Friday, October 16, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/16/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/16/2009The big news of the day was Geert Wilders’ return to the UK, and this time he didn’t get turned back at the airport. I posted about the occasion earlier today, but I’d just like to note that all the media reports — some of which are included below — describe Mr. Wilders as “far-right” or “extreme right-wing”. Do they ever refer to “Red Ken” Livingstone or Danny “the Red” Cohn-Bendit as “far-left”?

Not counting his opinions on immigration, Geert Wilders would be considered slightly left of center by American standards. But, hey, that’s the way the taxonomy of the MSM works.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Fjordman, Gaia, JD, KGS, Nilk, Sean O’Brian, The Observer, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Above the Law? Hilton Refuses to Co-Operate With Montana Attorney General
Chris Dodd Comeback Hits Snag
Diana West: Blackballing Conservatism
Diana West: What Next — Yale in Ramallah?
Group Sues for Access to SPP Records
Hear Man Who Went Underground at CAIR
Hill Terror Front Group Investigated by FBI
Hollywood Programming Pursues Obama Agenda
Is Political Correctness to Blame for Lack of Coverage Over Horrific Black-on-White Killings in America’s Deep South?
Obama Loosens Missile Technology Controls to China
Obama From Kenya, Archived Report Says
Obama Economics Advisor Robert Reich Blasted for Promoting Death Panels
Obama Celebrates the Festival of Lights
Obama Poised to Cede US Sovereignty in Copenhagen, Claims British Lord Monckton
PETA’s Peculiar ‘Partners’
Rough Road Ahead for New York Eagle Scout as School District Won’t Budge on Pocketknife Suspension
What Our Founders Couldn’t Foresee
‘Why Do People Hate You?’ Obama Caught Off Guard by Ten-Year-Old Boy’s Question
Europe and the EU
Dutch MP Hails UK Visit ‘Victory’
EU Parliament Defends ‘Objectivity’ Of Media Awards
EU: My New Hero… Old What’s-His- Name, The Grumpy Grandad With a Bristly Moustache Whose Stubborn Streak Might Just Save Britain
EU: Where There’s a Will There’s a Row
Far-Right Dutch MP Geert Wilders Jets Into Britain and Declares Islam ‘A Bad Religion’
French Opposition Demands Answers on Bribe Claim in Sarobi Ambush
Internet Breaks in Sweden After DNS Maintenance Error
Ireland: Top Insurer Tells 1,000 GPs Not to Give Swine Flu Vaccine
Italy: First Arabic TV News Bulletin Airs in Northern Veneto Region
Italy: Country’s MPs Among Best Paid in Europe, Says Report
MEPs Call for Compulsory ‘EU Lessons’ In Schools
Stockholm’s Bunnies Burned to Keep Swedes Warm
UK: ‘Support’ Over Lockerbie Bomber
UK: Ban on ‘Torture Documents’ Lifted
UK: Girl, Two, Investigated by Police for ‘Vandalism’ After Being Accused of Hitting Car With Stick
UK: Man Donates Crime Reward to Rape Victim
UK: Now Muslims Demand Full Sharia Law
UK: Police Rapped for Blunders in Murder Case of Girl ‘Turned Into Kebab Meat’
UK: Protests Force Anti-Muslim Politician Geert Wilders to Retreat
Under the Skin of English Defence League
EU Group of Three to Attack Kosovo Statehood at UN Court
North Africa
Egypt Groups Target Mubarak Son
UNESCO Chief Wants to Ban the Burqa
Israel and the Palestinians
Europe Unwilling to Condemn Israel for War Crimes at UN
Official: Obama ‘Disgusted’ With Israel
The Disappearance of Human Rights and the Advent of Palestinism
Middle East
Crisis Between Ankara and Jerusalem Deep-Rooted
Turkish FM: Turkey Not ‘Based on Censorship, ‘ Won’t Ban Anti-Israel TV Show
Democracy ‘Not Needed’ In Russia
Nuclear Materials Stored in Siberian Parking Lots
Save Moscow From Real Estate Moguls: They Are Worse Than Stalin
South Asia
Indian Anti-Terrorist Commandos Display Their Martial Art Skills
Indonesia: Cleric Cleared of Sex Abuse Over Child Bride
Indonesian Police Kill Two Terrorists Involved in Jakarta Bombings
Pakistan: Deadly Militant Attacks Signal New ‘Guerrilla War’
Pakistan: Taliban Leader Warns India Will be ‘Attacked’
The High Cost of the Afghan War
Far East
Foreign Investments in China Rise 18.9 Per Cent in September
Japan and South Korea Increasingly Closer
Japan Tells US it Will Stop Naval Mission: Kyodo
Australia — Pacific
Sydney Terror Case Guilty Pleas Kept From Jury
Sub-Saharan Africa
Whipped for Wearing a ‘Deceptive’ Bra: Hardline Islamists in Somalia Publicly Flog Women in Sharia Crackdown
Latin America
Honduras Agrees to Plan to Restore Ousted President
Australia: Immigration Policies ‘A Marketing Tool for Smugglers’
IDF Prof.: Extreme Left Wants African Workers to Destroy Israel
Indonesia: Asylum Seekers on Hunger Strike
Culture Wars
Obama Aide is Pressing Fight vs. Gay Bias
‘Safe Schools’ Chief Was Member of Radical Act Up
It’s Never Been About Global Warming


Above the Law? Hilton Refuses to Co-Operate With Montana Attorney General

Michael Hilton, the leader of American Police Force, the paramilitary organization that recently terminated a deal with local authorities in Hardin Montana to take over a detention camp in the town, has failed to co-operate with the Montana Attorney General’s demand that the company turn over financial record pertaining to the deal, opening up the possibility that Hilton could be arrested for contempt.

Hilton, a career criminal who is still wanted by authorities in Wyoming for his part in multiple cases of fraud, was given until yesterday to provide the documents but has failed to meet the deadline, instead sending a one page fax to the Attorney General’s office saying he was abandoning the deal to take over the Hardin facility.

However, as we reported on Saturday, despite the termination of the deal, the AG’s office indicated that it still needed to see the documents and if it didn’t receive them, APF could be held in contempt and Hilton could be arrested.

“Assistant Attorney General James Molloy had issued a demand on Oct. 1 for American Police Force to turn over its tax records; lists of customers; and names of company employees, owners and officers and other information,” reports the Associated Press.

The documents were demanded under a Montana law that bars unfair or deceptive business practices.

“This is the response,” (Becky) Shay said of the company’s one-page reply. “It outlines that APF (American Police Force) was only in contract negotiations, did not do business in Hardin and has pulled out of contract negotiations.”

However, APF went further than merely negotiating with local officials. As was widely documented, APF SUV’s with decals that read “City of Hardin Police Department” were driven around town before an uproar prompted their removal. Before the story garnered intense media scrutiny, it appeared as if APF was preparing to act as law enforcement for the town, which would have been completely illegal and unconstitutional.

As the NY Times reports today, when Hilton rolled into town with his Serbian accent, his mock police uniform and his shadowy paramilitary outfit, he promised to make Hardin “the safest place in the United States to live, and in six months the best place to live.”

APF’s reluctance to hand over the documents likely centers around its refusal to identify the parent company that owns the organization.

The Attorney General’s only response to APF’s refusal to turn over the documents was to state that they were reviewing whether they could discuss the issue publicly, implying that further action is likely to be taken against Hilton and APF.

[Return to headlines]

Chris Dodd Comeback Hits Snag

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) plans Thursday to demand a vote to subpoena the records of Countrywide Financial’s controversial Friends of Angelo mortgage program, a request that threatens to complicate Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd’s reelection bid by refocusing attention on the company’s VIP mortgage scandal.

Dodd, who was cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee in August of any wrongdoing in a complaint alleging he received a special mortgage deal from Countrywide, has seen his poll ratings improve considerably in recent months. But Issa’s continued push for a deeper investigation is reviving the issue, providing fodder for the crowded field of Republican opponents.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Blackballing Conservatism

Before I get to the chilling implications for free conservative speech underscored by the vicious, public campaign to blackball Rush Limbaugh as a potential owner of an NFL team, I want to provide a little context about the pre-existing NFL comfort zone of expression.

I will start with two words: Keith Olbermann. In addition to his nightly gig on MSNBC — a numbing blend of Leftist politics and something approaching Tourette’s syndrome — Olbermann is a co-host of NBC’s “Football Night in America,” the pre-game show that leads into “Sunday Night Football.” Naturally, that would be Sunday night NFL football.

This job, now into its third season, makes Olbermann not a team owner, of course, but certainly a public face of the NFL. And a public face of the NFL with many filthy things coming out of it. These include, just sampling from recent days, his pronouncement that Limbaugh claiming his own success paved the way for Glenn Beck is “is like congratulating yourself for spreading syphilis.” We could slap a headline on that — “NFL talker compares star radio and TV conservatives with venereal disease” — except that trash talk against conservatives doesn’t generate mainstream outrage.

Take Olbermann’s noxious attack this week on Michelle Malkin for what he characterized as her “total mindless, morally bankrupt, knee-jerk, fascistic hatred without which Michelle Malkin would just be a big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it.”

Get that? Olbermann calls an accomplished and best-selling conservative author, commentator, blogger, wife and mother (who also happens to be beautiful) a “big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick,” but such dehumanizing venom doesn’t count as controversial, or even lightly strain his NBC-NFL connection. Why, at this rate, he could end up on a box of Wheaties. His comments certainly don’t rate as “divisive” or “inappropriate” — two of the coded charges leveled at Rush Limbaugh’s “public remarks” by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay that got Limbaugh’s blackball rolling in the first place.

It was all over so fast. Barely a day passed between the news that Limbaugh was bidding with Dave Checketts for the St Louis Rams and the news that Checketts was dropping Limbaugh as a partner.

But what a day. It goes down in the annals as the day the demonization of conservatism achieved not consensus, but normalcy, and the day the marginalization of conservatives became not a public sport but a civic duty. Think about it. What happened to Limbaugh didn’t happen to a “dead white male” on a college campus; nor did it happen to a live white male in a government-mandated “sensitivity course.” What happened to Limbaugh took place in a uniquely exclusive slice of the private sector frequented by the super-mega-rich and ostentatious, the kind of people with the kind of money that buys protection from the pressures of what is thought of as public opinion. But what happened to Rush Limbaugh — call it “Rush-baiting” — reveals that what conservative blogger Lawrence Auster calls the “dictatorship enforced by the charge of racism” has absolutely no boundaries…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Diana West: What Next — Yale in Ramallah?

One more story about Yale President Richard Levin.

Seems that Denmark’s Kurt Westergaard was not the only international visitor to have passed through Yale this semester. Queen Rania of Jordan also came through New Haven just a week or so before the Danish cartoonist. She was there to speak and celebrate an exhibition at Yale of art by women from the Islamic world called “Breaking the Veil.”

Note, the “veil” being broken is not the veil of Islam, but rather what exhibition organizers saw as post 9/11 “misperceptions” in the Western media about Arab/Muslim women. Breaking such “velis” would seem to require a major load of Palestinian agit prop, if the “artwork” titled “Amended Resolutions 1” (below) is any measure…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Group Sues for Access to SPP Records

Commerce Department told to stop stonewalling, open meetings to public

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled that a public interest law firm may sue the Department of Commerce for access to documents about secret meetings and activities related to a council set up under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP.

The court ruled that Judicial Watch has standing to bring a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce related to the North American Competitiveness Council, or NACC.

Judicial Watch argues that the NACC must abide by the the open-meetings law known as Federal Advisory Committee Act — by opening its meetings to the public and releasing records relating to those meetings.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hear Man Who Went Underground at CAIR

Chris Gaubatz, Paul Sperry give inside account of daring operation

Two key players in the production of the explosive new book “Muslim Mafia” will be guests tonight on Michael Savage’s top-ranked nationally syndicated show, “The Savage Nation.”

Savage’s daily program, which airs live from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern, will feature co-author Paul Sperry and Chris Gaubatz, who went underground for six months as an intern for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


Savage’s show can be heard on hundreds of local stations nationwide and online through stations such as Chicago’s WIND.

[comments from JD: check article for links to show.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hill Terror Front Group Investigated by FBI

Book: CAIR leaders are subject of ‘ongoing’ Hamas-finance probe

The 15-year-old nonprofit organization’s top executives for years had enjoyed virtually unfettered access to the corridors of power in the capital, even meeting with presidents and rubbing elbows with congressional leaders.

Now Ahmad and CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad have come under active investigation for their roles in the criminal conspiracy to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas terrorists, according to “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”


But “Muslim Mafia” — based in part on some 12,000 pages of documents collected from inside CAIR’s national headquarters during a private undercover operation — presents for the first time evidence that CAIR gave at least $40,000 to Baker’s front group in Dallas. Just a few months later that group turned around and gave exactly $40,000 to Hamas suicide bombers in Gaza, documents show.

The transaction was made after the Clinton administration designated Hamas a terrorist entity and outlawed transfer of money to Hamas through charitable donations from U.S. groups and citizens.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hollywood Programming Pursues Obama Agenda

Internal memo cites plans to put president’s talking points in story lines

An internal memo for a prominent Hollywood organization reveals plans to incorporate President Obama’s political talking points into the storylines of shows on all four leading broadcast networks.

The memo, uncovered by Jim Nolte, a writer for the Big Hollywood website, cites Obama’s call “for a new era of responsibility — recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and world to serve others.” Nolte has posted the “working” document from the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which calls itself a “leading charitable organization of the entertainment industry.”

The memo says “unprecedented week-long of television programming on all four leading broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and all affiliated broadcast and cable properties … beginning October 19” will feature “organically” created storylines about service and volunteerism touching on the “key issues” of education and children, health and well-being, environmental conservation and reduced energy consumption, economic development and financial security and support for military families.


Among the shows scheduled to take part:…


On the Big Hollywood site, one observer commented, “When coerced, it is not volunteerism, when service is involuntary or unpaid, it is slavery. It is bad enough that the government is stealing our freedom, now they want us to help.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is Political Correctness to Blame for Lack of Coverage Over Horrific Black-on-White Killings in America’s Deep South?

[Comments from JD: *WARNING* — graphic details of brutal murders.]

But, even though the killings happened in January, 2007, they have attracted very little national and international coverage.

That’s because they do not fit into the conventional contours of an attack in America’s Deep South, where a shameful history of racial intolerance has meant assaults by whites on blacks have historically been regarded in the context of race.

In this case, the races were reversed: the victims were white and the four men and one woman charged in connection with the murders are black.


But that hasn’t stopped conservative critics from blaming liberal bias in the US mainstream media for failing to cover the attacks.

Columnist and right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin weighed in, saying: ‘This case — an attractive white couple murdered by five black thugs —doesn’t fit any political agenda.

‘It’s not a useful crime. Reverse the races and just imagine how the national media would cover the story of a young black couple murdered by five white assailants.’

Country music singer Charlie Daniels pointed out the media frenzy that came after a black woman accused three white members of the Duke University lacrosse team of raping her.

The players were later cleared after their accuser changed her story.

But Daniels said on his website: ‘If this had been white on black crime, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and their ilk would have descended on Knoxville like a swarm of angry bees.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Loosens Missile Technology Controls to China

President Obama recently shifted authority for approving sales to China of missile and space technology from the White House to the Commerce Department — a move critics say will loosen export controls and potentially benefit Chinese missile development.

The president issued a little-noticed “presidential determination” Sept. 29 that delegated authority for determining whether missile and space exports should be approved for China to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.


The new policy appears aimed at increasing U.S.-China space cooperation, which has been limited since the Loral and Hughes case. It follows the Chinese military’s test of an anti-satellite missile that produced potentially dangerous space junk after the missile destroyed a Chinese weather satellite in a January 2007 test.


Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said restoring Commerce Department control over the sensitive experts is a “step backward.”

“It’s as though Commerce’s mishandling of missile-tech transfers to China in the 1990s never happened,” said Mr. Sokolski, a former Pentagon proliferation specialist. “But it did. As a result, we are now facing much more accurate, reliable missiles from China.”

Mr. Sokolski said he expects the U.S. government under the new policy to again boost Chinese military modernization through “whatever renewed ‘benign’ missile technology” is approved.

