Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/12/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/12/2009Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan will be charged with thirteen counts of premeditated murder for his actions in the Fort Hood massacre. Maj. Hasan lawyered up as soon as he was able to talk, and has not spoken to Army investigators or police detectives. He refuses to be questioned without his lawyer present.

In other news, the British county of Cornwall is instituting mandatory signs and documents in both Cornish and English. This expensive program is being undertaken despite the fact that Cornish is a dead language that was artificially revived in the 1970s, and only 300 people currently speak it.

Thanks to 4symbols, C. Cantoni, Esther, Fjordman, Flyboy, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, JP, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TV, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
France: Ile De France Prices -9% in August
Global Crisis Makes US More Dependent on China Than Ever
Did Imam’s Posting Trigger Hasan’s Gun Buy?
Fort Hood Shooting Suspect ‘Is No Terrorist’
Fort Hood Massacre: Just a Symptom
Free Speech Rights Prevented Probe Into Hasan E-Mails, Investigators Say
Hasan to be Charged With Premeditated Murder, Army Official Says
Investigation Vindicates Inspector General
Jihad: Not in BHO’s Lexicon
Looking for Terror in All the Wrong Places
Man Arrested for ‘Anti-Christian Mall Disturbance’ To Appear in Court Again Thursday
Muslim Suffers Bruised Ego in Fort Hood Tragedy
Obama to Attack Guns as Public-Health Threat?
Official: “Owens Will Have to be Removed”
Sanctuary Veto Overridden, Legal Action Possible
The Man Who Despises America
You Can’t Ignore the Role of Radical Islam
Taxi Boss Jailed for Threats Against Daughter
Windsor Police Apologize to Islamic Community for FBI Arrests
Europe and the EU
Britain Offers Land for Cyprus Reunification
Cyprus: Free Trees to Help the Island
Cyprus: Most of Turkish Cypriots Wants Two States, Survey
Denmark: Push to Build Mosques is Met With Resistance
Denmark: Priest Flees Home After Hell’s Angels Attacks
Does a Nazi Deserve a Place Among Philosophers?
Far-Right Alliance Fails to Get EU Parliament Cash
Gas: Slovenia in South Stream With Gazprom
Geert Wilders’ One-Man Crusade Against Islam
Gender Imbalance Mars Formation of Barroso II
Greek Church Acts on Crucifix Ban
Ireland: Mayor of Limerick: “Send Home Jobless Nationals”
Italy: New Law May Protect PM From Corruption Charges
Italy: Neo-Nazis Detained for Founding ‘Hitler Youth’
Norway: ‘Isolated?’ Bring it on
Portugal: European Commission, Inquiry Into Loan to Bank
Spain: A City With Chinese Disneyland to be Built in Lorca
Swedes Drop Refugee Status Proposal
Swine Flu in Norway
UK: “Keep Buggering on.”
UK: Cornwall to Introduce Bilingual Street Signs (Although Just 300 People Speak Cornish)
UK: Ex-Ministers Call for Vote on War in Afghanistan
UK: Murderer Jailed for Life After Police Overheard Prayer for Forgiveness
UK: Preacher Linked to Fort Hood Killer Has Support in Britain
UK: PC Brigade Ban Police From Saying ‘Gang Rape’ As it is ‘Too Emotive’by Stephen Wright
UK: Utterly Indefensible: MOD Penpushers Pocket £300m in Bonuses as British Soldiers Die for Lack of Equipment
Video: Klaus: “EU Ambassador Told Me it Would Not be Possible to Organise a Referendum Because Majority Would Kill the Treaty”
Croatia to Get €3.5 Billion if it Joins EU in 2012
Serbia: EU: Unlock Agreement, Good Cooperation With Icty
Serbia: Traffic Insurance in Compliance With EU Standards
Serbia: Four New Minority Councils to be Created
Tourism: Croatia, Go Ahead to Privatisation of Accommodation
Mediterranean Union
Equal Opportunities: EU Call for 11 Mediterranean Countries
Ferrero Waldner: 2010 Experimental Med Free Trade Zone
North Africa
Algeria: Islamic Finance Remains Marginal
Egyptian Christian Man Attacked by Mob for Frequenting a Muslim Brothel
Libya to Put Swiss Men on Trial
Rafah: Agents Kidnapped by Cement Traffickers
Swiss Hostages Case Swings in Libya’s Favour
Tunisia: Castel to Commercialise Tunisian Wines
Israel and the Palestinians
Is Obama Really Israel’s Friend?
Mahmoud Abbas Asks Arab League to Boycott Hamas
Mahmoud Abbas: Fighting for Borders of Palestine
Norwegian University to Keep Israel Ties
Palestinian January Elections Cancelled
Middle East
Kurdish Guns Threaten to Bring a New Humanitarian Catastrophe to Iraqi Minorities
Lebanon: Italy is Primary Industrial Machinery Supplier
Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Grants $380 Mln Loan to Pakistan
Study: Bulgarians Not Prejudiced Against Turks
Turkey: No Hand Shakes Yet on US Gunship Sale
Turkish PM Suggests Israeli Jews Are Genocidal
South Asia
Afghanistan: Taleban Spin Doctors Winning Fresh Ground in Propaganda War With NATO
Afghan Red Crescent Angry After NATO-Led Forces Storm Compound
Blasphemy in Pakistan and the European Court’s Attack on the Crucifix
How the US Funds the Taliban
India Registers Case Against American Militant Suspect
Norwegian Kidnapped, Released in Afghanistan
Pakistan’s Anti-Blasphemy Campaign at the UN Minorities Forum
Spokesman of Iranian Consulate Killed in Pakistan
Far East
China-Africa: Libya, Chinese But Work for Africans
China Proves to be an Aggressive Foe in Cyberspace
Sub-Saharan Africa
African Slavery Apology ‘Needed’
Gunmen Kill Somalia Pirate Judge
Muslim Extremists Attack Worship Service in Uganda
Spain Calls for Pirate Blockade
Canada’s New “Immigrant” From America
Czech Republic: Number of Foreigners in CR Up Ten Times Since 1989
Gordon Brown’s Immigration Speech Needed Solutions
Gordon Brown Immigration Speech “Empty Rhetoric” Says Grayling
Greece to Legalise 15,000 Bangladeshis
Indonesia Repatriates Thousands of Expats in Saudi Arabia: Exploited in the Workplace
Refugee Centres Work to Improve Relations Between Locals and Asylum Seekers
UK: Gordon Brown to Admit ‘Mistakes’ On Immigration After BNP TV Furore
UK: Government Toughening Rhetoric Not Policy on Immigration, Says Green
UK: We’ll Stem Rising Tide of Migration: PM Finally Promises Action… Starting With a Curb on Doctors
Culture Wars
Dutch Website Offers Suicide Tips
Media Matters as PC Language Police
Mormons Throw Support Behind Gay-Rights Cause
Why Communism Doesn’t Make People Happy

Financial Crisis

France: Ile De France Prices -9% in August

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, NOVEMBER 11 — According to the Chamber of Notary Publics of Paris and Ile de France, in August, the decline in real estate prices in the Paris area was more than 9% compared to the same period in 2008. The largest decrease, pointed out the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Paris, hit the extreme suburbs (-11%), while in the adjacent suburbs the decline was 8.3% and in Paris the decrease was 7.6%. This drop resulted in a 13% reduction in the number of transactions from June through August 2009 compared to the same months in the previous year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Global Crisis Makes US More Dependent on China Than Ever

When US President Barack Obama visits China this weekend, he will encounter a rival that sees the financial crisis as more of an opportunity than a threat. America, on the other hand, has been fundamentally weakened by the global crunch — and is more dependent on the goodwill of the rising superpower than ever.

The scientists at the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha, China, had plenty to celebrate: They had developed a supercomputer that could perform more than a quadrillion calculations per second.

The announcement, released just in time for US President Barack Obama’s visit to China this weekend, had symbolic value: With their new computer, dubbed “Tianhe” (“Milky Way”), the Chinese claim they will be the first country to become a direct rival to the superpower.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Did Imam’s Posting Trigger Hasan’s Gun Buy?

Just two weeks before Maj. Nidal Hasan purchased the weapon he allegedly used in the Fort Hood shooting, the radical imam with whom he had been communicating posted an incendiary message on the Internet vilifying Muslim soldiers who “follow orders” by fighting on behalf of the “enemies” of Islam.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Fort Hood Shooting Suspect ‘Is No Terrorist’

The family of the Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan is rejecting claims he was linked to Islamist radicals.

A close relative spoke to Sky News in the West Bank town of Ramallah on condition of anonymity, afraid of reprisals against his family in America.

With Hasan now out of a coma in hospital, his relative spoke of the extreme pressures the military doctor had been working under, treating injured patients returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“He was taking things very personally. When he talked about certain patients he was crying,” the relative said.

“He was complaining there was not enough time to treat his patients properly. He could not separate his emotions from his job”.

The relative insists the American military had a duty of care to its employee which it may have neglected with tragic consequences.

“The authorities must investigate if the military failed to help him when he needed help,” the family member explained.

The US government has confirmed communications between Hasan and a radical Muslim cleric were investigated last year but did not merit further inquiry.

Investigators concluded he was corresponding with the cleric about a research paper on the effects of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hasan’s family in the Palestinian town of Ramallah said he did not fit the profile of an Islamist recruit.

A highly-qualified military doctor, he had been in the army for 22 years and was far from impressionable and easily led, it said.

“He has a strong mind. It is very difficult to persuade him,” a relative said.

He was a patriot and loved America, the relative continued. When his parents died he insisted they were buried in the States, because he said it was their country.

“He was very loving. If you go back to high school he was the kindest kid.

“He tried to help everyone. And he hated the sight of blood. When he watched the delivery of a baby he fainted because of the blood.”

Hasan’s Palestinian family is struggling to come to terms with the news from America.

“I sympathise with the victims,” the relative said.

“Honestly I feel their pain like they are my own. I am deeply sorry for what happened and I hope and wish it had never happened and my heart bleeds for them.”

But the relative warned against a rush to judgement and the automatic assumption that he was motivated by his religion when other personal factors may have been at work.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Fort Hood Massacre: Just a Symptom

The myriad psychological mysteries and convoluted theories concerning Hasan and his motives are of great intellectual curiosity to many Americans. However, these may prove to be dangerous distractions. Though it is important for people to know that Maj. Hasan’s Virginia mosque was run by a Saudi-funded jihadist organization (as reported by WND), that he may have been in contact with al-Qaida operatives, and that the Army and intelligence organizations were actually aware of the risk he posed, understanding the greater dynamics attendant to this incident are essential — particularly if anyone is serious about circumventing more such occurrences.


The fact that America tolerates the presence and activism of militant Muslims on the basis of subverted constitutional law is simply a manifestation of intellectual depravity. A nation truly concerned about its survival, and with a contingent proven to be as dangerous as have radicalized Muslims, would act accordingly. In truth, it is nothing but a militant worldview masquerading as a religion. In every society throughout history in which Muslims have been a minority, there comes a time when they reach an elusive critical mass and become overtly rebellious. Some of the most compelling arguments for this doctrine being incompatible with virtually every “non-believing” culture comes from former Muslims. Thus, our government ought to regard Islam with the same suspicion it reserves for other fringe political organizations, such as certain militia groups.

All of the mental gymnastics concerning Hasan’s background, stability, intentions and motives is practically irrelevant, however, in the face of that greater dynamic.

It isn’t political correctness, either.

The idea that holding American Muslims accountable for their militancy is somehow an infringement upon protections afforded them by the First Amendment is a perversion of the First Amendment that has been proffered by far-left progressives and gradually adopted by a large segment of Americans. It also runs contrary to concepts of civics that were once universally accepted, and taught in schools across America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Free Speech Rights Prevented Probe Into Hasan E-Mails, Investigators Say

Investigators would have been “crucified” over First Amendment rights if they had launched a full-scale probe into e-mails Fort Hood massacre suspect Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly sent to a radical imam, a government investigator told Fox News.

The claim comes as the squabble grows among officials in different branches of law enforcement and the military over who knew what, and when, about Hasan’s leanings toward faith-inspired violence, and amid charges that “political correctness” prevented officials from taking pre-emptive action.


Satirical blogger Barry Rubin of “The Rubin Report” wondered if today’s New York Times covering the Lincoln assassination would overlook the fact that John Wilkes Booth shouted out a Confederate motto after the shooting and report instead that he “was psychologically unstable…frightened of the Civil War coming to an end and having to face a peacetime actors’ surplus.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hasan to be Charged With Premeditated Murder, Army Official Says

FORT HOOD, Tex. — Army officials intend to charge Maj. Nidal M. Hasan with premeditated murder in last week’s killing of 12 soldiers and a civilian at Fort Hood, an Army official said Thursday.

The murder charges are expected to be announced Thursday afternoon.

Authorities have said Hasan will be tried in a military court because he is a service member, the shooting took place on an Army post, and all of those slain were Defense Department personnel. Of the 13 who died, four were officers, eight were enlisted soldiers and one was a retired chief warrant officer who was working as a civilian at Fort Hood.

Hasan, 39, an Army psychiatrist, allegedly opened fire Nov. 5 with two handguns on unarmed soldiers who were preparing for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The attack at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center also left 38 people wounded. It has been described as the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. military installation.

The rampage ended when Hasan was shot by civilian police who responded to the scene. Hasan was subsequently flown to an Army hospital in San Antonio, where he has been reported in stable condition as he recovers from four gunshot wounds.

Hasan has refused to talk to Army or FBI investigators, authorities said. He requested legal representation and met with two attorneys. His civilian lawyer, retired Col. John P. Galligan, has said he would not permit Hasan to be questioned without a defense attorney present.

Officials at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio said Hasan was taken off a ventilator Saturday after arriving the day before from a hospital in Temple, Tex. A spokeswoman at Brooke said Monday, “He is in stable condition, and he is conversing with the medical staff, the doctors and nurses who are assisting with his medical needs.”

Galligan, who was hired by Hasan’s family, and Maj. Christopher E. Martin, Fort Hood’s senior defense attorney, met with Hasan for about half an hour Monday night at Brooke. Galligan later questioned whether Hasan could get a fair trial at Fort Hood.

The attorney said his client knew he was a suspect in the Fort Hood shootings but that there were no formal charges at the time that could be discussed at the Monday meeting.

[Return to headlines]

Investigation Vindicates Inspector General

Fired by Obama, Walpin says now he wants job back

A U.S. inspector general who was fired by President Barack Obama — after crossing the president politically — reports he’s been cleared by an investigation and now he wants his job back.

WND reported earlier when Obama came under fire for allegedly canning Inspector General Gerald Walpin, who filed several reports on the alleged misappropriation of federal AmeriCorps funds by former basketball star Kevin Johnson, a prominent Obama supporter.

At the time, Walpin told WND, “I will tell you that [my firing] came only after we had issued those two reports to Congress, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I am convinced that I and my office are not guilty of any impropriety. In essence, I was fired for doing my job.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jihad: Not in BHO’s Lexicon

President Obama needs to throw his “Muslims can do no evil” rose-colored glasses off and see the real world. After listening to remarks by Barack Hussein Obama in Fort Hood, Texas, we were struck by how unemotional he is to tragedy. That is, Obama appears to be genuinely mourning the victims of the brutal jihad-inspired massacre that left 13 dead; but even now, he refuses to understand the gravity of the events and underlying reasons that lead to this terrorist attack on America’s valiant soldiers.

To Obama, terrorism and Islamist jihad are words stricken from his presidential lexicon. Without these words, you cannot adequately understand these brutal events on America’s homeland. Jihad flows from very specific Islamic teachings. This attack was a premeditated act of unspeakable terrorism, including the ritual pre-jihad (pre-attack) cleansing routine caught in part on convenience store cameras. Politically correct denial of Islam’s role in this bloodletting is foolishness and dangerous. And Obama and his administration will not be able to protect us against further similar acts if they continually refuse to admit reality.

What is the evidence to substantiate our claims?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Looking for Terror in All the Wrong Places

Remember when Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security was advising police officers all over the country to watch out for “right-wing extremists” sporting Ron Paul bumper stickers, waving the flag, declaring the Constitution, of all things, as the law of the land and especially those returning war veterans?

The report revealed last April by WND also showed the bureaucracy created to protect Americans after the Sept. 11 attacks by Muslim terrorists had shifted its focus to those who opposed illegal immigration, supported the literal meaning of the Second Amendment, opposed the killing of unborn babies and promoted U.S. sovereignty and independence.

That’s where the real terror threat came from, according to Barack Obama’s administration. The report was distributed to law-enforcement offices around the country. It even resulted in American drivers being pulled over for bearing “Don’t Tread on Me” stickers on their bumper.

Clearly, the intent of this report was to target those the Obama administration considers to be the real enemy in America.

Later, of course, she named as a top Homeland Security adviser a man who headed an organization known for its praise of both the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations.

Nothing demonstrates the national security myopia of the Obama administration better than its eagerness to see threats where none exist while being unwilling and unable to see those that are staring us in the face.

The Obama clan could never see domestic terrorism carried out by Islamic jihadists — no matter how many times the country actually experienced it.

However, it imagined domestic terrorists were all around us in the form of flag-waving, patriotic Americans.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Man Arrested for ‘Anti-Christian Mall Disturbance’ To Appear in Court Again Thursday

Deputy DA keeps bail at $27K, orders Hasim to stay away from Stoneridge Shopping Center

Deputy District Attorney Ronda Theisen requested the bail for Abdul Walid Hamid stay at $27,000 as the 22-year-old man was arraigned Tuesday morning on charges of battery, grand theft, exhibition of a deadly weapon and a possible hate crime.

Police arrested 22-year-old Hamid of Hayward Wednesday evening after he reportedly robbed a man and scared others at Stoneridge Shopping Center.

