HSLDA, the premier organization in the world advocating for homeschooling, confirmed yesterday it has sent a formal letter to a local Swedish social services unit involved in the case in which Dominic Johansson, of Gottland, was forcibly taken into custody minutes before he and his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, were due to take off to start a new life in India, Annie’s home country.

HSLDA officials fear the virulent anti-homeschool virus they’ve been battling in Germany for several years is spreading across Europe.

“This kind of gross disregard for family integrity and simple human decency is becoming the hallmark of countries like Germany, and now apparently Sweden,” said HSLDA staff attorney Michael Donnelly, “where the state is more interested in coerced uniformity than in protecting fundamental human rights and fostering pluralism.

“In Germany, courts have said that homeschooling creates dangerous ‘parallel societies’ — an absurd notion that grotesquely turns the notion of pluralism on its head,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Finland: Halla-Aho Case to Go to Court of Appeal

The Helsinki councillor Jussi Halla-aho (True Finns/Independent) and the prosecutor have both expressed their dissatisfaction with last week’s court ruling.

Both parties informed the Helsinki District Court of their view by the appeals deadline.

Last week the Helsinki District Court fined Halla-aho EUR 330 for violating the sanctity of religion. The charges of incitement against an ethnic group were dismissed by the court.

In June last year, Halla-aho associated Islam with paedophilia in his blog writings. In addition he wrote that robbing passers-by and scrounging on taxpayers’ money might be a national or even a genetic characteristic of a certain people.

Halla-aho has denied that the aim of his writings would have been to insult or to incite.

In his view the charges should have been dropped altogether.

The prosecution in the case, on the other hand, is of the opinion that Halla-aho should have been convicted of the second indictment as well.

In addition, the prosecution is displeased with the leniency of the punishment handed down.

Next the case will go to the Helsinki Court of Appeal.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

France: Happiness is No Metric for a Country’s Success

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants his country and every other country to drop financial outputs as the exclusive measure of success and start using citizens’ well-being instead.

This could be dismissed as a crazy idea spawned by a love-struck middle-aged man who drank too much Bordeaux one night while listening to his supermodel/pop-star wife strum love ballads in their palace. Or maybe it is an idea from the leader of country whose GDP depends on the Eiffel Tower and is desperately searching to become relevant again.

But economists are promoting this ruse. And so is Bhutan.

Bhutan is the tiny country wedged between China and India that enforces a dress code and restricts outsiders. Illiteracy is high and TV arrived 10 years ago.

There is no freedom of the press. Its per capita gross national income is $1,700, according to the World Bank. These are not positive statistics to most people.

But Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who chaired the International Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (established by Sarkozy), references Bhutan favorably in a column in the Financial Times earlier this week. “Even before we convened, Bhutan was creating a measure of GNH, or gross national happiness. … “ Given Bhutan’s background, it’s like praising the country for keeping its people ignorant and poor.

This is the latest example of granting moral equivalency to countries that don’t deserve it. Forget the fact that the country is backward.

His utopian vision reminds one of the naivete of Graham Greene’s American couple in “The Comedians” who thought they could save a chaotic, destitute Haiti by turning countrymen into vegetarians. Will the world suddenly become a kinder, gentler place, the environment cleaner and people happier if each country starts measuring well-being instead of purely financial outputs?

Stiglitz thinks so: “What we measure affects what we do. If we have the wrong metrics we will strive for the wrong things,” he wrote.

The problem with that mode of thinking is that it assumes an all-knowing sense of what makes people happy. More importantly, this takes for granted that happiness should be the ultimate goal in life and the driving force behind government should be maximizing happiness for citizens.

History teaches us that governments are not and never can be omnipotent. Those who attempt to be will fail, often horribly and at great personal and financial cost to their citizens and future generations.

And believing that every nation will agree with one set of metrics to measure GNH is folly. Cultures build norms over time that turn into values and habits.

Let’s take the quantity of leisure time, one of the items Sarkozy proposes to measure. In France, home of the 35-hour work week and Augusts off, leisure time is highly regarded, often more highly than making money or achieving personal success.

In the U.S. that is not the case for many people, meaning two weeks off in the U.S. would make people just as happy as the French, who enjoy six weeks away from work. If each country created its own set of rules, how could countries compare themselves against one another? The tests would be meaningless, with each country claiming it scored highest according to its own criteria.

The bigger question is why countries should put happiness above all else. As Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote movingly in “Lincoln’s Melancholy,” the 16th president suffered from great bouts of depression.

“He learned how to articulate his suffering, find succor, endure, and adapt. … As president, Lincoln urged his countrymen to accept their blessing and their burden, to see that their suffering had meaning, and to join him on a journey toward a more perfect union.” Would a happy president have been able to preserve the Union and build a path to the end of slavery?

Examples abound of people throughout history who achieved great things not in spite of their suffering, but because of it. This is not to argue that imprisoning political opponents or executing innocents is a good thing.

But would a happy nation, one coddled by two mandated weeks at a spa, or forced to work fewer hours, have the will to defend itself; invent a replacement to oil; write the next masterpiece; or uncover massive government fraud?

And could a government that focuses on pacifying its people also be one that vigorously defends their right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” I doubt it. That is depressing.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

French Minister Besson to Visit Greece

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 17 — France’s Immigration Minister, Eric Besson, will be on an official visit to Greece tomorrow, where he will meet Interim Minister for the Interior, Spiridona Flogaitis, and head of the Coast Guard, Admiral Theodoros Rentzeperis. Besson will then go to the island of Samos in the eastern Aegean, where he will visit a ship involved in border surveillance, as part of the Frontex programme, and the reception centre for immigrants. He will hold talks on the island with heads of services dealing with illegal immigrants. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Major Parties Court Immigrant Voters

More than four million Germans with a migrant background are eligible to vote in the country’s Sept. 27 elections. The majority will presumably back the Social Democrats. But the conservatives also want their vote.

Germans of Turkish heritage make up the country’s largest migrant community. In the coming elections, this group represents some 700,000 votes. The majority are expected to cast their ballot for the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

This mainly has historical reasons, said Andreas Wuest, project director at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research and a specialist on migrants as political actors. Many Turkish immigrants came to Germany as guest workers and became involved in labor unions.

“Unions, of course, belong to the party’s forefront organization,” Wuest said. “A long-term bond and proximity evolved to the Social Democrats.”

Since the 1960s, unions — which have always maintained close ties to the SPD — were very successful in integrating foreign workers, said Dirk Halm from the Foundation Center for Studies on Turkey in Essen.

“The political socialization of Turks here widely occurred through labor unions,” Halm said. “Nowhere has integration been as successful as in labor unions.”

One main reason for this was that historically, companies wanted to avoid a conflict of interest between native German and immigrant workers, he said. Therefore, great emphasis was placed on integrating the foreign staff into the unions.

Issues not parties

A study by the Berlin-based market research company Data 4U earlier this year showed that 55.5 percent of Germans of Turkish heritage would vote for the SPD. The Green party could expect 23.3 percent, said the company, which is specialized in research among Germany’s immigrant population. The conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) would only win 10.1 percent of the votes.

Data 4U’s managing partner Umut Karakas said German-Turks placed emphasis on other issues than native Germans did.

“They are concerned with integration policies and the debate surrounding Turkey’s European Union membership, as well as the issue of citizenship,” Karakas said. “These are topics where the SPD and Greens are ahead; integration was already a topic at an early stage.”

Halm agreed that certain issues only applied to migrant communities.

“In addition to these bicultural issues, this group also structurally deals with other social issues which don’t affect the average German,” Halm said. “Surveys have shown that integration in the workplace and unemployment are by far the top issues here simply because migrants are more likely affected by these matters.”

According to figures by the Federal Statistics Office, over 15 million Germans have a migratory background — some 18 percent of the population. Of this figure, over 14 percent have a Turkish heritage.

A new strategy for the CDU

The statistics show that the CDU has some catching up to do if it wants to win these voters into their camp — a fact the party’s general secretary Ronald Pofalla has admitted. “The goal is for migrants in the CDU to someday become a matter of course that no longer needs to be talked about,” Pofalla said at a meeting of CDU parliament members with foreign heritage last month.

To reach this goal, though, the CDU needed to rethink its communication strategies, said Bülent Arslan, head of the CDU’s German-Turkish Forum in North Rhine-Westphalia.

“The key is the impression we make,” Arslan said. “And our communication policies in the last 10 to 20 years have been way too focused on the problems which surface in integration and that is not necessarily attractive for a new voter group. They want to know what we have to offer.”

Arslan said a feeling of “team spirit” was missing, both among native Germans, as well as immigrants.

“As long as there’s no feeling that we belong together, the whole thing won’t work,” he said. Political parties could contribute to ending this feeling of “us and them.”

Christian and Muslim?

But Wuest said the Christian Democrats tended to scare off foreign voters because of their tougher immigration policies in the past. “Also, of course, the fact that the ‘C’ in the name stands for ‘Christian’ can be a turn-off,” Wuest said. “Other countries have a conservative party that is simply right-leaning, but here in Germany that group calls itself the Christian Democrats, making it especially difficult for Muslim voters to choose them.”

Arslan said he disagreed.

“Religious migrants in particular, for example religious Muslims, see the C as an additional attraction in the party’s name because they say this is a party based on religious values and they prefer this to a party that is more atheistically organized,” Arslan said.

Most observers forecast the next German government to be a CDU-FDP coalition government, with Angela Merkel remaining chancellor. But if Germans of Turkish background could vote the chancellor directly, Data 4U’s Karakas said over 25 percent would choose Green party leader Cem Oezdemir. This was based on his heritage as a German-Turk.

“He, as a child of migrants, has achieved something politically, knows the problems and living conditions of German-Turks and serves as a role model,” Karakas said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Four Reasons for a No, And Four More Not to Vote Yes

Dubious ‘guarantees and assurances’ given regarding the Lisbon Treaty studiously avoid its rotten core

LIKE FRANKENSTEIN’s monster, here comes the Lisbon Treaty once more, rising from the undead. Though 66 million French and Dutch voters were simply bypassed to avoid more pesky referendums, Ireland’s Constitution precludes such an elegant solution, forcing a second vote on the same treaty.

True, some dubious “guarantees and assurances” have been obtained to address five concerns of the hyper-sensitive Irish that are convenient to discuss.

Ireland will keep its commissioner and control its own taxes. No innocent Irish lads will be conscripted as EU cannon fodder, abortion will not be imposed and workers’ rights and public services will be protected. But since they’re not copper-fastened into the treaty itself, they cannot be unchallengeable: they are less guarantees than target-rich “assurances” for future treaty lawyers.

Anyway, they only nibble at the treaty’s edges, and studiously avoid the rotten core to which so many people fundamentally object. For me, this leads to four powerful reasons to vote No, and four more not to vote Yes.

Firstly, there is the dishonesty of having converted the readable, understandable, if internally contradictory Treaty Establishing A Constitution For Europe into the Lisbon Reform Treaty — an interminable series of unreadable, incomprehensible amendments to two prior EU treaties (Maastricht and Rome) — while otherwise retaining nearly all the content of the rejected constitution.

A No vote is the only response to such shamelessness.

The second powerful reason is similar but different. Just as no rational person would dare sign a contract that he/she couldn’t understand, so no one should vote for a treaty without understanding it. It still takes me 13 hours to read once, so unless you have a spare week to absorb it in conjunction with Rome and Maastricht, and you don’t like signing blank cheques, No is the only rational vote.

Across the EU, 60 to 85 per cent (depending on sources) of legislation already originates in Brussels. Yet Lisbon would transfer more than 100 new competencies from national to EU level. Another 60-plus EU mandated areas would move from unanimity to majority voting, reducing further the influence of individual nations. This would represent the single largest transfer of powers from nations to Brussels in EU history.

Just one example. At present, individual states fund the EU. But Lisbon empowers the EU to impose its own taxes. See Article 259, which amends Article 269 in the Rome or Maastricht treaties, neither of which runs to 269 articles, to create Article 311 of a so-called “consolidated” treaty which supposedly consolidates all three treaties but is not itself a treaty — and has no legal force. What fun this is! And how lucrative for treaty lawyers.

But honestly, do citizens really want to surrender ever more sovereignty, resulting in even more EU laws? It’s the third powerful reason to vote No. In Ireland, all the main political parties are united in urging us to vote Yes. Yet nobody today can trust the wisdom of the ruling Coalition and supine Opposition, which have brought the country to the brink of financial ruin with reckless policies and neglect. The current political elite is one group whose judgment on what’s good for Ireland is supremely suspect. If they say Yes, that’s the fourth powerful reason to vote No.

The Yes-sirs who would have us approve the referendum are putting out postcards, pamphlets, websites and print, radio and TV blitzes to explain the unintelligible treaty. But these explanations are not the treaty being voted on. Moreover, how can we know they’re not simply biased attempts to highlight the good stuff while obfuscating the bad? Such media campaigns are no reason to vote Yes.

Many prominent personages in Ireland, Brussels and elsewhere are urging us to vote Yes, but they are heavily invested, personally, in continued enlargement of EU activity, because that’s where their careers lie. With the EU so influential in national law-making, domestic legislators won’t advance their careers by opposing the EUrocracy. And if you’re part of that EUrocracy — or dependants such as lobbies, lawyers, think tanks or service providers — Lisbon’s expanded powers can only mean more work, bigger budgets, massive recruitment and thus juicy promotional opportunities for you.