“It was foolish for us to do this in the 1990s and is even more dangerous for us to do now,” he said.


Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, which monitors export control policies, said he was surprised by the decision to shift responsibility back to Commerce — a change that Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush did not make.

“It is shocking that it would be delegated to the secretary of commerce, whose job it is to promote trade, rather than to the secretary of state or the secretary of defense, who have far more knowledge and responsibility within their organizations for missile technology,” Mr. Milhollin said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama From Kenya, Archived Report Says

Revives worry about president’s eligibility for office

An archived article from 2004 on Barack Obama’s run for the U.S. Senate in Illinois describes the relative political newcomer as “Kenyan-born,” providing further fuel for speculation over the president’s eligibilty for office.


The report starts out, “Kenyan-born US Senate hopeful, Barrack (sic) Obama, appeared set to take over the Illinois Senate seat after his main rival, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race on Friday night amid a furor over lurid sex club allegations.”


The article is credited to the wire service Associated Press at the bottom of the page. However, the article could not be found either in the AP archives available to the public online or the archive on the newspaper’s website. WND telephone calls and e-mails to the newspaper did not generate a response.

At the Post & Email blog, writer John Charlton offered several explanations, including the suggestion references to Obama’s birth have been scrubbed.

He wrote that a search of Google for the issue produced unusual results.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Economics Advisor Robert Reich Blasted for Promoting Death Panels

Reich, the former Clinton administration Labor Secretary has been caught on tape making a death panel confession.

In a 2007 speech at the University of California at Berkeley, Reich began his address by saying he was going to deliver a refreshingly honest talk about health care from the vantage point of an insider who would never run for president.

“In other words, this is what the truth is,” he said.

Reich admitted: “If you’re very old, we’re not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life. It’s too expensive…so we’re going to let you die.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Celebrates the Festival of Lights

Barack Obama celebrated Diwali by lighting the ceremonial lamp at the White House amidst chanting of Vedic mantras seeking world peace, becoming the first US President to personally grace the occasion.

“I think it’s fitting that we begin this work in the week leading up to the holiday of Diwali, the festival of lights, when members of some of the world’s greatest faiths celebrate the triumph of good over evil,” Obama said in his remarks on the occasion at a White House function held at its historic East Room on Wednesday.

This is the first time that a US President attended and celebrated Diwali at the White House, giving official recognition to the festival of lights celebrated across the world by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. “This coming Saturday, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, here in America and around the world, will celebrate this holiday by lighting diyas, or lamps, which symbolise the victory of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance,” Obama said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Poised to Cede US Sovereignty in Copenhagen, Claims British Lord Monckton

A detailed summary of Monckton’s presentation will be available here once compiled. However, a segment of his remarks justify immediate publication. If credible, the concern Monckton speaks to may well prove the single most important issue facing the American nation, bigger than health care, bigger than cap and trade, and worth every citizen’s focused attention.

Here were Monckton’s closing remarks, as dictated from my audio recording:

At [the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in] Copenhagen, this December, weeks away, a treaty will be signed. Your president will sign it. Most of the third world countries will sign it, because they think they’re going to get money out of it. Most of the left-wing regime from the European Union will rubber stamp it. Virtually nobody won’t sign it.

I read that treaty. And what it says is this, that a world government is going to be created. The word “government” actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity. The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to third world countries, in satisfication of what is called, coyly, “climate debt” — because we’ve been burning CO2 and they haven’t. We’ve been screwing up the climate and they haven’t. And the third purpose of this new entity, this government, is enforcement.

How many of you think that the word “election” or “democracy” or “vote” or “ballot” occurs anywhere in the 200 pages of that treaty? Quite right, it doesn’t appear once. So, at last, the communists who piled out of the Berlin Wall and into the environmental movement, who took over Greenpeace so that my friends who funded it left within a year, because [the communists] captured it — Now the apotheosis as at hand. They are about to impose a communist world government on the world. You have a president who has very strong sympathies with that point of view. He’s going to sign it. He’ll sign anything. He’s a Nobel Peace Prize [winner]; of course he’ll sign it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

PETA’s Peculiar ‘Partners’

Will PETA be the next ACORN? Conservative blogs and websites have been working to uncover a scandal at PETA which has the potential to destroy the credibility of the radical animal-rights organization.

For example, at, Mary Grabar has written an expose on the organization. As she notes,…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Rough Road Ahead for New York Eagle Scout as School District Won’t Budge on Pocketknife Suspension

As a 17-year-old Eagle Scout continues to wait out a one-month suspension from his upstate New York high school for having a 2-inch pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his car, the U.S. Military Academy says the missed school days could pose a big problem when it reviews his application.

Pressure is mounting on a Troy, N.Y., school board to overrule Matthew Whalen’s suspension from Lansingburgh High School, which was issued because of a zero-tolerance policy that is facing increasing opposition from parents and education advocates.

Whalen, a senior, says he stocks his car with a sleeping bag, water, a ready-to-eat meal and the small knife, which was given to him by his grandfather, a police chief in a nearby town.

But Lansingburgh High has a zero-tolerance policy for weapons, and when school officials discovered that Whalen kept his knife locked in his car, he says, they suspended him for five days — and then tacked on an additional 15 after a hearing.


But Bryan Whalen says the policy allowed no room for his son, who did not pose a danger to the school. “It was another example of an administration not providing any thought, just trying to hide behind a blind rule for whatever reason.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

What Our Founders Couldn’t Foresee

Marxists, Hyphenated Americans

The seams of American society are further tested as Muslim immigrants re fuse to accept and integrate into American culture. Instead, Islam insists that America accept its veils, custom, and culture. America insists that government may not embrace any religion; this is a freedom retained exclusively by individuals. Islam, on the other hand, insists that religion is the foundation of all government; individuals are subservient to the state. This difference is irreconcilable and Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

Most of the population growth in America for the last several decades has come from immigration. Policies such as multiculturalism, bi-lingual education, open borders, and failure to insist that they learn English and Constitutional values and government structure and procedures have created a society that is a boiling pot ready to explode. The various factions pulling at the seams no longer agree with the original purpose and goals of our founders. They care more for their own goals than for the values this nation was created to defend.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Why Do People Hate You?’ Obama Caught Off Guard by Ten-Year-Old Boy’s Question

He’d probably convinced himself that the job was going well — particularly since he won the Nobel Peace Prize and kept America out of a depression.

But five words from a child burst Barack Obama’s bubble.

‘Why do people hate you?’ asked schoolboy Terence Scott, ten, of the U.S. President, at a town hall meeting in New Orleans.

[Comments from JD: A commenter to the article points out the full question was “ Why do people hate you when they should love you?”]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dutch MP Hails UK Visit ‘Victory’

Controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders has hailed his arrival in the UK as a “victory for freedom of speech”.

He told a packed press conference in Westminster he was “proud of the UK asylum and immigration tribunal” for overturning the ban.

And he repeated his criticism of Muslim ideology and defended his call for the Koran to be banned in Holland.

His press conference was moved inside amid angry scenes, with demonstrators chanting “Wilders go to hell”.

About 40 Muslim protesters gathered outside the Abbey Gardens buildings, opposite the Houses of Parliament, where the hastily rearranged press conference was held.

Held back by a police line, and surrounded by camera crews from around the world, they chanted slogans such as “Sharia for the UK” and “Freedom go to hell” and held up placards saying: “Sharia for the Netherlands” and “Islam will be superior”.

‘Defend freedom’

One protester, Sayful Islam, said they wanted to see Mr Wilders “tried in an Islamic court” for “insulting the Prophet”, adding: “We need to put this dog on a leash”.

He described Mr Wilders as “the open voice of democracy” and claimed the Dutch MP’s views were shared by “every government in Europe”.

Mr Wilders said he was not setting out to insult Muslims — the majority of whom were “law-abiding” — but he defended his right to criticise the actions of a minority who he said posed a threat to society.

“My aim is not to insult anyone but it is to defend freedom,” he said.

Asked about the protests that greeted his arrival in Westminster, he said: “I am very proud that people — even if they totally disagree with me — can use their democratic right to protest.”

Explaining his views on Islam, he said: “I have a problem with the Islamic ideology, the Islamic culture, because I feel that the more Islam that we get in our societies the less freedom that we get.”

He denied his abortive attempt in the Dutch Parliament to get the Koran banned flew in the face of his commitment to free speech.

“Even in the United States, where they have a first amendment, there is one red line, which is the incitement of violence and this was exactly my point,” he told reporters.

He also denied responsibility for the publicity which has greeted his visit, saying: “If anybody has responsibility for this publicity it is the UK government and the home secretary and not Geert Wilders.”

Mr Wilders, who faces trial at home for inciting hatred, was allowed into the UK after a ban on him was lifted.

The Freedom Party leader was turned away from the UK in February on the grounds that his allegedly anti-Islamic views posed a threat to public security but that decision was overturned earlier this week.

Although agreeing not to challenge the decision, the Home Office has said Mr Wilders’ comments will be closely watched by the authorities.

Mr Wilders was invited to the UK by UK Independence Party peer Lord Pearson.

Asked whether he too wanted to ban the Koran, he said: “I disagree with Geert in fact, who has said that if Mein Kampf is banned in Holland, then so the Koran should be banned. I don’t agree with that at all.

“I want the Koran discussed very much more and I want it particularly discussed by the 98% or whatever it is of the Muslim community who are mild, peace-loving people.

“But what I want them to do is to get up off their bottoms and take on their violent co-religionists who do base these acts of evil on the Koran.”

‘Inter-faith violence’

When he tried to visit the UK in February, Mr Wilders was back by immigration officials at Heathrow airport on the grounds that his views could stir up “inter-faith violence”.

However, on Tuesday the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruled there was no evidence to suggest he represented a real and serious threat to the “fundamental interest” of society.

The judges said that even if there had been evidence, it would still have been wrong to turn him away because in the event of any trouble the police would have been able to deal with it.

The Home Office said Mr Wilders’ statements and behaviour during his visit “will inevitably impact on any future decisions to admit him”.

Officials say his case differs from that of a larger number of individuals — including Islamic extremists and white supremacists — who are on a list of people excluded from Britain for “unacceptable behaviour”.

The power to impose such exclusions was introduced in 2005, following the London bombings, and applies predominantly to non-EU nationals who would seek to “foster hatred or promote terrorism”.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

EU Parliament Defends ‘Objectivity’ Of Media Awards

A senior parliament official has hit back at criticism of an award for European journalists.

The awards, supposed to recognise the role played by the media in “explaining” the EU to a wider public, were presented in parliament by the assembly’s president Jerzy Buzek on Thursday.

But critics, including British eurosceptic MEPs, have criticised the awards, now in their second year, as merely being an opportunity to “lavish praise” on the EU and parliament in particular.

One British deputy, who did not wish to be named, said, “The whole thing is a farce. You’ve got journalists being well rewarded by parliament for writing or broadcasting pieces that sell the merits of the EU. Where is the objectivity or journalistic integrity in that?”

Ioannis Darmis, head of unit in parliament’s communications directorate, told this website that such claims were “utter nonsense”.

He said, “These awards are totally objective and totally independent. The whole idea is to promote a better understanding of the institutions and policies of the EU.

“I am aware of the criticism but it is unfair to suggest they are designed merely to reward those in the media who ‘slavishly’ heap praise on everything the EU does. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“We are not out to honour journalists who tell us how good the EU is but, rather,those who are critical of the EU, including parliament.”

He pointed out that the contestants were judged by journalists in each member state.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Buzek said both the written and broadcast media had an important role to play in explaining how the EU works, including the “importance” of the stalled Lisbon treaty.

This year’s competition attracted over 250 entries from all over Europe.

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

EU: My New Hero… Old What’s-His- Name, The Grumpy Grandad With a Bristly Moustache Whose Stubborn Streak Might Just Save Britain

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present my new hero. He is Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic — and since Saturday, when Poland finally signed away its right to self-determination, his has been the one signature missing from the bottom of the Lisbon Treaty.

So he alone stands between the teeming masses of the European Union and their subjection to the new, undemocratic superstate which would be conjured into being by his autograph.

So far, he’s digging in his heels and refusing to sign, as the entire Eurocracy lays siege to his medieval fastness of Prague Castle, where the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors ruled before him.


Indeed, if we didn’t already know it, we might have guessed from Klaus’s photograph — the squareness of his jaw and the thick set of his neck — that here is a man with a rich vein of stubbornness in him.

But, boy, will he need every ounce of it if he’s going to carry on ignoring the threats and blandishments of the Brussels bureaucrats and their gofers in the cabinets of Europe (including Klaus’s own Europhile Government, led by a Prime Minister who says it would be ‘completely unimaginable’ to have to reopen negotiations on the new constitution eight years after they began).

This week, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso could barely contain his rage as he laid into the Czech President.

‘After the resounding “yes” vote in the Irish referendum,’ he spluttered, ‘the democratic decision approving the Lisbon Treaty has now been taken in all 27 member states . . . It makes no sense to reopen the ratification process. It would be completely absurd. It would be surreal.’

Just hold on there, Jose. The ‘democratic decision’ to ratify the treaty? I don’t remember anyone asking me or my fellow British voters what we thought of Lisbon — although I do distinctly remember the Labour Party categorically promising us a referendum at the last General Election.

Nor do I remember Brussels attaching much weight to ‘democratic decisions’ when the people of the Netherlands, France and Ireland (the first time) voted No to the constitution it contains.

Indeed, wasn’t there something decidedly ‘surreal’ about the way the Eurocrats set about defying the clearly expressed will of the people — just changing a word here and there, pretending they’d drafted an entirely new document — and then telling the Irish to go on voting until they gave the answer Brussels wanted to hear?

But that’s the thing about the Europhile mentality: where expanding the powers of the superstate is concerned, nothing is ‘completely unimaginable’. But when it comes to reining them back, everything is.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

EU: Where There’s a Will There’s a Row

What inheritance laws tell you about Europe and why Britain is the odd man out

TO UNDERSTAND one of the gulfs separating the Anglo-Saxon world from continental Europe, consider Warren Buffett’s children. Omaha’s sage investor long ago said he would leave most of his fortune to charity, with more modest sums to his offspring. For Mr Buffett, leaving vast wealth to his children would be “anti-social” in a society that “aspires to be a meritocracy.”

In 26 out of 27 European Union countries, Mr Buffett’s plans would not just be shocking, but illegal. The exception is Britain, or rather England and Wales (Scotland has its own, centuries-old legal system, with a strong continental flavour). In continental Europe a big part of an estate (often around half) is reserved for the surviving children of the deceased and must be equally divided between them. This “forced heirship” makes it impossible to disinherit feckless children (though several countries exclude bequests to “unworthy” children, who have for example murdered a parent or two). Such rules also make it hard to reward the deserving by, say, leaving more to a daughter who gave up a career to care for her ailing parents. Finally, “clawback” laws in many countries stop parents from dodging forced heirship by giving assets away while they are still alive. This applies to gifts made in the last years of life (two years in Austria, ten in Germany), or much longer: in some countries, no time limit applies.

In contrast, the founding principle of will-making in England and Wales is individual freedom—though in the 20th century, English law was adjusted to allow widows and dependents left in penury to apply for maintenance payments.

This gulf between legal philosophies is topical. On October 14th the European Commission unveiled guidelines for successions involving assets in more than one EU country. There are an estimated 450,000 of these a year and they are a terrible tangle. Officials cite the imaginary example of a British man who retires to the Dordogne. On his death, he leaves a tastefully restored barn and some money to his second wife, and other assets to his children by a first marriage. But the barn is actually governed by French law, so half belongs to his children. Only if all of them agree can their stepmother keep it…


Tellingly, the different systems do not merely clash. They baffle people on each side. For many months the EU’s proposal was debated by national experts—lawyers, professors and judges from the 27 member countries. When the English system was explained to continental experts, they found it bizarre and unfair. To English experts the continent’s rules seemed no less unjust.

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

Far-Right Dutch MP Geert Wilders Jets Into Britain and Declares Islam ‘A Bad Religion’

Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders sparked angry protests today as he declared that Islamic culture is inferior to Christianity.

The MP was met by angry Muslim protesters when he arrived in the UK after winning a court battle to enter the country.