Calling it a bizarre case, Theisen also asked that Hamid, who is still in custody, be ordered to stay out of the mall if he does post bail and leaves jail.

Through an interpreter, Hamid requested a public defender and was scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. Thursday where he is expected to enter a plea.

According to reports, Hamid was yelling “Allah is power” and “Islam is great” while holding a pen in a fist over his head and witnesses said he had been shouting anti-Christian comments.

Pleaanton Police Lt. Mike Elerick said the man was not provoked and didn’t threaten violence, but he committed robbery when he grabbed and broke a crucifix off a man’s neck.

Police said they weren’t aware of a prior criminal history for the man.

“We had multiple people calling 911,” Elerick said. “One female was crouching down and hiding from him. He definitely scared quite a few people.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Muslim Suffers Bruised Ego in Fort Hood Tragedy

The massacre at Fort Hood last week is the perfect apotheosis of the liberal victimology described in my book “Guilty: Liberal ‘Victims’ and Their Assault on America.”

According to witnesses, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan entered a medical facility at Fort Hood, prayed briefly, then shouted “Allahu akbar” before he began gunning down American troops. Now I don’t know which to be more afraid of: Muslims or government-run health-care systems.

President Obama honored the victims by immediately warning Americans not to “jump to conclusions” — namely, the obvious conclusion that the attack was an act of Islamic terrorism. As conclusions go, it wasn’t much of a jump.

But the mainstream media waited for no information — indeed actively avoided learning any information — before leaping to the far less obvious conclusion that the suspect’s mass murder was set off by “stress.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama to Attack Guns as Public-Health Threat?

2nd Amendment advocates worry over opinions of OSHA nominee

Second Amendment advocates are expressing alarm that the most significant attack on gun rights across the United States in years soon could come in the form of a workplace “safety” regulation under President Obama’s nominee to run the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Obama has nominated David Michaels, a George Washington University professor and the chief of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy, which reportedly partially is funded by George Soros.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Official: “Owens Will Have to be Removed”

GOUVERNEUR, NY — Despite the fact that Bill Owens has already been sworn-in and has voted on crucial legislation in the House of Representatives, he may not have actually won the NY-23 Congressional Special Election.

Several errors were made during the initial vote counts. Over 2,000 votes for contender Doug Hoffman were not counted in the preliminary results, narrowing the current vote gap to less than 3,000 votes between Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Doug Hoffman.

The errors were discovered during the standard vote recanvas that has been underway since November 4th. The largest error occurred in Oswego County where the vote recanvas found a discrepancy of more than 1,200 votes in Doug Hoffman’s favor. Another error, in Jefferson County contributed an additional 700 votes in Hoffman’s favor during the recount.

The election was close enough even on election night that the New York State Board of Elections was unable to present a “clear decision” in the race according to John Conklin, Communications Director for the department. He said that the Board sent a letter to the Clerk of the House of Representatives in Washington indicating that they could not yet determine a winner and could therefore not certify the election until after the recanvas and absentee ballot count. Those final numbers will not be available until at least mid-December.

Nancy Pelosi was only able to legally swear-in Bill Owens because Doug Hoffman had conceded the election, indicating that he did not contest the initial, and now shown erroneous, results, something he may not have done if he had been aware of how close the election was.

Mr. Hoffman told the Gouverneur Times that he felt at the time that he “was being a good sport” in doing so. With 93% of the polls in and counted and a margin of over 5,000 votes in favor of Owens, he felt he had lost the election. He now says that “while hindsight is 20/20, if I had known it was that close, I probably would have waited.”

Bill Owens was sworn in 2 days later and proceeded to vote in favor of Pelosi’s health care bill the following day. While Mr. Hoffman feels that deliberately contesting the results of the election to prevent Owens’ deciding vote in the Health Care bill would “not have been very sportsmanlike,” and that he, personally, would not like to see a politician manipulate events in that manner, he also indicated that the good of the American people and the citizens of the 23rd district would have weighed in on that decision as well.

As it stands now, Bill Owens may be in Washington and voting the Pelosi Party line but when the vote is certified he may be ousted. The state Board of Elections indicated that “…all ballots will be counted, and if the result changes, Owens will have to be removed.” Concession speech or not, if the voters in the 23rd District elected Doug Hoffman and not Bill Owens, then Hoffman will be the Representative.

There are currently over 10,000 uncounted absentee ballots, many of which were in the military where a strongly conservative bias exists. Given the narrow margin of Owens’ lead at this time, it’s entirely possible that this race could still swing for Hoffman.

Sources indicate that the Democrats would not have had the votes to pass the Health bill if Owens had not been sworn-in and pledged his support for it. Several other Representatives have indicated that they would not have cast their votes in favor of the bill if they were not certain that it had the votes to win.

[Return to headlines]

Sanctuary Veto Overridden, Legal Action Possible

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday was successful in overriding Mayor Gavin Newsom’s veto of legislation changing the sanctuary city ordinance.

Newsom, who said the ordinance conflicts with federal law, said through his spokesman that he would ignore the legislation — prompting the legislation’s author to threaten a legal challenge to the mayor. The new law takes effect in 30 days, and Supervisor David Campos said the board may fight the mayor in court if no compromise can be struck.

Campos’ ordinance — which garnered eight votes Tuesday — requires that undocumented juveniles be turned over to federal authorities for possible deportation only after they’re convicted of a felony. Currently, under a policy enacted by Newsom last year, youth are turned over upon arrest.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Man Who Despises America

The very next paragraph is going to make the nut jobs on the far left excitable beyond belief. I am not referring to all Democrats or even a majority of liberals. I am singling out the “they’ve-lost-all-touch-with-reality” crowd. This includes Media Matters for America led by the admitted hit-and-run, drunk-driving serial liar. The group includes the unshaven, bathrobe-clad unemployed who live in their mother’s basement and are devout followers of MoveOn.Org. It is also the bitter, aging spinster working at the New York Times, the morbidly obese documentary film maker, and cable TV news’ resident drama queen who hosts MSNBC’s Countdown. They are about to simultaneously suffer from brain aneurisms. So without further delay, I’ll say it.

Barack Obama despises America.

When people who voted for Obama in 2008 — including registered Democrats — start speaking in normal conversational voices at dinner parties, neighborhood gatherings and PTA meetings that the over-inflated ego from Chicago has it “in for America,” then it’s clear most reasonable people have reached the same conclusion.

The central conviction of Obama’s ideology is that America is guilty of limitless moral failures and is the chief architect of the world’s ills. Obama has boundless enmity for America, its key institutions, and its longtime allies. Consider these facts…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

You Can’t Ignore the Role of Radical Islam

As dozens of talking heads descended on CNN and FOX TV to give their opinions on the Fort Hood massacre last week, no one seemed to notice the significance of the attire that suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan was wearing the morning of the killings. It was captured on a store surveillance video as Maj. Hasan bought a coffee.

CNN’s Arab commentator incorrectly reported that the major was wearing “Muslim garb” commonly worn in Jordan, and that it reflected his devoutness as a Muslim. However, to Pakistanis and Afghans watching the clip around the world, his clothing reflected something far more significant and sinister.

Maj. Hasan was wearing the “shalwar-kameez,” the traditional attire worn by Pashtuns on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border. Had Maj. Hasan been of Pakistani or Afghan ancestry, it would have meant very little, but for an Arab-American to wear this attire was significant.

In the Middle East, over five million Pakistanis and Afghans work and live among the local Arab population. The shalwar-kameez is common on the streets of Dubai and Jeddah, but no Arab male would ever want to be seen wearing this garb. I have lived a decade in the Arab world and not once did I see an Arab wearing the shalwar-kameez.

Having said that there is one particular group of Arabs who did embrace the garb of the Pashtuns. They were the “Afghan Arabs” who went to Afghanistan to wage jihad alongside al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The question that needs to be asked is this: Where did Maj. Nidal Hasan, an American-born Arab, get hold of a shalwar-kameez? Did Hasan visit the Pakistan-Afghan region, or was he in touch with the Arab Afghans in the U.S. and Canada who wear the Pashtun attire as a sign of solidarity with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri?

All of this talk about the killer’s clothing would be inconsequential, had it not been for what else has been reported about the good major.

Col. Terry Lee, a retired officer who worked with Maj. Hasan at the military base in Texas, alleges the suspected mass murderer had angry confrontations with other officers over his views that Muslims should “rise up and attack Americans” in retaliation for the U.S. war in Iraq.

Col. Lee was quoted in the London Telegraph saying, Maj. Hasan was “happy” when in June, a Muslim convert was arrested in the killing of a U.S. soldier in an attack on a military recruitment centre in Arkansas. Other army officers claimed Maj. Hasan had said “maybe people should strap bombs on themselves” and go to Times Square in New York.

Lt.-Gen. Robert Cone, the commander of the base, told NBC News that, according to eyewitnesses, Maj. Hasan had shouted the Islamic battle cry “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great) before opening fire.

In addition, U.S. federal law enforcement officials say someone with the same name as Maj. Hasan had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that discussed suicide bombings and other threats.

However, none of this is relevant for Islamic groups. In statements after the mass murder, they tried to manipulate the media narrative by suggesting it was they who were the victims of this tragedy. Instead of denouncing the rise of Islamism and jihadi doctrines among Muslim youth, Islamist organizations once more came out with banal denunciations of “violence.”

Muslim groups condemned this “cowardly attack” without mentioning Maj. Hasan by name. And there were the usual provisos that “Islam in no way accepts such violence and terror,” and that “Islam is a peaceful religion with great reverence for human life.”

But such statements must include a denunciation of the doctrine of “armed jihad,” which is without doubt the force that gives religious validation to such acts of terror and encourages so many young Muslims toward suicide attacks on non-Muslims.

Unless and until Islamic organizations, imams of mosques and their allies who have penetrated every institution that matters in our public life, say explicitly that there is no room for jihad at a time of the modern nation state, and that the doctrine of holy war is defunct, outdated and needs to be shelved, the rest of North America will not take us Muslims seriously.

If the mosques do not stop spreading the virus of victimhood there will be more Muslim men willing to waste their lives for a jihad that God never asked them to fight.

We have a window of opportunity. Let us acknowledge what Muslim youth living among us are being fed. If a Muslim man, educated and trained at the expense of the American taxpayer to be a doctor and rise to the rank of major, could still feel a victim, and could launch an attempted suicide attack against America, then those who cry Islamophobia every day also share some blame in this atrocity.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]


Taxi Boss Jailed for Threats Against Daughter

Ottawa — The city’s taxi union boss was handed a year in jail Tuesday for what a judge deemed an “honour crime.”

Yusef Salam Al Mezel, 44, had pleaded guilty to criminally harassing his 23-year-old daughter, Eman, over three weeks in July 2007.

“Mr. Al Mezel has threatened his daughter with serious violence and has caused her to fear for her safety in the name of honour,” Judge Lynn Ratushny wrote. “He has committed the crime of harassment against her in the name of honour.”

Al Mezel admitted to pushing his daughter, threatening to break her legs and kill her and smashing her computer. When she fled marriage to a Syrian man for a $9,000 dowry, he stalked her to a shelter and a friend’s home.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Windsor Police Apologize to Islamic Community for FBI Arrests

WINDSOR, Ont. — Windsor police chief Gary Smith has apologized to members of Windsor’s Islamic community for offending their beliefs after officers arresting two FBI suspects at gunpoint patted down one of their wives.

“It was never the intention for Windsor police officers to offend or embarrass the families of our Islamic community,” writes Smith in a press release issued by police Thursday morning.

“The actions taken did cause embarrassment and did offend their religious beliefs. I sincerely apologize to the families and the Islamic community.”

A review of the incident highlighted the need for additional “cultural sensitivity training,” said the release, and Dr. Murad Aktas has been tapped as the person who will provide it.

Details have yet to be worked out.

Windsor police officers assisted RCMP officers Oct. 30 in arresting Yassir Ali Khan and Mohammad Al-Sahli, who were wanted by the FBI in connection with a raid on an allegedly radical Islamic group in Michigan.

They were released on bail last Friday in Windsor.

The Windsor police release stresses the two suspects and their families were “cooperative” during the arrest and that the suspects walked out of their homes and turned themselves into police.

“In the course of the arrest, officers on the scene had interaction with the families of both men. It is this interaction that raised concerns among family members and the Islamic community about the cultural sensitivity of Windsor police officers,” said police. “The review of this incident revealed that the officers needed to balance their operational requirements with the expectations of the Islamic community. Based on training provided in 2007 the officers believed they had struck an appropriate balance; the community did not.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Britain Offers Land for Cyprus Reunification

The UK would give up tracts of its military bases in Cyprus if reunification talks are successful, Gordon Brown said yesterday.

After meeting President Dimitris Christofias, the Prime Minister urged the leaders of the divided Greek and Turkish populations to be “courageous” in efforts to secure a United Nations- brokered deal. He said: “An offer has been made to the United Nations to make available just under 50 per cent of the territory of the UK’s Sovereign Base Areas to a unified Cyprus in the event of a solution. It will be up to the two leaders to negotiate what happens with this land.

“Today, my message to Cyprus’s leaders and to their people is: you can make history; be bold, be courageous; the UK will support you.” The two base areas — Akrotiri and Dhekelia — were retained under UK jurisdiction when Cyprus was granted independence in 1960 but are military not “colonial” territories. They cover 98 square miles — which is 3 per cent of the Mediterranean island’s total land area — but around 60 per cent of that is privately-owned and around 7,000 Cypriots live within them.

The Foreign Office said the base areas, which are entirely military, would be able to function as normal within the reduced land area. RAF Akrotiri, an air base on the southern coast, has acted as a key staging post for British forces en route to the Gulf and elsewhere in the region.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Free Trees to Help the Island

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, NOVEMBER 9 — The Cyprus’ Forestry Department is giving away free saplings to private landowners in an effort to encourage micromanaged forested areas. The initiative, as Cyprus Mail reported, is being made now because of the surplus rainfall over this years planting and maturation season which will ensure the easy survival of planted stock. A large variety of tree species are being made available, including but not limited to: pines, oak, cypress, cedar, wild carob, eucalyptus, acacia and laurel. According to Andreas Christou of the Forestry Department approximately 35,000 saplings are being made available across the whole of Cyprus. The number of saplings available per applicant will depend on the level of interest shown by the public and the number of plants the Forestry Department has available. Saplings may also be obtained by formal application to the department. Priority will be given to private landowners with land near main roads, in or near urbanised areas or where fires have previously occurred. Managed forestry is one of the major uses to which large holdings of private land are put in America, Scandinavia and New Zealand especially. Whilst not offering quick returns, it does produce a steady income yield over many years. Furthermore there are incidental social benefits, both for leisure pursuits and also for the water cycle. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Most of Turkish Cypriots Wants Two States, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 6 — Majority of Turkish Cypriots wants two separate and independent states in Cyprus, Anatolia news agency reports. According to a survey conducted in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) by KADEM research company with 1,114 people, 77.9% of people wanted two separate states in the island and 63% did not believe the talks (between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders to find a solution to Cyprus question) would be concluded successfully. Responding to the question “what would be your vote if Annan Plan is resorted to referendum again”, 30.1% gave an affirmative answer while 45.1% was negative and 20.9% indecisive. Annan Plan was resorted to referendum on 24 April 2004 and 65% of Turkish Cypriots said “yes” to the plan; 4% of Turkish Cypriots is against the current situation and 48.5% is against integration with Turkey while 42.6% is supporting it. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Push to Build Mosques is Met With Resistance


COPENHAGEN — Paris has its grand mosque, along the Seine. So does Rome, the city of the pope. Yet despite a sizable Muslim population, this Danish city has nothing but the occasional tiny storefront Muslim place of worship.

The city, Denmark’s capital, is now inching toward construction of not one, but two grand mosques. In August, the city council approved the construction of a Shiite Muslim mosque, replete with two 104-foot-tall minarets, in an industrial quarter on the site of a former factory. Plans are also afoot for a Sunni mosque. But it has been a long and complicated process, tangled up in local politics and the publication four years ago of cartoons mocking Islam.

The difficulties reflect the tortuous path Denmark has taken in dealing with its immigrants, most of whom are Muslim. Copenhagen in particular has been racked by gang wars, with shootouts and killings in recent months between groups of Hells Angels and immigrant bands.

The turmoil has fed the popularity of an anti-immigrant conservative party, the Danish People’s Party. In city elections scheduled for Nov. 17, the People’s Party, by some estimates, could double the roughly 6 percent of the vote it took in the last municipal election.

Denmark is not alone in grappling with the question. In Italy, the rightist Northern League opposes mosques in Italian cities; in Switzerland, voters will go to the polls on Nov. 29 in a referendum to decide whether to ban the construction of minarets.

In Denmark, it was the cartoons, one of which depicted Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, that gave the initial impetus to a movement for a mosque.

“I wrote a front-page story saying we somehow had to reconnect to the Muslims, to collect money to build a mosque as a sign of solidarity,” said Herbert Pundik, 82, the former editor of the Danish daily Politiken. Mr. Pundik, speaking by phone from Tel Aviv, where he now lives, said that within 24 hours there had been more than 1,000 positive responses. But then the Muslim reaction to the cartoons turned violent, with attacks on Danish embassies in several cities, including Beirut and Damascus.

“The steam went out of the project,” Mr. Pundik said.

Yet it did not die. Bijan Eskandani, the architect of the Shiite mosque, said he found inspiration for his design in the “Persian element in Islamic art,” which he said consisted of a “special lyric, poetic attitude.” The Shiite community, he said in written answers to questions, lacked the financial means to acquire a suitable site for a mosque. “The building lot they have is situated in an ugly, unattractive, inharmonious gray factory area,” he said, adding that, “a sparkling mosque there may make a difference.”