Passionate exhortations by self-interested individuals are no reason to vote Yes. Neither is the Yes-sirs’ frequent if illogical equivalence of a Lisbon No with departure from the EU. The Irish naysayers don’t want to leave the EU; we love the EU and the euro just as they are; they’ve been wonderful for Ireland, so why mess with the formula? But we don’t want to expand the EU’s powers with untold consequences, nor create through a badly written document a treaty lawyer’s paradise.

The final red herring is the credit crunch. The Yes-sirs perpetrate the calumny that the EU would meet another Irish No with economic revenge. Of course some angry EUrocrats may try to block goodies from Ireland’s maw. But the EU is not those Brusselarians — it’s the 500 million citizens, and of these we know the French, Dutch, British and Germans would reject Lisbon if given the chance, so a mass plot against Ireland is inconceivable. This empty threat is the fourth non-reason to vote Yes.

We should reject Lisbon in our own enlightened self-interest, but also on behalf of the unenfranchised EU half-billion.

[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Let’s Reassure the Greens and Embrace the Darkness

The recent ban on incandescent light bulbs confirms that this is surely the most censorious, intrusive, busybody society in Europe: and by the strange cycles of human conduct, it seems that our current political priggishness is precisely in tune with the wave of environmental political correctness sweeping the EU.

Thus our ban on smoking in pubs has been copied across the EU. And just as we inadvertently doomed the Irish country pub to an early grave as a consequence, watch the Spanish mourn their bodegas, the Germans their bierhaus, and the French their cafes. Either that, or change their minds.

We like banning things. This is what we do. We banned condoms in 1928. We banned books with a frenzy that would have pleased Hitler (some 6,000 titles had been banned by 1956). We banned or mutilated thousands of films. We banned British newsreels in 1953 for showing the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, which was the most watched event in the entire world that year. Africans could watch it. The Irish couldn’t.

As de Valera’s vision for Ireland ended up in a dole queue in Birmingham or the Simon Community everywhere, censoriousness shifted its focus. Condoms were allowed: but only on a medical prescription to married couples. Your GP now became your other sexual partner.

More recently, the “libertarian” PD Michael McDowell introduced a ban on fireworks, which are of course freely available in the North. Anyone caught with fireworks in their car in this Republic can have their car confiscated, and be sentenced to a thousand lashes, and to life rowing on a Moroccan trireme (or something like that). A yard away, across the Border, they have open firework parties.

The priggish, prudish, know-all, sanctimonious instinct of the Irish has reached its acme with the Greens in Government, a vision of hell beyond all telling. Hence, the ban on incandescent light-bulbs, and our forcible conversion to CFLs. This has, grotesquely, coincided with the European mood, and all over the continent, useful lights are going out; and electrical glow-worms are being plugged into sockets, by the palsied light of which we can all go blind.

But the darkness engulfing Europe is not our main worry about the CFLs. These bulbs contain mercury, which is highly toxic. A single bulb could contain enough mercury to do grave damage to a child’s long-term health — and so what is one to do when one drops and breaks a bulb (apart from a second mortgage or some armed robbery, to pay for a replacement bulb)?

Yet the universal distribution of mercury throughout the households of the western world has not been accompanied by any major health-campaign about the dangers of CFL bulbs. Is that because the ideologists behind the abolition of the safe, cheap and traditional light bulb do not dare tell the people of the perils accompanying the replacement bulbs? Is ignorance bliss? Bliss it certainly was for leaded petrol; bliss it was for the CFCs in our aerosols; bliss it certainly was for Thalidomide.

So in this condition of blissful ignorance, and for the first time in human history, the use of highly toxic liquid mercury is being made obligatory for all families in their homes, for the young and old, for the accident-prone, the stupid and the deranged. And if — because of some deplorable lack of clinical trials on captive infants in the past — we don’t fully understand the long-term consequence of small children inhaling mercury, why, the next 20 years or so should remedy that disgraceful deficiency.

Moreover, what about the mercury-bearing bulbs thrown into waste dumps? Being almost irresistibly heavy, the mercury will probably bear down through the soil until it finds a happy watercourse it can contaminate.

So maybe the child who is not poisoned on the kitchen floor can be poisoned — with equal convenience — via the household tap. Either way, politically correct mercury could do for your child (though you probably won’t notice until adolescence, when she sprouts an elephant’s penis between her eyes, and insists that she is a Martian teaspoon called Obadiah).

All this, not to curb CO2 emissions from the hundreds of oil-burning power stations in China and India, or from the vast summer forest fires which erupt annually across the world, or from the North Sea oil wells that burn off trillions of litres of gas a year, or from the emissions from the world’s vast steel smelters, never mind the billions of tons of methane being released from melting Arctic permafrost every year. No: this is merely to reduce our already tiny usage of household electricity — the equivalent of passing a law forbidding cat-fleas from farting while Siberia’s gas fields are on fire.

But of course, the real point of the ban is that such light bulb prohibitions reassure the Greens of their inner sanctimony. And is such feel-goodery not the purpose of almost all law in this Alice in Wonderland of a Republic? So never mind the consequences for children as yet unborn, who in adulthood might well turn into mercury-filled, tap-dancing goldfish, with three antlers, an incontinent bottom and no brain. Why? Because they can always get jobs with FAS or the Central Bank

[Return to headlines]

Italian Jewish Community: Fini Awarded Menorah on Campidoglio

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 17 — Yesterday evening on Campidoglio the president of the Jewish community Renzo Gattegna gave Chamber of Deputies speaker Gianfranco Fini a Menorah, the typical seven-branched candelabrum. In the words of Gattegna, Fini “stands out for his unshakeable and consistent safeguarding of constitutional values and, especially as concerns minorities, of religious freedom and the secular nature of the state, signs which give the measure of democracy.” Taking part in the ceremony was the Israeli ambassador to Rome Gideon Meir, who paid homage to Fini by calling him “one of the best friends that the state of Israel and the Jewish community in Rome have, as well as my personal friend. Those of us in Israel are awaiting his visit as speaker of the Italian parliament, a visit which will take place after that of Israeli parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin in Italy next month.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bossi: We Must Make Reforms, No Early Elections

(AGI) — Paesana (Cuneo), 11 Sept. — “We must make reforms, we cannot have early elections,” said Umberto Bossi today, while speaking with journalists at the end of a ceremony in Pian del Re on Monviso. “Early elections for what?” added the Northern League leader, “so our party can get even more votes?”. To journalists asking him if he rules out this possibility, Bossi said: “Unless they are idiots, the Northern League would win even more votes.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Man Who Caused 11 Deaths Sent Home to Libya

A Libyan who caused a disastrous fire at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport in 2005 has been extradited to his home country.

Ahmed al-J. (surname witheld) was sentenced earlier this month to 18 months in prison for arson, a sentence that equalled the duration of his preventive custody.

The fire in the airport’s detention centre began in the Lybian’s cell and cost the lives of eleven people, most of them immigrants who had failed to obtain a residence permit for the Netherlands.

At Schiphol airport eleven people held a brief demonstration on Friday morning in protest at the Lybian’s extradition. Nine of the demonstrators were arrested when they refused to identify themselves to police.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Warned Court Let Notorious Human Trafficker Flee

A man convicted of human trafficking in the Netherlands was given a week’s leave to visit his newborn baby. Now Interpol is looking for him.

Even a serious criminal should be able to visit his newborn daughter, the justices of the appeals court in Arnhem must have thought. There are no regulations stipulating when a prisoner may or not be granted leave. The justices considered the circumstances and consented to a week’s leave for convicted human trafficker Saban B., who is serving a 7.5 year prison term.

The appeals court took into consideration that Saban B. (38) had already served more than half of his prison sentence while being held in pre-trial detention. And that his case would not be concluded until 2010 because of a pending appeal. Saban was convicted last year of leading an international criminal human trafficking network for years along with his older brother Hasan. The gang violently forced more its trafficking victims into prostitution.

In granting the leave, the appeals court went further than the public prosecution office which had consented earlier to two days’ leave. And so Saban B. left prison on 7 September for a week. He was required to surrender his passport and report to the police on a daily basis.

Planning to flee

Two days later, on Wednesday 9 September, Saban was in custody again. The national investigative services had received indications that he was planning to flee abroad. The public prosecution office asked the appeals court to lift the provisional suspension. They wanted Saban B. back in prison. The appeals court refused to do so. It did not find that it had been demonstrated that Saban B. “had already violated the terms” of his leave at that time. Saban was once again allowed to leave. He reported to the police two days later, on Friday 11 September, for the last time.

The incident has led to bewilderment on a number of sides. Ineke Schmidt, director of the Coordination Point Human Trafficking (Comensha), said that the judges who approved the suspension evidently regard Saban B. as a pickpocket. “They haven’t the faintest idea of what human trafficking involves. Investigating officers have been trained in this area by now. Judges apparently have not.”

Parliament has demanded clarification from the minister of justice on Saban B.’s disappearance. Member of parliament Sybrand van Haersma Buma (Christian democrats) finds it difficult to understand why the judges decided that B. should be permitted a week’s leave, when police and the justice department had advised against it. “It is naive to think that this kind of criminal will follow the rules.”

Violent and dangerous

Schmidt said the justices failed entirely to realise what consequences Saban’s escape will have for the victims. “We have to fear for their lives now. One of the victims is in a witness protection programme. You aren’t given that kind of protection lightly, that shows how dangerous this man is.”

That emerged during the trial last year as well. Saban and his older brother Hasan reportedly used violence to force more than one hundred women into prostitution. The women had to work every day, even if they had their period or were ill. A number of girls were forced to have the initials of one of the brother’s tattooed on their necks. Others were forced to undergo breast enlargement surgery. If a woman became pregnant, she was forced to have an abortion.

Saban had an enormous influence on the women. During the trial only a few victims were ultimately willing to testify, a number of women later revoked part of their testimony. One of the victims came across Saban in Alkmaar during his recent leave. She has since gone into hiding.

European arrest warrant

Saban married Steffi, one of his prostitutes, while already in prison. During the trial last year she sat in the public gallery and blew him kisses. She gave birth to Saban’s child this summer.

The terrible thing about this, Schmidt said, is that counsellors try to persuade victims to file reports by telling them: Once these people are in prison, they are locked up. They can’t say this anymore now of course.

Saban is presumed to have fled to Turkey, his country of birth. He is currently a wanted person internationally and a European arrest warrant has been issued.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Policing the English Defence League

Three months ago no-one had heard of the English Defence League (EDL) but now their controversial protests against Islamic extremism have sparked civil disorder and led to city councils pleading with the Home Secretary to take action against them.

A number of police forces have gathered in Birmingham to discuss the actions of the EDL and how best to deal with the politics of division which is being played out on our streets.

Chris Sims is the chief constable of West Midlands Police, which is hosting the police summit for senior officers from Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, the Metropolitan Police and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

He said we are witnessing a new national phenomenon.

He said: “It’s important that we share our experiences with others, we help build up a really clear view of what we’re dealing with and make sure that the tactics we use are as appropriate as we can make them.”

The EDL has been involved in running battles with young Asian youths on Birmingham’s streets.

It is accused of links with far right groups and one government minister has compared their tactics to the fascist street marches of the 1930s.

Hooligan tribes

But who are the EDL? They appear to have been born out of the frustrations and anger generated in Luton, where mainly young white men confronted militant Islamic extremists.

The English Defence League is linked to the Casuals United — a Welsh football firm with connections to Cardiff City.

They talk of football hooligan tribes uniting against Islamic fundamentalism.

There also appears to be some loose affiliations with far right groups.

I met “Tommy” — not his real name — who is said to be a carpenter from Luton.

He agreed to meet me in a field near Nottingham. He had been on the most recent demonstration in Birmingham which ended with some 50 EDL members being arrested.

Tommy would not show his face on camera. He is articulate, says he is not political and feels the EDL is a “community” but not a fascist party.

‘No BNP link’

He said: “We hate Nazis as much as Muslim extremists. The leader of the EDL Youth is black, we’re not a racist organisation.”

He criticised the Birmingham Respect Party councillor Salma Yaqoob for labelling them a far right fascist group.

He said: “After our first protest in Birmingham city centre she came out and told everyone we was the British National Party [and] we were an organisation run by the British National Party.

“That is complete fabricated lies. She incited religious and racial hatred against innocent non-Muslim members of Birmingham’s community.”

Ms Yaqoob rejected his allegations and said she had received death threats since the last EDL demonstration in Birmingham.

She said: “The atmosphere that they bring into our city centres is an ugly one and it really brings out the worst in people and I’ve received some very nasty threats.

“I’m glad the police are following them up. Freedom of speech is absolutely important but freedom to promote hatred and violence is not something that should be supported.”

She added she was as much against Islamic Fundamentalism as the EDL and called on all citizens in Birmingham to respond to any provocation with the spirit of peace and unity.

West Midlands Police said the EDL’s use of internet chat rooms and forums was making their task harder.

Thirty years ago big marches staged in volatile areas would grab headlines but could be policed and eventually banned.

But meetings and discussions do not come under the Public Order Act and a video on Youtube can spread a message like wildfire around the country.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Stubb: Missiles Will Stabilize the Baltic

[Comment from Tuan Jim: denial is a river in Egypt.]

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb told YLE on Friday that the U.S. shift in missile defence policy in Europe may even increase the stability of the Baltic. Under its new policy, the United States maydeploy the sea-based Aegis weapon system in the Baltic Sea area.

According to Foreign Minister Stubb, the stability in the Baltic region may improve because Russia will not be building its own missile interceptor defences in Kaliningrad, and Russian-U.S. relations are otherwise improving.