Around 40 demonstrators gathered near the Houses of Parliament as Mr Wilders, whose film Fitna criticises the Koran as a ‘fascist book’, arrived in central London.

Brandishing banners saying ‘Sharia is the solution, freedom go to hell’ and ‘Geert Wilders deserves Islamic punishment’, the protesters were held back by police.

Abu Muaz, from Islam For UK, said: ‘If I were to say some of the things he has said I would be arrested under the Terrorism Act. But because there is a war on Muslims he gets an easy ride.’

Addressing journalists alongside UKIP peer Lord Pearson, Mr Wilders said his visit was ‘a victory’.

Explaining his controversial views on Islam, he said: ‘I have a problem with the Islamic ideology, the Islamic culture, because I feel that the more Islam that we get in our societies the less freedom we get.’

Mr Wilders was allowed into the UK after successfully overturning a Government decision to bar him from Britain.

It was feared that his outspoken views on Islam could spark religious violence, but this was rejected by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal on Tuesday.

Lord Pearson, who invited the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party to the UK, said his arrival was ‘a celebration of the victory of freedom of speech over those who would prevent it in this country, particularly the Islamists, the violent Jihadists who are on the march across the world and in the UK.’

Mr Wilders denied responsibility for the publicity which has greeted his visit.

The 46-year-old said: ‘If anybody has responsibility for this publicity it is the UK Government and the Home Secretary and not Geert Wilders.’

The controversial politician will come under keen scrutiny by the Home Office during his visit.

Wilders, head of the Freedom Party, is not planning to show Fitna while he is in the UK.

A Home Office spokesman said the original ban was the ‘right decision’ at the time.

The Government may appeal against the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruling that Mr Wilders should not have been barred entry.

The spokesman added: ‘Any European visitor’s right to enter the UK will be considered on its merits by an immigration officer.

‘On this occasion the Home Secretary is not minded to recommend that Wilders is denied admission to the UK.

‘Clearly Mr Wilders’ statements and behaviour during a visit will inevitably impact on any future decisions to admit him.’

The tribunal found there was no evidence to suggest the politician represented a serious threat, and if trouble erupted the police could remove him.

‘It was more important to allow free speech than to take restrictive action speculatively,’ they said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

French Opposition Demands Answers on Bribe Claim in Sarobi Ambush

The French Defence Minister was called on yesterday to give an urgent account to Parliament of the Taleban ambush that led to the deaths of ten soldiers in Afghanistan. As the Socialist Party reacted with anger to The Times report, the ministry said that it had long been aware of rumours that linked Italian bribery to the ambush in Sarobi, east of Kabul, in August 2008. The reports had no basis, it said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Internet Breaks in Sweden After DNS Maintenance Error

A problem during routine maintenance of Sweden’s top-level domain, .se, took down the Internet for the country for about an hour on Monday night.

Basically, the .se registry used an incorrectly configured script to update the .se zone, Sweden-based Pingdom, which monitors Web site performance, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. A period was dropped at the end of DNS domain name system records for the Swedish top-level domain, breaking the entire DNS lookup chain.

What this meant was that Web sites ending in .se could not be accessed and e-mail to Swedish domain names stopped working. For some sites the problems will take longer to resolve because of the fact that DNS lookups are cached externally and those servers had to be flushed, Pingdom said.

There are more than 900,000 .se domain names and every one of them was affected, the company said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Top Insurer Tells 1,000 GPs Not to Give Swine Flu Vaccine

An insurance company has warned 1,000 GPs not to administer the swine flu vaccine.

The HSE plans to enlist family doctors to give the swine flu vaccine to patients with pre-existing medical conditions.

But an insurance company which covers around 1,000 of the 2,200 to 2,500 GPs in the country advised them not to sign up for the work because of legal indemnity issues.

The HSE has given GPs until today to sign up to give the vaccine to 400,000 of their patients with certain medical conditions from next week.

Medisec Ireland, which covers around 1,000 GPs, told their members yesterday not to sign up until all indemnity issues were resolved.

GP sources said last night this may lead some doctors who have signed up to withdraw their participation in the programme.

In a letter to the doctors Medisec said it was unclear where a GP would legally stand if they exercised their discretion not to give the vaccine to their patients.

There are also unresolved legal issues around the doctors identifying and offering the vaccine to at-risk patients.

The company said the Irish Medical Organisation had been trying to negotiate an acceptable resolution to the serious medico/legal issues with the HSE, but had not been successful.

Other concerns relate to the cost of legal representation for doctors who may find themselves before their disciplinary body the Medical Council if they fail to give the vaccine to a patient.

They could also have to go before the same body for exercising their clinical judgment not to administer the vaccine to a patient of another doctor who had been referred to them.


The letter to GPs said that while the administration of the vaccine would be deemed normal work and covered by a doctor’s policy, the outstanding issues of concern might not fall into this category due to the amount of work involved and could lead to “adverse indemnity consequences”.

It added: “Accordingly, in the circumstances, we do not recommend our members to sign up for the programme until all issues have been resolved.”

The other company indemnifying doctors, the Medical Protection Society, is believed to have indicated GPs could go ahead with the vaccinations.

The HSE may have to extend today’s deadline for more clarification. It plans to publicise the rollout of the vaccine to at-risk patients tomorrow.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: First Arabic TV News Bulletin Airs in Northern Veneto Region

Treviso, 7 October (AKI) — Broadcasts of Italy’s first Arabic TV news bulletins have begun in the northern Veneto region. Some 8,000 immigrants are expected to tune in the twice-weekly bulletins, aired by local TV station ‘Channel 9’ at midday every Tuesday and Saturday.

The bulletins aim to provide news and information for Arabic-speaking immigrants living in Italy and to help them integrate — something they find very hard to do, according to ‘Channel 9’ anchorman, the Egyptian journalist Mohammed Ahmed.

“We will give information on Italian news and customs but also a lot of other useful information. And we will talk about international issues as well,” Ahmed told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“Indeed our top story was the news that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas would visit Rome on Wednesday,” Ahmed added.

He has for several years presented a more in-depth weekly programme on immigrants aired by ‘Channel 9’.

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

Italy: Country’s MPs Among Best Paid in Europe, Says Report

Rome, 15 October (AKI) — Italian members of parliament are among the continent’s most well paid with gross salaries amounting to over 20,600 euros per month, an Italian Internet TV show revealed on Wednesday.

Italian journalist Klaus Davi revealed in his KlausCondicio web programme broadcast by video networking site YouTube, that British parliamentarians are the most well paid, with a salary of 20,769 euros per month, followed by the Italians with 20,416 euros per month.

Davi underlined that although Italian parliamentarian’s salaries are only slightly lower than their British counterparts, the cost of living is much lower in Italy than in Britain, thus, in practice Italian parliamentarians make 20 percent more than the British.

Davi used data obtained from the media and from official websites of the respective parliament and government from leading EU members.

French MPs are the third best paid earning almost twice as much German MPs’ monthly salary of 10,729 followed by the Irish, Dutch, Austrians, Belgians, Spaniards, Finnish, Portuguese and at last place, and Lithuanians, with a salary of 3,139 euros.

In regard to European ministers, the French are at the top with 20,295 euros per month, followed by the Austrians, Belgians, British and Italians.

At the bottom of the list of ministerial pay, however, are the Germans, with 12,967 euros per month, followed by the Dutch, Finnish, Spaniards, Portuguese and Lithuanians with 3,855 euros per month.

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

MEPs Call for Compulsory ‘EU Lessons’ In Schools

Leaders of the centre-right EPP grouping in the European Parliament say there should be compulsory classes for 14-year-olds in all member states.

The calls are being led by Mario David, a Portuguese MEP who was chief of staff to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso when he was the country’s prime minister.

He claimed the controversy surrounding the Lisbon Treaty demonstrated their was widespread ignorance of the EU’s work.

“All the debates about the constitution and then the Lisbon Treaty showed a great deal of lying, cheating and mistrust about the EU,” he said.

“In Ireland people were told there was going to be abortion across the EU, that young men would be conscripted into a European Army. This was a bunch of lies.

“Knowing and understanding, from a young age, the principles, the procedures and the successful history of the European Union, the generations of tomorrow will be immune to any distortion of the perception of the role of the EU and will much better embrace the advantages of this unique project of voluntary sharing of sovereignty.”

He said the curriculum would initially include a series of five half-day seminars on the history of the union.

It would cover the “Founding Fathers”, the different treaties, enlargement, EU functions, the role of the union in the world and “How the EU affects everyday lives”.

However, the idea of the seminars was suggested “to soften the idea,” according to Mr David, who was a medical doctor before entering politics.

“I’m no education specialist. If they want to turn the idea into a full year-long course, so much the better,” he added.

Mr David said he wanted to get cross-party support for his plans and hoped it would take less than two years to get EU studies into schools.

He plans to present a report to the parliament calling on the commission to develop a detailed proposal, which would then have to be adopted by the member states.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), said: “I loathe the idea, but I am sure it will be passed.”

He described proposal as an extension of a scheme in which British university professors are funded to carry out projects on European integration in higher education that “teach EU interpretations of history and economics”.

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

Stockholm’s Bunnies Burned to Keep Swedes Warm

The bodies of thousands of rabbits culled every year from the parks in Stockholm’s Kungsholmen neighbourhood are being used to fuel a heating plant in central Sweden.

The decision to use Stockholm’s rabbit cadavers as bioenergy to warm Swedes living in Värmland doesn’t sit well with Stockholm-based animal rights activists.

“Those who support the culling of rabbits surely think it’s good to use the bodies for a good cause. But it feels like they’re trying to turn the animals into an industry rather than look at the main problem,” Anna Johannesson of Vilda kaniners värn (‘Society for the Protection of Wild Rabbits’) told the local Vårt Kungsholmen newspaper.

Every year, the city of Stockholm kills off thousands of rabbits in an effort to protect trees and shrubbery in the city’s extensive network of parks and green space.

According to Tommy Tuvunger with the Stockholm Traffic Office, the agency responsible for controlling the city’s rodent and wild animal population, part of the problem rests with delinquent pet owners who decide to release their rabbits into the city’s parks.

“Many of the released rabbits are tame,” he told the newspaper.

Animal control authorities employ a special rifle to shoot the excess rabbits, with most of the culling taking place at dawn when the animals peek out from their holes.

The city usually steps up its rabbit hunting efforts in the autumn as leaves begin to fall from bushes and trees, making it easier to see the rabbits.

Tuvunger explained that it doesn’t take many newly released rabbits to do what rabbits are known for doing, much to the detriment of Stockholm’s efforts to control the size of its rabbit population.

“People who think that the bunnies are cute and cuddly suddenly don’t think they’re as fun anymore and put the animals outside. They think: ‘there they can play with the other rabbits’,” he said.

Last year marked a new record for Stockholm’s rabbit cull, with nearly 6,000 rabbits, mostly from Kungsholmen, being removed from Stockholm’s parks.

But rather than simply disposing of the dead rabbits, the city instead froze them for eventual transport to a special heating plant in Karlskoga in central Sweden, where the bunny bodies are then burned as a form of bioenergy.

According to Johannesson, Sweden’s animal control authorities aren’t interested in pursuing other options besides killing the rabbits.

“We want to see them start looking at other solutions for the rabbits,” she said, citing the Finnish capital of Helsinki, which employs sprays to make park plants unappetizing as well as a network of shelters for various domesticated animals.

“In Helsinki, where they have the same problem, they’ve come much farther,” Johannesson told Vårt Kungsholmen.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Support’ Over Lockerbie Bomber

The SNP minister who released the Lockerbie bomber has claimed to have since won support for the decision from unnamed Labour MPs and MSPs.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill freed terminally-ill Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi in August, on compassionate grounds.

Addressing the SNP conference in Inverness, Mr MacAskill insisted the decision was the right one.

His arrival in the conference hall was greeted by a standing ovation.

Delegates also gave Mr MacAskill a second ovation at the end of his 17-minute speech.

Megrahi, the only person ever convicted over the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, had been serving his sentence in a Scottish jail before his release.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has refused to say whether he agreed with the decision because justice was devolved to Holyrood, although Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray opposed it.

Mr MacAskill did not name his supporters, but told the conference: “Many Labour MPs and MSPs have since told me that they agreed with my decision, but none of them have spoken out.”

He said only the Labour MSP and former minister Malcolm Chisholm had shown the “courage of his convictions” by openly supporting the decision.

He went on: “Scotland’s laws and Scottish values dictate that justice must be done but that mercy must be available.

“To act otherwise would be to discard the values by which we seek to live and debase the beliefs which we seek to uphold.

“I said in parliament that it was my decision and my decision alone. It was not based on political, economic or diplomatic grounds.

“It was the right way, for the right reasons and I believe it was the right decision.”

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

UK: Ban on ‘Torture Documents’ Lifted

The High Court has ruled that US intelligence documents containing details of the alleged torture of a former UK resident can be released.

Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed, 31, who spent four years in Guantanamo Bay, claims British authorities colluded in his torture while he was in Morocco.

The UK government denies allegations of collusion and says it will appeal against the court’s judgement.

It had stopped judges publishing the claims on national security grounds.

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

Any publication of the material will be delayed until an appeal takes place.

When the High Court gave its original judgement on the case last year, a seven paragraph summary of Mr Mohamed’s torture claims was removed on the orders of Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Mr Miliband argued that releasing the material would threaten Britain’s national security because future intelligence sharing with the US could be compromised.

But Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that the risk to national security was “not a serious one” and there was “overwhelming” public interest in disclosing the material.

‘Deep objection’

Their judgement was also delayed on Friday because MI5 insisted part of it — explaining why there was such a significant public interest in the case — should be redacted.

Responding to the ruling, Mr Miliband told the BBC the court had “fundamentally misunderstood” the key principle of intelligence sharing.

“We have no objection to this material being published by the appropriate authorities, in this case the United States,” he said. “What I do have a very deep objection to is the idea that a British court should publish American secrets — in the same way that I would have a deep objection if an American court started publishing British secrets.”

Mr Miliband said the government stood “firmly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment”, but he vowed to continue to challenge the court’s ruling “in the strongest possible terms”.

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

UK: Girl, Two, Investigated by Police for ‘Vandalism’ After Being Accused of Hitting Car With Stick

A two-year-old girl accused of hitting a car with a stick was investigated by police on suspicion of vandalism.

The vehicle’s owner called the police claiming the child had deliberately damaged his car.

It has emerged that the toddler’s name and details are being held on file with Wiltshire Constabulary following the incident.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Man Donates Crime Reward to Rape Victim

A man gave a reward he collected by helping police catch a criminal to the victim in the case, even though the reward was equal to half of his annual income.

Lloyd Gardner is a 22-year-old waiter from Devon, U.K., who came to the assistance of investigators and helped them find and convict a man of rape and causing grievous bodily harm. The woman had been attacked so severely that she suffered a fractured skull and brain damage and now has to use a wheelchair.

When Gardner found out he would be given £10,000 for his help, he decided it would be better to give the money to the victim, saying, “With the state that the girl was in after the incident, I really felt that it would go towards making her life a lot better over the next couple of years.”

So just like that, he gave nearly $16,000 to the woman, saying it didn’t seem right to keep it. Maybe his reward is having a face like an unsmooshed Robert Pattinson

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

UK: Now Muslims Demand Full Sharia Law

A RADICAL Muslim group sparked outrage last night as it launched a massive campaign to impose sharia law on Britain.

The fanatical group Islam4UK has announced plans to hold a potentially incendiary rally in London later this month.

And it is calling for a complete upheaval of the British legal system, its officials and legislation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Rapped for Blunders in Murder Case of Girl ‘Turned Into Kebab Meat’

Police investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl allegedly ‘chopped up’ for kebab meat have been criticised for a catalogue of failures which led to the collapse of a murder retrial.

An independent review found that police surveillance techniques were ‘handled poorly and unprofessionally’ and as a result nobody is now likely to be convicted of killing Charlene Downes, 14, who was last seen in 2003.

Her mother today said she felt ‘badly let down’ after the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) recommended that seven officers should be disciplined over the matter.

Charlene was last seen on November 1, 2003 when she kissed her mother goodbye and went to see friends on Blackpool Promenade.