The very word Persian sends chills down Martin Henriksen’s spine. “We are against the mosque,” said Mr. Henriksen, 29, one of the People’s Party’s five-member directorate, in an interview in Copenhagen’s Parliament building. “It’s obvious to everyone that the Iranian regime has something to do with it,” he said. “The Iranian regime is based on a fascist identity that we don’t want to set foot in Denmark.”

Since becoming party to the national government coalition in 2001, the People’s Party has helped enact legislation to stem the flow of immigrants and raise the bar for obtaining citizenship. Immigrants, Mr. Henriksen insists, “need to show an ability and a will to become Danes.” He cites past Jewish immigration as an example. “Many Jews have come to Denmark since the 16th century,” he said. “We don’t have discussions about whether to build synagogues.” There are at least four synagogues in the city.

Abdul Wahid Pedersen, whose parents are Scandinavian, converted to Islam years ago. “I was 28, a child of the 60s,” he said. Now 55, he is chairman of a 15-member committee promoting construction of a grand mosque for Copenhagen’s Sunni Muslims.

He concedes that of the estimated 250,000 Muslims in a Danish population of 5.5 million, only about 35,000 are Sunnis. Yet he defends the need for a grand mosque and says that while the Sunni community is not soliciting financing from Saudi Arabia, as the People’s Party contends, he has no problem accepting a donation. “If someone wants to chip in, that is O.K.,” he said, in the shop in a working-class neighborhood where he sells Islamic literature, prayer rugs and other religious objects. “But they will have no influence on running the place.” Mr. Pedersen said his committee was even considering installing wind turbines atop the minarets and covering the mosque’s dome with one large solar panel.

The city’s deputy mayor, Klaus Bondam, 45, defends the right of Muslims to their mosques. The minarets, he said, would be “quite slim towers, we’re not going to be Damascus or Cairo.” The city had also made clear there would be no calling to prayers from the mosques’ minarets. As to the charge of foreign underwriting, Mr. Bondam said it did not concern him as long as the sources were listed openly.

But he said he feared that the debate over the mosques could help the People’s Party double its share of the vote in this month’s local elections to as much as 12 percent. “It’s the little discomfit of people of other religion or background,” he said. “Why can’t they be like me?”

For Toger Seidenfaden, 52, the present editor of Politiken, the People’s Party is “democratic and parliamentary — they are not brownshirts.” But he said they were a “very Danish, nationalist party — they’d like Denmark before globalization.”

On the broad avenue called Njalsgade, where the Sunni mosque is to be built on a vacant lot, Preben Anderson, 61, a bricklayer, said he had nothing against a mosque, though he pointedly said that he could not speak for his neighbors. “We have churches,” he said. “We have to have mosques.” He stood across the street from where weeds and junk now cover the lot where the Sunni mosque could one day stand. One neighborhood resident, asked if he could point out the site where the mosque would be built, professed not to know.

Yet, Per Nielsen, 56, a retired history teacher, said the economic slowdown and the gang wars in nearby neighborhoods were feeding the popularity of the People’s Party. As for the mosque, he said, “There’s very strong pressure — people living here don’t want it.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Priest Flees Home After Hell’s Angels Attacks

From Danish: Parish priest Asser Skude of Copenhagen wants to leave his house after three attacks on his car and after he found a bomb in his garden. Skude lives in a Hell’s Angels neighborhood has suffered various other attacks in recent years. He didn’t report the attacks for fear of reprisals and says nobody in the neighborhood dares report anything.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Does a Nazi Deserve a Place Among Philosophers?

For decades the German philosopher Martin Heidegger has been the subject of passionate debate. His critique of Western thought and technology has penetrated deeply into architecture, psychology and literary theory and inspired some of the most influential intellectual movements of the 20th century. Yet he was also a fervent Nazi.

Now a soon-to-be published book in English has revived the long-running debate about whether the man can be separated from his philosophy. Drawing on new evidence, the author, Emmanuel Faye, argues fascist and racist ideas are so woven into the fabric of Heidegger’s theories that they no longer deserve to be called philosophy. As a result Mr. Faye declares, Heidegger’s works and the many fields built on them need to be re-examined lest they spread sinister ideas as dangerous to modern thought as “the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples.”

First published in France in 2005, the book, “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Far-Right Alliance Fails to Get EU Parliament Cash

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The European Alliance of National Movements (AENM), the coalition of far-right parties formed last month in Budapest, has failed in its an attempt to get its hands on European Parliament cash, as the jumble of reactionary rightists did not manage to file the application on time.

The alliance, which includes the UK’s BNP, France’s Front National and Hungary’s Jobbik, says it wants its share of the around €11 million that the parliament hands out every year to pan-European political parties, informally known as ‘europarties’.

This would have amounted to around €400,000 for the group to carry out advertising, research and campaigning atop the money MEPs already receive.

“Conservatives, socialists, Greens and communists all receive European funds. It is normal that we demand the same on behalf of our electors who have expressed their hopes,” Front National MEP Bruno Gollnisch told reporters in the European capital announcing the Brussels launch of the group.

While the cluster of far-righters managed to cobble together the group in Budapest on 24 October, as earlier reported by EUobserver, the cut-off for 2010 funding was 1 November and so if the chamber does ultimately recognise the formation, it will still not be able to access any money until 2011.

Conceding that the group had fumbled the deadline, Mr Gollnish said: “The money is not the main purpose. While we want to get our share back, the share that is due the people who voted for us and sympathise with our goals, the real aim here is the formation of a political alliance where we can support each other.”

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

Gas: Slovenia in South Stream With Gazprom

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, NOVEMBER 9 — Slovenia will sign an agreement with the Russia Gazprom on November 14, for the construction on Slovenian territory of a stretch of the international South Stream gas pipeline, which will transport Russian gas to Europe through the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary. The news was reported by the Slovenian press. The Slovenian government has specified that the agreement is in line with European regulations, after a warning issued by Brussels in the past weeks. The joint venture that will manage the construction of the pipeline through Slovenia will be owned for 50% by the Slovenian company Geoplin and for the other half by Gazprom, and will have its headquarters in Slovenia. The course of the next stretch of the gas pipeline is still to be decided: through Croatia or Hungary to Italy or Austria. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Geert Wilders’ One-Man Crusade Against Islam

The Netherlands’ Fearmonger

By Juliane von Mittelstaedt

Geert Wilders wants to ban the Koran, impose a tax on headscarves and calculate the cost of immigration. The Dutch right-wing populist also plans to run for prime minister in 2011 — and his party is currently leading in the polls.

Geert Wilders is sitting on a plane, glancing at the clouds below and occasionally turning the page of a newspaper. A cameraman from a Dutch news agency is sitting behind him, filming his every movement.

The plane lands in London, after the short flight from Amsterdam. Wilders, 46, the head of the populist right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV), is the first to disembark. This is the first time he has been to Britain in eight months.

He is not detained by a border official this time, as he was in February, when the British government denied Wilders entry into the country after declaring him a “serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society.” He went anyway, with 50 journalists in tow, and he was sent back to the Netherlands immediately. His poll ratings went up dramatically after the London incident, and he owes much of his recent rise in popularity to the British decision. Now that the government has overturned its ban and he is permitted to enter the country once again, Wilders plans to make it a triumphant return.

           — Hat tip: Flyboy[Return to headlines]

Gender Imbalance Mars Formation of Barroso II

Of the 20 nominees for the next Commission, only three are women. José Manuel Barroso is heading for failure in his bid to put together a college of European commissioners with a better gender balance than the existing College.

If Barroso’s second administration is to have more women than the first, then almost all of the remaining seven countries that have yet to name their candidate for commissioner will have to be women.

Of the 20 nominees that are known, only three are women: Androulla Vassiliou from Cyprus, Viviane Reding from Luxembourg, and Rumiana Jeleva from Bulgaria.

Only eight of the current 27 commissioners are women, but Barroso is struggling to match even that figure for his next college.

The two most recent official nominations are for male commissioners. On Tuesday (10 November), the Czech government nominated Štefan Füle, currently minister for EU affairs, as its candidate for the Commission. On Friday (6 November), the Hungarian government nominated László Andor, an economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as its candidate for the Commission. Other recent nominees are Germany’s Günther Oettinger, Romania’s Dacian Ciolos, and Austria’s Johannes Hahn. The number of male nominees stands at 17.

If Barroso is to match the current level of eight women he would need five EU governments from the remaining seven to propose women.

This is possible if, for example, the UK nominates Catherine Ashton, currently commissioner for trade, for a second term, Sweden nominates Gunilla Carlsson, the development minister, Denmark nominates Connie Hedegaard, the environment minister, and Ireland nominates Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, currently a member of the European Court of Auditors, and Greece nominates Anna Diamantapoulou, a former commissioner and currently education minister.

All the nominations have to be accepted by Barroso, the national governments and the European Parliament.

Barroso wrote to EU leaders in October urging them to propose female candidates so that he can propose a properly balanced team to EU governments and the Parliament, a call that he repeated yesterday (11 November) in a speech to the Parliament.

Barroso has indicated to governments that he will offer better portfolios to female candidates. In 2004, when he formed his first Commission, he rewarded the Dutch government for proposing a female candidate by giving Neelie Kroes the powerful competition portfolio.

Mark Gray, a Commission spokesman, said that Barroso wants “as many [female commissioners] as possible”.

In a letter to European Voice, a cross-party group of ten female MEPs has warned that the formation of the next Commission may depend on more balanced representation. They write that there is a “growing feeling that if the Parliament does not see more female candidates than currently sit in Barroso’s outgoing Commission (eight), it will reject the whole Commission” and ask member states for more female candidates.

Barroso believes that he will need a week to put together his team of commissioners once EU leaders have decided who should be the European Council’s president and the EU’s foreign policy chief, a post that brings with it a seat in the Commission. National leaders are supposed to make those decisions at an extra summit meeting in Brussels on 19 November.

The Parliament had intended to start hearings for candidate commissioners on 26 November so that the Parliament could vote in plenary on approving the whole team in December. But the additional delay caused by a later-than-expected summit, means that the Parliament is likely to start hearings only in January and have a plenary vote on 20 January. Andrew Duff, a UK Liberal MEP, said the target was 20 January. “I don’t know when we’ll start the hearings. But I think we’ll have to bring everyone back on 4 January,” he said. The next Commission may therefore not take office before February.

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

Greek Church Acts on Crucifix Ban

The Greek Orthodox Church is urging Christians across Europe to unite in an appeal against a ban on crucifixes in classrooms in Italy.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled last week that the presence of crucifixes violated a child’s right to freedom of religion.

Greece’s Orthodox Church fears the Italian case will set a precedent.

It has called an emergency Holy Synod meeting for next week to devise an action plan.

Although the Greek Orthodox Church has been at odds with Roman Catholicism for 1,000 years, the judicial threat to Christian symbols has acted as a unifying force.

The European Court of Human Rights found that the compulsory display of crucifixes violated parents’ rights to educate their children as they saw fit and restricted the right of children to believe or not to believe.

‘Worthy symbols’

The head of the Greek Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, shares Catholic complaints that the court is ignoring the role of Christianity in forming Europe’s identity.

It is not only minorities that have rights but majorities as well, said the archbishop.

One of his subordinates, Bishop Nicholas from central Greece, lamented that at this rate youngsters will not have any worthy symbols at all to inspire and protect them.

Football and pop idols are very poor substitutes, he said.

The Greek Church has ostensibly intervened in this case in response to an appeal by a Greek mother whose son is studying in Italy.

But without doubt it is concerned that its omnipotence in Greece is under threat.

A human rights group called Helsinki Monitor is seeking to use the Italian case as a precedent.

It has demanded that Greek courts remove icons of Jesus Christ from above the judge’s bench and that the gospel no longer be used for swearing oaths in the witness box.

Helsinki Monitor is urging trade unions to challenge the presence of religious symbols in Greek schools.

The socialist government here is also considering imposing new taxes on the Church’s vast fortune, but at the same time is urging it to do more to help immigrants and poor Greeks.

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

Ireland: Mayor of Limerick: “Send Home Jobless Nationals”

THE Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Kevin Kiely, has called for the deportation of EU-nationals who have failed to secure employment since their arrival here. “I’m calling for anybody who is living in the State and who can’t afford to pay for themselves to be deported after three months. We are borrowing €400 million per week to maintain our own residents and we can’t afford it,” the outspoken politician said this Wednesday.

“During the good times it was grand but we can’t afford the current situation unless the EU is willing to step in and pay for non-nationals,” he said

The president of the Irish-Polish Cultural and Business Association, Pat O’Sullivan, has called on the Mayor to withdraw his comments. “I am shocked, I am taken aback by those comments and it is shocking and dangerous talk,” he said.

“EU nationals have a legal right to be here and calling for them to be deported shows an extraordinary lack of understanding of our place in Europe and how the world views us as a people,” he added.

Mayor Kiely has denied his comments amount to racism.

“I’m not racist but it is very simple, we can’t continue to borrow €400 million a week and the Government has to pull a halt and say enough is enough unless the EU intervenes and pays some sort of a subvention,” he insisted.

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

Italy: New Law May Protect PM From Corruption Charges

Rome, 11 Nov. (AKI) — New measures were expected to be introduced into the Italian parliament on Wednesday to limit fresh legal action against prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on corruption charges. Paolo Bonaiuti, undersecretary to the cabinet and Berlusconi spokesman, said legislation could be presented to the Senate before the end of the day.

Gianfranco Fini, Berlusconi’s coalition ally and main political rival, on Tuesday backed a new move to limit the time that courts have to convict the premier.

After talks with the prime minister, he said a new measure would be introduced to cut the statute of limitations in bribery cases from ten years to six.

“I believe that an accord to limit legal cases to six years is valuable for every citizen,” said Bonaiuti on Italy’s Sky 24 TV network.

“The legislative decree (ddl) should be presented in the Senate today because I know they were working on it last night.”

Two trials were expected to resume this month after a law granting Berlusconi immunity from prosecution was overturned by Italy’s Constitutional Court.

The first relates to alleged tax fraud over the purchase of film rights by Mediaset, Berlusconi’s television company. The charges currently expire in 2012.

In a second trial due to resume on November 27, Berlusconi is accused of paying his former tax adviser, David Mills, 600,000 dollars to give misleading evidence on his behalf in two corruption trials in the 1990s. These charges are due to run out in 2011.

Niccolo Ghedini, Berlusconi’s lawyer, has been seeking a way to ensure that both cases are “timed out”.

After his meeting with Fini on Tuesday, Berlusconi said: “It went well.”

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

Italy: Neo-Nazis Detained for Founding ‘Hitler Youth’

Bolzano, 11 Nov. (AKI) — Seventeen young Italian men were detained by police Italian man in the northern city of Bolzano on Wednesday for allegedly founding a neo-Nazi group called the “Hitler Youth of Naturno” or “Naturns Hitlerjugend”.

Nine of the group who were detained were under the age of 18 and one was as young as 16 years-old, Italian media reports said.

Police claimed to have discovered considerable online neo-Nazi propaganda during raids, and said the group had made a video showing some members throwing a Molotov cocktail and beating up another man.

Naturno is a small commune of 5,500 people in the northern region of Trentino Alto-Adige, where a majority of people speak German as their mother tongue.

In late 2007, a group of neo-Nazis from Bolzano travelled to the German concentration camp of Dachau where they posed for photos giving the Nazi salute.

At the time, Italian authorities said the strength of the neo-Nazi movement had been underestimated, adding that there were at least five neo-Nazi organisations operating in Alto-Adige.

The Mancini law introduced in 1993 provides for the prosecution of individuals who incite violence for a broad range of hate crimes.

Many of those arrested in 2007 received conditional jail sentences and were later freed.

The Trentino Alto-Adige region is an autonomous region in northern Italy.

It used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until its annexation by Italy in 1919. Despite separatist tensions in the 1960s, it has remained a peaceful area.

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

Norway: ‘Isolated?’ Bring it on

The blessed thing about Norway is that it is the single best reply to those euro-quislings who insist that if Britain ever threatens to leave the EU and regain its sovereignty, it will be come ‘isolated.’

As I’ve said before, it would be impossible to isolate Britain. Despite the damage of the Blair-Brown years, Britain remains one of the financial, industrial and military powers of the world. The other countries of the EU, whether Britain is in or out, will want and need to continue to trade with Britain.

But quite apart from the protection this international muscle gives to big Britain, look at how little Norway, a European country of just 4.6m people, lives in prosperity and independence outside the EU. The Norwegian people have been asked twice in referendums if they wanted to join the EU. Twice they have voted No.

Here is the result. Norway is an oil-rich country which has been left to direct its national riches entirely to its own benefit. Yesterday in a report in the Financial Times, the result of this independent use of national wealth was apparent (though of course the euro-fanatic FT did not mention the connection between independence and national benefit — can anyone be surprised that now most of the FT’s readers are outside of Britain? It has become a paper for European homogenisers, not for British businessmen.)

Norway’s sovereign oil fund is now the biggest investor in European stock markets. The fund has just registered the best three-month performance in its 13-year history: a 13.5 percent return on investment. Almost none of the wealth is being spent by the government. About 95 percent of it is being invested for future generations, for the distant time when the oil runs out.

Some would say Norway has the freakish advantage of its oil wealth to protect its independence. They are wrong. Independence is only protected by the will of the nation. Britain once had (for example) fishing wealth, but gave that away. I suspect, rich or not, the Norwegians would not want to buckle to Brussels. More, Britain has the potential for similar riches: if not in oil (Britain blew its oil wealth years ago) then in its financial skills. The City could be a great, continuing wealth generator for Britain, once the financial vampire squids are prised out of the banks. So what is happening instead? The Brown Government is about to cripple Britain’s own engine of prosperity by agreeing to EU French-style over-regulation. Wall Street, of course, will take the wealth instead.

One Norwegian banker I know here in Brussels is delighted that his country is independent, but yet is part of the no-passport EU Schengen Area. He notes he can fly from Oslo to Berlin or Paris and not have to show a passport: ‘You can’t do that from London.’