“The dialogue between Russia and the United States at the moment is significantly stronger than it was before and this could give a new impetus to the start-negotiations. So, for the position of Finland, this is not necessarily a bad thing at all,” said Foreign Minister Stubb.

Interviewed by YLE, Finnish security policy expert, Dr Stefan Forss of the Finnish National Defence University, said that he considered the U.S. decision to cancel its plans to build new missile installations in Europe as a win for the tough line taken by Russia in the issue.

Forss also speculated that the central security question now is what arrangements the United States will make with Poland and the Czech Republic which feel that they have lost out.

“If these countries are not compensated, it could be interpreted that Nato’s credibility is being further weakened. That in turn would affect the security solutions of us all,” stated Stefan Forss.

The most effective air defense system in the U.S. arsenal is the Aegis missile cruiser. According to Dr Forss, it is quite possible that Aegis cruisers may also be moved into the Baltic Sea.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Atmosphere for Spies Called ‘Vile’

Turbulence attributed to possible prosecution of intel agent

LONDON — Spies in the MI6 agency in Great Britain are infuriated that their chief, Sir John Scarlett, has handed over one of his veteran agents to Scotland Yard’s Anti-terrorist Command on allegations he collaborated with the CIA in torture at a secret center in Morocco, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

While the long-serving officer is known to have a reputation for harsh interrogation methods, Scarlett’s unprecedented action has rocked the Secret Intelligence Service’s staff of 2,500. The atmosphere within its London headquarter is described as “vile.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: British Police Training Libyan Force ‘Insult to Memory of PC Yvonne Fletcher’

British police officers have been secretly training members of Libya’s force despite the country’s refusal to hand over the killer of Pc Yvonne Fletcher.

The training programme, which was approved by Jacqui Smith when she was home secretary, began shortly after Tony Blair met the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, in 2007. It has been described as an “insult to the memory of Yvonne Fletcher” and a “stab in the back” for officers.

The disclosure came days after the Police Federation accused the Government of “selling its soul for trade deals” with Libya after allegedly agreeing that the gunman who shot Pc Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy 25 years ago would not be tried in Britain. It was understood that Pc Fletcher’s own force, the Metropolitan Police, was among those thought to have sent officers to Libya, along with at least one officer from Northern Ireland, where dozens of civilians were killed by IRA bombs made with Libyan-supplied Semtex.

The police training scheme was organised by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) following a request from the Foreign Office, the British embassy in Tripoli and the Home Office. It involves British officers training their Libyan counterparts in leadership and forensic techniques.

Paul McKeever, the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, described the Foreign Office as “naïve and insensitive” in setting up the scheme.

“This will anger and disgust rank and file officers who believe Libya should be more proactive in securing the arrest of Pc Fletcher’s killer,” he said. “This one-way traffic, where we do all the giving and they just take, must stop.”

The Fletcher family met David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, last week accompanied by Daniel Kawczynski, the Tory chairman of the all-party Libya group.

“It is an insult to the memory of Yvonne Fletcher,” said Mr Kawczynski. “When some of us are campaigning so hard to get her killer brought to justice with the Libyans obfuscating on this I find it insulting that police are being sent out to train them.”

Pc Fletcher was shot dead outside the Libyan embassy in 1984. The bullet was fired from inside the building but her killer was never identified and was thought to have been smuggled back to Libya.

As a result of her death, Britain severed diplomatic relations with Libya but they were restored in 1999 after Tripoli agreed to co-operate with an inquiry into her death and pay compensation.

Britain’s relationship with Libya has been under scrutiny since Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, was freed early from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds last month.

The NPIA said six officers were involved in projects over the past 12 months. In the previous year, officers ran a “critical incident” project in Tripoli and Libyans were invited to police training centres in Britain.

The NPIA admitted that the Police Service of Northern Ireland sent officers to Libya.

Ed Davey MP, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, said: “This is a slap in the face for the family of Pc Yvonne Fletcher, not least because the murder inquiry is still open. While Libya remains such an authoritarian regime this must be a rapprochement too far.”

Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the Commons home affairs counter-terrorism subcommittee, said the scheme would “leave a very bad taste in the mouth” of police officers and their families.

“The fact that Pc Fletcher’s killer has not been handed over just makes our training of Libyan police feel like a stab in the back for any serving police officer,” he said.

News of the training scheme was also met with dismay by victims of the IRA.

Colin Parry, whose son Tim was killed by a bomb in Warrington in 1993, said: “Building bridges is something we must all do but those bridges must be built on firm foundations. Until the victims of Libyan Semtex are given some form of justice and peace from Libya, such bridges are built on sand.”

A Home Office spokesman said sending officers to Libya was part of creating a “collaborative effort towards global security”.

He said the programme was designed to help Libya meet its human rights obligations by fostering policing techniques that met international standards.

Colin Port, the chairman of the International Policing Assistance Board, which vets officers on the projects, said three trips had been organised in Tripoli during the past 12 months, although no serving officer was currently out there. The programme was funded by the Libyans.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Children Given Police Escorts From School

Children as young as five are being given police escorts from school under Government plans to crackdown on bad behaviour, it has emerged.

Officers are travelling on buses, waiting in potential crime hotspots and accompanying children walking home, it emerged.

Police are targeting areas which are known to have problems with anti-social behaviour. To date, 65 local authorities in England have carried out patrols covering 1,632 primary and secondary schools — around one-in-12. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it was “advocating after-school patrols and will be supporting other areas” to set them up.

Thousands of schools already have dedicated police officers — giving talks to pupils, controlling the corridors and searching for weapons and banned items.

But Will McMahon, policy director for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College, London, said children risked being “criminalised”.

“Young people have always done lots of things on the way home from the school, it’s about finding out about life,” he told the Times Educational Supplement. “The Government wouldn’t get police to accompany commuters, another large group, home. It would look very strange.

“What will happen is more behaviour will be criminalised and more young people will enter the criminal justice system.”

According to figures, 15,292 patrols have been carried out so far. Some 64,017 pupils have been spoken to by officers and 2,497 have been referred to other services, including drug and alcohol experts.

Under the Youth Crime Action Plan, 69 areas are receiving funding totalling £765,000 between 2008/11 for a range of measures to combat anti-social behaviour.

The Government said it was now offering advice and guidance to other areas on how to set up their own patrols, through a series of roadshows running this autumn.

The DCSF said it would support patrols in any area that it is deemed necessary, but added they did not expect them to be used around every school.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Mother Who Killed Disabled Daughter and Herself in Car Fire

Mother who killed disabled daughter and herself in car fire ‘suffered years of abuse from gang’

A mother died alongside her mentally disabled daughter in a blazing car after suffering nearly ten years of abuse from yobs, an inquest heard yesterday.

Fiona Pilkington, 38, made 21 calls to police in a bid to stop the gang abusing her daughter Francecca Hardwick, but they failed to act. She had even written to her local MP.

On the day of her death she called police to complain of children trampling her garden hedge but was told to ignore them

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Sex Swap Children: Gender Dysphoria at a Young Age

A 12-year-old boy in England has started the new school year as a girl. But he is not the first one, as our examples show.

A 12-year-old boy in southern England has returned to school after the summer holidays as a girl.

Girls’ schools: good for grades, terrible for your mental healthThe child, who has worn female swimming costumes and pink ribbons for several years, is preparing to undergo hormone replacement therapy and surgery.

She may become the youngest person in the world to undergo gender reassignment therapy.

But gender dysphoria — the condition in which a person feels they are trapped in a body of the wrong sex — can make itself known even younger.

Kim Petras

The current youngest ever person to undergo gender reassignment is believed to be Kim (born Tim) Petras, a German teenager. According to her parents, she began insisting that she was a girl from the age of two.

Her surgery was completed last year, at the age of 16. Before that she had been a model for a chain of German hair salons. Now she has begun a career in pop music, releasing two singles.

Of her surgery, she says: “I was asked if I feel like a woman now — but the truth is I have always felt like a woman — I just ended up in the wrong body”.


Willem, a child in the Netherlands, first went to school in a skirt at the age of nine. Before then, his parents had compromised by allowing him to wear “unisex” clothes, i.e. brightly coloured trousers and shirts, out of concern over the reaction of his schoolmates.

However, even in nursery school, he had played with dolls and wore a princess’s outfit to a fancy dress party.


In May this year Australian 17-year-old Alex — not her real name — was permitted by a family court to have a double mastectomy in order to look more like a boy.

She had been receiving hormone treatment to prevent menstruation and breast development since the age of 13. The Chief Justice of the court, Diana Bryant, said it was in the teenager’s best interests to have the surgery before she turned 18.

She told the Melbourne Age: “In the end, it wasn’t a particularly difficult issue because the only real issue was, ‘Would he (Alex) have it at 17 or once he’s 18?’ Then, he doesn’t need permission.’

“So the issue was: ‘Was there any likelihood he would change his mind in the meantime, and was it in his best interests to have it at that time?’

“Overwhelmingly, the evidence was that it was in his interests. And I made that order. I wanted to make it quickly so that he could have the operation straightaway.”


At the age of four Valentin — another Dutch child — told his mother that he wanted to “cut off his pecker”.

His mother said: “When watching films, Valentin always identified with the female characters.

“He was always pretending to be Snow White or the Rose Princess, never the prince.”

[Return to headlines]

UK: Schoolgirl Who Bit Police Officers Escapes Jail

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Speaking of feral girls…By the way — does anyone think that this would happen in a place where judges were elected and had constituents they actually had to answer to?]

A schoolgirl who savagely attacked two police officers, jumping on to the back of one and biting him through his body armour in a row over litter, has been ordered to do community service.

The 16-year-old pupil, who cannot be named for legal reasons, attacked the officers when they asked her friend to pick up a burger wrapper that she had dropped in Croydon, South London.

A mob surrounded the officers as they struggled to control the girl. They were pushed to the ground and punched, kicked and stamped on. Fearing for their lives they called for back-up and the teenager was brought under control only when CS gas was sprayed in her face.

Passing sentence at Croydon Crown Court, Judge Stephen Waller said that the girl, who wants to be a social worker, had shown no remorse, but he added that detention could not be justified because of her age and previous good character. He said that she bore a “heavy responsibility” for the wider disturbance and ordered that she do 80 hours’ community service. “If it were left to me, I would have you picking up litter for 80 hours in the centre of Croydon. You would see how unpleasant it is when litter is dropped. But I would imagine that is not seen as a task which is appropriate.”

The attack took place in the busy North End shopping area of Croydon shortly after 3pm on July 16 last year after the two officers approached a group of schoolgirls sitting on a bench outside a Burger King fast-food outlet.

CCTV footage showed up to 40 people surrounding the officers, who were forced to call for emergency back-up. One officer said that he was grabbed by the throat from behind and pulled to the ground before being kicked and stamped on. The two policemen said that they feared for the lives as they defended themselves with batons in the violent and chaotic scenes. The court was told that the girl had secured good GCSE results and will soon attend college.

The judge said that members of the public who witnessed the violence were shocked. “You went wild — screaming, punching and kicking. Two officers were unable to control you and the other girls also jumped on the officers. You have, unhappily, displayed very little insight into what happened. You have showed no remorse or sympathy for the true victims here, who are the officers. It seems to me you see yourself as the victim. That attitude, I must tell you, is wholly wrong and you bear a heavy responsibility for what happened that afternoon.”

Speaking after the case, Chief Superintendent Adrian Roberts, the Croydon borough commander, said he hoped that the conviction would draw a line under the attack. He said: “There is no mistaking the fact that my officers were put through a terrible ordeal on that day. I praise their tenacity in dealing with such a unique situation, the likes of which, I am pleased to say, rarely happens in Croydon.”

The girl was convicted of violent disorder in July. Two male co-defendants were acquitted on the judge’s direction.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Bleeds to Death After Doctor Accidentally Punctures Jugular While Inserting a Drip — and No Blood is Available for Transfusion

A young woman died in hospital after waiting almost two hours for a blood transfusion that could have saved her. Sally Thompson, 20, bled to death after a doctor accidentally punctured her jugular vein during a bungled procedure. Despite an urgent request to the blood bank at Manchester Royal Infirmary, she died one hour and 45 minutes later, before any arrived. Speaking after her inquest, her father John, 62, said she would still be alive if the blood had been available sooner. The retired farmer said: ‘This hospital is supposed to be the cornerstone of the NHS in Manchester, but they couldn’t get any blood for two hours. ‘We have never had any answers about why it took so long. I feel very let down by the hospital.’ Coroner Nigel Meadows said the inability to supply the blood was a ‘significant failure’ and he would write to hospital bosses. If a patient needs a transfusion, blood is tested first by type and then further tests, known as crossmatching, are performed to check antibodies in the blood. But in an emergency when there is no time for crossmatching, blood of the same type as the patient’s — in Miss Thompson’s case O-negative, one of the most common types — can be given. The inquest was told that doctors did eventually request non-crossmatched blood, but by then it was too late. Miss Thompson, an administration assistant for Rochdale Council, had suffered from a rare blood disorder, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), since she was eight. The condition caused her immune system to fail and doctors said she would eventually need a bone marrow transplant. On August 22, 2005, she collapsed at home in Middleton, Manchester, and was admitted to the Royal Infirmary. Doctors stabilised her, but two days later she had a series of fits and was transferred to intensive care. The following evening, and with the fits still going on, doctors decided to start her on a course of chemotherapy.

They decided to insert a tube called a central venous catheter into her jugular vein to administer the chemotherapy drugs directly into her bloodstream.

Dr Jaydeep Mandal, a critical care specialist registrar, who no longer works at the hospital, used a technique known as ‘landmark’ to find the blood vessel. But when the tube was inserted, it caused internal bleeding.