Two men appeared at Preston Crown Court in 2007 in connection with her alleged murder but the jury was discharged after it failed to reach verdicts.

The prosecution claimed the murder suspect was overheard talking about having sex with the teenager and that she had ‘gone into kebabs’.

A retrial was scheduled to begin a year later but the Crown Prosecution eventually dropped the case because it had ‘grave doubts’ about the reliability of some of the evidence.

Iyad Albattikhi, 31, was formally cleared of Charlene’s murder and Mohammed Raveshi, 51, was acquitted of helping to dispose of her body.

Charlene’s mother, Karen Downes, of Blackpool, said she was ‘devastated’ at the findings of the police watchdog.

‘We feel badly let down by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service,’ she said.

‘We’re no further on, we’re back to square one. There is no closure.

‘I was devastated when I saw the report. It’s very upsetting.’

Lancashire Police apologised to the Downes family but said it remained a live investigation and its officers were still committed to solving the case.

The investigating team were guilty of a strategic and tactical failure in the management of the audio and video material they obtained, the IPCC concluded.

Proper records were not kept, material was not fully transcribed and the overall integrity of the material was not ensured.

The use of untrained and inexperienced officers in the inquiry was also criticised as was the way a human intelligence source was handled.

The IPCC recommended that one officer should face a disciplinary hearing, one should receive a written warning and five others should receive words of advice.

Two other officers who retired prior to the investigation cannot be considered for disciplinary sanctions. It has been recommended that the current role of another officer who retired during the investigation, but was then re-employed in a civilian capacity, be considered.

Assistant Chief Constable for Lancashire Police, Andy Cooke, said he acknowledged the findings.

He said: ‘It is clear that certain aspects of the case have not been well managed — specifically during the time prior to the trial — and for this we must certainly apologise to the Downes family.

‘I want to reassure them and our local communities that we have learned the lessons from this and have moved on quickly in terms of the handling of such information.’

Naseem Malik, IPCC Commissioner for the North West, said: ‘What is abundantly clear is that the covert surveillance aspect of Lancashire Constabulary’s investigation into Charlene’s disappearance was handled poorly and unprofessionally.

‘The IPCC’s managed investigation has identified a catalogue of errors which undermined the court case.’

Ms Malik added: ‘Six years since the disappearance of Charlene, her parents are no nearer to knowing what happened to their daughter. I cannot imagine how distressing this must be for them.

‘The failings in Lancashire Constabulary’s investigation can only have compounded that distress. Lessons must be learned from this matter to ensure such failures cannot happen again.’

The inquiry was one of Lancashire’s longest-running investigations involving a child missing from home before detectives switched the focus to a murder hunt.

More than 3,000 people were spoken to by police and almost 2,500 statements were taken.

No trace of Charlene has ever been found.

The prosecution in the 2007 trial alleged that Jordanian immigrant Mr Albattikhi, who owned Funny Boyz fast food shop in Blackpool, strangled the teenager after having sex with her.

The court heard Charlene was one of a number of young white girls who gravitated to the resort’s fast food shops to have sex with older men.

Expelled from school, she spent her time hanging around the shops on the promenade.

Prosecutors claimed either Mr Albattikhi, known as Eddie, or his Iranian landlord and business partner, Mr Raveshi, was having underage sex with her and they would be in trouble if the police found out.

Both men denied even knowing her.

Police started a murder inquiry when David Cassidy, a former friend of Mr Albattikhi, said the accused’s brother had told him the schoolgirl had been strangled and chopped up.

Detectives later bugged both Mr Raveshi’s home and car with secret listening devices and claimed the defendants could be heard on the tapes discussing her murder, with references to eating her body and a burial place.

Det Sgt Jan Beasant spent two years and around 2,500 hours listening to the contents of the tapes but such was the poor sound quality that much of the content was hard to decipher at the trial with sound experts and police disagreeing over what was actually said.

John Bromley-Davenport QC, defending Mr Raveshi, claimed Det Sgt Beasant was totally unqualified for the task of listening to the tapes and already knew a huge amount about the case.

Ian Goldrein QC, representing Mr Albattikhi, accused Mr Cassidy of telling a pack of lies and that his evidence was unreliable because he had a lengthy criminal record for dishonesty.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for 49 hours before they conceded they could not reach a verdict on either defendant.

On his release Mr Raveshi, who like Mr Albattikhi spent two-and-a-half years on remand in jail, said the case against him was ‘shameful’ and indicated he would sue police.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Protests Force Anti-Muslim Politician Geert Wilders to Retreat

A far-right Dutch politician who was turned away from Britain after criticising the Koran as a ‘fascist book’ was today forced to hastily change the location of a scheduled press conference in London in the interests of his own security.

Geert Wilders, who is head of the Freedom Party, flew into Heathrow airport this morning after winning a court battle to enter the country.

Mr Wilders had been due to host a press conference on College Green, opposite the Palace of Westminster, at noon.

However, about thirty male activists from a group called Islam for UK began chanting: “Wilders burn in hell” and “Sharia for UK”.

Brandishing banners saying, “Sharia is the solution, freedom go to hell” and “Geert Wilders deserves Islamic punishment”, the protesters were held back by about fifty policemen.

Mr Wilders was advised not to confront or walk past the protesters and instead to hold his press conference in the nearby Abbey Gardens building used by members of the House of Lords.

Mr Wilders told journalists that he lived under constant security because of his views. Explaining his controversial views on Islam, he said: “I have a problem with the Islamic ideology, the Islamic culture, because I feel that the more Islam that we get in our societies the less freedom that we get.”

He was asked if he still believed that Islam was a retarded culture. He answered that under some Islamic cultures, “homosexuals are beaten up and killed. Journalists are jailed. That action is retarded.”

He said that he stood by his views that the terrorist attacks on New York on September 11, 2001 were directed linked to the Koran.

The 46-year-old first sparked controversy after making a film entitled Fitna which defined the Koran as a fascist book. He is not expected to show the film while he is in Britain.

In February, Mr Wilders was denied access to Britain amid Home Office fears that his presence could trigger inter-faith violence.

That decision was overturned on appeal this week. Mr Wilders arrived in London during the late morning and it is thought that he intends to leave the country later today.

Abu Muaz, from Islam For UK, said: “If I were to say some of the things he has said I would be arrested under the Terrorism Act. But because there is a war on Muslims he gets an easy ride.”

He added: “When Muslims defend their faith, they are seen as extremists. This man [Wilders] has said more than enough. The future is bright, it is not orange, it is Islam.”

Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation, said it was right that Mr Wilders had been allowed into the UK, but he should be closely monitored while in the country.

He said: “The right decision was made to let him in because we believe in freedom of speech in this country, no matter how abhorrent someone’s views are. But he has got to be monitored so that he doesn’t say anything to incite religious violence.

“If you start attacking somebody’s faith in the way that he has, they could react violently. Islam is not above criticism, and criticism based on a mutual respect and tolerance is fine. But his hatred is no different to the intolerance that the BNP and the far-Right are preaching.”

The Muslim Council of Britain branded Mr Wilders “a relentless preacher of hate” and objected to “the rapturous welcome he is receiving in the name of free speech”.

Muhammad Abdul Bari, it’s secretary-general, said: “At a time of heightened tension, with the unprecedented rise of the far-Right, we must all pull together and focus on points of unity and cohesion. Our unhealthy obsession with divisive figures only bolsters their objective to sow discord on the streets of Britain.”

Addressing journalists alongside the UKIP peer Lord Pearson, Mr Wilders said that his visit was “a victory”. He pledged to return to Britain and to show his film.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Under the Skin of English Defence League

One night in September I was invited along to a large disused warehouse in Luton for an English Defence League (EDL) “press conference”.

The windows of the warehouse had been boarded up. Fifteen men in balaclavas unfurled a swastika flag and proceeded to try to set it alight for the cameras.

The message — look we are not Nazis.

The flag proved stubbornly, and embarrassingly, incombustible. While we waited for it to catch fire I spoke to the leader of the Luton division, a man calling himself Tommy Robinson — though that is not his real name.

The real Tommy Robinson was an infamous football hooligan with the MIGs, the Men In Gear firm associated with Luton Town Football Club.

According to this Tommy, EDL’s raison d’être is to take a stand against the rise of radical Islam on Britain’s streets. When you ask the rank and file though they will tell you they are just anti- Muslim.

Over the last five weeks I have got to know some of EDL’s main players.

So, who are they? Part of the problem with answering that question is they do not quite know themselves.

Youth wing

The organisation is about seven months old and only started gathering any kind of momentum after 10 Muslim extremists staged an anti-war demo at a Royal Anglian Regiment parade in Luton in March this year.

The big divisions are in Luton, Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff. They are a rag tag group of about 400 self-styled English patriots, loosely affiliated with football hooligan firms.

They have a female division and a youth division. The leader of the youth division is Joel, an 18-year-old who lives with his grandparents.

His father is Irish, his mother Afro-Caribbean and Joel grew up in multi-cultural Harrow, North London.

He did not worry about Muslim extremism until he happened upon EDL’s website in April. Now he organises the youth division and sells EDL merchandise — adapted hoodies with a mask you can pull down over your face for demonstrations.

Joel admitted to me that he finds the cut and thrust of street demonstrations “exciting”. He also acknowledged that when there is a face-off between EDL and Muslim youths on the street “it plays into our hands”.

Joel denies that there is any militant undertone behind the balaclavas and black shirts, but as he talks you get the feeling he enjoys the drama of it all.

There is, of course, a difference between looking scary and being dangerous and one of the key questions being asked in the wake of recent demonstrations is, are EDL dangerous?

Threat of hijack

About a fortnight ago I was invited along to a pub near the Barbican in London. The leadership of EDL were meeting some potential sponsors.

One of them was an IT consultant working in the City. They were offering technical expertise to EDL.

During the conversation it was also let slip that someone purporting to be from the Ulster Defence Association had been in contact, interested in starting a branch in Northern Ireland.

This could be just bluster, but it raises a serious question — are EDL becoming a sort of lightning rod for other groups of people that are altogether more clever, and altogether more sinister.

Prof Matthew Goodwin is an expert on far right groups and advises the Home Office. According to him the group is at a crossroads.

Four hundred people that can be quickly mobilised online and will travel to demonstrations is seen as very useful resource.

Within the organisation a debate is under way about whether it should stay as a street based protest movement or something more organised and political.

The direction EDL takes next largely depends on who decides to try to hijack it.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


EU Group of Three to Attack Kosovo Statehood at UN Court

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Three EU states will in a UN court case in December argue that Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence was illegal. But EU officials say the judges’ decision will not impact Kosovo’s “irreversible” new status.

Spain, Romania and Cyprus will join Serbia and Russia in giving anti-Kosovo depositions during hearings from 1 to 11 December at the UN’s top legal body, the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The legal challenge — on the “Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo” — was brought by Serbia, which continues to fight against the secession of its former province.

An EU report out this week criticised Serbia for creating “parallel structures” and sponsoring by-elections in Serb-controlled parts of Kosovo in attempts to undermine Pristina’s authority.

Spain, Romania and Cyprus together with Slovakia and Greece declined to recognise Kosovo’s independence last year. But the group of three’s involvement in The Hague procedure marks a shift from passive to active resistance against Kosovo statehood.

With Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands and the US set to make pro-Kosovo statements at the UN hearings, the verdict, which is expected in early 2010, could go either way.

The ruling is in any case to have a purely “advisory” force. It will not influence in a technical sense Kosovo’s bid to get a seat in the United Nations. But it will give political ammunition to either Pristina or Belgrade in an ongoing confrontation in a still hot part of Europe.

“A positive opinion would have a huge positive impact on the unfortunately still fragile stability of our region,” Kosovo parliament speaker Jakup Krasniqi told EUobserver. “It would also support those nations that would one day like to see Kosovo become a full member of the wonderful family called the European Union.”

EU institutions are unwilling to criticise Spain, Romania or Cyprus’ involvement in the UN case.

EU foreign relations chief Javier Solana is one of the main architects of Kosovo’s independence. But the question touches on sensitive areas of national interest, such as Spain’s handling of Basque separatists or Cyprus’ relations with the Turkish-controlled part of its island.

“It’s not an EU competence in any way. The important thing is that there is unity inside the EU on moving forward with practical matters, such as the EU’s rule of law mission in Kosovo,” one of Mr Solana’s officials said.

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

North Africa

Egypt Groups Target Mubarak Son

Opposition groups in Egypt have started a campaign to block President Hosni Mubarak from passing power to his son.

The campaign is called Mayehkomsh?, loosely translated “Who gave you the right?”. It is organised by Ayman Nour, a presidential challenger in 2005.

Organisers said it was a battle against the political system, rather than a campaign aimed at Gamal Mubarak.

President Mubarak, 81, has not said if he will seek another term, sparking fresh questions about his successor.

Speculation has been common in recent years that Gamal — a leader of the ruling National Democratic Party — is being groomed for the role, although he has always denied having ambitions to rule Egypt.

Senior government officials have ruled out what they call a dynastic succession, although he could be candidate in elections.

Opposition groups say the election system is so stacked in the NDP’s favour it amounts to the same thing.

“Our constitution is for a republic not a kingdom,” said Mr Nour at a news conference in central Cairo.

“This is a campaign to confront this irregular… illogical state where a president-in-waiting is practising all the duties of the president already,” he add.

Mr Nour fought in the 2005 presidential election, in which President Mubarak won a fifth consecutive term in office.

It was the country’s first contested presidential poll, but he was jailed weeks later for alleged forgery, a charge he strongly denied.

He was released in January 2009 on health grounds, but under Egyptian law he can no longer run for public office because of his criminal record.

Wednesday’s launch event was attended by representative from across the opposition spectrum, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood is official banned, but remains the largest and most organised opposition force, with one-fifth of MPs in the parliament who stand as independents.

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

UNESCO Chief Wants to Ban the Burqa

Irina Bokova will be officially installed as UNESCO’s new director today. It’s the first time that the UN organisation for education and science and culture has had a woman, or an East European, in the top job. The new UNESCO Chief wants to encourage dialogue but isn’t afraid to say what she thinks.

Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova has big ambitions: she wants to encourage dialogue between Muslims, Jews and Christians and increase respect and tolerance between different groups. But in an interview with Radio Netherlands World she immediately tackles a controversial issue and takes a stand against the burqa, the traditional Islamic garment that completely covers a woman’s face and body. She says:

“Personally I’m against the burqa. Some women can’t even see properly. It denigrates women, causes problems and gives women the feeling that they are not equal to men.”


The brand new UNESCO chief isn’t afraid to speak her mind. As far as Ms Bokova is concerned, the all-encompassing garment worn by some Muslim women does no good at all, especially now that more and more burqa-clad women are appearing on the streets of Western Europe. The UNESCO head says that burqa-wearers must become more self-confident and more self-aware:

“I think UNESCO needs to make a really big effort and focus on education, education, education for Muslim women. I think this should be the number one priority. It’s the only way to gradually change the mentality and the praxis for these women. It doesn’t serve women’s rights to say, I’m in favour of this, I’m against that. We have to do something and I think that through the transformation of society, we can change it.”

Her outspoken comments are remarkable given UNESCO’s calls for tolerance and mutual understanding. But Ms Bokova sees the burqa, especially in Western Europe, as a clash between cultures that has to be solved. And her solution is: the burqa has to go.

Irina Bokova was chosen to chair the UN cultural organisation over Egypt’s Farouq Hosni. Many considered him the favourite for the post, but in the end — perhaps due to his controversial anti-Semitic comments — he was not elected.


The 57-year-old Bulgarian, who has been Sofia’s UN envoy to UNESCO since 2005, grew up in an elite family under Bulgaria’s repressive Communist regime. Her father was editor-in-chief of the state-run newspaper. As a young woman, Irina studied in Moscow, joined the diplomatic corps and represented the Communist government. And now, as UNESCO’s director, she must defend free speech and freedom of the press. She sees no contradiction here, even though she previously served a repressive regime, the last 20 years have proven that she is a democrat.

“I have distanced myself from the former regime. I also worked very hard to ensure Bulgaria’s entry into the European Union and NATO. I lobbied very hard to convince people that it was a good thing for Bulgaria.”