Norwegian businesses, industry and financial services can trade as freely across the EU as any businesses or industry in any EU member state. Norwegian citizens face no restrictions on living and working in the EU.

So what we have in Norway is a government which represents its people, and which negotiates with the EU on their behalf. Unlike half the Foreign Office, Norwegian diplomats do not arrive at Brussels negotiating tables with the intention of showing how their country must capitulate or risk ‘isolation.’

Look around at life and prosperity in Norway. If this is ‘isolation’ from the EU, bring it on.

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

Portugal: European Commission, Inquiry Into Loan to Bank

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 11 — The European Commission has opened an investigation into the State guarantee on a loan of 450 million euros to Banco Privado Portugues granted by six Portuguese banks. The Commission doubts that the guarantee is in line with European regulations on State aid, both regarding the cost and the duration of the move. The EC initially approved the measure on March 13, for a period of 6 months, if it would receive the reorganisation plan defining the bank’s future without State aid. The Commission still hasn’t received this plan and Portugal extended the guarantee by another 6 months on June 5 without informing Brussels. “The Commission” said the European commissioner for Competition, “must verify if the State guarantee for Banco Privado Portugues deals with the bank’s situation in a correct way without distorting competition, and must check if the reorganisation plan is sufficient to deal with the bank’s situation without requiring further State resources”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: A City With Chinese Disneyland to be Built in Lorca

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 11 — Chinese businessmen will invest a billion euros for the construction, in Lorca, a small city in the province of Murcia, of the largest Chinese business logistics, tourism and free time centre in Europe, which will include a theme park on the millenary culture of the Asian giant. The project, called the Chinese Special Investment Zone (Zeic), was presented to the media by the mayor of orca, Francisco Jodar, and the dedicated advisor of the company promoting the project, Time Services Global Business S.A., Valencia’s Salvador Alcazar Franco. Zeic, according to what was reported today by the daily ABC, is the result of two years of negotiations with private companies and the Chinese government and will start from 2011 in the area of ‘El Churtal’, covering a surface of over 3 million square metres. It will be a sort of miniature ‘red’ city, with 8 themed zones, including a sort of Chinese ‘Disneyland’: a theme park covering 388,000 square metres, dedicated to the history and culture of the Asian country, where some of the most important monuments of the country will be reproduced, surrounded by Asian inspired lakes and gardens. The area dedicated to business will see the construction of a logistical base of 187,000 square metres for offices, business centres and special services, as well as a professional training centre, which will include a business school, university institutes and post-grad masters facilities on the eastern business world. There will also be a residential area covering 696,000 square metres, which will include some 1,800 climate controlled dwellings with Asian architecture, both single family homes and apartments. Zeic will also have an area dedicated to service companies, cuisine, fashion, all made in China; as well as a casino, theatres, a 5 star hotel with 500 beds and a golf course. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedes Drop Refugee Status Proposal

Campaign groups say Commission proposal has been watered down

Sweden, the current holder of the presidency of the Council of Ministers, has dropped a proposal made by the European Commission that decisions on refugee status made by individual member states should be recognised across the European Union by 2014.

In a draft five-year plan for the so-called Stockholm programme on EU justice and security matters, Sweden has left out the 2014 deadline and retained only a reference to “possibilities for creating a mechanism for the mutual recognition of decisions granting protection”.

Sweden wants EU justice and interior ministers to agree to the Stockholm programme at a meeting on 30 November, so that government leaders can give it their approval at a European Council meeting on 10-11 December. ‘Lack of willingness’

María Duro Mansilla of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) said the Commission proposal was being watered down. She added that the draft had also weakened language on harmonising asylum legislation to achieve a common European asylum system. The European Asylum Support Office is mentioned as promoting this harmonisation, but Duro Mansilla said that this was not enough. “There is a lack of willingness among member states to go for higher standards,” she said.

The ECRE is also disappointed that the Swedish presidency has dropped references from the original plan to adopt common standards in the EU for the thousands of undocumented migrants who remain in the Union without official status but who cannot be sent home.

Duro Mansilla welcomed the decision to drop a reference to processing asylum applications outside the EU. But the draft is vague on how asylum-seekers can gain access to the EU, she says.

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

Swine Flu in Norway

From Danish: Norwegian authorities estimate that 630,000 Norwegians had gotten Swine Flue.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

UK: “Keep Buggering on.”

A stiff upper lip is no longer a badge of honour

For generations public grief has embarrassed Britain. But as a new generation experiences the pain of war, that is changing

[Note for JP: Contains a great Churchill quote which readers of this blog might appreciate]

A wave of bitter collective grief is beginning to break across the land of the stiff upper lip. You can sense it every time another funeral cortège wends through Wootton Bassett. You could feel in the subdued crowd that packed Whitehall on Sunday.

You can see it in the tired eyes not just of the newly bereaved widow and her frightened children, but also of those turning out in their support, and of those writing and reporting on it. Mourning is exhausting.

This upsurge of public grief has not happened simply because Remembrance Day coincided with a savage rise in the death toll in Afghanistan. It does not merely reflect ebbing support for the war, anger over our political leaders, or uncertainty about our war aims.

It feels more elemental than that — a deep-tissue communal sadness, a sense of shared hopelessness that comes with the tragedy of sudden, violent death. This collective grieving happens quite rarely in British society, but when it does, its effects — social, cultural and, above all, political — can be profound.

Traditionally, Britons have disdained exhibitions of public emotion, particularly in wartime. Mass demonstrations of bereavement, whether for famous individuals, family or war dead, were seen as a sign of weakness. An entire empire was built on the ability to suppress emotion. During and after the First World War, excessive public grieving was forbidden, bequeathing a poisonous legacy of unaddressed trauma. That war left about three million widows and six million orphans, but public anguish and protracted mourning were seen as unpatriotic.

An entire generation of combatants was encouraged to cauterise the wounds of memory. The response to the question “What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?” was usually a gruff refusal to discuss it. Real grief was subsumed in the official trappings of heroic death: war memorials, statues, Kipling’s restrained epitaphs and euphemism. The emotional reality of war was stifled.

The Second World War also discouraged the wearing of hearts on sleeves, particularly uniformed sleeves. The culture conspired to suppress overt mourning: if Noël Coward could show no emotion amid the carnage in In Which We Serve, so should everyone else. Grief was just collateral damage.. “Keep buggering on,” Winston Churchill ordered.

The turning point came with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, which prompted an expression of mass grief unequalled in British history. Before her death the ability to suppress emotion was regarded as a virtue, restrained mourning a mark of decorum: exactly the qualities for which the Royal Family were pilloried. The grieving may have been extreme and exacerbated by crowd mentality, but it was undeniably authentic. The way we mourn changed for ever: today it is not only reasonable but cathartic publicly to mourn someone you have never met.

Some dismiss the Diana effect as banal and meaningless, a “new emotionalism” that allows strangers to wallow in mawkish sentimentality and piggy-back on the genuine bereavements of others. Some see the growth of public grieving for dead celebrities and murdered children as “mourning sickness”, driven less by real emotion than by the desire to be seen to care.

Mourning was once the preserve of the elderly. Today’s public mourners are far younger, brought up in an atmosphere of emotional honesty and openness to collective grief. The crowds in Whitehall and yesterday in Trafalgar Square contain many of the Facebook generation, come to remember the dead of their own age after eight years of war.

Gordon Brown comes from a generation where mourning is private, but to demonstrate sympathy for the bereaved he has had to evoke the death of his own daughter. Grief is not easily put into words. It is more simply represented by ritual, wreath laying and hymn singing, flowers, candles, prayers and two minutes of silence. But at a more profound level, mourning can simply mean turning up to stand with others similarly distressed.

This is what is happening, with increasing intensity at Wootton Bassett and throughout the country. There is solace in solidarity and comfort in crowds. And the crowds are growing. Most of the 2,000 people who turned out this week did not know the dead soldiers personally. This public mourning began spontaneously simply because the route from RAF Lyneham passes through the Wiltshire town, and has grown organically.

There is a medieval pilgrimage gene in our national make-up, and once again we are gathering to mourn. The Wootton Bassett crowds are primarily emotional, but are steadily becoming more political, in protest against the Government and the policy in Afghanistan, just as mourning Diana became focused into resentment towards the Royal Family.

Public grief for the dead of the Afghan war can be sentimental and manufactured but, in an age when we no longer fear emotion, it demonstrates a willingness to confront the true nature of war and death in a way that our ancestors in two world wars too often did not.

In 1996 I attended the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and met a man called Donald Hodge, then 101, who had gone over the top on the first day of the carnage. While the top brass spoke of courage and sacrifice, 80 years later, Mr Hodge was still grieving. “I have so many friends who lie here,” he said. For someone of his generation to speak openly of his own grief was proof of a different sort of bravery.

A palpable sombreness hung over this year’s Remembrance Day ritual, a collective sense of loss. Perhaps that is war frustration or political disillusionment, but it also shows how far we have come in acknowledging the painful and bloody reality of war, when a lip trembling in shared grief is a greater badge of honour than a stiff upper lip.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Cornwall to Introduce Bilingual Street Signs (Although Just 300 People Speak Cornish)

Moves to make Cornwall officially bi-lingual have sparked a furious row after it was revealed just 300 people speak the language fluently.

Thousands of street signs across the county would be changed to show the English and Cornish versions under plans approved by Cornwall Council.

Official publications and literature as well as the council’s website would be in both languages.

But not everyone is happy with the move, with some council members branding the draft policy ‘ridiculous’.

It also calls for the council to recognise the county’s distinctive culture and the place of the Cornish language as a unique cultural asset.

Councillors were told the changes would not incur any costs as the manufacturers would add translations free.

Council services will be asked to think how Cornish can be incorporated within its work over and above inclusion in publications, and for its publications, the council will use the standard written form of Cornish.

Councillor Dick Cole, Mebyon Kernow party leader, said the new signs would benefit the Cornish economy.

He said: ‘Cornwall’s uniqueness is its Celtic heritage and we have to promote that as a brand to attract more overseas visitors.

‘These sort of things are vitally important when trying to make an area stand out from the rest.’

Councillor Mark Kaczmarek, cabinet member for housing, said: ‘If we are changing the sign names to include Cornish, then the Cornish signs we have should have the English translation.’

But Councillor Morwenna Williams, Conservative, Troon and Beacon, said: ‘This will not be welcomed in my part of the county.

‘Some people in Cornwall will find this ridiculous and unnecessary.’

The now defunct Kerrier and Carrick district councils had a policy of promoting the language and used bilingual signs, such as those at Richmond Hill, Chapel Hill and Old Bridge Street in Truro.

Councillors will be working with the Cornwall Cultural Partners.

Jenefer Lowe, Development Manager at the Cornish Language Partnership, said around 300 people speak Cornish confidently and around 3,000 know a few words, although interest in the language is increasing.

She said: ‘The Cornish language is an important part of Cornish culture and is something that should be celebrated.

‘We run a translation service and receive requests for the Cornish translation of everything from business names to wedding vows to tattoos.

‘I think people will be very receptive to the new signs.’

Ms Lowe, said that the move was needed for ‘harmonisation’ of council policy — as the council had become a unitary authority.

She said that the decision means that the council will now consider the use of Cornish ‘where possible’ and ‘appropriate’.

She said that she wished to emphasise that the street signs were not directional or highways signs, but road signs.

Ms Lowe said that there would be no cost implications as the plans would only relate to new or replacement signs.

‘There was no cost implication,’ she said.

‘Provided they are the same size sign it costs the same.’

[Return to headlines]

UK: Ex-Ministers Call for Vote on War in Afghanistan

Pressure grows on Brown after claim that US was close to troop decision is rejected

The challenge to Gordon Brown’s authority from within his own party grew last night as four former ministers joined calls for a Commons vote on the war in Afghanistan. They are pressing for an early parliamentary debate on Britain’s military role and objectives in the country, and a timetable for pulling out of the region. The move is being led by Frank Field, the former social security minister, and backed by a number of Labour members including Kim Howells, the former Foreign Office minister, Peter Kilfoyle, the former armed forces minister, and Kate Hoey, the former sports minister. Mr Howells, who had ministerial responsibility until 2008, last week called for the phased withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.

Mr Brown told MPs yesterday that he expected an announcement from President Barack Obama in the next few days about the number of extra US troops being deployed to Afghanistan. But his forecast was played down by a White House spokesman, who said the decision on the the request for 40,000 more troops from General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, was still “weeks and not days” away.

Mr Obama yesterday met members of his war council to discuss the forward strategy in Afghanistan, the eighth such session with the national security team in recent weeks. The President has come under increasing pressure to announce a decision on troop numbers — it is now almost three months since he received General McChrystal’s report.

Speculation in the US over the last few days has suggested that key aides are coalescing around a figure of 30,000 or more additional soldiers being deployed. The New York Times reported that the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are all signed up to the 30,000-plus proposal. But the White House has repeatedly batted away reports that the President has already made up his mind.

A White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters on Air Force One yesterday that anyone who suggests otherwise has not got “the slightest idea what they are talking about”. He added that the President’s national security team was discussing four options, but would not reveal details of the different proposals on the table.

Mr Brown has committed Britain to sending another 500 soldiers to reinforce the 9,000 already there, but a date for their deployment has yet to be set. The Prime Minister said Britain was the first country to agree to send more troops for the “next stage of the mission” and repeated that the Government was trying to persuade other nations to follow suit. Asked about the equipment supplied to UK forces, Mr Brown replied: “I have an assurance from the chiefs of staff that every one of our armed forces who serve in Afghanistan is, and will be, fully equipped.” The Prime Minister said he was also talking to the Afghan President Hamid Karzai to make sure there were “large numbers of Afghan troops recruited” for training by British forces.

Gerald Howarth, the Conservative defence spokesman, said he had received an email from a colleague of Corporal Steven Boote, one of the soldiers shot dead by a rogue Afghan police officer last week, expressing “devastation” at the loss but also saying: “We are winning in the job we’re doing out here.” Mr Howarth told the Prime Minister: “Will you please ensure that you and your government get that positive message across to the media and the British people of what our fantastic troops are doing out in the field as we speak.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Murderer Jailed for Life After Police Overheard Prayer for Forgiveness

Police bugged George Maben’s car after his girlfriend’s mother was strangled and caught him praying to God for help

A man convicted of murdering his girlfriend’s mother after police overheard his prayers for forgiveness was jailed for life today.

George Maben, 45, strangled Maureen Cosgrove, 65, in her home on 24 March this year. He had been living with Cosgrove’s daughter Lucy Rees, who was pregnant with his child, at the house in Carshalton Beeches, south London..

Police arrested Maben after bugging his car and overhearing his words: “God, forgive me for what I have done.” He will serve at least 13 years in prison.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

UK: Preacher Linked to Fort Hood Killer Has Support in Britain

A radical preacher who allegedly inspired the Fort Hood gunman has a large following in Britain and counts prominent mainstream Muslims among his supporters.

The FBI is investigating communications between Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at the Texas army base last week, and Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim cleric now based in Yemen. Mr al-Awlaki, 38, who described Major Hasan on his blog as “a hero”, has been a regular visitor to Britain and delivers frequent lectures to British audiences by video or via the internet.

Counter-terrorism sources said yesterday that Mr al-Awlaki was barred from entering Britain on security grounds while the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation said he was “perhaps the most influential pro-jihadist ideologue preaching in English today”.

Despite his extremist reputation, the cleric had attracted support from mainstream British Muslim groups. Azad Ali, president of the Civil Service Islamic Society, wrote last November that Mr al-Awlaki was “one of my favourite speakers and scholars”.

Mr Ali, whose society’s patron is Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, distanced himself from the cleric’s views last night. He said: “I reject them and disassociate myself from them completely.” The cleric was also praised in 2006 by Osama Saeed, an SNP parliamentary candidate, who said “he preached nothing but peace”. Mr Saeed said last night he felt “cheated” by Mr al-Awlaki. He added: “I completely disagree with what he has said about Fort Hood.”

But Mr al-Awlaki’s lectures are still circulated widely. The Times acquired DVDs of his lectures at two Islamic bookshops in East London, while Jimas, a registered charity based in Ipswich, offers downloads of his sermons.

Earlier this year a video lecture by Mr al-Awlaki was delivered at the East London mosque with a poster depicting New York in flames. The cleric was also the lead tutor, again via video, for weekend courses in Islamic thought held in April in London and Birmingham.

Mr al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico in 1971 but spent 11 years in Yemen, where his father was born, before returning to the US where he studied civil engineering at Colorado State University. He was an imam at Rabat mosque in San Diego where he met two of the September 11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. The 9/11 Commission report said Mr al-Awlaki “developed a close relationship” with the hijackers but he condemned the atrocities at the time.

The cleric moved from San Diego to be an imam at Falls Church, Virginia, where he is reported to have first met Major Hasan. Investigators have uncovered evidence of contact between the pair from December 2008. Between 2002 and 2005, when he was placed on a UK security watchlist, he was a frequent visitor to Britain, addressing congregations and conferences in London, Birmingham and Leicester. He spoke at “Islam for Europe” at Wembley conference centre in 2003. After 2005 he settled in Yemen and since being detained briefly there in 2006, is not thought to have travelled to the West. He is believed to be hiding in Yemen’s Shabwa or Mareb provinces, which with Jof province make up the “triangle of evil”, home to many al-Qaeda militants.

Inayat Bunglawala, of Muslims4UK, said Mr al-Awlaki had “a significant following” among “disillusioned British Muslims”. He added: “It is imperative his views are rigorously countered by more learned Islamic scholars.” Nasser al-Awlaki, the preacher’s father, said he had had no contact with his son for eight months, adding: “He has nothing to do with al-Qaeda. But he’s a devout Muslim. He has never been involved in anything against anybody.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: PC Brigade Ban Police From Saying ‘Gang Rape’ As it is ‘Too Emotive’by Stephen Wright

Politically correct Scotland Yard chiefs have stopped using the term ‘gang rape’ because it is too ‘emotive’, the Mail can reveal.