The inquest heard that the landmark technique, which involves mapping out the features of the neck to find the vein, was contrary to guidelines, which recommend using an ultrasound scan to find the vein. Ultrasound equipment was available. However, Dr Mandal had used the landmark technique 300 times and consulted colleagues before it was agreed that it should be used on Miss Thompson, the inquest was told.

Her father said: ‘It punctured Sally’s vein and, unbeknown to them, she was bleeding into her chest cavity for almost an hour. ‘When they did find out they sent an order down for blood but the bank said they were having trouble finding any crossmatched blood because of her disorder.’ Miss Thompson died before any blood arrived after having a heart attack caused by the internal bleeding. Coroner Mr Meadows, who recorded a narrative verdict, said he would ask hospital bosses to review the procedure relating to central venous catheters. ‘No crossmatched or uncrossmatched O-negative blood was supplied, despite it being requested during the resuscitation, and this was a significant failure,’ Mr Meadows said. ‘Blood salvage was organised but not initiated until towards the very end of attempts to resuscitate the deceased.’ A hospital spokesman said it had reviewed procedures concerning CVCs and was investigating why no blood was ever supplied for a transfusion.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ulster: Mob Tries to Spark Riot After Jailing of Dissident Mortar Trio

Trouble flared in Lurgan and Craigavon last night hours after three men were jailed for a dissident republican plot to kill police officers with a mortar bomb.

Gangs of masked youths hijacked and then burnt out several vehicles in the Kilwilkie, Drumbeg and Meadowbank estates in an attempt to bring people out on to the streets and lure police into the areas.

Initially it was feared tensions could escalate after a small white van was hijacked and placed on railway lines before being set alight just after 6pm.

Shortly afterwards masked youths then hijacked a lorry and set it on fire near the Drumbeg estate — just metres from the spot where Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead by dissident republicans in March.

There were a number of reports that masked gunmen had been seen wandering the estates, although none of these could be verified.

And while the hijacking and burning of vehicles did force police to advise motorists to avoid the area and also caused disruption to rail services between Lisburn and Portadown, the gang’s attempts to create a full-scale riot and heated confrontation with police officers ultimately failed. Local SDLP MLA and Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said the violence in Lurgan and Craigavon last night was utterly futile and achieved nothing except destruction and injury.

She said the trouble had been anticipated by the police and local community following the sentencing of Damien McKenna (26), of Deans Walk, Gary Toman (24), of Drumnahoe Avenue, and Sean McConville (23), of Kilwilkie Road, yesterday.

“It was very serious and highly organised, with stockpiling of petrol since yesterday,” she said.

“There were also reports that masked men were being seen in parts of the town.

“Three young men are beginning long prison sentences to absolutely no purpose whatsoever. What they were up to was futile just as the rioting is futile. It can achieve nothing positive for the community or for any political cause. It can only achieve destruction and injury or worse, and the waste of young lives.”

Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd condemned last night’s violence, adding that the attempts to cause widespread rioting did nothing but harm their own communities.

“This appears to be an attempt to draw people on to the streets but thankfully it wasn’t overly successful,” he said.

“The police had been monitoring the situation and there was no confrontation between the youths and police at this stage.

“The attempts to cause rioting only harms the community in which it is taking place.”

He added that he thought the trouble appeared to be “linked to the sentencing” of the three men yesterday.

Meanwhile, police are investigating a claim that a device had been left at Palace Demesne in Armagh.

Nothing was found last night, although they have issued a warning to members of the public that in the event of noticing a suspect object in the area, they should not approach or touch it but should contact police immediately.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Who is Crazy in Holland Today?

by Thomas Landen

The former Soviet Union used to send dissidents to psychiatric wards and treat them for the mental disease of not seeing the benefits of communism. In Europe, we have not gone so far (yet) that people who do not see the benefits of the multicultural society are treated as lunatics. They are merely considered to be “fascists” or “racists.” Nevertheless, some intellectuals on the left truly seem unable to understand how anyone who is right in the head can be “right” in the head.

This explains why many leftist Dutch are so puzzled by Geert Wilders. While they can understand that the blue-collar lower classes oppose immigrants — because they are unsophisticated and dumb — they find it hard to understand why a seemingly intelligent man like Geert Wilders is fighting the Islamization of his home country.

Last week, an article by the cultural anthropologist Lizzy van Leeuwen in the leftist weekly De Groene Amsterdammer (“The Green Amsterdammer”) caused a stir. She explains Wilders’s “rabid anti-immigration and anti-Islam ideas” as stemming from his ethnic mix. The article is considered to be “an intellectual attempt to analyze what drives Wilders.” According to Mrs. van Leeuwen his statements — plus the fact that he dies his hair peroxide blond — are connected to his genealogical link to Indonesia, the largest Islamic country in the world.

Of Barack Obama it is said that his worldview has been influenced by his childhood years in Indonesia, the former Dutch colony that is also said to have shaped Geert Wilders’s worldview…

           — Hat tip: AA[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Threats for Breaking Morocco Fast

A Moroccan man campaigning to change the law banning eating in public during the Muslim Ramadan fast says he has received 100 death threats this week.

Radi Omar denied that his group was anti-Islam. “We are in favour of individual freedom,” he told the BBC.

Six of his colleagues are in custody after planning to eat in public last Sunday and he demanded their release.

Mr Omar said they were being well treated but he assumed they were not being fed during the fasting hours.

The group, known as the Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (Mali), has more than 1,200 members on its Facebook site.

They planned a public defiance of the law at the train station in Mohammedia near Casablanca last Sunday but were dispersed by the police.

The protesters were prevented from eating and so should not have been detained, Mr Omar said, adding that they have not been charged.

Under Moroccan law, eating in public during the hours of daylight, when Muslims are supposed to observe a fast, can lead to a fine and up to six months in prison.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Blocking the Truth of the Gaza War: How the Goldstone Commission Understated the Hamas Threat to Palestinian Civilians

by Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi

  • Was the UN commission’s approach one-sided against Israel, or unbiased and objective as commission chairman Richard Goldstone contended? Statements of Palestinians recorded by the commission and posted on the UN website provide authentic evidence of the commission’s methodology and raise serious questions about its intentions to discover the truth.
  • Commission members did not ask the interviewed Palestinians questions about the activities of Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip which could be classified as war crimes or that were potentially dangerous to innocent Palestinians. Furthermore, there was no serious consideration of Palestinian “friendly fire” incidents, and we can only guess how many Palestinian civilians were killed or wounded by Palestinian fire.
  • Reports issued by the Palestinian terrorist organizations themselves detailed the fighting in a way that often contradicted the Palestinian witnesses. In addition, the witnesses hid vital information from the commission regarding the presence of armed terrorists or exchanges of fire in their vicinity.
  • On June 28 and 29, 2009, the Goldstone Commission recorded Palestinian statements at the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City. The following is an analysis of the four main statements, the way the commission interpreted them, and reports from other Palestinian sources which contradict the testimony presented to the commission…

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]

Cast Lead: Goldstone, Laughable Anti-Semite Accusations

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 15 — South African judge Richard Goldstone, Jewish, defined as “laughable” the accusations of anti-Semitism that were levelled against his person by Israeli circles in the wake of the release of a UN report which criticised the Jewish State. Goldstone stated that “Accusing me of anti-Semitism is ridiculous”. He presented a UN report that criticised the behaviour of Israelis, as well as Palestinians, during Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ military operation against the Gaza Strip between 2008 and 2009. During a press conference in the UN, Goldstone stated that “I’m Jewish, I have connections with Israel, and I am deeply disappointed” by Israeli attitudes towards me as regards this matter, “I think that what I did was in Israel’s interest”. Goldstone requested that his report be submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, and to the UN’s Human rights council, which commissioned it. The judge hopes that the public prosecutor of the Hague Court, Argentina’s Luis Moreno-Ocampo, will examine the Goldstone report “as soon as possible”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


News-consumers tuned to foreign channels these past two days are being treated afresh to horrific footage of bombed-out Gazan buildings, accompanied by damning quotes from the Goldstone Commission Report.

Israel is accused of having committed war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity, during Operation Cast Lead last December and January. The rocket barrages against southern Israel that prompted the IDF assault on Hamas are mostly relegated to the margins of the new-old TV coverage — just as in the Goldstone report itself.

The learned judge’s concoction, based heavily on unverifiable claims from avowedly non-objective sources, some of them long-since discredited, is a feat of cynical superficiality, without appropriate distinction between terror and defense. The distorted picture justifies the Foreign Ministry’s reaction of “nausea and fury.”

Yet nobody here is surprised. The verdict was sealed before the probe had begun.

NOTHING WAS impartial about the Goldstone panel. It was dispatched by the UN Human Rights Council to compile a case against Israel for “violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law…” Because the panel’s conclusions were pre-scripted, its mission was opposed by Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the EU (America wasn’t a member), and Israel refused to cooperate with it.

The council itself — the UN’s most anti-Israel subsidiary even vis-a-vis other ultra-antagonistic UN forums — was established in March 2006 to replace the much-discredited UN Human Rights Commission, which spent its energies in obsessive demonization of Israel. But the new body was so akin to its predecessor that, in November 2006, then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was moved to deplore its “disproportionate focus on violations by Israel” whereas “graver crises,” like Darfur, were overlooked.

Annan’s successor Ban Ki-moon echoed the sentiment in June 2007: “The Secretary-General is disappointed at the Council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”

Among these are atrocities committed in intra-Palestinian violence, to say nothing of a decade’s indiscriminate rocketing of Israeli towns. The UN’s own indifference toward the latter, it must sadly be noted, helped render Israeli counterstrikes unavoidable.

Considering the UNHRC’s inglorious record — not to mention the fact that the Goldstone panel was set up at the instigation of Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh — there was plainly no point in Israel abetting its own vilification.

BESIDES OBVIOUSLY rewarding terror, demonizing Israel and seeking to constrain Israel’s capacity to protect itself, the Goldstone Commission displays contempt for Israel’s judiciary. UN human rights frameworks were founded to combat abuses by rogue states and dictatorships, where autonomous legal systems are nonexistent. Israel’s courts are renowned for their activism and independence, often provoking government displeasure.

Yet the Goldstone report, while effectively giving Hamas a free pass, demands “an independent inquiry to assess whether the treatment by Israeli judicial authorities of Palestinian and Jewish Israelis expressing dissent in connection with the offensive was discriminatory.”

Such wholesale bias leaves no room for fair evaluation of the IDF’s own probes. The IDF judge-advocate general has initiated 24 (ongoing) investigations into some 100 allegations by assorted NGOs against soldiers who may have deviated from stringent IDF codes. Respect for enemy lives, indeed, often culminates in the endangerment, even sacrifice, of Israeli troops.

Goldstone also faults Israeli investigators for not collecting evidence in Gaza as per “domestic police investigation of a murder in Manhattan.” This analogy is absurdly misguided. In warfare, different rules apply from those governing civilian law enforcement. Goldstone can hardly expect Israelis to collect evidence in hostile Gaza. The fate of kidnapped Gilad Schalit (an outrageous human rights violation, on which the Goldstone report also falls short) should elucidate why.

Israel knows that its survival depends on it continuing to act in the best interests of its own self-preservation, consistent with its own profound moral obligations. But the Goldstone phenomenon is not only a challenge to Israel. It underlines that any democracy, and most pertinently the US, can find itself prosecuted and judged by the cynical scales of the worst tyrannies.

In their ongoing handling of the Goldstone recommendations, the world’s democracies must demonstrate their refusal to be cynically manipulated by the rogue states that empowered this panel. They must refused to be Goldstoned. Today, Israel has been maneuvered toward the dock. Who will it be tomorrow?

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

Meridor: Any Arab Acceptance of Israel Comes From Understanding of Its Strength

Strategic Affairs Minister Dan Meridor said Friday that any acceptance of Israel by Arab states came from an understanding of its strength, not its legitimacy.

“The whole outlook that brought Egypt, Jordan, North African countries and Gulf states to accept Israel stemmed from the belief that it cannot be destroyed,” Meridor told Kol Hai Radio. “They didn’t see the Jewish right, but understood the Jewish power.”

“However, it they ever think the balance has changed, I don’t know how that will affect the peace process, and so we have an interest in making sure this does not happen,” he warned.

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

‘My Father is a Zionist, Loves Israel’

[Who’d have thought that? Well, good ol’ sayin’ “with Zionists like this, Israel needs no pals”]

Nicole Goldstone, the daughter of Richard Goldstone, whose report on Operation Cast Lead alleged that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza, maintained on Wednesday that her father “is a Zionist and loves Israel.”

Speaking from Toronto, where she now lives, Nicole told Army Radio she had many conversations with her father after he was asked to head the UN inquiry.

“I know better than anyone else that he thought however hard it was to accept it, he was doing the best thing for everyone, including Israel,” she said. “He is honest, tells things how he sees them and wants to uncover the truth.”

Nicole, who said she had read the first 300 and last 100 pages of the report, conceded that it contained some “very harsh” allegations against Israel.

She said she planned to host her parents in Toronto for Rosh Hashana, and that while speaking with her father following the report’s release, he had quipped, “Are you sure we can still come?”

Nicole insisted that the fact the report also accused the Palestinians of crimes against humanity showed that her father tried to be balanced.

“I am not angry with him. I love him and respect him,” she said.

“He is a Zionist,” she added. “My dad loves Israel and it wasn’t easy for him to see and hear what happened. I think he heard and saw things he didn’t expect to see and hear, and I am 100 percent sure he [conducted the investigation] in the hope that the Israelis would come to cooperate, and he wanted to help find a long-term solution for the state of Israel.”