Bureaucratic moloch

Ms Bokova will face a number of challenges over the next four years, including breathing new life into the UN organisation that has almost 200 members and an annual budget of more than 201 million euros. Critics have frequently accused UNESCO of being a bureaucratic moloch that wastes money. She promises:

“The first thing I’m going to do is set up an internal commission to reduce bureaucracy.”

Ms Bokova says UNESCO needs to be more flexible. At the moment, coordination between the various departments is poor and it needs improvement. She plans to cut the bureaucracy by about ten percent and a number of office jobs will go. She’d rather the money goes to concrete projects and programmes, to countries and people that really need it.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Europe Unwilling to Condemn Israel for War Crimes at UN

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — While the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday endorsed a scorching report that accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the Jewish state’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip at the turn of the year, European countries on the council opposed the resolution or abstained from the vote after heavy diplomatic pressure from Tel Aviv.

A total of 25 states on the council backed a report produced by a UN fact-finding team led by South African judge Richard Goldstone, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.

The US and five European countries opposed the resolution while eleven mainly European and African states abstained.

Britain and France meanwhile declined to vote, not wanting to be seen to be attacking Israel while at the same time not wishing to be seen as ignoring the suffering Palestinians underwent during ‘Operation Cast Lead’.

In the last few days, Israel, which accuses the document of being biased, has engaged in a furious round of diplomacy attempting to win over the European states that sit on the council to opposed the resolution.

It is understood that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown talked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for some time this morning.

Defence minister Ehud Barack spoke to the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Spain and Norway ahead of the vote and brought up the issue with Czech Prime Minister Jan Fisher when he was in Prague.

“The democratic nations of the world must understand that adopting the report will cripple their ability to deal with terror organizations, and terror in general,” he told the ministers, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

The resolution had urged an endorsement of the report, which recommends prosecution by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, should Hamas and Israel fail to conduct their own investigations into the events surrounding Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.

On Thursday after meeting with Spanish leader Jose Luis Zapatero, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Responsible nations have to vote against this decision that supports terror and harms peace.”

The 575-page document now moves on to the UN General Assembly and the Security Council, where it is likely that the US will veto any resolution that seeks to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court.

Mr Goldstone himself said he had been disappointed with the form of the resolution, which only looked at Israel’s alleged wrongdoings and none of those that Hamas is accused of perpetrating.

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

Official: Obama ‘Disgusted’ With Israel

Says president poised to press for withdrawal from strategic territory

U.S. officials in recent days expressed to the Palestinian Authority that President Obama’s administration is “disgusted” with Israel, a top aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas told WND in an interview.

Nimr Hamad said the White House was disgusted that Israel is refusing to halt all settlement activity as a precondition for re-starting talks with the PA over the creation of a Palestinian state. “Settlement activity” refers to Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Disappearance of Human Rights and the Advent of Palestinism

Fiamma Nirenstein’s intervention during the round table on “Human Rights and responsibilities of the West”

Conference “New Transatlantic Relations”, of the Magna Carta Foundation, 8-9 October 2009

Today, human rights policies in the world are indeed characterized by schizophrenia. On the one hand, these policies are dealt with an extreme, refined and detailed sensitivity if they target certain social and political groups or themes related to our society. On the other instead, they are faced with increasing indifference in case of international issues. It is an experimental and primitive approach that needs to be better defined which I hope we will be able to do during our discussion.

Certainly, in the past, the United States made an effort to close the sensitivity gap in the field of human rights: the political rationale of foreign policy — and its problems which I do not want to discuss here — was based on the idea that the oppression of people was directly relevant for domestic policy and that — as written by Natan Sharansky — every human being desires freedom and the right to freedom. This was a natural expansion of the American life style, according to which the rule of law had to be implemented within the historically negotiated boundaries of the religious and linguistic agreement. Instead, Europe has treated human rights as a kind of doctrinal code of 170 pages, with oppressive rules dictating a post-modern “non discrimination” ethics that is actually jeopardizing local identities. By emphasizing abstract values — with all their strings attached — it has established “human rights” provisions for any detail. These abstract and very strict principles indeed precede the rights of the primary community and are also disconnected from a de facto situation. I will make some examples later. However, think of the wrong opinions on the Italian immigration policy. But, in particular, think of the inability, for example, to give value to the freedom of the Iranian people, while such value is attached to the freedom of Roma people to go to school, even though their society rejects this option because they prefer to use their children for other purposes. I am referring to the discussion on the burka and to the women who want to wear it, thus ignoring its many meanings such as oppression or challenge to civil liberties; I mention the harsh ban on smoking; the defense of the right of a Swedish paper to write that the Jews do kill Palestinians to take their organs; the prohibition of showing the cross in some schools or of preparing the Christmas tree; the clear ban on humor cartoons on Islam; the restraint to publicly denounce some non native habits such as polygamy or female genital mutilation. Therefore, there is great confusion on human rights in Europe. They are confused with a proud sense of intimidation. And a clear sign has always been sent from the United States to Europe, a historical indication on the terms of integration, on the link between democracy and the Jewish-Christian tradition.

Today, the gap that existed in the past between us and the USA is shrinking; there is clear evidence of this trend: the State Department does not emphasize the theme of human rights for the Chinese and does not democratically criticize the Islamic autocratic regimes; it has just stopped allocating federal funds to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center — the main non profit organization documenting the human rights violations in Iran — and it has adopted timid positions vis-à-vis Jerusalem (I would like to recall instead Clinton’s position who warned Arafat against the denial of the Jewish origin of Jerusalem). In this way the USA is no longer giving Europe its constant call for freedom

Moreover, the human rights policies launched after the war with the United Nations have been experiencing an unprecedented crisis. The U.N. has not even the slightest need for attaining freedom, the abstract aspiration for democracy and equality. The United States and its allies have failed to rapidly win the recent wars against terrorism — which were actually clashes of civilization. They also have had difficulties (and I do not call them defeats) in exporting democracy. All this has led to an increasing and unexpected hostility in the so called developing or non-allied world after the fall of the Soviet Union; the Islamic world, even the groups that have been traditionally more inclined to dialogue, has been ideologically fascinated by jihadism against the old Western enemy. A movement which promises victory and a winning life-style based on identity, after seven hundred years of oppression. Europe is invaded by migrant populations for whom human rights are in their infancy with respect to our achievements in terms of protection of weak subjects (fist of all women) and of civil rights. And Europe has shown its surprise and fear with almost all-out overindulgence. Of course, the populations, the Islamists and the tribal cultures that have obtained an unprecedented standing and an ideological dignity with respect to last century, have turned all this into a political banner used on the international stage with determination. In the meantime, the U.N. has become increasingly characterized by a larger membership and by immediate anti-Western majorities that were before under the USSR umbrella. Today they are under the umbrella of Islam and totalitarianism. I am not only speaking of the horror in seeing the U.N. podium invaded by people like Chavez who smell a rat because the American demon is around or like Ahmadinejad who preaches the extermination of the Jews and brags about justice in the world while he is suffocating his opposition. Or like Kadaffi who invites — and rightly so — to transfer the UN in the Southern hemisphere of the planet. It is puzzling to see Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann from Nicaragua, president of the last General Assembly, hugging Ahmadinejad, after he finished talking about the end in the near future of the Zionist regime; or like Sweden, which has now the Presidency of the European Union, that remained in the hall during the speech by the Iranian President; in fact, they did not realize that, while he was talking about the Jewish conspiracy dominating the world, he had not gone beyond any red line predetermined by the bright mind of the European Union.

I would not like to sound too iconoclastic, but in these last few days, the President of the United States has not found the time to receive the Dalai Lama — the first time that the White House has cancelled this visit in 18 years — because he is preparing an important meeting with President Hu Jintao at the end of the month. And the U.S. President’s approach is marking a fundamental change with respect to the theme we are discussing: his strange obeisance vis-à-vis the Saudi King, in view of his authentic and deeply-felt extended hand policy toward civilizations that have no notion of democracy and an intimate and historical link to a religion that is now attacking the West everywhere in the world. In sum, he is showing a propensity (maybe unconscious) to transform the acquisition of human rights — in the way we view them — into a completely secondary issue. Bush would have never rejected a meeting with the Dalai Lama visiting Washington. Certainly Obama knows that, in the light of this event, his meeting with Chavez and several Arab dictators sounds more impressive. Indeed, George W. Bush awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest honor for a civilian in the United States of America, defining the Tibetan spiritual guide a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance”, notwithstanding the protests of the Chinese authorities.

In June 2007, I personally saw George Bush in Prague when he met all the dissidents from all the Countries in the world where human rights are violated including Russia, Libya, and China, i.e. countries that are undoubtedly and strategically relevant on the global scenario. Whatever the opinion on the overall results of the Bush Administration, it is true that it always respected any culture that had an aspiration to freedom, by identifying its viable aspect. An interesting way of looking for syncretism with Islam, for example, or with the Eastern or African cultures. The very idea of syncretism is linked to survival: two cultures come in contact and become intermingled to live together; today instead, the condition of coexistence with respect to tolerance is completely declining. For example, the Islamic Courts do not respect the human rights we have achieved and therefore do not have any principle of integration or coexistence. However, we in Europe have accepted them in silence and have also taken in practices such as polygamy, female genital mutilation, the burka. Or we have de facto rehabilitated horrible habits that our societies had already banned decades ago such as honor killing or suicides (induced): i.e. all issues related to immigration that are indeed excluding our idea of human rights. The issue of human rights — that seemed to be solved after the horrors of the Second World War — has become extremely topical. And this is a fundamental point: the death sentence to human rights was mainly given by the misunderstood Palestinian issue and the birth of what I call “Palestinism”. The UN has transformed the rejection by the Arab people — supported first by particular interests and then by international jihadismo, mainly fed by Iran — into a humanitarian issue. And this has been a lethal blow. The U.N. has attached an enormous attention to this issue — which can only be related to the typical third-worldism of the cold war on the one hand, and on the other to an invincible historical antipathy towards the State of Israel, as the state of the Jewish nation. This approach has had a paradoxical pattern. It has hammered the Western mind to death and has destroyed any possibility to actually fight for human rights.

The UN has found the time to devote one third of the security Council resolutions to condemning Israel; it invented the unlikely formula according to which Zionism is equal to racism in 1975, only three years after the massacre at the Munich Olympic games; it managed to transform an international conference against racism — the Durban conference of 2001 — in a racist conference against Israel and the Jews. Here Castro, Arafat, Mugabe but also all the official organizations were talking about a new apartheid, only and exclusively citing Israel as the main violator of human rights on earth, this year, in April. The UN tried to repeat this experiment in Geneva with the “Durban Review Conference”, but this time, many countries protested before and the decision by Italy to withdraw was instrumental. Moreover it has launched the Goldstone investigation Commission — supported by the Human Rights Council — on the Gaza conflict. The conclusions of this Commission have set a dangerous precedent that the international institutions do not seem to realize: if Israel is deprived of its right to defend itself, and has to surrendered to systematic terrorism that hits and uses civilians as human shields, it is actually fostering terrorism around the whole world.

Indeed, on September 29, the Human Rights Council discussed the Goldstone report and allowed the major perpetrators of human rights abuses such as Yemen, Venezuela, Libya, Iran, Cuba, Pakistan and Sudan to talk about “Israeli genocide” against the Palestinians. The constant victimization of the Palestinians, the exclusive role given to Palestinian refugees and their descendents — institutionalized with the creation of the UNRWA in 1949, i.e. the only UN agency dealing with a specific group of refugees, while all the others are within the framework of the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) — has contributed to fostering this “sectoral” approach to this problem that is indeed a global issue. The organizations responsible for the protection of human rights are run by people whose countries abhor the very idea of human rights. It will suffice to think that the preparation of the conference against racism known as “Durban 2” has been assigned to countries such as Iran, Cuba, Pakistan, serial violators of human rights.

We do not want to imagine the protests that would have been organized if Israel had been proposed at the presidency of the General Assembly. And yet nobody has raised any doubt as to the presidency of Libya with Ali Treki, who will run the 64th General Assembly inaugurated on September 23.

Recently, a further demise of the international institutions was averted when the Egyptian Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, was not elected as Chairman of the main world organization dealing with culture. It would have been ridiculous to see the UNESCO led by a subject who repeatedly pronounced anti-Semitic and anti-Western statements and who uses censorship in his country for those who are not in line with his Government.

Of the ten special sessions held so far by the UN General Assembly, 6 were devoted to the Middle-East. The tenth — opened 12 years ago under the request of Qatar — has practically become a permanent Commission on the rights of the Palestinians (it is called: “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”). The extremely serious issue justifying this ten-year long discussion is the construction of the Har Homà district by Israel, in East Jerusalem. Clearly no suggestion has been made to stop this existential debate or at least to put it aside in order to talk about the irregularities during the elections in Iran and about the ensuing crackdown, just to mention one of the most sensitive subjects that, last summer, outraged the public opinion around the world.

In 2008, of the 28 resolutions issued on Israel by the UN agencies — of which 6 by the Human Rights Council alone — only 4 resolutions concerned Burma, just to make an example. In general, throughout 2008, Israel was the country condemned with the highest number of human rights violations: 120 documents of different kinds were drafted on this country followed, at a great distance, by Sudan (47 files), the Democratic Republic of Congo (37), Burma (32) and SURPRISE! SURPRISE! By the United States of America (27). Not even one resolution was adopted on Zimbabwe, that in the period between March and July 2008, was harshly criticized because of the presidential election that provoked clashes, arrests and a still unknown number of victims.

2009 will not change this tradition: so far, 96 official documents of various kinds have been drafted on Israel. Sudan: 46; Burma: 32; Iran: 23, and no resolution against this country notwithstanding the riots that have been taking place since June.

Over the last few years, there have been indeed huge violations of human rights in the world. And they have been exacerbated by the growing religious clashes. The Darfur genocide perpetrated by Janjaweed and supported by the Omar Al-Bashir Government in Sudan: the UN has not yet issued any condemnation at the news — arrived also extremely late because of the lack of journalists in those forgotten areas — according to which 7 Christians had been crucified by the infiltrates of the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda; we have no idea of what really happened in the Swat Valley in the operations conducted by the Pakistani Government to stem the Talebans and which caused the evacuation of more than 1 million people: the UN decided that it was not necessary to examine the collateral damage of the war against terrorism in this case; in the case of the violent crackdown on the Uiguri during a rally in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region in China last July, the UN limited its reaction to a statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, with the following wording “alarmed over the high death toll”, stressing the “extraordinarily high number of people to be killed and injured in less than a day of rioting”; In its annual report, the “Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” stated that “Beijing must provide greater protection to the different ethnic groups”; the tragic practice of using child soldiers — 300 thousand of them are estimated to fight in various parts of the world — most of whom are below 15 years of age; the people persecuted by the Iranian regime, tortured and hanged for political, religious reasons and because of sexual discrimination; the violent harassment of the Fatah members by Hamas, that kills them without a trial together with people from other groups against their regime…

All this has remained without an answer. The international illusion that “if the Palestinians had a state” has seemed to be a panacea for the aggressions perpetrated by Iran, by the Talebans and by the Islamists in general, the olive branch in exchange for consensus.

It is fantastic that the resolutions of the International Tribunal on the security fence have not taken terrorism into consideration. And that today, the Goldstone Commission has not considered that its response to the events is totally detached from a reality in which human rights are violated first by the aggressors, i.e. Hamas. The Palestinian issue has first deranged Europe, thus setting the stage for a change in the very concept of human rights, as I said at the beginning. Indeed they are — and I am also speaking on behalf of the United States — the ontological bond, the lifeblood on the basis of which we have to build the inter-Atlantic relations.

Notwithstanding September 11, the USA does not know the fear creeping around the European cities. And Europe does not know — or does not recognize — the meaning of a war against terrorism to bring the world back onto the road to civilization. And instead of making an effort to foster our mutual and indispensable understanding, we are, in fact, trying to eliminate our anxiety with a selective policy that is creating estrangement and detachment from our glorious history of human rights.