Instead officers have been advised to use the long-winded phrase ‘multi-perpetrator rape’ when describing sex attacks involving three or more culprits.

Critics branded the move by the Metropolitan Police an ‘affront’ to the victims of appalling sex crimes and are preparing to launch a campaign on the issue.

Six years ago the Met was at the centre of a similar row over its choice of language to describe ‘gang rapes’ after a senior officer referred to them as ‘group rapes’ during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Some community activists had previously suggested the phrase ‘gang rape’ had racist connotations.

Details of the latest police terminology are contained in an official Scotland Yard report which reveals a sharp increase in the number of gang rapes in the capital.

New figures revealed there were 93 gang sex attacks in the financial year 2008-9, compared with 71 in 2003-2004.

Meanwhile the age of victims has fallen with 64% aged 19 or younger in the last financial year compared with 48% in 1998-9.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Yexley admits in his report on ‘Multi-Perpetrator Rape and Youth Violence’ for the Metropolitan Police Authority that the ‘common parlance for this offence is ‘gang’ rape’.

But he adds: ‘This is an emotive term — but it is used widely in the public domain. There have been instances in the past where the term ‘gang’ has come to mean different things — either groups known to each other, criminal networks or peer groups.

‘Care has been taken with the definition of the term ‘gang’ in this paper. It is however accepted that there is a public perception/understanding of what this term means.

Recent academic studies have suggested that the term ‘Multiple Perpetrator Rape’ should be used as the overarching term for offences involving two or more perpetrators.

‘When examining rapes committed by multiple perpetrators, it should be noted that the number of offenders involved and the methods used by assailants, vary. Analysis on such offending is primarily based on victim testimony and any other supporting evidence, so links to ‘gangs’ cannot necessarily be established.

‘These offences are complex in nature, ranging from allegations of consensual sex between the victims and a known party followed by non-consensual assaults committed by associates, to stranger attacks involving large groups.’

Chrissie Maher, founder of Plain English Campaign, told the Mail: ‘I am disgusted to my very bones and weep for the victims of gang rape. I don’t usually approve of ‘four-letter words’ but there is no better way of defining gang rape. Ask the public if they need an academic study to work that out.

‘Jargon has been used to hide and confuse all sorts of things, that’s why Plain English Campaign was started. But using jargon clean up crime is the last thing I ever expected to see.

‘Ask any victim — rape is an emotive crime — it deserves an emotive term not some sterile, politically correct nonsense. This doesn’t deserve a Golden Bull award — this deserves a new campaign to give victims the respect they deserve.’

There have been a series of high-profile convictions of teenagers for gang rapes in the capital over the past year.

Two men who assaulted a girl aged 16 and doused her in caustic soda, disfiguring her for life, had their sentences increased on appeal.

In another case a 14-year-old girl was repeatedly raped “as punishment” by nine members of a Hackney gang because she had “insulted” their leader.

A meeting of the MPA, the Met’s board of governors, heard levels of gang rape are linked to overall youth violence.

MPA member Jennette Arnold said some offenders are from cultural backgrounds where rape is more common. She said the crime is seen by some as a “weapon of war” and more work needs to be done to get into the minds of culprits.

Mrs Arnold said: ‘It has got to be regretted that the increase in black victims has doubled.’

Commander Simon Foy, who leads the Met’s homicide and serious crime command, said there is no doubt the “abhorrent” crime of ‘multi-perpetrator rape’ is under-reported.

He said: ‘This is a phenomenon we are all concerned about. There is a substantial amount of this type of offending going on which we do not necessarily know much about.

‘The numbers we do have are relatively small. That makes it difficult to understand the trends and behaviours that are going on.’

A Scotland Yard spokesman said the decision to use the term ‘multi-perpetrator rape’ was made by DCI Yaxley after he saw the findings of academic studies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Utterly Indefensible: MOD Penpushers Pocket £300m in Bonuses as British Soldiers Die for Lack of Equipment

Ministry of Defence bureaucrats have pocketed nearly £300million in bonuses while soldiers have been dying from lack of equipment. The civil servants have seen ‘good performance’ payments — including rewards for saving money — double.

The pen-pushers also won extra cash for hitting targets for promoting diversity and improving health and safety.

In one shocking example, two mandarins collected bonuses of £17,000 each — more than a year’s basic pay for a squaddie in Helmand. But on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have accused the Government of putting lives at risk by scrimping on military essentials including helicopters, radios and night goggles. MPs, soldiers’ families and campaign groups condemned the ‘scandalous’ waste of money. They said it could have been used to refit six Chinook troop carrying helicopters, desperately needed in Afghanistan, which have been confined to their hangers since 2001 after a massive MoD contract blunder.

It could also have paid for some 1,800 new Army recruits

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Video: Klaus: “EU Ambassador Told Me it Would Not be Possible to Organise a Referendum Because Majority Would Kill the Treaty”

In an interview in the US with NRO TV, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said: “I met recently an ambassador of an important EU country I will not name. [He said] In our country it would not be possible to organise a referendum. It would be clear that a majority of people would kill the treaty.”

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


Croatia to Get €3.5 Billion if it Joins EU in 2012

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The European Commission has proposed setting aside €3.5 billion of regional, agriculture and administrative aid for Croatia’s first two years of EU membership, provided the country manages to join the bloc in 2012. The earmarked sum still needs the approval of the 27 member states.

The commission proposal starts with the ‘working hypothesis’ that the former Yogoslav country will join the EU in “January 2012”, based on the “overall progress” achieved so far in accession negotiations.

Similar proposals were adopted in the pre-accession phase of the other 12 countries which joined in 2004 and 2007. The document only refers to 2012 and 2013, the last two years of the current seven-year EU budget. From 2014 onwards, Croatia will be part of the next multi-annual financial framework.

During these two years, the bulk of the money — €2.3 billion in so-called structural funds — would go to local and regional projects in infrastructure and small and medium enterprises. Croatian farmers would receive some €680 million, while programmes involving the country’s judiciary and police would get €170 million.

A further roughly €200 million would be set aside for so-called temporary budgetary compensations and cash-flow facilities to avoid the country becoming a net contributor to the EU budget in the first two years of accession.

The sum of €3.5 billion represents little over one percent of what the 27 member states pay to the EU budget in 2012 and 2013. Croatia itself would also make its contribution to the common pot: €609 million in the first and €647 million in the second year after accession.

The ‘financial package’ needs to be approved by member states and the European Parliament, in order for the accession negotiations to be carried out in the field of regional policy, agriculture, justice and home affairs.

From the Croatian side, the proposals were welcomed as being ‘in line’ with their expectations and a clear signal that Zagreb was going to join in 2012. But reforms are still outstanding.

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

Serbia: EU: Unlock Agreement, Good Cooperation With Icty

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 14 — Having taken into account Serbia’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the European Commission is hoping to unlock the temporary agreement which the EU stipulated with Belgrade. The Commission issued a statement in occasion of today’s presentation in Brussels of the report on Enlargement. The application of the agreement is a prerequisite for the country’s bid to join the EU, but is currently blocked by Holland, which is asking for full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal. The Commission stated that “Serbia has shown the will to close the gap with the European Union by implementing the provisions of the temporary agreement with the EU and by starting up essential reforms”. Regarding the Kosovo issue, Brussels believes that Serbia “should adopt a more constructive approach to issues” regarding Pristina. As for institutional reforms, Belgrade must guarantee European standards to its magistracy (a key priority for the EU), and increase transparency in its public administration. The reports adds that “a strong priority should be allocated to the fight against corruption and to supporting independent bodies”, which is essential for European partnership. At present the effective application of the law to this end remains low.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Traffic Insurance in Compliance With EU Standards

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, OCTOBER 13 — The Law on Obligatory Traffic Insurance, which raises the quality of such insurance in compliance with the EU standards, came into force today, reports Tanjug news agency. The Serbian parliament adopted this act of law on July 8, and its enforcement provides better protection for the people injured in traffic accidents and ensures the financial and social protection of policyholders. The reason for enforcing this law is also the need to provide a higher level of stability and discipline in the fulfillment of the obligations of insurance societies which are set by the law and taken over by respective insurance contracts. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Four New Minority Councils to be Created

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, OCTOBER 14 — Four national minorities have filed requests for creating special voting rolls for appointing national councils, BETA news agency was told at the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights. “Based on the law on national minority national councils, those national minorities without councils can also request the formation of voting rolls for themselves,” state secretary Aniko Muskinja-Heinrich. Slovenian, Czech, Ashkali and Albanian minorities filed requests by Oct. 12, the legally set one-month deadline. “In addition to 15 existing national councils, four more national councils will be created before the new elections,” she said. She added that minister Svetozar Ciplic would declare the start of forming special voting rolls. The procedure will last 120 days, during which the voters will register in the rolls, to be followed by elections. Elections will be held at the start of next year, while the law envisages indirect and direct elections.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tourism: Croatia, Go Ahead to Privatisation of Accommodation

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 10 — Tender for the privatisation of the Croatian companies that operate in the accommodation sector Zivogosce (with two hotels, a camp ground, in the area of Zivogosce), Modra Spilja (a company that operates in the hotelier sector in Komiza), Hoteli Podgora (three hotels, an annex, a campground, in Podgora) and Hoteli Medema (a hotel, 2 annexes, in Seget Donji). The offers, writes the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) in Zagreb, must occur by the end of 2009. The cost for bidding in each of the tenders is 2,000 euros. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Equal Opportunities: EU Call for 11 Mediterranean Countries

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 11 — The European Commission has announced a call for projects on women’s rights and equality of the sexes in eleven Mediterranean countries, for a total of 7.8 million euros. The call — reports the website — is presented at the same time as the meeting of ministers of the Euro-Mediterranean area on the same issue in Marrakesh. To whom will these funds be allocated? To non-profit institutes in EU member States and in the countries where these projects will be started: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Mauritania. The goals the European Commission expects to reach through these projects are a higher participation of women in local and social-economic development, assistance to women in emergencies and a more important role for women in the peace process. Project cost must be between 200 and 800 thousand euros and their initial duration should lie between 12 and 36 months. Projects can be presented until February 8 2010. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ferrero Waldner: 2010 Experimental Med Free Trade Zone

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 10 — In 2010 it is unlikely that a Euro-Mediterranean free trade zone will be created, but an initial experiment should start with some of the countries in the area, explained European External Affairs Commissioner, Benita Ferrero Waldner, during a presentation on the Mediterranean 2009 yearbook today in Brussels. “Some countries signed the necessary agreements too late,” said the commissioner, “so in 2010 an initial free trade zone will become effective,” which should be a sort of forerunner for the other countries in the Mediterranean area. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Islamic Finance Remains Marginal

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, NOVEMBER 11 — Islamic finance, respectful of the rules of Sharia law, remains marginal in Algeria where it has just a 1% market share. The Algerian finance sector, explained Nacer Hideur, director of the Al Baraka Bank Algeria, remains dominated by public banks and up to 15% by the private sector. Islamic finance is still in an embryonic state and represents 1% of the conventional banking market, he added during the second forum on Islamic finance, organised in Algiers by the French company, Isla Invest Consulting. For Lachemi Siagh, president of Strategica Finances, the sector was not hit by the global crisis given that financial activities based on Islamic law forbid usury and speculation: an example for conventional finance. Born in the 70s, Islamic finance today involves some 300 banks in 75 countries, even though, concluded Siagh, its business totals 700 million dollars, 1% of world finance. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Christian Man Attacked by Mob for Frequenting a Muslim Brothel

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — A state of fear has gripped the Christian inhabitants in the Upper Egyptian town of Mallawi after a Muslim mob tried to kill a Christian man for frequenting a Muslim-run brothel. Christian inhabitants are staying indoors, have closed their businesses, and are keeping their children — especially girls — away from schools. They fear wide-scale Muslim violence against them, similar to the violence which took place against Christians in Dairout on October 24,2009. (AINA 10-27-2009).

The latest incident in Mallawi was prompted when a Muslim mob learned of the presence of a Coptic man inside a Muslim-run brothel. A group of Muslims broke into the brothel, dragged him to the streets where he was stabbed 16 times. “Acid was thrown on him, before being stabbed. He was taken to Minya General Hospital where his condition is still very critical,” said Wagih Yacoub of Middle East Christian Association.

The 23-year-old Copt Mina Emad Shoyeb was taken by the Muslim driver Mohamad to a brothel run by the Muslim widow, Ragaa Mosaad Ismail, together with two Muslim prostitutes, 23-years-old Eyman Ismail Abdelmalik, and 25-years-old Maha Kamel Aly. According to Copts United Mohamed had agreed on a fee of 200 Egyptian Pounds for the services of one of the prostitutes, Maha, but decided later that he wanted to pay only half of that amount, an offer Maha refused. The Copt Mina decided to pay the full fee. Mohamad left the brothel, and enticed the neighborhood Muslims to revenge for their honor for harboring a brothel in their midst, which is frequented by Christians. This prompted Muslims to congregate, break into the brothel and carry out their attack.

Reports coming out of Mallawi said that since yesterday evening, November 10th, several Muslim mobs have been wandering around the town streets, vandalizing and looting property belonging to Christian Copts; State Security forces were called in to contain the situation.

Yacoub also said that business life in Mallawi has come to a stand still and Bishop Dimitrious of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Mallawi, Ansena and Ashmonein, advised students in Deir Abu Heness, Deir Barsha and all the areas East of the Nile Delta, to avoid going to school for fear of Muslim repercussions against them.

The Egyptian Newspaper elYom reported there was a conspiracy to entrap the Christian man and then use him as a pretext to attack and loot property owned by Copts, as well building up animosity against them in Mallawi. Copts in Upper Egypt are calling for the resignation of the Governor of Minya, “who has turned Minya into Minyastan.” They blame his fanaticism in causing the escalation of attacks and persecution of the Copts in Minya. Governor Dia-uddin was a top State Security official, who has also spent ten years teaching law in a Saudi Arabian university, before taking office in Minya.

In a strongly worded press release addressed to the Minister of Interior, Dr. Naguib Gobrial, President of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights, criticized the state of fear under which the Christian Copts are living, in addition to the vandalism and looting of their property. He criticized the inaction of the Governor of Minya and the failure of the State Security in achieving peace and stability.

Mr. Gobrial reminded the Egyptian government of the February 2010 Universal Periodic Review, and its pending embarrassment in front of the UN Human Rights Council, when it accesses the human rights situation in Egypt, including the religious situation.

[Return to headlines]

Libya to Put Swiss Men on Trial

Two Swiss businessmen detained in Libya for more than a year are to be put on trial for tax evasion and visa irregularities, Libyan officials say.

Max Goeldi and Rachid Hamdani were refused exit visas in July 2008, soon after the arrest in Geneva of a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

They were handed over to the Swiss embassy in Tripoli on Monday, fuelling expectations they would be released.

But foreign ministry official Khaled Keim said they would stand trial.

Mr Keim called on Switzerland not to make any links between the case and the issue of what he called the “aggression” against Col Gaddafi’s son, Hannibal.

“They will be tried and charged with non respect for residence visa procedures and tax evasion,” he said in a statement on Thursday, quoted by Reuters.

Charges dropped

Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife were arrested at their luxury hotel in Geneva in July 2008 after being accused of mistreating two of their servants.

The charges were later dropped, but the case angered Tripoli.

Their arrest sparked retaliatory measures from Libya, including cancelling oil supplies, withdrawing billions of dollars from Swiss banks, refusing visas to Swiss citizens and recalling some of its diplomats.

Mr Goeldi and Mr Hamdani were stopped from leaving the country days after the arrest.

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz apologised for the arrests in August — in a move many hoped would secure the businessmen’s release.0

But the pair were held at an undisclosed location until being handed over to the Swiss embassy.

Mr Keim said they must now leave the embassy and choose another place to stay so they can be reached by their lawyers and law enforcement officials, Reuters reported.

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

Rafah: Agents Kidnapped by Cement Traffickers

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 11 — A police officer and nine agents were injured last night in Rafah, on the border with the Gaza Strip, after having been kidnapped by several traffickers who were attempting to illegally take cement into Palestinian territory. After discovering near Rafah that there was a large deposit of cement destined for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a police convoy of 10 vehicles transporting agents and two armour-plated vehicles went to the site. Police sources told ANSA that the agents were however stopped by the traffickers who blocked the road and surrounded them, throwing rocks at them. The security forces responded by using tear gas to disperse the attackers, in anticipation of reinforcements which were however unable to reach them because the road was blocked. The situation was resolved during the night thanks only to intervention by several Bedouin tribal chiefs, who mediated with the traffickers for the release of the agents. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swiss Hostages Case Swings in Libya’s Favour

A Geneva-based Arab expert tells that there are clear signs that Libya is gaining an upper-hand in a row between Tripoli and Bern.

Hasni Abidi, director of the Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World, says the return of two Swiss hostages to the Swiss embassy in Tripoli on Monday shows that Libya knows how to use the media.

“Libya releases Swiss businessmen,” wrote the BBC. French newspapers Libération and Figaro also described the men as “freed”. The sentiment was echoed in the Arab media.

But the pair still cannot leave the country. Arrested more than a year ago for alleged visa irregularities, they were released but refused exit visas and then most recently, abducted by the Libyan authorities.

By being slow to respond to the situation, Switzerland has failed to capitalise on the human aspect of the case and could also stand to lose international support during the standoff between the two countries, Abidi says.

Relations between Switzerland and Libya have been strained since the arrest of Moammar Gaddafi’s son in Geneva in 2008. In the first hardening of its tone, Switzerland recently suspended an agreement that aimed to normalise relations between the two countries. How have the media — and outlets in the Muslim world in particular — reflected on the news of the Swiss nationals’ return to the Swiss embassy in Tripoli?