Nicole, who lived in Israel for six months, said that the country “is the most important thing in my life, my heart is there… I love Israel more than my family and friends and anything else.”

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

West Bank: Israel Captures Wanted Hamas Member

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 15 — Today Israeli security forces caught in Tulkarem (West Bank) a most wanted member of Hamas (the radical Islamic Palestinian group in power in the Gaza Strip) accused of being involved in bloody terrorist attacks carried out in past years in Israel. The man, Mohammad Khreweich, age 26, deemed the leader of the secret Hamas terrorist cell in the Tulkarem area, was arrested together with an accomplice, Adnan Samara. According to a statement by a spokesperson for the Israeli military forces, he was not able to resist capture. Khreweich is also accused of having participated in the organisation of an attack carried out on occasion of the Jewish Easter in 2002 against a hotel in Netanya (north of Tel Aviv), which claimed the life of 29 people.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Window on Israel: The Goldstone Report — It’s So Bad, It’s Good

The Israeli government boycotted the Goldstone Mission, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council to report on the operation in Gaza. Israel’s reasons were the source of the mission, its official mandate and the prior statements of at least one of the members. Nothing good would come of it, and the government saw no benefit in participating.

Now the report has been issued. It meets expectations by damning Israel’s intentions and activities.

On the day after it was made public, Ha’aretz devoted almost half its pages to details and commentary. Radio and television have also given it a great deal of attention with prominent contributors.

Part of the Israeli response has been a loud Oy gevalt — the report is so bad it will cause significant damage. Another response is, we told you so — the report is so biased that no right thinking person can accept it at face value.

Sections of the mandate establishing the mission make it clear which was the guilty party before the investigation began:

Expressing serious concern at the lack of implementation by the occupying Power, Israel, of previously adopted resolutions and recommendations of the Council relating to the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem . . .

Recognizing that the Israeli siege imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip, including the closure of border crossings and the cutting of the supply of fuel, food and medicine, constitutes collective punishment of Palestinian civilians and leads to disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences . . .

While claiming to be an inquiry, much of the 575 page report is in the form of “It is reported that . . .” One critic justly claims that it is a compilation of material cut and pasted from existing reports by organizations with records of criticizing Israel but not Palestinians, and unverified statements of individuals interviewed in Gaza.

Supporters of the report claim balance on account of its criticism of Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli citizens. Yet the thrust is overwhelmingly against Israel. One of its conclusions goes beyond a description of what happened, and claims to have identified Israeli motives of the ugliest kind.

It is clear from evidence gathered by the mission that the destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy by the Israeli armed forces. It was not carried out because those objects presented a military threat or opportunity but to make the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population.”

Shimon Peres condemned the Report as a mockery of history. A senior Foreign Ministry official compared it to the 1975 United Nations resolution that Zionism is racism.

The report is so bad, it’s good. It is easier to defend oneself against a caricature of condemnation than a serious inquiry and balanced criticism.

Palestinians, other Arabs and Muslims, as well as the international left are applauding the report. The daughter of Richard Goldstone, the Jewish South African jurist who chaired the mission, asserts that the report is balanced, and that her father is a Zionist who loves Israel. Speaking from her home in Toronto, she said that Israel “is the most important thing in my life, my heart is there… I love Israel more than my family and friends and anything else.”

The history of the Goldstone Mission does not portend wide acceptance among important governments. The resolution that established it was presented by such “paragons of international humanitarianism as Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.”

Canada’s representative on the Council opposed the resolution, and 13 European countries abstained. At the time of the resolution, the United States was still following the policy of the Bush administration to boycott the UN Human Rights Council on account of its control by repressive states.

The Obama administration has joined the Human Rights Council, intending to work for greater balance in its activities. Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton has not been kind:

This is like getting on board the Titanic after it’s hit the iceberg… This is the theology of engagement at work. There is no concrete American interest served by this, and it legitimizes something that doesn’t deserve legitimacy.”

As yet, there has been no official American comment on the Goldstone Report.

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

Middle East

Ahmadinejad: Iran Has No Need for Nuclear Arms, They Belong to the Past

Hours after AP said that a secret IAEA report claims Iran is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday said his country has no need for nuclear weapons, but refrained from explicitly ruling out that Teheran would acquire such arms.

“Nuclear arms, we believe they belong to the past and the past generation,” Ahmadinejad told NBC television.

“We do not see any need for such weapons,” he said

The Iranian leader went on to stress that the Islamic republic has “always believed in talking, in negotiation.”

However, when asked if he could issue a clearer statement ruling out Iran’s obtaining nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad replied: “You can take from that whatever you want Madam.”

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

Ahmadinejad Faces Test of Strength as Fresh Protests Sweep Iran

The Islamic Republic has seldom seen such scenes. President Ahmadinejad had to cut short an interview on state-controlled television because chants of “Ahmadi! Ahmadi! Resign! Resign!” could clearly be heard in the background.

After two quiescent summer months, huge new protests erupted across Iran yesterday, with popular anger at the alleged theft of June’s presidential election inflamed by the subsequent killing, torture, rape and show trials of opponents of the regime.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, 68, the former Prime Minister and de facto opposition leader, had to abandon plans to join the huge anti-government demonstrations in Tehran when hardliners attacked him and his car.

Ayatollah Khatami, 65, a popular former President who supports the opposition, was knocked to the ground, had his robe ripped and lost his cleric’s turban — a black garment signifying that he is a sayyid, or descendant of the Prophet.

In Tehran and other cities, tens of thousands of demonstrators hijacked Iran’s annual al-Quds Day rallies in support of the Palestinian cause and turned them into protests against the oppression of Iranians. The security forces hit back with teargas and baton charges. There were violent confrontations between government and opposition supporters in the squares and avenues of central Tehran and numerous reports of arrests and injuries.

In an address to the Friday prayers gathering in Tehran, Mr Ahmadinejad caused international outrage by again dismissing the Holocaust as a myth and claiming that the regime in Israel was collapsing. Yesterday’s turmoil, however, suggested that his regime was the one in trouble.

There had been no major demonstrations since July 17 but the Government could hardly cancel al-Quds Day, an event initiated by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, and the opposition seized its chance. Its supporters turned out in huge numbers and paralysed the centre of Tehran; estimates of the turnout ranged from 100,000 to 500,000. They were young and old, male and female, rich and poor, and came with green wristbands, T-shirts, balloons and banners to show support for Mr Mousavi’s green movement.

Car drivers stuck in the gridlock sounded their horns and turned on their headlights to show support. Protests were also reported in Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, Qum, Rasht and other cities. Within hours the internet was flooded with video clips showing jubilant crowds applauding, singing and holding their arms aloft to form a sea of V-for-victory signs. Witnesses said that they chanted “Rape and torture will not stop us” and “Liar, liar, where is your 63 per cent?” — a reference to Mr Ahmadinejad’s alleged share of June’s vote.

They chanted: “I will fight, I will die, but I will take back my country”, and “Supreme Leader! This is the last message — the Green Movement of Iran is prepared for the uprising”. Mocking the regime’s concern for the Palestinians, they chanted: “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon — I sacrifice my life for Iran.” Some held placards saying: “If I rise, if you rise, everyone will rise.”

One elderly woman said: “They have raped, murdered and tortured our youth after stealing the election. May God’s wrath come down on them.”

A 69-year-old merchant said: “I came to show solidarity with the youth of my country. The regime is destroying Islam and Iran.”

A young female student said: “The cheating, the raping, the killing and the torture drive you mad. I’ve come to express my hatred for Ahmadinejad and his protector, that so-called Great Leader of the Revolution.”

The Revolutionary Guards had warned that demonstrations would be crushed and the security forces responded with baton charges, teargas and pepper gas, but there were reports of protesters hurling stones and beating pro-government basiji militiamen.

The security forces also cordoned off Tehran University, where Mr Ahmadinejad addressed thousands of government supporters bussed in for Friday prayers. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former President, had addressed Friday prayers on al-Quds Day for most of the past quarter century, but was barred yesterday because of his opposition sympathies.

Mr Ahmadinejad used the occasion to deliver another verbal onslaught on Israel, saying that the Holocaust — the West’s “pretext” for creating the Zionist state — was “a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim”.

He said that confronting Israel was a “national and religious duty” and warned Israel’s supporters: “This regime’s days are numbered. It is on its way to collapse. It is dying.”

Mr Ahmadinejad was speaking just days before his scheduled address to the UN General Assembly and his words provoked outrage abroad. David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, called his comments abhorrent. The White House issued a condemnation. The World Jewish Congress urged UN member states to boycott his speech.

Yesterday’s protests show that the Iranian regime is still far from secure and that, with summer over, its problems will mount. The football season has begun, meaning large and volatile crowds will gather each weekend. At the same time students, who are traditionally in the vanguard of Iranian protest movements, are pouring back into the capital for the start of the new academic year next week.

There are rumours that the regime may shut down some universities for a term. It is said to be purging “suspect” teachers and increasing the number of pro-government basiji volunteers in schools and colleges. In recent weeks the regime has cancelled other public events, including the commemoration of Imam Ali’s death at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. During August it is understood to have moved three big football matches out of Tehran or had them played behind closed doors.

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]

Lebanon-Press: Syria Protest to UN Over Hariri Death Inquiry

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, SEPTEMBER 17 — Syria has presented a protest to the United Nations over its investigator Detlev Mehlis and collaborator Gerhard Lehmann accusing them of attempting to involve Damascus “at any price” in the 2005 attack which cost the life of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. The story appears in today’s edition of the Beirut daily al Akhbar. The paper does not state when the protest was presented, but an anonymous official source in New York is cited as saying that Damascus has accused Mehlis and Lehmann of having “fabricated, falsified and created political information (…) in order to involve Syria in this odious crime at any price”. According to the same source, in its letter, the Damascus government calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Chair of the Security Council, US ambassador Susan Rice, to set up an official inquiry into the affair. At the same time, Daniel Bellemare, prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague, which is to hold the trials of the persons suspected of killing Hariri, has admitted not having sufficient evidence to press charges. “There have been no political agreements: neither with Syria nor with other countries on the part of the Tribunal”, Bellemare stated, as cited today in the Lebanese press. Nonetheless, as the prosecutor told TV Future, “when political attacks on the Tribunal are stepped up, I understand that I am getting near the truth”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama, Sarkozy Discuss Bringing Iran ‘Into Compliance’

US President Barack Obama and French President Nicholas Sarkozy discussed ways to bring Iran “into compliance” with UN resolutions on its nuclear program ahead of diplomatic talks, Agence France Presse quoted the White House as saying.

“The two leaders discussed the status of diplomatic efforts to bring Iran into compliance with its international obligations on its nuclear program,” a statement said after Obama and Sarkozy spoke over the telephone.

The call came ahead of an October 1 meeting between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany set to test Iran’s readiness to discuss concerns over its nuclear program, which Western governments and Israel suspect is a cover to build an atomic bomb, AFP reported.

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

Sarkozy: Iran Working on Nukes Today

After Paris warned that new sanctions against Teheran remained an option despite the likelihood of negotiations with Iran, French President Nicolas Sarkozy maintained that the Islamic republic was still working on a nuclear weapons program.

“It is a certainty to all of our secret services. Iran is working today on a nuclear [weapons] program,” Sarkozy told lawmakers from his UMP party on Tuesday, according to Press TV.

“We cannot let Iran acquire nuclear” weapons because it would also be a threat to Israel, he added.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero had warned that Iran must make “concrete gestures” at the long-awaited discussions. He said the sanctions option remained on the table in case Teheran makes “an error of choice.”

“It is up to Iran to restore international confidence … and show it is ready to seriously discuss its sensitive activities,” Valero said at a press briefing.

Earlier, Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama discussed ways to bring Iran “into compliance” with UN resolutions on its nuclear program, Agence France Presse quoted the White House as saying.

“The two leaders discussed the status of diplomatic efforts to bring Iran into compliance with its international obligations on its nuclear program,” according to a released after Obama and Sarkozy spoke over the telephone.

Also Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that talks on Iran’s nuclear program would likely be held in Turkey, and full US participation may lead to progress in the negotiations.

Casting aside conditions the Bush administration had set for talks, President Barack Obama’s White House is pressing for progress after years of little movement on Iran’s nuclear program.

“The Americans will be present in a formalized manner. This is new,” Solana said, referring to the meeting scheduled for October 1. “I think that has to be evaluated positively by the Iranians.”

Solana said the meeting could help resolve the standoff over the Islamic republic’s refusal to freeze uranium enrichment and heed other UN Security Council demands.

The talks will be the first since a 2008 session in Geneva foundered over Iran’s refusal to discuss enrichment.

The US has announced that Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns — who was at the Geneva talks as an observer — would again represent the US But this time, EU officials said, Burns will be a full participant in the upcoming meeting, which will also include representatives of Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the American delegate to the talks would insist on discussing Iran’s nuclear program.

“I think it is important to underscore that we have made clear to the Iranians that any talks we participate in must address the nuclear issue head on,” Clinton told reporters at the US State Department. “It cannot be ignored. Iran says it has a number of issues that it wishes to discuss with us but what we are concerned about is discussing with them the questions surrounding their nuclear program and ambitions.”

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

Soltanieh: Iran’s Nuclear Talks With West Are a ‘New Window of Opportunity’

Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said the upcoming nuclear talks with the West posed a “real, new window of opportunity” and suggested that Teheran was prepared to address concerns about its nuclear intentions.