Fiamma Nirenstein

Deputy Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Italian Chamber of Deputies

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

Middle East

Crisis Between Ankara and Jerusalem Deep-Rooted

Triggered by Erdogan’s row with Peres, Israeli-Turkish tensions flare up again with Israel’s exclusion from planned military exercises. In reality, Turkey is strategically repositioning itself in the region in order to play a key role in energy supplies to Europe.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — The crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations, which began with a row between Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Israeli President Perez in Davos (pictured) last spring, continues. On that occasion, the Turkish leader criticised Israel for its policies towards the Palestinians.

Until now, even after the Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, relations between Israel and Turkey remained close, making the latter the only Muslim nation in the region in such a position. This time, the two countries are at loggerheads over Turkey’s decision to exclude Israel from multinational air force exercises. Codenamed Anatolian Eagle, these exercises have taken place on an annual basis since 2000. This year, they were scheduled for 12-23 October and Israel was supposed to participate.

In order to ease tensions, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry urged Israel to avoid making it a political issue. However, when asked about it, Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, spoke to CNN urging Israel to change its policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip if it wants to improve Turkish-Israeli relations.

Since then, media reports have suggested that the cancellation of the planned military exercise with Israel stems from Israel’s refusal to let Erdogan to visit Gaza a few months ago, a move viewed as insulting.

Israel’s reaction was deliberately unreadable. One of its deputy prime ministers told reporters that Ankara should “come to its senses,” adding that “Turkey is an important Muslim state sharing strategic ties with Israel. I hope the Turks come to their senses and realise that the relationship between the two states is in their interest no less than ours.”

In Aleppo (Syria), Foreign Minister Davutoglu reacted by telling journalists that “we have decided to cancel the international phase of Anatolian Eagle. We must all act with common sense. Israel must respect sacred values. When it shows this sensitivity, then an atmosphere of peace can be established. We want to have good relations with our neighbours. We are a state that has deep roots in this region and we are open to dialogue with everyone. Hence, the tragedy in Gaza must end; East Jerusalem, Haram al-Sharif and the al-Aqsa mosque must be respected. If these sensitivities are taken into consideration the peace process would resume in the region.”

On condition of anonymity, a top Turkish military officer also said the cancellation of the exercises was the latest episode in tensions that have been rising since the Davos incident. But the latest crisis lies in Israel’s failure to deliver Heron surveillance drones, needed to combat terrorism, a view that put the Turkish armed forces on the safe side.

Oktay Eksi, president of the Press Council, in an article in Hürriyet, challenged a statement by a government representative, Cemil Çiçek, claiming that the cancellation was not politically motivated. Instead, for him the decision lies in Turkey’s redefinition of its strategic alliances in the region, most notably with Syria. As part of this, Turkey and Syria abolished reciprocal visa requirements.

Among diplomats, this is the heart of the matter. Turkey itself repositioning itself as a supply hub for the West and a champion for Muslim countries rich in natural resources.

The deal with Armenia, which boosts Turkey in its march towards the European family, will also speed up work on the Nabucco gas pipeline, a project favoured by the United States, which is none too happy about Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.

Supplies from northern Iraq, i.e. Kurdistan, can eventually bolster Nabucco, which explains Erdogan’s overtures to Turkey’s Kurds. In turn, this meets Kurdistan’s desire for a sea outlet through Turkey.

All this is driving Ankara to redefine its strategic alliances in the region, and giving Jerusalem more than one headache since it has invested substantially in Kurdistan.

Last but not least, some nasty tongues, burnt by their support for Sunni regimes, are now reviewing their positions vis-à-vis Shia Iran, culturally more liberal than Sunni Islam.

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

Turkish FM: Turkey Not ‘Based on Censorship, ‘ Won’t Ban Anti-Israel TV Show

Turkey on Friday shrugged off angry protests from Israel about a Turkish television drama that portrays IDF soldiers as cruel and repressive and has deepened tension between the Jewish state and its key Muslim ally.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey is not “based on censorship” and that the state has no right to comment on the quality of broadcasts or the opinions expressed in them.

“The Foreign Ministry is not an advisory body for TV series,” he said a day after Israel rebuked Turkey’s acting ambassador, warning the series could incite attacks against Jews visiting Turkey.

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


Democracy ‘Not Needed’ In Russia

A growing number of Russians believe their country does not need democracy, a nationwide survey by one of Russia’s leading polling agencies suggests.

The poll by the Levada-Centre showed that 57% of those questioned considered that Russia needed democracy — the lowest number since 2006.

It said 26% believed that democratic governing was not suitable for Russia.

Nearly 95% of respondents said they had little or no influence on what was happening in the country.

‘Rigged’ election

Levada-Centre said 1,600 people across Russia had been questioned in the poll which was released on Friday.

Although the majority of them believe the country needs to be democratic, the results of the survey are an intriguing mix, the BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow says.

The majority (60%) also said it would be better for Russia if the president controlled both the courts and the parliament, which can hardly be described as a democratic aspiration, our correspondent says.

The poll also suggested that 43% agreed with the question that the country sometimes needed an “iron fist” leader.

And nearly 25% said the Soviet Union had a better political system that the current Russian model (36%) or that in Western countries (15%).

The poll came as Russian police arrested 10 people in Moscow who were protesting against an alleged fraud in last weekend’s regional and local elections.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party tightened its already overwhelming grip on power after the polls, our correspondent says.

But three parties walked out of parliament earlier this week, protesting against the outcome of the elections. Two later returned, but the Communists are continuing their boycott.

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

Nuclear Materials Stored in Siberian Parking Lots

A French documentary has revealed that radioactive materials from nuclear power plants are being being stored in containers in a Siberian parking lot. Meanwhile the largest power company in Europe, France’s EDF, which sent the materials there, says it is not responsible.

The largest utility company in Europe, Électricité de France, has been accused of storing nuclear waste in an open air car park in Siberia. An investigative documentary called the “Nuclear Nightmare” that screened on Tuesday in Germany and France accuses the company of sending nuclear waste to a town in Siberia where it is then stored in metal containers in a parking lot.


The documentary, which looks into the contentious issues around nuclear waste in Europe, pointed out that France sends around 13 percent of its radioactive waste to Siberia. Research by the documentary filmmakers indicates that, every year, the French firm ships around 108 tons of uranium from La Hague in northern France to Russia.

The documentary makers also point out that the situation revolves around a legal loophole — recycled uranium or plutonium is not classified as nuclear waste. By law it is merely “radioactive material.” Which is why the international shipping of such waste products is not illegal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Save Moscow From Real Estate Moguls: They Are Worse Than Stalin

Members of the movement for the protection of monuments risk their lives to defend against real estate speculation. Old houses and villas razed to make way for shopping malls, parking lots and residences. With a helping hand from the mayor of Moscow and his wife.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Houses from the ‘600s and ‘700s, noble villas that have survived the burning of Napoleon in 1812, are falling under the blows of Moscow real estate moguls with the complicity of the municipal administration. The pace of demolitions echo the fury of the urban destruction of Stalin’s time. But the monster is the modernization of today: historic buildings are being destroyed to make way for parking lots, shopping centres and extra luxury residences for the new bourgeoisie. A vigorous debate is underway in Russian media, and is swelling the ranks of a movement for the protection of monuments: ordinary citizens determined to fight to preserve the “old Moscow”. Even at the risk of their own lives.

Among the recently destroyed figures the “house of the deacon” (dating back to 1695), part of the Church of the Resurrection in Kadashi street, which also risks being razed. Demolition had started in 2003 but was suspended because of protests. The building remained half in ruins until last week, when — despite the guarantees of protection made by Mayor Yury Luzhkov — the cranes finished their work. Soon in its place will rise a Five Capitals apartment block of 36 thousand square meters.

To the cry of “new is beautiful”, the historical value and beauty of a building have become negligible. What matters is the land it rises on. According to the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society, this is cultural “genocide”; over 400 historic buildings have disappeared in the last 12 years. In 2004 alone the capital lost Voentorg, a huge department store dating to the ‘900s demolished to make way for a shopping centre and the hotel Moskva, whose image is the symbol of the renowned Stolichnaya vodka, which was replaced with a Four Seasons.

According to the activists, the business of the Muscovite real estate moguls is aided and abetted by the municipality: 80% of construction projects in some way involve the administration of Moscow and inspection bodies are subject to the mayor Yury Luzhkov, whose rich wife chairs the real estate development company Intek. Thus buildings are added and removed from the list of protected monuments without a precise explanation.

Dozens of families have been dispossessed and forcibly confined to the suburbs. And the citizens will stand for it no longer. In August, Ljudmila Melikov, 70, was killed while protesting for the preservation of the Bolshoj neighborhood where she lived. She died crushed by a truck in the yard that had taken the place of a house from the 800s. Ironically, the yard is just across from the Faculty of Architecture of the State University, where young people study who should in future have the preservation of their heritage at heart.

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

South Asia

Indian Anti-Terrorist Commandos Display Their Martial Art Skills

A series of photos shows Indian anti-terrorist commandos display their martial art skills and toughness — such as being able to withstand getting run over by a motorbike.

The Indian government recommended setting up regional NSG units after the November 26 Mumbai attacks last year, which saw 10 Islamist extremist gunmen kill 166 people and injure more than 300 others in a 60-hour killing spree.

The NSG is modelled on Britain’s elite Special Air Service (SAS) and the GSG-9, the specialist operations unit of the German police force

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Cleric Cleared of Sex Abuse Over Child Bride

Ungaran, 14 October (AKI/Jakarta Post) — An Indonesian court has acquitted controversial Muslim cleric Pujiono Cahyo Widianto over child sexual molestation charges for marrying an underage girl, aged 12 last year. Widianto risked up to 15 years in jail, had he been convicted of the charges. Prosecutors said they would appeal the court ruling. The girl is his second wife.

After hearing the charges and the plea from the legal team of Pujiono alias Syech Puji, 43, led by top lawyer O.C. Kaligis, presiding judge Hari Mulyanto deemed the charges unclear and inaccurate, meaning the trial could not proceed.

“The defendant is acquitted of the charges and should be released from detention,” Hari told the trial at the Ungaran District Court, Central Java, which was open to the public.

Prosecutors had charged Pujiono, a wealthy brassware entrepreneur and owner of Miftahul Jannah Islamic boarding school in Jambu district of violating the 2002 law on child protection and article 290 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code on child molestation for marrying an underage girl, Lutfiana Ulfa, just 12 years old and still an eighth grader, in August, 2008.

Pujiono’s second wife, Lutfiana, and his first wife, Ummi Hani, also present in court, greeted the acquittal joyously and cried.

Prosecutors said they would file an appeal. “We will redraft the charges immediately and file an appeal,” said prosecutor Didik Djoko Ady after the trial. He said the judges should have proceeded with the trial and heard the charges.

“Instead the judges acquitted the defendant and ended the trial,” said Didik. He added his team would rework the indictments and resubmit them to the court.

The marriage became a controversial public issue, with the cleric defending himself by saying the marriage was allowed by his religion.

Women and child protection activists condemned the cleric and urged the police to take action against Widianto for violating child protection laws.

Director of the Legal Resource Center for Gender and Human Rights Eva Risan censured the court for dropping the charges.

“It’s a bad precedent. The decision is legally flawed. The judges have no commitment to upholding child protection laws,” Risan told The Jakarta Post after the ruling late on Tuesday.

She said her organisation, along with other organizations grouped under the Coalition for the Protection of Women and Children, would report the judges to Indonesia’s Supreme Court and to the country’s Judicial Commission.

Risan considered the judges were put under pressure as Pujiono always brought his supporters to the court sessions.

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

Indonesian Police Kill Two Terrorists Involved in Jakarta Bombings

The two were militants of Al Qaeda. Anonymous police sources say that one is Syaifuddin Zuhri, Noordin Top’s successor at the head of the terrorist organization in Southeast Asia

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesian police made a raid on a terrorist cell, killing two. The group was suspected of attacks on the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton in Jakarta, on 17 July last.

According to preliminary information two Islamic extremists were arrested, two others were killed during the shoot-out with the special anti-terrorist squad Detachment 88. The raid took place this morning at Ciputat, 20 km south of the capital Jakarta.

Among the terrorists reported to have been involved in the raid were Syaifuddin Zuhri and Mohammad Syahrir. Anonymous police sources say that the two are dead, but official confirmation is only expected at 5 pm, when a press conference is to be held.

Zuhri and Syahrir, the two killed, are regarded as two leading figures of Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia. The first is considered the new leader of the terrorist organization in the region. Last month, police issued a letter in which he declared himself the successor of Noordin M Top, the historic leader of Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia, killed on September 16. Security forces in Jakarta also argue that Zhuri recruited the bombers of July 17.

According to preliminary reports, the police caught up to the group in a boarding house near the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, believed to be their main hideout.

The Ciputat raid happened was preceded by a police blitz in Margahayu in ‘East Bekasi, which apparently led to the arrest of another terrorist, whose identity has not yet been made known.

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

Pakistan: Deadly Militant Attacks Signal New ‘Guerrilla War’

Islamabad, 15 October (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Led by two powerful warlords, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban Hakimullah Mehsud and the head of Al-Qaeda’s military operation Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, the Taliban on Thursday launched its guerrilla war in Pakistan by attacking Lahore, Peshawar and Kohat.

The assault came in response to a much anticipated military operation in the Pakistani South Waziristan tribal area to flush out the Al-Qaeda and Taliban’s headquarters there.

A purported Pakistani militant band of armed gunmen attacked three law enforcement facilities across the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday, leaving Pakistan’s cultural heartland a battlefield between the Pakistani security forces and the militants, while a car bomb devastated a northwest police station in Kohat, killing at least 38 people.

Another bombing near government buildings in the northwestern city of Peshawar later in the day wounded five people, further destabilising the country.

One of worst bloodiest events in a single day was preceded by the recent audacious attacks and siege at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi last Saturday in which at least 20 people died.

The attack happened at a juncture when Pakistan was about to launch a major military operation, termed by the army as “the mother of all regional conflicts”, in South Waziristan.

The operation is aimed at strengthening its commitment to fighting terrorism. Washington has recently approved Pakistan’s non-military aid package which tripled aid package to 1.5 billion dollars a year for the next five years in return for Pakistan’s services in the War on Terror.

“The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in Lahore today and the terrorist bombing in Peshawar and in the town of Kohat.

The horrific injuries and loss of life witnessed in Lahore, Peshawar and Kohat today, along with those lost in the attack on the Pakistan Army General Headquarters, are another stark reminder of the amoral nature of those who commit such acts.

These attacks will not deter the people of Pakistan from continuing in their commitment to a free and democratic society.,” said a statement issued by the US embassy late on Thursday.

“The United States will continue to support the people and government of Pakistan in combating all forms of violence. We mourn the senseless loss of life and extend our condolences to the victims’ families, friends, and community,” the statement added.

The fresh wave of violence arose in nuclear-armed nation where the CIA has boasted of success against Al-Qaeda by allegedly eliminating top leaders including Tahir Yaldeshiv, Baitullah Mehsud, HakimullahMehsud and last but not the least Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, the chief of Al-Qaeda’s military operation.

Pakistan armed forces also boasted its success in the Swat Valley and claimed the elimination of the Taliban in the valley. However, Hakimullah Mehsud invited media representatives in South Waziristan and denied reports of his death.

Similarly, under a decision by Al-Qaeda leaders, Ilyas Kashmiri granted an exclusive interview to the Hong Kong based Asia Times Online and announced the denial of his death.

Those two interviews marked the beginning of a new style of guerrilla operation in Pakistan. Pro-Taliban groups used to carry out suicide attacks but now they have adopted a new pattern of urban guerrilla warfare, earlier used by the Kashmiri separatist groups against the Indian security forces.

The militants donned military and police uniforms as well for the first time and used the women fighters as well in their attacks.

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

Pakistan: Taliban Leader Warns India Will be ‘Attacked’

The Pakistani Taliban’s new leader Hakimullah Mehsud warned India of future attacks and sent a message to Pakistan’s army that if it wanted a halt to attacks, it would have to stop taking orders from the Americans.

“We are fighting the Pakistan army, police and the frontier corps, because they are following American orders. If they stop following their orders, we will stop fighting them,” said Mehsud in a video interview aired by British news channel Sky News on Wednesday.

Mehsud also said he would send his soldiers to the Indian border to fight once Pakistan had been turned into an Islamic state.