Hasni Abidi: The crisis between Switzerland and Libya has not been publicised much in the Arab press. But that has changed since the Swiss authorities took a tougher stance on October 22 and especially since Monday.

Al Jazeera’s Maghreb news programme devoted a piece to the “liberation” of the two Swiss. The release of the two hostages also made the headlines of Asharq Al-Awsat, the leading pan-Arab daily. These articles, rather favourable to Libya, show Tripoli as having made a gesture full of humanity. One of these articles asserts that the two Swiss had been taken into hiding to prevent them being removed by a commando.

With the kidnapping of the two Swiss, Bern had a humane argument that echoed in the Arab press. The return of the two Swiss to the embassy is good news. But it is Libya that is likely to profit from it. With this coverage in the media, has Libya got the upper-hand in this standoff?

H.A.: Absolutely. After the disappearance of the two Swiss, Bern waited three weeks before speaking publicly about the kidnapping and giving a tacit green light to the international community and civil society to become involved.

The Libyans then made a critical evaluation of the situation and realised that the secret detention of the two Swiss was counterproductive. Could Switzerland lose its international support as the two Swiss are now just being detained in Libya?

H.A.: I was surprised to see that in the Arab press, and also in the west, the matter seemed to be almost resolved. But the coverage of the crisis by the international press shows that the human dimension of this case had a much greater impact on international opinion that its political dimension [such as the international arbitration tribunal and the agreement between the two states].

There is now a fear that this burgeoning international mobilisation will lessen.

Switzerland should keep up the pressure by repeating that the case is not closed. Civil society could continue its involvement by saying that the drama of the two Swiss nationals continues and that Bern is still awaiting their return to Switzerland. Have the Swiss authorities made sufficient use of the media element which the Libyans seem to master so well?

H.A.: We must concede to Libya: accustomed to this kind of crisis, this country knows better than others that using the media is very important and can even become a factor in negotiations.

Switzerland appears to be discovering the usefulness of the media in this kind of crisis, since its diplomacy is based on discretion. It is therefore urgent that Swiss diplomacy incorporates the new hand it has been dealt by using the media wisely to defend the interests of the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Castel to Commercialise Tunisian Wines

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, NOVEMBER 5 — Starting in December, the Castel group — among the largest wine producers in France — will begin to commercialise its wines produced in the Shadrapa estate in the Tsetour zone of northern Tunisia. The estate, measuring 234 hectares and boasting a production of 15,000 hectolitres, has the grape species Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Chardonnay and Tempranillo, which provide a complete Phenicia-Cteaux de Medjerda range and a red Cru of a high quality, the Shadrapa. Bottling is done in Tunisia, where the distribution is entrusted to Societe Frigorifique et Brasserie of Tunis (SFBT), while in France distribution is both in traditional shops and in large supermarkets. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Is Obama Really Israel’s Friend?

According to the Jerusalem Post, only 6 percent of Jewish people living in Israel view Obama as being in favor of Israel. Fifty percent believe Obama’s policies are pro-Palestinian. He is opposed to Israelis building on their own land. His administration is demanding that “natural growth” construction must cease. Imagine Chinese President Hu Jintao demanding that U.S. citizens can no longer build in America. We would say, “A foreign president doesn’t have authority to do that!” Precisely! Yet this is exactly what Obama and his world-government friends are trying to do.

Isi Leibler stated Obama “gives the impression that he seeks to draw the United States closer to the Arab world by distancing it from Israel. Obama expressed his intention of ‘engaging’ with adversaries. Yet ironically, Israel, until now regarded as an American ally, has been confronted with diktats from Obama.”

This places Israel between a rock and a hard place because it needs America to survive persecution from the international community.

In his Cairo speech, Obama drew a comparison between the Nazi Holocaust and Arab refugees. With 6 million Jews slaughtered 70 years ago by Germany’s Hitler, memories of the concentration camps are embedded deeply within the Jewish psyche. When was the last time you heard about Israel rounding up Arab refugees and sending them to gas chambers? You got it — NEVER.


After Obama gave his Cairo speech, Jerusalem’s Temple Institute director Rabbi Chaim Richman declared that Obama is a robber. He made the following points, saying Obama’s speech:
  • robs Judaism of its legacy;
  • threatens the existence of the Jewish state;
  • presents distorted views of Jews’ historical ties to Israel.

Richman also points out that:
  • Obama subscribes to the Arab revisionist version of history.
  • Obama is undermining Israel’s right to exist in her own land.
  • Obama believes settlements are the only obstacle to peace, yet there were no settlements in 1948 when Israel was reborn.
  • The Palestinian Authority terrorist organization was formed prior to there being any Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Mahmoud Abbas Asks Arab League to Boycott Hamas

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 11 — The President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Mahmoud Abbas, has asked the Arab League to boycott Hamas due to the fact that they hinder inter-Palestinian dialogue. According to the daily paper Al Ahram, during a meeting with businessmen in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas criticised the position of the Arab League regarding their attempts to settle long-term disagreements between the two Palestinian factions with Egyptian mediation. In addition, the President of the Pna said that he was very close to an agreement with the ex-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the return of Palestinian prisoners, but that the matter had encountered obstacles in regard of the numbers of prisoners that were due to return. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mahmoud Abbas: Fighting for Borders of Palestine

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH — “The Palestinian state is a need recognised by the entire world. We are now conducting a fight to obtain recognition for its borders”: stated the president of the PNA, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) during a speech at the ‘Muqata’ (its headquarters in Ramallah) for the 5th anniversary of the death of Arafat. Speaking before a large crowd of Palestinians who gathered for the occasion from all over the West Bank, Abbas stressed that the PNA refuses to negotiate with Israel until it has taken on the commitment to freeze all settlement activities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norwegian University to Keep Israel Ties

( The University of Trondheim, Norway’s second-largest school, has rejected a proposed boycott of Israel. Dean Torbjorn Digernes suggested at a board meeting Thursday that the boycott be removed from the agenda, and none of the 19 board members present objected.

Digernes said the boycott ran counter to the university’s philosophy of academic freedom. True academic freedom allows all sides of an issue to be heard, he said.

Officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry lauded the move, praising the university for “quick action” and for “preserving the dignity of this academic institution.”

Dozens of academics at the university had expressed opposition to the proposed boycott. One professor, Bjorn Alsberg, created a petition against the move.

Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi, dean of the University of Haifa, was involved in fighting the boycott from within Israel. In an interview with Arutz-7 this week, Ben-Artzi called on other Israeli universities to join the struggle against European boycott attempts, and accused several anti-Zionist Israelis of standing behind boycott efforts.

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

Palestinian January Elections Cancelled

The Palestinian territories were cast into renewed political turmoil yesterday after elections scheduled for January were indefinitely postponed.

Bowing to the inevitable, electoral officials conceded that presidential and parliamentary polls, meant to take place on Jan 24, could not be held until objections by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, are overcome.

The head of the Palestinian Election Commission blamed Hamas for the postponement.

“We planned to go to Gaza to figure out how we can conduct elections there,” said Hanna Nasser. “In the meantime, we received an answer from Hamas that we are not welcome in Gaza. It is clear we cannot hold an election in Gaza.”

Beyond creating a constitutional crisis, the announcement will shroud the future of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, in further confusion. Earlier this month, he declared his intention not to seek a second term at the election, prompting international dismay at the prospect of losing a moderating voice seen as crucial to hopes for Middle East peace.

But the delay means that Mr Abbas could well remain in office for at least the next eight months unless he overrules the electoral commission, a move senior officials in his Fatah party said was inconceivable.

The postponement will give credence to arguments that Mr Abbas has been playing a calculated game of bluff.

His decision to call a January election was seen by few as a realistic proposition, with observers suggesting it was instead designed to place pressure on Hamas to sign up to an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation accord with Fatah.

The two factions fought a fratricidal war after Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 and the Islamist movement violently wrested control of Gaza the following year.

Under the proposed deal, both sides would agree to elections next June. Mr Abbas’s attempt to force the issue by going to the polls unilaterally could have paid off, with Hamas this week suggesting it would soon accept the deal. Even so, many similar pledges have been made and broken in the past, primarily because the movement does not want to surrender Gaza.

Against this backdrop of internecine strife, Mr Abbas’s announcement that he would not contest the elections has raised fears of a political crisis in the less volatile West Bank.

The Palestinian leader, a vital US ally, explained that his decision was prompted by ostensible Israeli intransigence and American backsliding on the emotive issue of Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.

Whether his intent was to surrender office or to goad the Americans into concessions remains unclear. Some Fatah officials say that regardless of whether Mr Abbas remains as Palestinian Authority president or not, they are determined formally to abandon the peace process by ending all co-operation with Israel.

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Kurdish Guns Threaten to Bring a New Humanitarian Catastrophe to Iraqi Minorities

Human Rights Watch raises the alarm, confirmed by AsiaNews sources. Plan includes setting up a ghetto in the Nineveh Plains for Christians and guarantee Kurds control over resource-rich Kirkuk. Humanitarian aid is given in exchange for support as dissidents get crushed.

Erbil (AsiaNews) — A new human rights catastrophe is in the making in northern Iraq as local ethnic and religious minorities risk being swept away after thousands of years of presence as a result of the Kurdish-Arab fight for control of the Nineveh Plains, this according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In its latest report titled ‘On Vulnerable Ground’, the human rights organisation says that Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and Turkmen have been caught up in the fight between Arabs and Kurds over the control of the territory and resources of Nineveh Province, whose capital is Mosul.

The study is particularly critical of the policies and strategies of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which is trying to extend its control over disputed areas, from Sinjar (north-western Iraq) to Mandali (Diyala Province), including Kirkuk.

HRW denounced the ongoing efforts by the Kurdish government in Erbil to kurdisise minorities in its territory to ensure their electoral and political support.

At the same time, Kurdish forces have been silencing dissenting voices, often relying on “intimidation, threats, arbitrary arrests, and detentions to coerce” against those who challenge KRG control. As the largest minority (400,000), Christians are the first victims of such policies.

Sources told AsiaNews backed the claim, saying that in the villages of the Nineveh Plains (a historically Christian area), the Kurdish government would like to set up a virtual Christian ghetto, on the grounds that it would provide greater security.

Yet, “Kurdish persecution of Christians is a reality no one can deny,” a young Christian father who left Baghdad for the north. “More and more evidence suggests that the abduction and killing of our priests opposed to the Nineveh Plains plan and the pressures driving Mosul Christians to emigrate are the work of Kurds,” he added.

However, the crux of the matter remains Kirkuk. An alliance with Christians would give Kurds the means to economically and strategically control the area, which contains Iraq’s richest oil field.

The status of the city has not yet been decided. The referendum that was supposed to settle the matter has been put off for years because of the dangerous tensions it might unleash.

Last year,, an online publication, reported that the Department of Christian Affairs in the Kurdish Ministry of Finances, which is headed by a controversial figure, Sarkis Aghajan, collected signatures in favour of the annexation of the Nineveh Plains to Kurdistan before handing out monthly aid to internally displaced people. Those who did not sign were denied food rations.

Leaders in the local Chaldean Church, especially the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Mgr Louis Sako, have slammed the Kurdisation of Christians, and asked for the protection of the central government and US troops. However, many Christians who moved to the north for security reasons now complain about the “silence” of religious authorities towards the Kurdish government’s persecutory policies.

Some are even saying that a number of priests are “openly backing Kurdish plans and the election campaign of the PDK (Kurdistan Democratic Party), President Barzani’s own party.”

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

Lebanon: Italy is Primary Industrial Machinery Supplier

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 11 — Italy has remained the number one supplier of industrial machinery to Lebanon. The news was confirmed by a note from the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Beirut in which it is reported that Lebanese imports of industrial machinery increased by 17% in the January — August 2009 period, hitting 139.4 million dollars. This is a record, which underlines a significant increase in the industrial sector and subsequent investments. On the total imported by Lebanon, Italy has a share of 29.7% (41.4 million dollars), followed by Germany (15.8%; 22 million), China (14.4% and 19.6 million), France (10.6% and 14.8 million), the US (4.6% and 5.8 million) and Turkey (3.4% and 14.6 million). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Grants $380 Mln Loan to Pakistan

Riyadh, 11 Nov. (AKI) — Saudi Arabia has granted Pakistan a 380 million dollar loan in the biggest single donation since donors pledged 5.7 billion dollars worth of aid to the country in April. A senior Saudi official said the loan was part of the 700 million dollars the country had pledged to give Pakistan.

Several countries that met in Tokyo in April pledged a total of 5.7 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan but some donors have sought more details on how the money will be spent and have raised doubts about the stability of the government.

The Pakistani central bank will get 200 million dollars from Saudi Arabia to cover the country’s budget deficit, a 100 million dollar credit line to cover Pakistani fertilizer imports and 80 million dollars to support the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, the official said.

“This (380 million dollar) loan was granted by the Saudi Development Fund which supports development in foreign countries by giving grants or soft loans,” the official said.

“Saudi Arabia is so far Pakistan’s biggest donor under the Tokyo agreement … We will deliver the remaining 320 million dollars soon. We are working with Pakistani authorities to define areas of need,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is Pakistan’s top Arab ally. Some 1.7 million Pakistani expatriates who live and work in Saudi Arabia sent home 1.8 billion dollars in remittances in 2008.

The International Monetary Fund has urged Pakistan to work harder on reform and demanded that donors follow through on the aid promised for the Asian country.

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

Study: Bulgarians Not Prejudiced Against Turks

While minorities, particularly the country’s large Roma population and Muslim, black, Arab and Asian immigrants, are unwelcome in Bulgaria, most Bulgarians are not prejudiced against ethnic Turks, a recent study by the Open Society Institute showed.

The study, titled “Social Distances and Ethnic Stereotypes of Bulgarian Minorities,” found Tuesday that Roma, who make up around 9 percent of the population, are seen by most Bulgarians as “thieving,” “dirty” and “ignorant.”

However, Bulgarians do not attribute these kinds of negative terms to ethnic Turks, whose population in the neighboring country is around the same size as that of the Roma. By contrast, Turks are seen as “hard-working” and “entrepreneurial,” the study found, according to an account by Agence France-Presse.

While Turks are accepted as neighbors, guests and friends, the “unwanted” Muslims include Arabs, Albanians and Kurds, according to the study.

The debate over the status and rights of Turks had been one of the most crucial items topping the agenda during the country’s general elections, held July 5, which ended in a victory for the center-right GERB party.

While Boiko Borisov’s GERB party acquired the support of 39.7 percent of the electorate, gaining 116 seats in the 240-seat parliament, the Turkish minority Rights and Freedoms Party, or MRF, won 14.5 percent of the vote, ranking third.

During the election campaign, MRF had carried out an intense effort to encourage Turks with dual nationality residing in Turkey to participate in the highly critical elections as party members expressed concerns over growing support for the right-wing parties in Bulgaria.

Ethnic tolerance declining

The study also showed that many Bulgarians are tolerant toward traditional minorities such as Jews, who were seen as “wealthy” and “businessmen,” and Armenians, who were seen as “ingenious.”

Among foreigners, those coming from the European Union and Russia were the most well received, while blacks were rejected, regardless of their country of origin.

Compared to previous polls, Bulgarians’ desire to have people from other ethnic groups living in the same village, town or city has gone down significantly. Residents of the largest cities, including the capital, Sofia, showed the highest tolerance level, Sofia News Agency reported on its Web site.

The poll researched three types of so-called “distances” — space, labor and education — that are also intertwined. For instance, if someone does not want a person of a certain ethnicity for a boss, they generally do not want a spouse of that background either.

Fewer than 4 percent of the population wanted their children to attend a school with high numbers of black or Kurdish students, and fewer than 6 percent said they would enroll their children in schools with large numbers of Roma, Chinese, Vietnamese or Arab students.

In the workplace, just 11 percent of people said they would take orders from a black, Roma, Kurdish, Albanian or Vietnamese superior, while more than 44 percent were willing to work for a European boss.

Just 26 percent of Bulgarians said they would accept Roma, Africans or Albanians as neighbors, but 55 percent would be happy living next door to Europeans. Only 11 percent said they would marry a black, Roma or Kurd, while 44 percent said they would happily marry a European.

Strangely enough, the Japanese rank last in Bulgarians’ willingness to accept them as part of their families or in the same school with their children, but they don’t mind having Japanese as neighbors or bosses. The poll was conducted among 1,144 individuals, all aged 18 or older, from 24 ethnic groups.

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

Turkey: No Hand Shakes Yet on US Gunship Sale

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration wants to sell the Turkish military a limited number of AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, yet the two countries still need to resolve several matters before the transfer can take place.

Turkey needs the helicopters as a stopgap solution until mid-2010 when it begins receiving T129 gun ships presently being manufactured by Italian-British company AgustaWestland and its Turkish partners.

On Oct. 23, U.S. Ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey said Washington had agreed to the sale, according to Turkish press reports. The Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review has learned that the ambassador was voicing the Obama administration’s support for the sale, but that several details still needed clarification.

“This is not a done deal yet,” said one Ankara-based industry official familiar with the matter. “U.S. and Turkish officials are now working to resolve several things, including availability matters, the number of platforms, the price and other details. The U.S. administration can seek congressional approval once it sorts out these details.”

Any large-scale U.S. arms sale requires Congress’ approval. In January Turkey’s procurement agency formally asked the U.S. government for the sale of about 10 helicopters. Bell Helicopter Textron, maker of the Super Cobra, is not building any AH-1Ws while it begins to upgrade the U.S. Marine Command’s nearly 170 AH-1Ws to the Z model.

Long search for upgrades

Turkey has been informally seeking to buy a few of the U.S. Marines’ Super Cobras since 2007.

Former President George W. Bush’s administration had opposed such a transfer, saying the Marines, involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, needed all of the aircraft. It had instead offered the sale of the U.S. military’s AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters.