In an interview with the Washington Post published on Thursday, Soltanieh warned against attempts to intimidate his country with threats of new sanctions and reiterated that Iran had a basic right to pursue peaceful nuclear power.

“This is the best course of action, and this is a real, new window of opportunity that is being opened by the Iranian nation,” Soltanieh said of the nuclear talks Iran is set to hold with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the UK, China, France, Russia and the US — as well as Germany.

The West, he said, “should immediately and promptly seize this opportunity.”

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

Syria: Arab Press Freedom Website Blocked

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, SEPTEMBER 17 — In Syria, the local authorities have blocked access to an Arab world information and media website,, reported the editors of the Lebanese site located at the ‘Samir Kassir Eyes’ centre for cultural freedom and the press, with a statement published by the media in Beirut. “Since Monday, access to the site has been blocked by all servers part of General Telecom, the Syrian state-run phone company”. According to the Syrian Centre for the media and freedom of expression, there are about 200 websites blocked by the Syrian postal police. The sites are mainly Kurdish web pages or information sites deemed hostile by the Syrian government. Financed by several international groups including the EU, the Skeyes centre for cultural freedom and the press is named after Samir Kassir, the Lebanese journalist assassinated in Beirut in July 2005. Since 2007, the centre has been monitoring freedom of expression in the Arab media, publishing reports and analyses, and cooperating with international cultural groups to raise awareness throughout the public on issues in the media. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Syria Strategic Partners, Lift Visa Requirements

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 17 — Turkey and Syria agreed to set up a High Level Strategic Cooperation Council, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu announced as reported by local media. The agreement for the establishment of the council was signed yesterday Davutoglu and his Syrian counterpart al-Moallem. Davutoglu said that ministers of the two countries in charge of foreign affairs, energy, commerce, housing, defense, interior affairs and transport were going to hold meetings at least twice a week to prepare a plan of action. The plan will be discussed by the Council of ministers, and then will be put into effect by the Prime Ministers of the two countries. Turkish and Syrian officials also have agreed to remove visa requirements in travel between the two countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Aims at Full Economic Integration With Iraq, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 17 — Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that Turkey desired to achieve a comprehensive economic integration with Iraq as Anatolia news agency reports. The first ministerial meeting of the Turkey-Iraq High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council started at the Ciragan Palace in Istanbul. Speaking at the meeting, Davutoglu said that Turkish and Iraqi governments decided to plan their countries’ future according to a model partnership framework. “This will be an important milestone in our bilateral relations and the first example of a new understanding for a model partnership. With this initiative, various ministers of Turkey and Iraq will come together for the first time to implement joint projects,” Davutoglu said. The council comprised of foreign, interior, foreign trade, public works and housing, energy, health, agriculture and environment ministers of Turkey and Iraq. On his part, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari thanked Turkish government for its support and assistance after terrorist attacks in Iraq and for its help in treating hundreds of people injured in these attacks and said his country was eager to cooperate with Turkey to shape the future of the region. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: “Reset” Translates as “Capitulation”

Last March, during a visit to Moscow, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was made to look foolish when she presented her host, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with a box festooned with a button marked “Reset” in English. The idea was to have a photo-op designed to symbolize President Obama’s ambition to put U.S. relations with the Kremlin on a new, more positive footing after the bilateral strains of the George W. Bush years.

Unfortunately for the Secretary, her crack State Department team mistranslated the term and the word on the box in Russian meant “overcharge” not “reset.” Based on the President’s decision announced to scrap the planned deployment of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, however, we now know, that Team Obama’s version of resetting would best be translated as “capitulation.”…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Adnkronos Reporter Shares the Daily Life of Italian Soldiers

Roma, 18 Sept. (AKI) — (By Alessia Virdis) — At times, the days in Afghanistan have no beginning or end. The hours fly by. Italian soldiers serving in Afghanistan are constantly on alert living under the threat of all kinds of attack. Proud of their work, which they have chosen, they are determined to continue what they do, respectful of cultural differences and committed to helping others.

Every day they leave their bases to immerse themselves in the reality of Afghan daily life, constantly under threat from ‘assymmetric warfare’, facing the dangers of a hidden insurgency.

Italian soldiers are on the front line whether they are taking part in a humanitarian assistance mission or on patrol, carrying out minesweeping operations or shooting practice, and even when taking part in a tribal council or shura , or meeting Afghan officials.

Many call the armoured Lynx vehicles ‘Blessed Lynxes’ because they have saved soldiers’ lives. The five soldiers who travel inside these vehicles form close bonds of friendship and solidarity which helps them survive life-threatening situations.

“Everything all right back there?” was a question frequently put to me by Italian paratroopers when I recently spent three weeks as an embedded reporter, travelling between western Herat, Bala Buluk, Kabul and the Musahi valley.

Almost all the Italian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan are young men, whose thoughts and emotions are constantly with their families back home.

Many of them previously served with the United Nations UNIFIL peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, and some have served in Iraq.

They all asked me the same question: “What do the Italians think of us?”. The soldiers are afraid people think they are only serving in Afghanistan for the money.

But while financial compensation can be one reason for going there, it is not the only reason: people go because they are passionate about what they do and because they love their job.

There are easier and less dangerous ways of earning money.

Some soldiers also talk of “love for their country”, of “subordination of personal interest within that of the collective good” or “the public interest prevailing over personal interest”.

The Italian mission in Afghanistan is committed to restoring security in a turbulent country where dangers exist in every corner — under a suspect pile of stones, in a white Toyota car, in a motorbike that has apparently been abandoned by the roadside and even in a drainage ditch.

Hostilities are taking place every hour in a country where past returns to haunt the present in the form of spent ammunition and the age-old rocks. Even when climbing a mountain with a 30 kg backpack full of provisions and weapons, camouflaged by the stony mountainside, in the intense daytime heat and the dry cold of September windy nights.

The Italian military’s objective is always to help create a secure and stable environment to legitimise the Afghan government and build a better life for the Afghan people.

Alessia Virdis was an embedded reporter for Adnkronos International (AKI) with Italian troops in Afghanistan from 18 August until 7 September.

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

Collusion Between Police and Extremists Cause of Deaths in Judicial Custody, Pakistani NGO Says

A human rights group expresses concern over “increasing incidents of violence” against religious minorities. Fanatics enjoy impunity thanks to complicitous prison guards. The government is blamed for not prosecuting people responsible for such crimes. Police has not yet registered a first information report on the murder of a 20-year-old Christian man in Sialkot prison.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — The Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights (JAC), a group of Pakistan-based non-governmental organisations operating in the human rights field, has expressed concern over “increasing incidents of violence” that have taken in recent months against religious minorities, especially Christians. Their concern also includes the apparent “collusion” of some officials in the police and the prison system with “fanatics and extremists” in perpetrating crimes against members of religious minorities.

According to JAC activists, anti-Christian violence in Gojra in early August and the murder of a young Christian man in prison in Sialkot show that the “government’s record of protecting religious minorities [. . .] is disappointing to say the least.”

The death in the Sialkot District Jail of Robert Fanish Masih has raised strong suspicions that jail officials were involved in the crime.

Witnesses say they saw torture marks on the body of the 20-year-old man, something that if proven true would contradict jail officials’ claim that he committed suicide.

In the meantime, Fanish’s father (funerals pictured) filed a first information report against prison management, but police has yet to register it.

In any event, the killing of Fanish Masih in Sialkot Jail was not an isolated incident. Similar episodes have been recorded in the recent past. Other defendants facing blasphemy charges have allegedly committed suicide whilst in judicial custody even when circumstantial evidence suggested they were murdered by fanatics in collusion with jail officials

For JAC the government is to blame for failing to carry out “fair, transparent and thorough investigations into earlier cases of deaths in judicial custody.” Had it done so “it would have worked as a deterrent for the future.”

The human rights group insists that the government hold a transparent inquiry into Robert Fanish Masih’s alleged suicide in Sialkot Jail.

It also wants the government to repeal all blasphemy laws immediately because they have been used and abused too often by Islamic fundamentalists to attack religious minorities.

Equally, the group calls on the authorities to deal firmly with banned organisations in accordance with the law.

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

Malaysian Couple Face Cane Over Car Sex

An Islamic court has ordered an unmarried couple to be caned for trying to have sex in a car in the latest of a series of harsh punishments for Muslims in Malaysia, a lawyer says.

Though Malaysia has long been upheld as an example of a moderate Muslim-majority country, recent verdicts sentencing Muslims to whipping for drinking alcohol have made headlines.

Two months ago, an Islamic judge triggered a national debate when he ordered a woman to be caned for drinking beer.

In the latest case, the Shariah High Court in central Selangor state sentenced the couple on Wednesday to six strokes of the cane after they pleaded guilty to trying to have sex out of wedlock in their car, lawyer Shafezan Rusli said on Friday.

Shafezan said Islamic religious police caught Mohamad Shahrin Abdul Majid, 29, and Nadiah Najat Hussin, 24, with only their undergarments on in a car at an office parking lot in May.

He said they were appealing the caning as they planned to get married soon, though they had paid the court-ordered fine of 5,000 ringgit ($A1,600) each.

They could have been jailed for up to three years for the offence, the lawyer said.

Shariah laws apply to Muslims, who make up about 60 per cent of the 28 million population, in all personal matters.

Non-Muslims — Chinese, Indians and other minorities — are not subject to the laws.

Earlier this week, an Islamic court in another state ordered an Indonesian Muslim man to be whipped six times and jailed a year for drinking liquor at a restaurant.

In July, the same court had sentenced a Malaysian woman to six strokes of the cane and a fine for drinking beer in public.

The caning, which would be the first time a Malaysian woman has received the punishment, has not been carried out yet.

Many see the sentence as a setback for the country’s reputation as a moderate Muslim nation.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Official: 25 Dead in NW Pakistan Suicide Attack

The death toll in a suicide car bombing in Pakistan’s northwest has reached 25, a government official said Friday.

Area mayor Syed Mehtabul Hassan said several others were also wounded Friday when the bomber detonated his vehicle near a hotel in Kohat town in what might be a sectarian attack.

He told The Associated Press that 25 bodies had been pulled out of the rubble of the hotel and nearby shops.

Pakistan’s northwest is riddled with Taliban and al-Qaida militants, whose presence has added fuel to longstanding Sunni-Shi’ite tensions among Pakistani Muslims.

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

Thai Militants Kill 4 in South

YALA (Thailand) — SUSPECTED Islamist militants shot dead two policemen and two civilians in Thailand’s troubled south as a violence-plagued Ramadan neared an end, police said on Friday.

Attacks in the Muslim-majority region on the Malaysian border have spiked during the traditional holy month of fasting and prayer, adding to the toll of around 3,900 people who have died in a five-year insurgency.

Gunmen shot dead a Buddhist border patrol police sergeant as he drove to pick up his wife, a teacher, in restive Pattani province on Thursday, police said.

Another Buddhist policeman was killed in an ambush during a patrol in Pattani province late Thursday, while two other members of the patrol were seriously wounded, they said.

Also in Pattani, gunmen shot a Muslim deputy village chief in a food market on Thursday and he died on the way to hospital, said police.

Separately a Muslim man was gunned down and killed in his grocery store in neighbouring Narathiwat province by two men pretending to be customers, they said.

The separatist insurgency erupted in southern Thailand in early 2004, led by shadowy militants who have killed Buddhists and Muslims alike.

The region was an autonomous Malay Muslim sultanate until it was annexed by predominantly Buddhist Thailand in 1902, sparking decades of tensions.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

Korea: We Must Remember the Incheon Landing

In a meeting room at the U.S. Far East Command in Tokyo on Aug. 23, 1950, Gen. Lawton Collins, the Army chief of staff, and Adm. Forrest Sherman, the chief of naval operations, tried desperately to stop the Incheon landing. Gen. Douglas MacArthur listened and smoked his pipe then got up on a rostrum and said, “But Incheon will not fail. Incheon will succeed.” Nobody was willing to challenge MacArthur’s words. Later, MacArthur was to write, “I could almost hear my father’s voice telling me as he had so many years before, ‘Doug, councils of war breed timidity and defeatism.’“

Stealth played a key role in the success of the Incheon landing, which turned the tide of the Korean War in favor of the UN forces. The landing had to take place during high tide, when the waters off the coast were more than 9 m deep, for the amphibious landing vessels to unload troops and weapons on shore. But the water levels reached that depth only on three days — Sept. 15, Oct. 11 and Nov. 3. The U.S. military leaked false information to the media to hide the planned Sept. 15 landing date, and the press in Washington D.C. continued to print articles saying preparations were being made for an attack by UN coalition troops in mid-October.

Feint operations were also a success. U.S. Air Force fighters pummeled the areas surrounding Gunsan in southern South Korea from Sept. 5 to 13, while around 500 special forces troops were deployed on the beaches of the city on Sep. 12. The U.S. military also dropped leaflets warning Gunsan residents to evacuate the city because a major troop landing was about to take place, and a North Korean radio broadcast said the North’s troops thwarted a major U.S. military operation in Gunsan. Due to that diversion strategy, MacArthur was able to land 260 naval vessels, four patrol boats and around 75,000 troops, including one Marine division, seven infantry divisions and South Korean marines on the coast of Incheon.

In June this year, a ceremony was held at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer in northern France to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, which led to the eventual victory over Germany. French President Nicolas Sarkozy read aloud the names of each nation that took part in the battle and thanked them by saying, “France is indebted to you for its freedom.” U.S. President Barack Obama also attended the ceremony and said, “Today marks the day when freedom prevailed.” On the 60th anniversary of the invasion, even the German chancellor took part in the ceremony.