“We want an Islamic state. If we get that, then we will go to the borders and help fight the Indians.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The High Cost of the Afghan War

In the eight years of the international military operation, money, troops and even the hope of the population have been consumed. As the UN and NATO flounders, Russia and China seek “dialogue” with the Taliban. At the expense of the Afghans.

Kabul (AsiaNews) — It started triumphantly October 7, 2001, but in eight years Operation Enduring Freedom (and the parallel ISAF) has turned out to be a mission of very high costs, both in economic and human terms as well as risks it poses to the geopolitical balance of the world. In a seesaw between reconstruction and bombing, Western governments are risking their popularity over their commitment to the military operation in Afghanistan, NATO its credibility and the ordinary people their future.

Nearly two months after the vote Afghanistan is not only waiting to meet his new president, above all it is still waiting to start living again. The possibility of a runoff election between incumbent President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah remains concrete, while the only certainty is the discovery of “significant fraud”, as confirmed by the same UN that monitored the vote. The electoral stalemate undermines an already fragile reputation between the population and the Kabul government, international organizations and the foreign contingent. The August 20 polls saw only half the electorate cast their ballot, far less than the 70% achieved in 2004. “Then — local sources tell AsiaNews — there was a lot more confidence in a rapid reconstruction and radical changes seemed possible. The citizen no longer expects more specific improvements in his life, but wants to reaffirm his confidence in the democratic system. “

Hope has given way to disillusionment and concern. People ask questions about the future and have no answer: will the government and the international community succeed in preventing the return of the Taliban? Why have their efforts failed, despite a huge effort and economic investment (over 100 thousand soldiers deployed, 38 billion dollars from the U.S. Congress alone) and the sacrifice of thousands of civilians? From 2001 to today, according to best estimates, the victims of foreign military actions are over 7,500. The “new strategy” of the antiwar Obama was to minimize civilian casualties, limiting the use of air force and heavy artillery. But from the beginning of the year, according to official UN data, between 300 and 400 Afghan civilians were killed by Western troops (600 those victims of Taliban attacks).

Among Afghans is a widespread belief that the first mistake made against peace and security was the “compromise with the warlords, easily recycled as parliamentarians, and prevarication with Pakistan which hides al-Qaeda.” “But the bitterest disappointment — they explain in Kabul — is the unfulfilled promise of reconstruction.” The entire country, experts say should be the subject of a primarily qualitative and then quantitative reconstruction, involving the entire social fabric and the ruling class, such as schools, roads and hospitals. “You can not say that they have not done anything, but certainly not enough,” they complain in the Herat area.

The shadows that are gathering in Afghanistan over the Atlantic Alliance, are being exploited by China and Russia both bent on increasing their influence in the area. Beijing and Moscow have only recently begun to openly criticize the US-NATO strategy of war to the bitter end and propose a negotiated solution. The government’s China Daily published an article in which it suggests accepting the Taliban as a key factor in the process of reconciliation. A hypothesis repeatedly put forward by Karzai, but sternly rejected by Washington. Russia and China dream of a political-military alliance which also includes the Central Asian Republics and the Caucasus: a kind of anti-NATO.

Meanwhile, the massacre of civilians continues, as well as the lack of services, the weakness of the state, but also drug trafficking and rampant corruption. Few lament the dictatorship of Mullah Omar, but the risk that must be dealt with is the growing impatience of the people against the NATO-ISAF contingent, which is increasingly seen as an invader rather than as a possible savoir.

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

Far East

Foreign Investments in China Rise 18.9 Per Cent in September

Investments reach US$ 7.9 billion as global economic growth shows clear signs of recovery. Europe’s largest bank moves from London to Hong Kong.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Foreign investment in China rose 18.9 per cent last month to US$ 7.9 billion, Ministry of Commerce reported. In the first nine months of the year, investments totalled “only” US$ 63.8 billion, a decline of 14 per cent from a year earlier.

The number of newly approved foreign invested companies in September increased by nearly 11 per cent increase, a sign according to the Ministry that the mainland’s economic recovery is attracting investment, but the figure does not include stocks and other financial assets.

For years, China has been a top destination for foreign investment but double-digit growth rates plunged in late 2007 as foreign companies felt the global downturn and cut spending. Still many continue to invest in the mainland to take advantage of its stronger economic growth compared with other countries.

Expectations that the yuan will rise are also drawing capital to Asia. “Foreign investment may remain at a relatively high level in the coming months as China’s recovery continues to lure investors,” said Lu Zhengwei, an economist at Industrial Bank Co. in Shanghai. “Anticipation that the yuan will rise may draw more funds.”

Yesterday the yuan reached its highest point in more than 13 months after a government report showed that exports fell at a slower pace in September. Traders are betting that the central bank may let the currency rise at least 2.7 per cent the next year.

China’s General Administration of Customs reported that last month exports fell 15.2 per cent from a year earlier, less that they did in August (- 23.4 per cent).

China’s imports also fell 3.5 per cent (-17 per cent in August) from a year earlier, according to the customs bureau data.

China’s trade surplus stood at US$ 135.48 billion for the first nine months of 2009, falling by 26 per cent compared with the same period a year ago.

Last month, the volume of Chinese trade saw better results losing 10.1 per cent over a year ago, compared to 20.6 in August, the customs bureau reported.

Data from the last two days reflect “a continued rebound in global demand,” an analyst with Bloomberg said. Export data show that demand is rising outside China and that the recovery is picking up steam in developed countries.

Given these changes, HSBC Holdings Plc (Europe’s largest bank) has decided to move Chief Executive Officer Michael Geoghegan to Hong Kong from London.

Recently, the HSBC said that China is a “huge” focus and that it will seek to gain more mergers and acquisitions advisory business originating in Hong Kong and China.

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

Japan and South Korea Increasingly Closer

Enemies during the Second World War, the two nations are now planning the future together: an underwater tunnel, a common history book, Emperor Akihito’s visit to Seoul, etc., moving towards an East Asian Community.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) — Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s recent visit to Seoul has led to two proposals, an undersea tunnel linking Japan to the Korean peninsula and a common history book that addresses Japan’s painful 20th century occupation of Korea. In many ways, both are a sign that the two countries are seeking a closer rapprochement.

For more than a century, people on both sides of the Sea of Japan (or East Sea according to the Koreans) have described relations between the Japanese Archipelago and the Korean Peninsula as being “near and far”, geographically “near” but psychologically “far.”

Japan’s is History’s offender in the matter for it annexed Korea in 1910 and tried to deprive its people of their cultural identity during 35 years of occupation, exploiting the country’s resources and moving tens of thousands of Koreans to Japan as forced labourers.

After 1945, the emotional estrangement that separated the two went on for decades, aided by Japanese nationalist currents that watered down Japanese history textbooks and fuelled by stubborn visits by Liberal Democratic leaders to Yasukuni, the Shinto Shrine that symbolises Japanese militarism in the 1930s and 1940s.

Last Thursday, during a joint press conference Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak retired the old adage for closer ties.

Historic rapprochement

The visit showed that a change in adage was not simply a diplomatic nicety. Two days before, Japan’s new foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, speaking to Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, said that it would be “ideal” if the three neighbouring nations (China, Japan and South Korea) published a common history book to clear up controversies over the interpretation of historical regional events.

This is the first time that a high Japanese government official raises the possibility of publishing a history textbook of that kind.

Reactions in Seoul were positive. “It is a good idea to make a textbook based on a common recognition of the past histories of the three East Asian countries,” a presidential spokesperson said. “However, it will be a long-term and painstaking project.”

Despite the difficulty of the enterprise as the last sentence indicates, support is strong.

Okada himself is conscious of the obstacles ahead, conscious that, “As a first step toward the publication of the textbook, the three countries” should “implement a joint study of history.”

Still the visit by the Japanese prime minister marks a rapprochement between the two nations, and this for three reasons.

First, Hatoyama’s visit to South Korea comes only three weeks after his election as prime minister (16 September). Second, the initiative came from the South Korean president who invited the Japanese prime minister to Seoul. Third, this is the first time that a Japanese head of government makes his first state visit abroad to Korea.

In Seoul, Hatoyama remained less than a day because the next day a three-way summit was scheduled in Beijing between him, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the North Korean nuclear issue.

In this short span of time, two major issues were addressed, improving Japanese-South Korean relations and North Korea.

In the case of the first issue, Hatoyama stressed his adherence to a 1995 statement by then Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama (Socialist) made on the 50th anniversary of the Pacific War (Second World War). In it, the prime minister on behalf of the Japanese government acknowledged that Japan had caused damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations, “through its colonial rule and aggression”.

Citing his predecessor’s statement, Hatoyama said that the Japanese people must understand how important that is. “Our new government,” he said, “has the courage to face up to history.”

In the joint press conference, President Lee praised the Japanese leader, saying, “‘I greatly appreciate Prime Minister Hatoyama looking squarely into the past, his truthfulness and open-mindedness to establish a future-oriented relationship.’“

No to salami tactics

On the issue of North Korea’s nuclear programme, Lee said, “We agreed on the need for a fundamental and comprehensive solution to the North Korean nuclear issue that will not lead to the negotiation tactics of the past. We agreed to work closely together on a way to resolve the issue in a single step.”

For more than ten years North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-il has used the ‘step-by-step’ approach to get as many benefits as possible making as few concessions as possible.

South Korea’s president proposed a single step strategy a month ago to end Pyongyang’s ‘salami tactics’, a throwback to Europe, 60 years ago, when Stalinist parties in Eastern Europe got rid of democratic parties one by one as they climbed the ladder of power.

Emperor Akihito’s visit to Korea

“Korea and Japan have had difficulty in improving relations due to the past,” Lee said in an interview with Japan’s Kyodo News on 15 September. “The Emperor has travelled all around the world, but couldn’t visit Korea. I am confident that Korea-Japan relations will improve rapidly if he visits Korea.’“

It is true that Emperor Akihito travelled to many nations, including China. However, a visit to Korea is not without difficulties. The South Korean president’s proposal for a visit next year, 2010, would correspond with the forced annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910

As expected, reporters asked Prime Minister Hatoyama about the visit. His answer was cautious. “There is a limit to how much the [Japanese] prime minister can intervene in the matter,” he said. “I cannot comment further, but I do appreciate that President Lee has made the suggestion.”

A tunnel under the Sea of Japan

A tunnel linking Japan and Korea has been discussed for 30 years. Now plans seem to be on the verge of realisation. A research group with members from both countries has decided to meet on 8 January to set up a building committee.

The course of the would-be tunnel has not been decided yet, but its starting point in Japan should be the city of Karatsu (Saga Prefecture) on the Sea of Japan.

If it were ever built, it would be the longest tunnel in the world, 209 kilometres, and would cost a staggering 300 trillion yen (about US$ 3,350 billion).

Speaking on 24 September before the General Assembly of the United Nations, Prime Minister Hatoyama said that the recent change in power in Japan would help his nation be a “bridge” to the world.

As a first step towards the unity of nations, he wants to build an East Asian Community on the model of the European Union.

Given such a context, the undersea tunnel joining two nations would become a symbol of such unity.

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

Japan Tells US it Will Stop Naval Mission: Kyodo

Japan’s Parliamentary Defence Secretary Akihisa Nagashima said he told the United States that Tokyo will halt a refuelling mission backing US forces in Afghanistan, Kyodo news agency reported Thursday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Sydney Terror Case Guilty Pleas Kept From Jury

AUSTRALIA’S marathon terror trial was a jigsaw puzzle made up of a mass of circumstantial evidence, the jury was told. What the jurors didn’t know was that several crucial pieces were missing from the puzzle they had to assemble.

Originally nine men were to have faced trial. But over the past year, four of them pleaded guilty to a range of offences including carrying out acts in preparation for a terrorist act, and were sentenced to between three and 14 years in prison. These facts were subject to non-publication orders issued by judge Anthony Whealy, as they could have seriously prejudiced the remaining five men’s right to a fair trial. Only now can these critical pieces of the puzzle be revealed.

The four men who pleaded guilty were named during the trial as co-conspirators.

Among them was a 28-year-old Lebanese-Australian man with a troubled family background and a record of serious drug abuse which led to severe mental illness. Another was a 33-year-old refugee from Bosnia, described by neighbours as an honest, reliable family man who had become a born-again Muslim.

The four co-conspirators were troubled souls who had turned to religion to straighten themselves out. A psychologist who interviewed the 28-year-old reported: “After he began to realise he had a problem, he began to hang out with Muslims. They reminded him of God. He attended the mosque regularly (because) this made him relaxed.”

It was at the notorious Haldon Street prayer room in Lakemba, Sydney, a long-time target of ASIO, that he and his associates embraced the view that Islam was under attack and it was their obligation to undertake violent jihad to defend it.

A third co-conspirator, who cannot be named, told a prison psychologist he was inspired by the London bombings of July 7, 2005. The psychologist reported: “(He) thought if he could do something similar in Australia without hurting people, it would extend awareness of aggression against Muslims and alert Australians to oppose the government and stop the nations alliance with the US.”

The evidence which prompted the co-conspirators to plead guilty was highly incriminating.

In February 2005 two of the men visited a militant cleric. The cleric was heard telling the 28-year-old man in a covertly recorded conversation: “If we want to die for jihad, we do maximum damage, maximum damage. Damage to their buildings with everything and damage to their lives, just to show them.”

The following month, two of the others were bugged discussing how they needed to get fit in order to “shoot some motherf***ers”. One of them was also heard discussing his attempts to make an improvised explosive device using copper pipe. In June 2005 the same man bought 7500 rounds of ammunition suitable for use in a semi-automatic weapon such as an AK-47.

In October 2005, the 28-year-old man was caught at a suburban Big W store in Sydney after stealing six clocks and 140 batteries which he had hidden in chip boxes. He confessed that this constituted an act in preparation for a terrorist act. Justice Whealy, who sentenced him last month, said the clocks and batteries were items capable of constructing six timed explosive devices.

He was sentenced to a minimum prison term of just under four years, discounted due to his mental illness. His non-parole period expired this week and he was released on Thursday.

The 33-year-old, whose admission to possessing ammunition constituted a relatively minor role in the conspiracy, was released in May this year after serving his sentence of three years and six months.

an associate, “I am going to blow up the nuclear place”, according to a police statement tendered in evidence at the Central Local Court in Sydney in 2007. The rocket launchers, which are believed to have been hidden in PVC pipes and buried in bushland near Sydney, have never been found. This was not part of the evidence on which the man was tried.

The four men convicted with him had also been under watch for years. They were all regular attendees at the now notorious Haldon Street, Lakemba, prayer room, which has been closely monitored by the authorities since before September 11, 2001.

One of the accused, a 40-year-old, was well known to ASIO. A devout Muslim who lived with his Australian wife and four children in Lakemba, he first came to attention for his links with the Indonesian militant group Jemaah Islamiah. In 1999 he attended bush training camps in the Blue Mountains with a JI militant sent from Malaysia to conduct such training. He was also closely linked to the Frenchman Willie Brigitte, who was dispatched to Australia in 2003 by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar e Taiba to carry out a terror attack of great size, according to French prosecutors. He was one of Brigitte’s key contacts in Australia, with phone intercepts revealing that Brigitte rang him 42 times. In July 2005 he was charged with lying to ASIO about his relationship with Brigitte, after admitting to only a handful of conversations with him.

His co-accused, a 36-year-old man and that man’s nephew, 32, were also high on ASIO’s watchlist, as they were both believed to have undergone military training with LET. Another Australian man has described traveling with the 36-year-old in 1999 to an LET camp in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir where he says they were trained in weapons and explosives use. This was not illegal at the time as LET was yet to be proscribed by the Australian government and the assertion was not part of the evidence in the trial.

The 36-year-old was accused, along with the 44-year-old, of being one of the leaders, one of the thinkers behind the conspiracy. The 32-year-old nephew was claimed to have trained with LET in testimony provided by a Korean-American militant, Yong Ki Kwon, who said he had seen him at the camp in 2000 but admitted he could have been mistaken. The nephew denied having been there.

The fifth and youngest of the group, a 25-year-old, was also of keen interest to ASIO, mainly because of the activities of two of his brothers.