Saying that Turkey had no capabilities to maintain the Apaches, however, Turkish officials rejected the offer and insisted on a small number of Super Cobras.

The Turkish military is presently believed to be operating six AH-1Ws.

Turkey acquired its current AH-1Ws from the United States in the early 1990s. It originally had 10, but four of them either crashed or went out of use.

In 2000 Ankara selected Bell Helicopter Textron for its joint production program for at least 50 helicopters, but a contract could never be signed because of disputes over price and technology transfer, so the Turkish procurement office canceled the program in 2005. In a renewed tender in 2007, Ankara selected AgustaWestland for the T129’s joint production. The aircraft’s first test flight was in late September, but deliveries will not begin for five or six years.

In addition to its current six double-engine AH-1Ws, the Turkish military is also operating more than 20 AH-1Ps, an earlier model in the Cobra family. This single-engine platform, however, is considerably inferior to the Super Cobra in terms of maneuverability, operational altitude and firepower.

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

Turkish PM Suggests Israeli Jews Are Genocidal

Tensions between Israel and Turkey ratcheted up again on Sunday when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan suggested the Jews of Israel are the only genocidal group in the Middle East, while coming to the defense of wanted Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir.

Speaking to members of his party, Erdogan insisted there is no genocide happening in Sudan’s Darfur region, where over 300,000 people have been slaughtered by government-backed militias over the past six years. According to Erdogan, Bashir may have mismanaged the situation, but the international warrant for his arrest is a mistake.

“A Muslim can never commit genocide,” Erdogan decalred. “It’s not possible.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Taleban Spin Doctors Winning Fresh Ground in Propaganda War With NATO

Images scroll across the computer screen: crowds lining the streets of Wootton Bassett, coffins draped with the Union Jack and the faces of British soldiers killed last week in Helmand. Above them a banner reads “Voice of Jihad” and a ticker tape entitled “Hot News” announces a stream of alleged military successes. This is the website of the Taleban, infamous for their wholesale rejection of modernity, who have banned television and the internet. Yet since 2006, the Taleban have been harnessing that same despised technology in an escalating campaign of propaganda against which Nato appears to have no effective answer.

Huge resources are now being committed to catching up. Nato’s new communications directorate opened in Kabul this year and employs 120 staff. “Information is everything. This is a war of perception played out in the minds of the Afghan people,” says Rear-Admiral Greg Smith, the foremost communications expert in the US Navy. His arrival in Kabul in May was the latest acknowledgement that in the front rooms of the West and the villages of Afghanistan, Nato has failed to win the argument.

In the border regions of Pakistan the enemy is also hard at work. “Ustad” (Master) Muhammad Yassir is the Taleban’s chief spin doctor. As well as internet sites, the Taleban produce magazines, dozens of DVDs of attacks and hundreds of different Taleban song cassettes — mournful chants promoting Taleban heroes and martyrs. There are even downloadable Taleban mobile phone ringtones. On the ground in southern Afghanistan, Taleban fighters leave “night letters” in villages and wandering preachers propagate the Taleban message. So successful have the militants become at propaganda that many analysts doubt that the group could have achieved the transformation alone.

Joanna Nathan, an analyst at International Crisis Group, blames “outside assistance from the media-savvy al-Qaeda”. Taleban spin doctors, usually working under the noms de guerre “Qari Yousuf Ahmadi” or “Zabiullah Mujahid”, ring news organisations daily with reports of attacks, often making demonstrably exaggerated claims of Western casualties.. “The Taleban blow stuff up to create an event that they can then market to the media and that will shape public perceptions,” Admiral Smith says.

This is particularly true of spectacular assaults in Kabul, such as the one that killed five UN workers last week. “The Taleban have embedded communications at the very heart of their operations, with terror attacks and assassinations having a psychological impact far beyond the immediate victims both in Afghanistan and around the world,” Ms Nathan says. “That is the nature of insurgency — not winning battles, but seeking to portray omnipresence and a determination to stay the course.”

Admiral Smith acknowledges that Nato has in the past been flatfooted, while its television advertisements and newspapers have been only “marginally effective” in a largely illiterate society with little electricity. The West’s credibility has also been battered by instances of Nato denying high civilian death tolls that were subsequently proved correct. Last year, Nato ridiculed claims that up to 90 civilians had died in a US-led operation in Farah province, admitting to a toll of five dead. It was forced to backtrack after The Times and other media obtained mobile phone footage of dozens of dead men, women and children.

While statistical assessments suggest that Western forces kill far fewer Afghan civilians than the Taleban, Admiral Smith acknowledges that the public believes the opposite and tends to blame Nato even for Taleban attacks. “There is a perception that since we are responsible for security, if the Taleban kill people we are still responsible for that, though people may curse the Taleban.”

An overestimate of the capabilities of Western weapons systems to “see everything” means that people who die in the crossfire are often deemed to have been targeted deliberately by callous Western soldiers. Since June, the new Nato commander, General Stanley McChrystal, has pushed a concerted public relations campaign highlighting unprecedented strictures on the use of firepower by Western forces. Nato “information operations”, meanwhile, are increasingly seeking to rely on the same traditional networks of respected tribal figures and clerics used by the Taleban.

Admiral Smith cites recent riots sparked by reports that US troops had burnt a copy of the Koran. The rioting subsided after local clerics agreed to refute the claims. Reaching out to such figures is not easy. The Taleban have killed large numbers of clerics and tribal elders regarded as “pro-government”. Antonio Guistozzi, an Afghan expert at the London School of Economics, points out that the Taleban have wisely not sought to offer an alternative vision. “Their strategy is simply to undermine the West’s efforts,” he says.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Afghan Red Crescent Angry After NATO-Led Forces Storm Compound

NEW DELHI (Reuters AlertNet) — The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) expressed anger on Tuesday at NATO-led troops who used explosives to storm a Red Crescent compound and temporarily detain two aid workers.

Saleem Wardak, manager of the media division of the ARCS, said NATO-led forces attacked their office in Qalat in the southern province of Zabul during a military operation against Taliban insurgents on Friday night.

“There was an attack by the security forces and two staff members were arrested, but were released after 24 hours,” Wardak told AlertNet by telephone.


The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it had been looking for a Taliban contact responsible for funding militant activities and transporting improvised explosive device materials and weapons into the area.

“He was discovered hiding in a building later discovered to be a Red Cross office on the compound. Further questioning of the Taliban facilitator revealed he is a relative of a local Red Cross worker,” said an ISAF statement issued on Saturday.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Blasphemy in Pakistan and the European Court’s Attack on the Crucifix

Launched today from Rome the European leg (France, Holland, Belgium, Germany) of a campaign to raise awareness in Church and society of the plight and oppression of minorities in Pakistan, particularly the Christian one, due to the blasphemy law. A most unusual unity of purpose joins Islamic fundamentalists and European relativists.

Rome (AsiaNews) — Representatives of Justice and Peace in Pakistan today launched their European campaign (France, Holland, Belgium, Germany) from Rome to raise awareness in Church and society of the plight and oppression of minorities in Pakistan, particularly the Christian one, due to the blasphemy law.

AsiaNews has decided to support their struggle. Moreover, from its inception 6 years ago, the promotion of religious freedom has been the cornerstone of our agency.

The Christians of Pakistan are a mere 4 million in a sea of over 160 million Muslims. This small minority of believers therefore is calling for the repeal of the notorious blasphemy law. This law, in force since 1986, legislates for prison or the death penalty for all those who insult the Quran or Muhammad. In these past 23 years nearly a thousand people have been accused of this crime and several hundred have been killed. In recent years, at least 50 Christians have been tortured and eliminated for this crime and many villages and Christian churches destroyed and burned. The latest episode in order of time is Koriyan and Gojra, where thousands of Muslims attacked Christian homes and churches for a false accusation of blasphemy and killed 7 people, including women and children, burning them alive. These killings take place without trial, the result of a rough justice dispensed by angry crowds, incited by their imams or by prison guards, who are complicit in the bigotry or corrupt.

In the dossier AsiaNews (Save Christians and Pakistan from the blasphemy law), also covered in our this month’s edition of our magazine, we can see that this law is actually an tool misused to eliminate political opponents, competitors in business, neighbours and to silence the Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis, and even the Shiite Muslim minority. It is actually a time bomb that threatens to explode the entire Pakistani society, dividing these groups one from the other, and betrays the founding ideals from which the country was born in 1948, which excluded any religious discrimination, valuing the contribution of each community.

The blasphemy law, as well as various laws inspired by Sharia law in Pakistan, is a sign of the increasing Islamization of the country which is subjected to military and cultural pressure by the Taliban, which is close to modern imams who preach and teach in teeming madrassas.

Can this campaign suggest something to our Europe? The Italian and European world, engaged in an exhausting war in Afghanistan, are increasingly becoming aware that they cannot win by military might alone, but also need to approach the cultural problem of the relationship between Islam and modernity, Islam and coexistence with other religions and minorities.

A reconciled Pakistan could have a beneficial influence also on the nearby Afghanistan.

This campaign against blasphemy comes just a few days after the curious decision of the European Court for Human Rights which prohibits the display of crucifixes in public schools, because they have been deemed offensive to children of other religions or atheists.

There is a link between these two positions. Not for nothing, years ago a Muslim fundamentalist demanded the same thing from the Italian government. Curiously the empty tolerance of relativists and Islamic fundamentalism tend toward the same conclusion: eliminate all traces of Christian symbols and figures: in Pakistan with the blasphemy law. In Europe with a “blasphemy” against attacks on relativist beliefs.

In both cases, we propose coexistence between identities, without having to force anyone to hide their identity, the guarantee of being able to work with their faith for the advancement of peoples.

We believe a strange connivance between anti-Christian relativism and Islamic fundamentalism is taking place, perhaps motivated by hatred toward the Christian roots and economic interests. How can we otherwise explain the support of several Western countries for the possibility of sharia among Islamic communities in Europe, or their support of a UN resolution, proposed by Islamic nations, for an international blasphemy law. These resolutions, if implemented, could undermine global coexistence.

Once again we must affirm the prophetic value of the speech by Benedict XVI in Regensburg. In it, he asked the religions (fundamentalist Islam) to renounce violence as irrational and contrary to God at the same time he asked the Western world to once again look at God and religion not as an impediment to reason, but as its completion.

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

How the US Funds the Taliban

By Aram Roston

On October 29, 2001, while the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan was under assault, the regime’s ambassador in Islamabad gave a chaotic press conference in front of several dozen reporters sitting on the grass. On the Taliban diplomat’s right sat his interpreter, Ahmad Rateb Popal, a man with an imposing presence. Like the ambassador, Popal wore a black turban, and he had a huge bushy beard. He had a black patch over his right eye socket, a prosthetic left arm and a deformed right hand, the result of injuries from an explosives mishap during an old operation against the Soviets in Kabul.

Research support for this article was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

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Aram Roston: Lobbyist Charles Black, now embroiled in controversy as a senior advisor to John McCain, was among those who aided Ahmed Chalabi’s deceptive campaign for war in Iraq.

But Popal was more than just a former mujahedeen. In 1988, a year before the Soviets fled Afghanistan, Popal had been charged in the United States with conspiring to import more than a kilo of heroin. Court records show he was released from prison in 1997.

Flash forward to 2009, and Afghanistan is ruled by Popal’s cousin President Hamid Karzai. Popal has cut his huge beard down to a neatly trimmed one and has become an immensely wealthy businessman, along with his brother Rashid Popal, who in a separate case pleaded guilty to a heroin charge in 1996 in Brooklyn. The Popal brothers control the huge Watan Group in Afghanistan, a consortium engaged in telecommunications, logistics and, most important, security. Watan Risk Management, the Popals’ private military arm, is one of the few dozen private security companies in Afghanistan. One of Watan’s enterprises, key to the war effort, is protecting convoys of Afghan trucks heading from Kabul to Kandahar, carrying American supplies.

Welcome to the wartime contracting bazaar in Afghanistan. It is a virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex-military officers joining hands with former Taliban and mujahedeen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.

In this grotesque carnival, the US military’s contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban. “It’s a big part of their income,” one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts—hundreds of millions of dollars—consists of payments to insurgents.

Understanding how this situation came to pass requires untangling two threads. The first is the insider dealing that determines who wins and who loses in Afghan business, and the second is the troubling mechanism by which “private security” ensures that the US supply convoys traveling these ancient trade routes aren’t ambushed by insurgents.

A good place to pick up the first thread is with a small firm awarded a US military logistics contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars: NCL Holdings. Like the Popals’ Watan Risk, NCL is a licensed security company in Afghanistan.

What NCL Holdings is most notorious for in Kabul contracting circles, though, is the identity of its chief principal, Hamed Wardak. He is the young American son of Afghanistan’s current defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, who was a leader of the mujahedeen against the Soviets. Hamed Wardak has plunged into business as well as policy. He was raised and schooled in the United States, graduating as valedictorian from Georgetown University in 1997. He earned a Rhodes scholarship and interned at the neoconservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute. That internship was to play an important role in his life, for it was at AEI that he forged alliances with some of the premier figures in American conservative foreign policy circles, such as the late Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Wardak incorporated NCL in the United States early in 2007, although the firm may have operated in Afghanistan before then. It made sense to set up shop in Washington, because of Wardak’s connections there. On NCL’s advisory board, for example, is Milton Bearden, a well-known former CIA officer. Bearden is an important voice on Afghanistan issues; in October he was a witness before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Senator John Kerry, the chair, introduced him as “a legendary former CIA case officer and a clearheaded thinker and writer.” It is not every defense contracting company that has such an influential adviser.

But the biggest deal that NCL got—the contract that brought it into Afghanistan’s major leagues—was Host Nation Trucking. Earlier this year the firm, with no apparent trucking experience, was named one of the six companies that would handle the bulk of US trucking in Afghanistan, bringing supplies to the web of bases and remote outposts scattered across the country.

At first the contract was large but not gargantuan. And then that suddenly changed, like an immense garden coming into bloom. Over the summer, citing the coming “surge” and a new doctrine, “Money as a Weapons System,” the US military expanded the contract 600 percent for NCL and the five other companies. The contract documentation warns of dire consequences if more is not spent: “service members will not get food, water, equipment, and ammunition they require.” Each of the military’s six trucking contracts was bumped up to $360 million, or a total of nearly $2.2 billion. Put it in this perspective: this single two-year effort to hire Afghan trucks and truckers was worth 10 percent of the annual Afghan gross domestic product. NCL, the firm run by the defense minister’s well-connected son, had struck pure contracting gold.

Host Nation Trucking does indeed keep the US military efforts alive in Afghanistan. “We supply everything the army needs to survive here,” one American trucking executive told me. “We bring them their toilet paper, their water, their fuel, their guns, their vehicles.” The epicenter is Bagram Air Base, just an hour north of Kabul, from which virtually everything in Afghanistan is trucked to the outer reaches of what the Army calls “the Battlespace”—that is, the entire country. Parked near Entry Control Point 3, the trucks line up, shifting gears and sending up clouds of dust as they prepare for their various missions across the country.

The real secret to trucking in Afghanistan is ensuring security on the perilous roads, controlled by warlords, tribal militias, insurgents and Taliban commanders. The American executive I talked to was fairly specific about it: “The Army is basically paying the Taliban not to shoot at them. It is Department of Defense money.” That is something everyone seems to agree on.

Mike Hanna is the project manager for a trucking company called Afghan American Army Services. The company, which still operates in Afghanistan, had been trucking for the United States for years but lost out in the Host Nation Trucking contract that NCL won. Hanna explained the security realities quite simply: “You are paying the people in the local areas—some are warlords, some are politicians in the police force—to move your trucks through.”

Hanna explained that the prices charged are different, depending on the route: “We’re basically being extorted. Where you don’t pay, you’re going to get attacked. We just have our field guys go down there, and they pay off who they need to.” Sometimes, he says, the extortion fee is high, and sometimes it is low. “Moving ten trucks, it is probably $800 per truck to move through an area. It’s based on the number of trucks and what you’re carrying. If you have fuel trucks, they are going to charge you more. If you have dry trucks, they’re not going to charge you as much. If you are carrying MRAPs or Humvees, they are going to charge you more.”

Hanna says it is just a necessary evil. “If you tell me not to pay these insurgents in this area, the chances of my trucks getting attacked increase exponentially.”

Whereas in Iraq the private security industry has been dominated by US and global firms like Blackwater, operating as de facto arms of the US government, in Afghanistan there are lots of local players as well. As a result, the industry in Kabul is far more dog-eat-dog. “Every warlord has his security company,” is the way one executive explained it to me…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

India Registers Case Against American Militant Suspect

New Delhi, 12 Nov. (AKI/IANS) — India’s National Investigative Agency has registered a case against Pakistan-born American David Coleman Headley, who is currently in custody in the US for allegedly plotting terror attacks against India, the country’s interior minister P. Chidambaram said Thursday.

Headley’s alleged accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin, has also been named in connection with foiled terror attacks plotted by banned Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Chidambaram told reporters after the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

“He (Headley) visited India several times, once before and once after the 26/11 terror attacks (in Mumbai). We are investigating in the cities where he went and whom he met,” said Chidambaram.

Intelligence shared by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) following the interrogation of Headley revealed that two of India’s most prestigious boarding schools and the National Defence College in New Delhi were planned LeT targets.

Headley and Rana were arrested by the FBI last month.

A team of intelligence officials from India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) external intelligence agency and its domestic Intelligence Bureau flew to Washington on 1 November.

The team was keen to find out if Headley was in touch with the masterminds of the LeT and if he attended any of the training camps that the 10 Pakistan-based terrorists went through for the deadly 26/11 assault on Mumbai.

At least 170 people were killed and over 300 injured in the three-day rampage against several luxury hotels and other tourist targets in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

The terrorists used commando-style machine-gun attacks, hand-grenades and bombs in the assault. Only one survived.