Tuesday was the 59th anniversary of the Incheon Landing. The city of Incheon and the Korean Marine Corps held a ceremony at a memorial hall in the city. Attending the ceremony were 110 American and Turkish veterans and 130 former South Korean soldiers who took part in the operation. One American veteran wept as he recalled his lost comrades, and the image appeared in newspapers the following day. The POW-MIA band he wore on his wrist also caught the attention of many people. The painful memories of war are still fresh in the minds of those veterans. Next year, when we mark the 60th anniversary of the Incheon Landing, the government should hold a ceremony as memorable as the one in Normandy, so that we can truly demonstrate our gratitude to those men.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Philippines: Islamic Militant Arrested

ZAMBOANGA — A MEMBER of a Muslim terrorist group accused of being involved in several kidnappings was arrested during a raid in the southern Philippines, authorities said on Friday.

Suhudi Ocenyo Jawani is a member of the Abu Sayyaf, a group of militants with alleged ties to the Al Qaeda network, said Major Ramon David Hontiveros, a local military spokesman.

A joint police and military team raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout on the outskirts of this southern port city on Wednesday and detained the suspect, also known as Abu Masib and Ibno Madja, Hontiveros told reporters.

‘He is facing four counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention,’ he said.

Hontiveros gave no other details about the suspect or the cases against him.

The Abu Sayyaf specialises in kidnapping western tourists and Christian missionaries, as well as bombings of military and civilian targets.

It was behind the bombing of a ferry that left more than 100 people dead on Manila Bay in 2005.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: ‘One Woman Crime Wave’ Deported to NZ

A New Zealand-born woman, dubbed a one woman crime wave after committing dozens of offences across Sydney, has been deported back to her homeland.

Patricia Carol Toia, 31, made the trip across the Tasman aboard a chartered jet on September 10 after commercial airlines refused to have her on board.

Toia, a drug addict, has been sentenced to jail terms on 30 occasions for offences including robbery, assault and dealing in heroin.

In jail she committed another 56 offences including assault, intimidation and damaging and destroying property.

She never held a driver’s licence but amassed traffic offences which saw her banned from taking to Australia’s roads until 2060.

Toia came to Australia at the age of one and had lived here all her life. But she fell foul of the good character provisions of the Migration Act.

She lost an appeal to the Federal Court on June 30 but chose not to lodge a final appeal to the High Court.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans declined to intervene in her case.

“As there was no impediment to her removal from Australia, arrangements were made to organise her removal,” a spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said.

“She was removed via a charter flight aircraft because airlines indicated that they were unwilling to carry her on a commercial flight.”

She was accompanied by three security officers and two departmental officials.

The cost of the flight has been put at between $30,000 and $40,000.

The spokeswoman said that was comparable to the cost of deportation aboard a commercial flight because of airline requirements for a deportee to be separated from other passengers by a buffer of empty seats.

She said the Immigration Department could not comment on Toia’s criminal conduct in Australia.

“Suffice it to say she has a long history of petty crime,” she said.

In a hearing before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in 2007, deputy president Julian Block noted that the description of Toia as a one-woman crime wave was by no means inapt.

“She is a threat to the Australian community and Australia deserves protection against her, given that the risk of recidivism is, as must be obvious, very substantial indeed,” he said.

Toia had argued against deportation on grounds that she had lived all her life in Australia.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Australia: Lawyer Tells Court Habib Case Outside Its Jurisdiction

THE Federal Court is being asked to decide what comes up trumps in the torture case of former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh Habib: Australia’s relations with foreign states or its laws against torture.

Mr Habib is suing the Federal Government for damages over his alleged torture in Guantanamo Bay, Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan while he was being held as a suspected enemy combatant.

He says Australian Federal Police and ASIO officers aided and abetted the torture and were present on some occasions, such as when he was threatened with rape by a US marine.

Government lawyers urged the court yesterday to stay out of the dispute. The Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Stephen Gageler, SC, said an established “act of state” doctrine urged courts not to pass judgment on the actions of foreign government agents in foreign lands.

Compensating Mr Habib could “vex the peace” between Australia and the US, Mr Gageler said, and was not within the court’s jurisdiction.

But Robert Beech-Jones, SC, counsel for Mr Habib, said Parliament made the Crimes (Torture) Act applicable outside Australia so that it would apply to cases like Mr Habib’s.

Mr Beech-Jones said the law formalised a clear international standard to which the US had signed up. Courts had made exceptions to the act of state doctrine for grave violations of international or human rights. “[The Parliament] has said no matter who does it, no matter where it’s done, it’s unlawful,” he said.

Mr Habib was arrested in Pakistan less than a month after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US and taken to Egypt, then Afghanistan, for interrogation before being moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was held until 2005.

He was never charged and says he was in Afghanistan on a business trip when accused of training with al-Qaeda.

The hearing continues.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Australia: Habib Case Raises Complex Issues

Civil action brought by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib against the Australian government will require the Federal Court to pit national sovereignty against human rights to determine if his torture case should go ahead.

Mr Habib is suing the government over allegations that Australian authorities were complicit and sometimes present during torture he allegedly endured while detained in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Commonwealth solicitor-general Stephen Gageler, SC, argued before a full bench of the Federal Court in Sydney on Monday that Mr Habib’s claims could not be heard by an Australian court because of the “act of state” doctrine.

The principle, acknowledged in previous court cases in Australia, states that a nation is sovereign and its domestic actions may not be questioned in the courts of other nations.

The government is arguing that Mr Habib’s case should be struck out on the basis of this doctrine.

In its submission to the Federal Court on Monday, the government referred to a ruling by the US Supreme Court case that “rejects the notion that the act of state doctrine is inapplicable merely because international law (such as human rights) has been violated”.

The commonwealth also referred to a position of the Australian, Swiss and UK governments that “the creation of a federal cause of action against foreign lands would interfere fundamentally with other nations’ sovereignty” and would “complicate international law and local efforts to halt and punish human rights violations”.

Mr Habib’s claims that Australian Federal Police and ASIO officers were complicit and sometimes present during his torture were not enough to usurp the act of state doctrine, the government submitted.

“The fact that the alleged conduct constitutes a serious violation of international law is not sufficient to give rise to an exception to the doctrine,” its submission states.

Mr Habib’s legal team also presented a submission to the Federal Court, arguing the application of the doctrine in Australia was unclear in relation to human rights violations and “may be subject to an exception in respect to international law”.

“…it is sufficient to say that the doctrine does not apply in certain circumstances,” their submission reads.

A “grave” breach of international human rights laws may be enough to supplant the doctrine, it says.

“However, a violation of this kind identified in these proceedings is more than sufficient,” it adds.

Court documents show Mr Habib was first detained in Pakistan in October 2001, and was moved to Egypt a month later, to Afghanistan in 2002 and finally to Guantanamo Bay in May 2002 where he was held as a terror suspect until his release in January 2005.

His legal team will conclude its submission before the Federal Court on Tuesday, when it is expected the bench will reserve its judgment to a later date.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Australia: Keep Courts Out of Habib Case: Government Lawyersjoel Gibson

Australian courts should stay out of a dispute between former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh Habib and the Commonwealth because passing judgment on his alleged foreign torturers could damage Australia’s relations with other states, Government lawyers argued today.

Mr Habib is suing the Federal Government in the Federal Court for damages over his alleged torture as a suspected enemy combatant in Guantanamo Bay, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He was accused of training with al-Qaeda but was never charged and says he was in Afghanistan in October 2001 on a business trip that went awry.

He says Australian Federal Police and ASIO officers were complicit in the torture and, in some instances, were even present at the time.

But a legal principle known as the “Acts of States” doctrine meant courts in the US, Britain and Australia were usually reluctant to condemn the action of agents of foreign governments, in case they usurp the foreign affairs role of the legislature or the executive arms of government, Commonwealth Solicitor-General Stephen Gageler SC told the Federal Court this morning.

Only when there is a grave violation of international or human rights law would a court make an exception, he said.

Mr Gageler is expected to argue this afternoon that the alleged torture of Mr Habib did not fall into this category.

The “Acts of States” rule has been applied by Australia’s High Court in the famous Spycatcher case, in which Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull as a young barrister took on Margaret Thatcher’s British government when it attempted to stop an Australian publisher from releasing the memoirs of former British spy Peter Wright.

The hearing continues

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Australia: AFP Probes Colombian Rebel Links

AN Australian Federal Police agent visited high-profile Colombian prisoner Liliany Obando in a Bogota women’s jail on September 2, in pursuit of local ties to Marxist guerillas known as FARC.

The agent pressed Obando for details of trips she made to Australia in 2005 and 2007, as a representative of the farm workers’ peak union body Fensuagro.

Details of the visit were confirmed yesterday by her lawyer, Eduardo Matias.

It is understood Obando refused to answer questions put to her by the agent and complained that the visit was illegal.

Neither the AFP nor Colombian authorities would comment.

Obando is charged with “rebellion” against the state and covert offshore fundraising for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has waged a 40-year guerilla war against the government and is regarded as a terrorist group.

Her public trial is imminent.

During her visits to Australia, she gave talks and met politicians including Labor MP Laurie Ferguson and the Australian Greens’ Lee Rhiannon, as well as trade union leaders.

Her pitch was that Colombia’s centre-right government and paramilitary groups were murdering trade unionists and abusing human rights.

Mr Ferguson and Ms Rhiannon said they were surprised by the charges against Obando and did not recall her fundraising.

In March last year, Colombian forces raided a FARC camp in Ecuador, killed the group’s second in command, Raul Reyes, and carried off his computers, the files of which, according to Colombian authorities, showed that FARC had a far more extensive overseas network than suspected.

In August last year, Obando became the first Colombian to be arrested as a result of the computer archive.

Using code names, she had emailed Reyes about forums and events in Australia and other countries, reporting “mission completed”, according to Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper.

Obando is reported to have made 35 trips abroad between 2003 and last year.

Colombian authorities allege that soon after Reyes’s death, she attempted to wipe from her computer details of activities and contacts in Australia and Canada.

They claim she is a member of FARC’s international commission, which was entrusted with propaganda and fundraising through front organisations.

Obando did raise a modest sum of money for FARC during a trip to Sydney in September-October 2007, according to Colombian intelligence sources quoted in the Colombian press.

NSW co-ordinator of the group Peace and Justice for Colombia, Elizabeth Rivera, said there had been plans to tap trade unions and political parties for money towards Fensuagro’s human rights work in Colombia, but these had come to nothing, partly because of Obando’s arrest.

She said Colombia’s Uribe government hoped to “make an example” of Obando.

“She came and showed us what really happens (to trade unionists and peasants) in Colombia,” Ms Rivera said.

“Anybody that goes out of the country to speak against the (Uribe) government would have probably 100 per cent chance that when they come back, they would be taken (prisoner).”

Ms Rivera had no concern that money raised in Australia for Obando’s legal defence might end up with FARC because “we will send it to the solicitors”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia: Parents of Truants Face Welfare Cuts

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Now this isn’t a bad idea.]

THE parents of Year 11 and 12 students who wag school could lose welfare benefits under a scheme in Brisbane to expand the income management provisions trialled in the controversial Northern Territory intervention.

The year-long trial, for schools in Brisbane’s rapidly growing southern urban fringe, could mean parents’ welfare payments being suspended for up to 13 weeks if they fail to send their children to school regularly.

Launching the pilot program yesterday, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin stressed that cutting off welfare payments would be a last resort.

There are about 2000 welfare-recipient parents in the region, which includes the suburbs of Logan, Woodridge, Kingston and Eagleby.

Ms Bligh said some schools in the area had attendance figures that were 10 to 15 per cent lower than the state average.

The Queensland trial follows a similar experiment in several Northern Territory indigenous communities, which has been in operation for six months.

While Ms Macklin could not say how many more children were regularly attending school since the beginning of the NT trial, she said no welfare payments had been suspended.

The Rudd government says the Queensland and Northern Territory trials are not linked to the NT intervention, although both feature welfare quarantining.

Ms Bligh said the trial would include all children in the area, from all grades up to Year 12.

“This trial will go across all years of schooling, and what will be required of parents is to demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to get their children to school,” she said.

“We understand that for some parents dealing with unruly teenagers is very difficult, and of course that will be taken into account in judging what is a reasonable effort by the parents.”

Single mother of four Michelle O’Sullivan is concerned the program will unfairly treat mothers whose children wag school despite their efforts to stop them.

Ms O’Sullivan’s twin 16-year-old sons are currently suspended from Kingston College, one of the schools involved in the program.

“I drop them off at school, I watch them walk through the school gates and then watch them walk out again in the afternoon when I pick them up,” she told The Weekend Australian. “And then months later, the school will send a letter saying a list of days the boys weren’t at school.”

Ms O’Sullivan said the premise of the program was sound, especially for primary school children, but it was not appropriate for secondary students.

She receives about $600 a fortnight in Centrelink payments for her three dependent children, and said she would be lost if her welfare were cut off.

“Imagine losing $600 a fortnight and having to pay food, rent and electricity.”

The program will be funded with $20 million over three years from the federal government.

There was concern yesterday that overstretched schools would not have the resources to deal with the extra workload necessary to make the trial work.