In addition to these five, another four men — all relative newcomers to the counter-terrorism watchlist — were named as co-conspirators. They were all young men with troubled backgrounds and a history of drug and alcohol use who had embraced radical Islam. The fourth was a migrant from eastern Europe, aged 33.

These four men did not face trial. Unbeknown to the jury, two of them pleaded guilty late last year to doing acts and possessing things connected with preparation for terrorist acts. Two others pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of possessing a thing to be used in a terrorist act.

The case unveiled over the last year in the Supreme Court at Parramatta began in July 2004, when ASIO and the AFP got authorisation to install telephone intercepts and listening devices and began physical surveillance of the nine men and their associates.

Within days of the operation starting, agents eavesdropping on their conversations learned that one of the men was in contact with a Muslim cleric who was well known for his militant views and who was also under surveillance. The cleric was overheard in an intercepted conversation with another follower in September 2004 discussing “doing something big … like Spain,” a reference to the 2003 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people.

The investigation cranked up a notch in December 2004, when three of the men were picked up by police riding a trail bike in the vicinity of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney. The 44-year-old man explained that they were test-riding a bike as a gift for his son, but police were not convinced, although there was no evidence the facility was a target.

As the months wore on, the alarm bells rang louder, triggered by a series of events. The 44-year-old purchased 10,000 rounds of ammunition from a Sydney gunshop. One man was monitored arranging the purchase of a similar quantity of ammunition and discussing experiments he had conducted in making an improvised explosive device using copper pipe.

Most disturbing of all, the cleric was overheard telling one conspirator in February 2005: “If we want to die for jihad, we do maximum damage, maximum damage. Damage to their buildings with everything and damage to their lives, just to show them.”

In March 2005, four of the conspirators went on a camping trip to a remote bush property at Curranyalpa in western NSW, the first of two excursions described by the prosecutor as bonding trips. They were booked in false names using mobile phones, which were also registered under made-up names.

By June 2005, the pace of activity was accelerating. The 40-year-old and the 44-year-old placed an order for 55 items of laboratory equipment with a supplier. The next day two others were caught loading 15 boxes of ammunition into a car, having earlier been bugged talking about how they needed to get fit to “shoot some motherf—ers”.

A series of raids was carried out by ASIO and the federal police in late June 2005 to “fire a shot across the bows of the organisation”, in the prosecutor’s words, and flush out more evidence. But the men only escalated their activities further.

There was a surge in covert SMS contact between two ringleaders using phones in false names and coded messages in which they called each other “darling” and “sweetie” when arranging to meet. The crown alleged the men were busy caching weapons in the bush, although no such stash was found.

The development that brought the investigation to its climax was when some of the men began to order bulk loads of chemicals.

In August 2004, 24 400ml bottles of hydrogen peroxide were found hidden on land behind one man’s home. In late September another conspirator bought a further five bottles of the same chemical at two Sydney pharmacies. Six days later, two of the men went to Autoking in Punchbowl and ordered 200l of sulphuric acid. The same day the 25-year-old placed an order with another supplier for 200l of methylated spirits, 50l of hydrochloric acid, 25kg of citric acid and 20l of glycerine. In separate outings to two hardware stores, the 40-year-old ordered a further 200l of methylated spirits and 120l of acetone. The chemicals are known precursors for high-powered explosives such as HMTD and TATP, known as the mother of Satan.

By late 2005 ASIO and the AFP were convinced it was time to act. But it was still unclear exactly what offence the men had committed under the existing counter-terrorism laws, which required that a specific terrorist attack had to be conceived.

In early November, after prime minister John Howard was briefed on the investigation, federal parliament was recalled for an emergency session in which the wording of the terror laws was changed from “the terrorist act” to “a terrorist act”. Four days later, on November 8, 2005, Australia’s largest counter-terrorism operation moved into its final phase, and the arrests were made in a series of raids.

It took three years for commonwealth prosecutors to bring the case to court as they compiled what one defence counsel called a “tsunami” of evidence. It included more than 3000 exhibits, testimony from 300 witnesses, 18 hours of telephone intercepts and 30 days worth of surveillance material.

In September last year, the prosecution scored a major breakthrough when people started pleading guilty.

The guilty pleas were a coup. But unfortunately for the police and prosecutors, the four men who pleaded would not be interviewed or give evidence against their co-accused. So precisely what terrorist act they might have committed had their plans come to fruition remains a mystery. And the case against the five men left to face trial remained entirely circumstantial.

Prosecutor Richard Maidment SC admitted there was no smoking gun and no clear evidence as to what action was to be carried out and what targets were to be selected. The case, he said, was a large mosaic, a jigsaw puzzle for the jury to put together.

After 40 weeks of hearings and 23 days of deliberation, the 12 men and women of the jury ultimately accepted the crown version of events.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Whipped for Wearing a ‘Deceptive’ Bra: Hardline Islamists in Somalia Publicly Flog Women in Sharia Crackdown

The insurgent group Al Shabaab has sent gunmen into the streets of Mogadishu to round up any women who appear to have a firm bust, residents claimed yesterday.

The women are then inspected to see if the firmness is natural, or if it is the result of wearing a bra.

If they are found wearing a bra, they are ordered to remove it and shake their breasts, residents said.

Al Shabaab, which seeks to impose a strict interpretation of Sharia law over all Somalia, also amputated a foot and a hand each from two young men accused of robbery earlier this month.

They have also banned movies, musical ringtones, dancing at wedding ceremonies and playing or watching soccer.

‘Al Shabaab forced us to wear their type of full veil and now they order us to shake our breasts,’ a resident, Halima, told Reuters, adding that her daughters had been whipped on Thursday.

‘They are now saying that breasts should be firm naturally, or just flat.’

Officials of Al Shabaab, which Washington says is Al Qaeda’s proxy in the failed Horn of Africa state, declined to comment.

The group’s hardline interpretation of Islamic law has shocked many Somalis, who are traditionally moderate Muslims. Some residents, however, give the insurgents credit for restoring order to the regions under their control.

Al Shabaab, which means ‘youth’ in Arabic, control large swathes of south and central Somalia.

Abdullahi Hussein, a student in north Mogadishu, said his elder brother was thrown behind bars when he fought back a man who humiliated their sister by asking her to remove her bra.

‘My brother was jailed after he wrestled with a man that had beaten my sister and forced her to remove her bra. He could not stand it,’ Hussein said.

Men were not spared the’ moral cleansing’. Any man caught without a beard was been publicly whipped.

‘I was beaten and my hair was cut off with a pair of scissors in the street,’ Hussein said.

‘My trouser was also cut up to the knee. They accused me of shaving my beard but I am only 18.

‘They have arrested dozens of men and women. You just find yourself being whipped by a masked man as soon as leave your house.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Honduras Agrees to Plan to Restore Ousted President

“We have agreed in a document on point number six, which relates to the restitution of the powers of state to where they were before June 28, 2009,” Victor Meza, Zelaya’s representative, told a news conference.

Restoring the state to the situation before the coup would imply Zelaya’s return to office, something that had been opposed by Robert Micheletti, the head of the coup-backed interim government.

Micheletti and Zelaya must now ratify the agreement reached by their representatives in talks here.

Meza, Zelaya’s chief of staff, refused to provide details of the draft agreement, saying the negotiators had agreed not to make it public before Zelaya and Micheletti had had a chance to review it.

“I am optimistic by nature,” Meza said as he left the talks at a Tegucigalpa hotel to brief Zelaya at the Brazilian embassy, where the deposed president has taken refuge since his surprise return last month.

The settlement “will depend on what the leaders say,” Mr Meza said, adding that “an agreement of this nature could be the way out” of the crisis.

But he cautioned “it is not easy to find a way out of a crisis that is so particular and so charged with tension.”

In Washington, the secretary general of the Organisation of American States, which paved the way for the talks, expressed satisfaction with the progress made.

[Return to headlines]


Australia: Immigration Policies ‘A Marketing Tool for Smugglers’

The United Nations refugee agency says changes to Australia’s immigration policies have given people smugglers a new marketing tool.

The agency’s regional representative, Richard Towle, says there has been a large increase in boats heading to Australia.

“I think the 32 boats to date is significantly more than last year, but I do think we need to keep this in a sense of balance and perspective — the statistics are not peculiar to Australia, we’ve seen very large numbers and very sharp increases across the world,” he said.

“I think perceptions of policy can certainly play a role in people smuggling. They have a product that they need to market, and to show that Australia is a place where refugees can get fair and effective refugee protection is something that is understood.

“But I think we need to be careful about apologising for that. If Australia is renowned as a country that does the right thing, that offers fair and effective protection for those who need it, and requires those who don’t need it to leave the territory, then I don’t think any apology is needed.”

Mr Towle has confirmed Australia could be asked to offer asylum to more than 250 Sri Lankan men, women and children whose boat was intercepted by Indonesian authorities this week.

The UNHCR says it is ready, if asked, to assist the Sri Lankans and help resettle them if they are deemed to be genuine refugees.

But Mr Towle stopped short of urging Australia to take the Sri Lankans.

“As and when we find them to be refugees, if we get to that, then we’ll approach our good resettlement country partners, including Australia, to see if they can help find solutions,” he said.

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

IDF Prof.: Extreme Left Wants African Workers to Destroy Israel

( African illegal immigrants are a strategic problem of the first degree, according to Professor Arnon Sofer, an expert on demographics and the head of the the IDF’s National Security College. The campaign for taking in the African immigrants was mounted by extreme leftists, Sofer told Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew service Friday.

“They want us to absorb 1,200 sweet children, but where is the red line? 250,000 children of foreign workers? Two million?” The extreme leftists, said Sofer, want to destroy the Zionist state. “They do not want a Jewish state but a state ‘of human beings.’ They do not understand that this is not the reason why we are here and that if their vision becomes a reality the Jews will become a minority that will be slaughtered by the majority.”

“Those who call them Darfur refugees are wrong and they mislead others: these are not refugees but immigrants,” he explained. “We must say the truth: the illegal work immigrants who come from Africa are a great danger for us. Europe has sealed its gates before them. The dastardly Europeans fenced them in under a guise of liberality and enclosed them within walls… they created concentration camps in Europe… and they preach morality to us. In Spain they have labor camp and they kick hundreds of thousands out of Spain.”

‘Let’s just move to Los Angeles’

The African illegal immigrant population joins other existing demographic threats, Sofer explained. The Arabs who entered Israel [after the Oslo accord — ed.] number 250,000, he said. In addition there are 250,000 foreign laborers and tens of thousands of African immigrants and so we could reach almost a million non-Jews who flood the country illegally and this is a huge strategic problem because if this trend continues this country will not be able to safeguard its status as a Jewish state.

“If we do not want a Jewish state we can close up shop and go to Boston, New York or Los Angeles.”

Sofer warned that some of the African immigrants are Muslims and they could include terrorists. In addition, he said, many are sick with tuberculosis or AIDS.

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

Indonesia: Asylum Seekers on Hunger Strike

THE Sri Lankan asylum seekers caught by Indonesian authorities en route to Australia have gone on a hunger strike.

The group’s spokesman, Alex, said all 222 men and women on board the rickety cargo boat would refuse food until a Western country, such as Australia, promised to resettle them.

“We want a resolution from any foreign country that says they are willing to take us,” Alex said.

The 31 children on board would not take part in the hunger strike, Alex said.

The hunger strike was sparked after a disagreement with Indonesian authorities, who want to move the asylum seekers off their boat, which is moored in the western Java city of Merak, and into a nearby house.

Authorities asked to take 10 of the asylum seekers to see the house but the Sri Lankans feared it was a ploy to get them off the boat and then deport them.

“We know if those 10 people came off the boat, they would be deported,” Alex said.

“Nobody wants to come off the boat.”

But authorities dismissed the deportation fears and said the hunger strike was based on a misunderstanding.

“They are mistaken,” Navy Colonel Hutabarat said.

Authorities simply wanted to move them to the house to make processing easier, Col Hutabarat said.

But the asylum seekers were using mobile phones to talk to relatives in countries like Canada who were telling them not to leave the boat under any circumstances, Col Hutabarat said.

“They are afraid if they are taken into Indonesian custody they will not be transferred to a third country,” he said.

“There are some refugees distributed to third countries from Indonesia, but it takes time.”

But Alex said the group did not want to live in limbo for years, waiting to be resettled.

“We don’t want to be stuck in a situation like that,” he said.

“We are staying on this boat until the international community comes together and makes a decision on finding a way to get us out of this country.”

The Indonesian navy apprehended the Tamil asylum seekers, who were trying to reach Christmas Island, in the Sunda Strait on Sunday, after a tip-off from Australia.

It also followed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s personal plea to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to prevent the boat reaching Australian waters.

Earlier yesterday, immigration officials said they would not forcibly remove the Sri Lankans from the boat.

“There shall be no forcing, we are trying to be persuasive,” said Harry Burwanto, head of the provincial immigration office.

Mr Burwanto said he could not say how long the standoff would drag on.

“Maybe one day, maybe two days, maybe three days, we don’t know.”

But the Sri Lankans said they would stay on the boat for months, if necessary.

“If you come see the situation in Sri Lanka, where most Tamils live …. you can see it’s a lot worse than living on this ship,” Alex said.

“So most of these people are used to a life like this.

“We’re comfortable in a life like this.

“So I can guarantee you, we can go on months.”

The Australian Government yesterday said it would not send any officials to meet with the asylum seekers.

“This is a matter for the Indonesian authorities, who are managing the group,” a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

Nine-year-old Brindah, one of 31 children aboard the boat, made an impassioned plea for international help.

“We are Sri Lankan refugees, please take us to your country, we can’t live in Sri Lanka.

“Please help us and save our lives.

“We are your children, please think of us, please, please.”

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Obama Aide is Pressing Fight vs. Gay Bias

The Obama administration’s point man on civil rights said Wednesday that he will seek to fight bias against gays, an area in which the Justice Department has had only a small role in the past.

Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s Civil Rights Division, said pending legislation in Congress will allow the department to attack discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, a group often referred to by the acronym LGBT.

That would be new territory for the division that has historically gone after discrimination based on race, gender or religion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Safe Schools’ Chief Was Member of Radical Act Up

Jennings now responsible for public school students

The man chosen by the Obama administration to head the Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools was an activist with the radical pro-homosexual organization Act Up, known for its aggressive badgering of those who don’t support the homosexual lifestyle, according to a new report.

Mass Resistance, a pro-family organization in Massachusetts that has battled over homosexual agenda points there, has posted online a report and video documenting Kevin Jennings’ participation in the extremist organization.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


It’s Never Been About Global Warming

The whole global warming craze is a massive Ponzi scheme

Anyone who believes that the Kyoto Accord and all the subsequent meetings spearheaded by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is actually about global warming or climate change, would be well advised to submit a wish list to Santa Claus in care of the North Pole. Chances of having jolly St. Nick deliver what’s on that list are better than the chances of stopping global warming. That’s because global warming has already stopped with no help from Al Gore and his friends.

In fact, recent scientific discoveries have found the smoking gun of global warming isn’t actually smoking when it was revealed that some of the IPCC’s data were, um, fudged. The IPCC’s lead scientist, Keith Briffa has attempted to debunk archeological and historic records about the medieval warm period, when Greenland was actually green, using as proof tree core samples taken from Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula. Only problem is, upon peer review of his 1995 paper, Dr. Briffa was discovered to have cherry-picked the core samples in order to support his assertion that the planet is warming. There were a total of 252 core samples taken from the trees at Yamal and Briffa used a total of three to support his hypothesis.


And so it goes. What hasn’t occurred to most who have bought into the global warming hysteria is that it’s never been about global warming or climate change, for that matter. The whole global warming craze is a massive Ponzi scheme designed to separate wealthy nations from their wealth and pass it over to developing nations without them having to actually go through the process of creating and earning that wealth. It’s a gigantic global welfare scheme that if it comes to fruition, will equalize the wealth of all nations, making poor nations wealthier. It will also make wealthy nations poorer.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

"Islamists in Somalia have also banned musical ringtones."

Can't blame them for that.

Indeed, if they could come over to the Paris metro and give out a few lashes to Muslim youths who have their cell phones constantly blaring "music" just to annoy fellow travellers, it might win them a few votes for Mohammed.