Norm Hart, president of the Queensland Association of State School Principals, said he would prefer the resources be directed to individual schools, rather than Centrelink. “Monitoring attendance is something schools already do, but it’s the documentation and the proving of the case that’ll add to the workload,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Cast Lead: UN: Crimes Against Humanity. Shameful Report

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK — A United Nations report on Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ operation states that “the Israeli ministry of Defence could be guilty of crimes against humanity” in the Gaza Strip. Richard Goldstone, the magistrate who was assigned the UN inquiry into the Israeli operation, told the press that “Following our investigation, we reached the conclusion that Israeli forces committed actions that can be classified as crimes of war and potentially, for certain aspects, as crimes against humanity”. The UN report accuses Israel of “not having taken the necessary precautions to minimise the loss of civilian lives”. The statement was included in a brief of the report delivered to the press. Goldstone, South African magistrate (of Jewish origins), was asked by the UN to investigate international law violations during Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip from December 27 of 2008 to January 18 of 2009. The report claims that the Israeli government “imposed a blockade on supplies which amounted to a collective punishment” for people in the Gaza Strip, “implementing a systematic policy aimed at isolating and depriving” the civilian population “of resources”. Israel strongly rejected the findings of the report that, according to a statement released by the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, “is a shameful chapter in the history of International Law and of the people’s right to self-defence”. In the statement, the Ministry accused that “the verdict was already written beforehand, in Geneva”, and that the Commission, led by Goldstone “was only gathering false or one-sided evidence against Israel”, during its recent mission in the region. Therefore, the Israeli Foreign Ministry stated its firm belief that “the report (published today) is a shameful chapter in the history of International Law and of the people’s right to self-defence”. The right to self-defence was Israel’s claim in justifying the Cast Lead operation. “Israel does not need to prodded by anyone in order to evaluate whether or not its actions were justified,” the Ministry wrote. After the release of the UN report accusations of anti-Semitism were levelled against Goldstone by Israeli circles. Accusations that the South African judge, Jewish, defined as “laughable”. Goldstone stated that “Accusing me of anti-Semitism is ridiculous”. During a press conference in the UN, Goldstone stated that “I’m Jewish, I have connections with Israel, and I am deeply disappointed” by Israeli attitudes towards me as regards this matter, “I think that what I did was in Israel’s interest”. Goldstone requested that his report, that criticised the behaviour of Israelis, as well as Palestinians, be submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, and to the UN’s Human rights council, which commissioned it. The judge hopes that the public prosecutor of the Hague Court, Argentina’s Luis Moreno-Ocampo, will examine the Goldstone report “as soon as possible”. The Cast Lead operation, which started in December 2008 with the declared intention of ending the recurring rocket launches from the Gaza Strip (which, in 2007, passed under full control of Islamic-radical Hamas), lasted until January 18, with area bombings and land military actions. According to estimates from Palestinian sources and Israeli pacifist organization B’tselem, the final toll was of over 1400 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, on top of heavy destruction of buildings and infrastructures. According to the Israeli Chiefs of Staff, the operation caused less than 1200 deaths, mostly of Hamas militants.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Boat in Difficulty Rescued South of Malta

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA (MALTA), SEPTEMBER 16 — A rubber dinghy carrying 70 migrants (including 14 women and 7 children) that hit difficulty due to level 6 rough seas, was rescued late last night some 70 miles south of Malta. The boat was intercepted by a patrol, stationed in Malta, which is involved in the Frontex mission (the joint control of the Mediterranean by various EU countries). The immigrants, who are principally Eritrean and Somali, were transferred to the patrol boat and taken to the port of Valletta. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Britain ‘Should Take in Migrants When the Jungle is Razed’

Britain was under pressure yesterday to take in hundreds of migrants who have been living in a shanty town in Calais known as The Jungle.

The UN’s refugee chief said Britain should take a share of the migrants who are to be evicted from their shacks when French officials clear the camp, probably early next week.

As many as 2,000 foreigners live rough in the Calais area with about 800, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan, camped in The Jungle.

The proposal by Antonio Guterres raised the prospect of a repeat of the British humiliation when France closed the Red Cross refugee camp at Sangatte seven years ago.

Then Britain accepted and gave fouryear work permits to 1,200 migrants who had been waiting near the Channel Tunnel mouth in the hope of making a crossing and claiming asylum. But three months later it emerged that the great majority had refused work and were costing taxpayers £100,000 a day in benefits.

Many were living in hotels, including the four-star Adelphi in Liverpool. None of the Sangatte migrants is thought to have left the UK since.

French officials have decided to bulldoze The Jungle after months of violence and disorder on the streets of Calais involving migrant gangs and attempts to board lorries bound for Dover. Mr Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, waded into the row over the camp with a demand that ‘everybody that is in need of protection should be granted protection’. The former Portuguese prime minister said: ‘There will be situations in which we would recommend the British authorities consider the possibility, within reason, of receiving, for instance, people who have large families in Britain and things of this sort.’ He did not specify how many migrants he thought Britain should take. Mr Guterres spoke after meeting with the man in charge of clearing The Jungle, French immigration minister Eric Besson, who has in the past advocated freedom of travel for migrants from France to Britain.

A statement put out by the UK Border Agency stopped short of a refusal to accept any of those from The Jungle. A spokesman said: ‘People seeking asylum should do so in the first safe country they come to. Those who are not in need of protection will be expected to return home. ‘The decision to close illegal encampments in and around Calais is a matter for the French government and we will continue to co- operate with them on tackling illegal immigration.’ There was anger in the UK over the suggestion that migrants from The Jungle should come here. Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green said: ‘Britain has a duty to genuine refugees but not to anyone who happens to have made their way to Calais.

‘We need to improve our own border security which has been too lax for too long.’ Robert Whelan, of the Civitas think-tank, said: ‘It is very important that people of all countries feel they have control over their own borders. ‘Decisions need to be taken by an elected government, not by a UN quango.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: More Cash for Refugee Centres

Nearly 33 million euros in extra funding is to be earmarked for refugee reception centres. The Council of State’s Fiscal Committee says the money is needed because of the growing number of asylum seekers and the greater-than-expected reception costs.

Some of the cash will go to expanding operations at the reception centres in Joutseno in south-eastern Finland and Oulu in the north. However most of it will be used to cope with the expanding number of asylum seekers.

More funds are also needed because last spring officials did not foresee the cost of refugee family reunifications.

The nation’s two dozen refugee reception centres are currently functioning at over 90 percent capacity, and more applicants are on their way.

Last year the number of asylum seekers shot up to more than 4,000, from about 1,500 the previous year. However the numbers remain much lower than in neighbouring Sweden and Norway.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Frattini: Italy Respects All the Rules

(ANSAmed) — SEOUL, SEPTEMBER 15 — “Italy respects all the international rules and thus, it is obvious that criticism or any other type of observation should not be addressed at us,” said Franco Frattini, Italian Foreign minister, commenting on the speech to be made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Frattni, who is in South Korea together with the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on a state visit, explained that the statement made yesterday by the Foreign Ministry served “to repeat our firm willingness to work for the rescue of human lives and thus to safeguard fundamental rights.” “We will listen to the High Commissioner’s speech,” he concluded, “and our embassy in Geneva will express Italy’s position.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Immigrants More Intolerant of Dutch Than Vice Versa

AMSTERDAM, 18/09/09 — Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands are more intolerant of ‘white’ Dutch than white Dutch are of them, says Radboud University Nijmegen sociologist Jochem Tolsma. He will receive his doctorate with research on ethnic tolerance on 28 September.

One yardstick Tolsma used for measuring tolerance is how people view an inter-ethnic marriage. Among the white Dutch, 22 percent would consider it ‘problematic to very problematic’ if their daughter or son would marry an immigrant. Among the second-generation Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands, 32 and 25 percent respectively would feel this way if their children married a ‘Hollander’.

Additionally, Turks and Moroccans with both high and low educational levels are equally negative. “You might expect that the higher-educated would have more and more positive contacts with the indigenous, but this is not the case,” said Tolsma in De Volkskrant.

Immigrants that have studied do identify more with the Netherlands than the poorly educated. “You can thus feel completely Dutch without welcoming a marriage with a Dutch person.”

Apart from this, the researcher finds that Antilleans and Surinamese are more tolerant about other groups than either Turks and Moroccans or the white Dutch.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Korean Immigrants Fit in Better Than Other Ethnic Groups in U.S.

Korean immigrants have assimilated better than other ethnic groups in the United States for the last 25 years, a study suggests. The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a New York-based liberal think tank, published a report measuring immigrant assimilation based on census and other statistics on Tuesday. The institute conducted research on immigrants from 10 countries where large numbers of them originate. Koreans scored 41 out of 100 points on the assimilation index, well above the average 28. The index is a quantified measurement based on the comparison between foreign- and native-born people in economic, cultural, and civic factors, the institute said.

Korean immigrants ranked fourth with the Vietnamese, behind those from Canada with 53, the Philippines with 49, and Cuba with 43 points. Immigrants from China, India, and Mexico showed relatively slow rate of assimilation, scoring below the average with 21, 16, and 13 points respectively.

Korean immigrants scored 100 points in the economic assimilation category, but 64 and 55 points in cultural and civic assimilation. Those from Canada, Cuba, and the Philippines also scored 100 points in economic assimilation. In cultural assimilation, which was measured based on ability to speak English, the number of marriages with those born in the U.S., the number of children, and marital status, immigrants from countries geographically close to the U.S. or Anglophone countries, such as Canada, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic unsurprisingly scored higher than Koreans.

On the other hand, those from other Asian countries like China, India, and Vietnam showed a lower degree of cultural assimilation than Koreans. Korean immigrants are assimilating to the American society fairly quickly, ranking third in civic assimilation after Vietnamese and Filipino immigrants. The authors of the report said civic assimilation is to some extent an “even stronger indicator of immigrants’ intentions than cultural assimilation” as “the choice to become a naturalized citizen, or to serve in the United States military, shows a tangible dedication to this country.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Obama: Legalize Illegals to Get Them Health Care

Republicans see a backdoor move toward ‘amnesty’

President Obama said this week that his health care plan won’t cover illegal immigrants, but argued that’s all the more reason to legalize them and ensure they eventually do get coverage.

He also staked out a position that anyone in the country legally should be covered — a major break with the 1996 welfare reform bill, which limited most federal public assistance programs only to citizens and longtime immigrants.

“Even though I do not believe we can extend coverage to those who are here illegally, I also don’t simply believe we can simply ignore the fact that our immigration system is broken,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday evening in a speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. “That’s why I strongly support making sure folks who are here legally have access to affordable, quality health insurance under this plan, just like everybody else.

Mr. Obama added, “If anything, this debate underscores the necessity of passing comprehensive immigration reform and resolving the issue of 12 million undocumented people living and working in this country once and for all.”

Republicans said that amounts to an amnesty, calling it a backdoor effort to make sure current illegal immigrants get health care. “It is ironic that the president told the American people that illegal immigrants should not be covered by the health care bill, but now just days later he’s talking about letting them in the back door,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

“If the American people do not want to provide government health care for illegal immigrants, why would they support giving them citizenship, the highest honor America can bestow?” Mr. Smith said.

But immigrant rights groups see the speech as a signal that Mr. Obama is committed to providing health care coverage for anyone in the United States legally, regardless of their citizenship status.

“It’s the first time I’ve certainly heard, publicly, him talking more about legal immigrants,” said Eric Rodriguez, vice president for research and advocacy at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). “I think that was certainly positive progress. We were absolutely concerned about not hearing that.” On Wednesday, hours before Mr. Obama’s speech, the NCLR had given the administration a public scolding, demanding that Mr. Obama needed to make “a public commitment … to ensure that those who are here legally are covered.”

A White House spokesman did not respond to questions about where the White House would make the cutoff for eligibility, and Mr. Rodriguez said he’s still waiting for an answer from the administration.

“We don’t know where they mean to draw the line,” he said. “Our biggest concern is that most people don’t realize legal immigrants are currently barred from receiving health care benefits for the first five years in the country.”

Under the 1996 welfare overhaul, most federal aid programs are restricted to citizens and legal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years. Democrats have tried this year to chip away at that rule.

Immigration has dogged Mr. Obama in the health care debate. Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, shouted, “You lie,” when the president, in an address to Congress last week, said his plans wouldn’t cover illegal immigrants.

Lawmakers — who got an earful from constituents back home during August — have insisted on extra checks to make sure illegal immigrants do not have access to taxpayer-funded programs.

Senators have worked on language that would prevent illegal immigrants from buying insurance through a proposed insurance exchange envisioned in the health care reform package.

But the NCLR said that could lead to situations where some members of a family would be covered and others, including children of illegal immigrants, wouldn’t be.

Mr. Obama said legalizing illegal immigrants is a way to take the sting out of the entire issue.

But Republicans said by pushing to legalize illegal immigrants, Mr. Obama is signaling that those here illegally eventually will get access to taxpayer-funded benefits.

Still, the push to pass a legalization bill is beginning to gain steam, even as advocates fret that the White House is moving too slowly.

On Thursday, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat and an outspoken advocate for legalization, agreed to take leadership in writing a new, more generous bill.

“We simply cannot wait any longer for a bill that keeps our families together, protects our workers and allows a pathway to legalization for those who have earned it,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “Saying immigration is a priority for this administration or this Congress is not the same as seeing tangible action, and the longer we wait, the more every single piece of legislation we debate will be obstructed by our failure to pass comprehensive reform.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Spain: Rowboat Kids Transferred to Centre

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 16 — The six youngsters, between 10 and 16 years old, who rowed over the Straits of Gibraltar in a small rowboat and were rescued by the Spanish Guardia Civile 1.6 miles from Cadiz, were transferred to the centre for minors in Algeciras. Awaiting identification and notification of the next of kin, the children have been placed in the care of the Council of Andalusia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]