Apparently, Headley’s lawyer allegedly challenged a foreign intelligence agency’s involvement his client’s interrogation.

But Chidambaram said questioning Headley “was never on the agenda” of Indian investigators.

“Indian officers went to Washington. It (questioning Headley in Chicago) was never on the agenda,” he said, adding they had gone there to conduct investigations and talk to FBI officials.

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

Norwegian Kidnapped, Released in Afghanistan

From Norwegian: Freelance journalist Pål Refsdal (46) was kidnapped with his interpreter on November 5th and was now released. The story was kept secret by the Norwegian authorities.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Pakistan’s Anti-Blasphemy Campaign at the UN Minorities Forum

The second UN Forum on Minorities Issues opens Tomorrow in Geneva. It will focus on minority participation in politics. The NCJP delegation will submit a proposal to fight extremism in Pakistan and strengthen minority representation.

Geneva (AsiaNews) — The campaign to raise awareness about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, launched by Christian activists in association with AsiaNews, has moved to Geneva, Switzerland, for tomorrow’s opening of the second UN Forum on Minority Issues.

The delegation representing the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Pakistani Catholic Church will take part in two days of meetings with representatives of governments, UN agencies, national human rights organisations and non-governmental organisations. The theme of the forum is ‘Minorities and Effective Political Participation’. Gay Dougall, an independent UN minority expert, will chair the proceedings.

NJCP Executive Director Peter Jacob spoke to AsiaNews about the issues he will raise during the discussions, namely the need “to reinforce the presence of the Christian minority in Pakistan’s political life, civil society and economy.”

This battle is conducted at the same time as that against blasphemy laws, which impose life in prison or death on anyone who desecrates or defiles the Qur’an or the name of the Prophet Muhammad, a legal tool used by Muslim extremists to strike at minorities and further “Islamise” the country.

The recommendations made by Christian activists include:

· An independent national minority rights commission with the powers of a tribunal to look at participation of minorities in all spheres of national life, including political participation.

· An independent inquiry, with the participation of international experts, to determine the socio-political causes of insufficient minority participation in Pakistani politics.

· The repeal of constitutional and legal discrimination, including the blasphemy laws, which bar members of minorities from holding certain public offices such as the presidency, the post of prime minister, that of provincial governor, etc.

· The term minority should have a broader meaning to include national, ethnic and linguistic minorities as well.

· The number of minority representatives in the Senate, National Assembly, and the four provincial assemblies should be doubled so that they can participate more effectively in the important affairs of state.

· A certain number of seats should be reserved in the Senate.

· The electoral system should be changed to guarantee at least 10 per cent of the seats to minorities.

· Minorities should be more visible in positions of power in the provinces, the federal cabinet, ministries and parliamentary committees.

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

Spokesman of Iranian Consulate Killed in Pakistan

Syed Abul Hasan, Director Public Relations in the Iranian consulate in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), was fired upon at Gulbarg area of the city, police officer Nisar Ali said.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Far East

China-Africa: Libya, Chinese But Work for Africans

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 11 — “In reality there is almost a Chinese invasion on the African continent, that recalls the behaviour of the occupiers of the continent”, so much so that “we advise out Chinese friends not to follow the same path”, said Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, in an interview with the pan Arab Saudi newspaper Asharq al Awsat on the sidelines of the Chinese-African forum which finished yesterday in Sharm el Sheikh. According to Koussa, it must not happen that “thousands of Chinese are brought to Africa to work since the African continent suffers from unemployment”. The appeal to China is to create a labour market for Africans, not to encourage the arrival and staying of Chinese labour force “that we consider settlements”. This, explained Koussa, does not mean to be an attack on China, but a clarification together with a request for Beijing to “help Africa get a permanent seat” on the UN Security Council. The judgement in fact is positive towards China, which “has contributed to the liberalization on this continent and we believe it important that a great power like this contributes to international equilibrium, but on the condition that this does not damage the people”, he concluded. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

China Proves to be an Aggressive Foe in Cyberspace

One day in late summer 2008, FBI and Secret Service agents flew to Chicago to inform Barack Obama’s campaign team that its computer system had been hacked. “You’ve got a problem. Somebody’s trying to get inside your systems,” an FBI agent told the team, according to a source familiar with the incident.

The McCain campaign was hit with a similar attack.

The trail in both cases led to computers in China, said several sources inside and outside government with knowledge of the incidents. In the McCain case, Chinese officials later approached staff members about information that had appeared only in restricted e-mails, according to a person close to the campaign.

American presidential campaigns are not the only targets. China is significantly boosting its capabilities in cyberspace as a way to gather intelligence and, in the event of war, hit the U.S. government in a weak spot, U.S. officials and experts say. Outgunned and outspent in terms of traditional military hardware, China apparently hopes that by concentrating on holes in the U.S. security architecture — its communications and spy satellites and its vast computer networks — it will collect intelligence that could help it counter the imbalance.

President Obama, who is scheduled to visit China next week, has vowed to improve ties with the Asian giant, especially its military. But according to current and former U.S. officials, China’s aggressive hacking has sowed doubts about its intentions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

African Slavery Apology ‘Needed’

Traditional African rulers should apologise for the role they played in the slave trade, a Nigerian rights group has said in a letter to chiefs.

“We cannot continue to blame the white men, as Africans particularly the traditional rulers, are not blameless,” said the Civil Rights Congress.

The letter said some collaborated or actively sold off their subjects.

The group said it was time for African leaders to copy the US and the UK who have already said they were sorry.

It urged Nigeria’s traditional rulers to apologise on behalf of their forefathers and “put a final seal to the history of slave trade”, AFP news agency reports.

Civil Rights Congress president Shehu Sani says they are calling for this apology because traditional rulers are seeking inclusion in the forthcoming constitutional amendment in Nigeria.

“We felt that for them to have the moral standing to be part of our constitutional arrangement there are some historical issues for them to address,” he told the BBC World Service.

“One part of which is the involvement of their institutions in the slave trade.”

He said that on behalf of the buyers of slaves, the ancestors of these traditional rulers “raided communities and kidnapped people, shipping them away across the Sahara or across the Atlantic”.

Millions of Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas over a period of about 450 years from the middle of the 15th Century.

More than a million people are thought to have died while in transit across the so-called “middle passage” of the Atlantic, due to the inhuman conditions aboard the slave ships and brutal suppression of any resistance.

Many slaves captured from the African interior died on the long journey to the coast.

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

Gunmen Kill Somalia Pirate Judge

A judge known for jailing pirates and Islamists has been shot dead in Somalia’s northern Puntland region.

Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Aware was killed outside a mosque in Bossaso, capital of the semi-autonomous region, where many pirates are based.

Mr Aware had recently sent to jail four members of the Islamist al-Shabab group, which is fighting Somalia’s UN-backed government.

Bossaso is also a hub for smuggling people from the region to Yemen.

The high court judge was shot several times in the head and chest by two masked men, an eyewitness said.

Three suspects have been arrested, said Puntland Security Minister Mohamed Said Samatar.

Mr Aware was also a member of Puntland’s Supreme Judicial Council which supervises the judiciary and nominates senior judicial officials.

“He sentenced hundreds of pirates, people-smugglers and members of al-Shabab during his work in Bossaso,” said a cousin, Abdulahi Jama.

“These gangs hate him for his justice. We suspect one of them may have something to do with his assassination.”

Also on Wednesday evening masked gunmen killed a Puntland lawmaker as he was heading to his house.

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

Muslim Extremists Attack Worship Service in Uganda

Church member taking photos beaten, building damaged.

About 40 Muslim extremists with machetes and clubs tried to break into a Sunday worship service outside Uganda’s capital city of Kampala on Nov. 1, leaving a member of the congregation with several injuries and damaging the church building.

Eyewitnesses said the extremist mob tried to storm into World Possessor’s Church International in Namasuba at 11 a.m. as the church worshipped.

“The church members were taken by a big surprise, as this happened during worship time,” said Pastor Henry Zaake. “It began with an unusual noise coming from outside, and soon I saw the bricks falling away one by one. Immediately I knew that it was an attack from the Muslims who had earlier sent signals of an imminent attack.”


Police arrived and put a stop to the assault, but officers did not arrest anyone, church leaders said.

“We have reported the matter to the central police station, and we are surprised that no action has been taken,” Pastor Zaake said. “So far no person has been arrested as a result of this mayhem. It is as if the police are not concerned about our security and lives.” Many in the church are now living in fear, he said, noting that last Sunday (Nov. 8), attendance decreased from 250 to 100 people.

“Since the attack we have been receiving a lot of threats from the Muslims,” Pastor Zaake said. “There is a conspiracy that we can’t understand. This trend really gives me sleepless nights.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain Calls for Pirate Blockade

Spain wants a European Union naval taskforce to blockade three ports in Somalia, known to be used by pirates.

Defence minister Carme Chacon will call for the international force to change its tactics at a meeting next week, Spanish radio reported.

She also called for the international community to track ransom payments made to Somali pirates by shipping firms through intermediaries.

Somali pirates are currently holding 36 Spanish fishermen hostage on a trawler.

The pirates say they will not release any of the fishermen until Spanish authorities release two of their colleagues from custody in Spain.

‘Not romantic’

The government in Madrid has refused to negotiate the pirates’ release but says they could be transferred to a jail in Somalia if found guilty.

“These are not romantic pirates which some may be led to imagine,” said Mrs Chacon.

“They are authentic criminal organisations which are focused on kidnappings of all types; merchant ships, fishing trawlers, ships belonging to the World Food Programme.”

The pirates use “mother ships” to get far out to sea, then launch smaller attack-skiffs which home in on vessels plying the busy shipping lanes.

Pirates seized Spanish tuna trawler The Alakrana on 2 October in the Indian Ocean.

A Spanish naval frigate picked up two pirates in a short-range skiff in the same area.

Pirates have since attacked ships further away from shore then ever before.

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


Canada’s New “Immigrant” From America

Vancouver seems to have more than its fair share of possible terrorists sneaking across the border. First, we heard about the Sri Lankan ship that came ashore with “refugees” and now we hear about a mysterious ‘American’ who was stopped while coming across the border into Canada with nearly $1 million in GOLD.

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Paranoia and naivete led a Syrian man to lie about why he was crossing the border with nearly $1 million in gold and what’s been called “terrorist resources,” says the lawyer for the man who has been held as a potential security threat since early last month.

Khaled Nawaya, a flight instructor, was arrested by Canada Border Services agents when they found $800,000 in gold coins and other currency in his car and pockets on Oct. 6, as he crossed into Surrey, B.C., near Vancouver.

“He didn’t want to be taxed on it,” lawyer Phil Rankin said Tuesday.

The Saudi-born would-be immigrant to Canada holds Syrian citizenship, but had been in the US since he was 17. Besides the illegal amount of cash and gold he was carrying he had a few other suspicious items in his possession.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Czech Republic: Number of Foreigners in CR Up Ten Times Since 1989

Prague, Nov 10 (CTK) — Some half million foreigners live in the 10 million Czech Republic, over ten times more than 20 years ago when the communist regime collapsed, daily Pravo writes yesterday.

Most of the foreign immigrants come from Ukraine, 131,000, the paper writes.

Only 38,000 foreigners lived in Bohemia and Moravia in 1989, mostly students from developing countries and manual workers from Cuba and Vietnam, on a training stay here, Pravo continues.

At present, a striking number of foreigners run restaurants, shops and cosmetic studios in the Czech Republic. Foreigners also work at most developer’s projects.

It is the influx of foreigners that prevents the country’s population from declining. About 77,000 new foreigners settle down in the Czech Republic every year, Pravo writes.

Apart from the half million foreigners with a residence permit, there are many of those who live and work in the Czech Republic illegally. Their number was estimated at three to ten thousands in the period of economic revival a couple years ago, the paper says.

At present, amid the economic crisis, the Czech state offers a free air ticket and pocket money to the foreigners who leave the country voluntarily.

In the past two decades, foreigners were flowing to the Czech Republic as cheap workforce seeking the jobs of bricklayers, auxiliary workers and workers in textile plants. Most recently, however, a layer of entrepreneurs, company owners, physicians and artists has emerged among the foreigner community, Pravo writes.

Many of them, mainly of those who came to the Czech Republic as children, have acquired university education here. They perfectly command Czech and are raising their offspring as another generation of their ethnic group but with Czech nationality, Pravo writes.

At present, about 45,000 children of foreigners study at Czech schools, including 31,000 at universities. Most foreigners among the university students are Slovaks, Pravo writes.

A crushing majority (90 percent) of foreigners in the Czech Republic are in their productive age, from 15 to 64 years.

Most of them (284,000) are employees and some 77,000 are self-employed people, mainly Vietnamese and Ukrainians.

For many years now, the countries from where most foreigners come to the Czech Republic are Ukraine (32 percent of the overall number of foreigners), Vietnam (some 60,000 people), Poland, Russia, Germany, Bulgaria, and citizens of former Yugoslavia.

Slovaks make up a specific group among foreigners in the Czech Republic, Pravo writes.

Most foreigners live and work or run businesses in Prague, Central Bohemia, in the Moravia-Silesia region, South Moravia and north Bohemia’s Usti region, the daily continues.

A number of foreigners marry Czechs. About 5,000 mixed marriages are concluded annually. The divorce rate among the mixed couple corresponds to the general divorce rate in the Czech Republic. The mixed couples most often disintegrate over cultural differences, insistence on national traditions and differing view on the role of woman and on ways to raise children, Pravo writes.

A specific phenomenon are fictitious marriages that mainly foreigners from Asia and Africa seek as a step to enable their permanent stay and work in the Czech Republic.

In this category of marriages, Czech men most often marry Ukrainians and Czech women most often marry Slovaks and Germans, Pravo writes.

About 1,700 children are annually born to local foreigners, mainly the Vietnamese.

The share of foreigners in the country’s overall population stands close to 3 percent now. This is a low number compared with the situation abroad, Pravo writes, adding that in Luxembourg the share of foreigners is 40 percent, in both Austria and Germany about 10 percent and in France 6 percent.

The more economically advanced country, the stronger is foreigners’ interest in living there, but the bigger are the social and ethnic problems arising from immigration, Pravo writes.

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

Gordon Brown’s Immigration Speech Needed Solutions

Instead of promising fairer wages for ‘locals’ and incomers alike, Mr Brown preferred windy rhetoric about ‘British values’, writes Mary Riddell.

As he acknowledges, incomers have been vital in shaping those [British] values. If nationalism, in its best sense, has become so effete that the British no longer know quite who they are, that is not the fault of immigrants. It is perhaps the fault of over-ardent multiculturalists, who chose to celebrate diversity over togetherness. It is certainly the fault of bigots who resent outsiders.

Mr Brown did not play into their hands, though at times he came close. Nor was his message wholly coherent. Take his insistence on debarring unskilled people, as if they have nothing to offer. Without the legions of unlawful migrants living in the shadowlands, Britain’s hospitals, businesses and restaurants would grind to a halt. These workers are underpaid, exploited and condemned to limbo, yet politicians will not even acknowledge their presence, let alone offer an amnesty that could be coupled with the tougher entry tests Mr Brown now promises.

Or take the children of failed asylum-seekers, held in prison even though their families are unlikely to abscond. Is their incarceration evidence of British values? But for all the caveats about Mr Brown’s message, it is by far the best official line on offer. He has at least faced down the misconception that immigration is snowballing. He has also wrong-footed the Conservatives who are still peddling the unconvincing allegation that Labour actively connived at boosting immigration.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gordon Brown Immigration Speech “Empty Rhetoric” Says Grayling

Mr Grayling said there was “nothing new” in Gordon Brown’s speech on immigration, and claimed Labour’s past record on immigration meant the speech was “pretty empty rhetoric”.

“Frankly, when Gordon Brown now, after 12 years of the government being in office, stands up and says ‘I care about immigration after all’, I think it will have a pretty hollow ring to it,” he said.

He added: “What we had this morning was a series of minor announcement [and] pretty empty rhetoric”.

He rejected government claims that an annual cap on immigration was unworkable, insisting such a measure was needed to help tackle unemployment in the UK.

“The reality is at the moment we still have very large numbers of people coming into this country to find jobs at a time when we have very high levels of unemployment,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Greece to Legalise 15,000 Bangladeshis

Dhaka, Nov 10 ( — Greece will legalise the status of 15,000 Bangladeshis presently living and working in their country without valid permits, the overseas employment minister said Tuesday.

It is also interested in recruiting more workers from Bangladesh in its shipping and service sectors, Mosharraf Hossain told reporters on his return from the Greek capital of Athens.

Hossain flew to Athens on Nov 3 to attend the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development, where Bangladesh was elected the new chair replacing Indonesia.

There are currently around 30,000 Bangladeshis living and working in Greece, said Hossain.

“Greece has shown interest in employing more Bangladeshis, though the number is not specified yet.”

“They are looking to arrange training to produce more skilled workers,” said the minister

Speaking of more labour export abroad, he said, “Some four lakh workers will go to Saudi Arabia as the construction work of six mega cities is due to start there.”

“The government is also moving to send more workers to many different countries,” he added.

Regarding reports of Bangladeshis coming back from Sudan and Mauritius, he said it was the routine return of overseas workers. “It is simply a matter of their contracts expiring.”

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

Indonesia Repatriates Thousands of Expats in Saudi Arabia: Exploited in the Workplace

Increasing instances of exploitation, abuse and violence, especially to domestic workers. About 11 thousand illegal immigrants detained in prisons in Saudi Arabia.

Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) — At least 5 thousand Indonesian workers will be repatriated this week from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. This was decided by the government in Jakarta in response to the increasing instances of harassment and ill-treatment of fellow emigrants. Muhaimin Iskandar, Indonesian Minister of Labour, announced that his country intends to suspend the sending of people seeking employment to the three Middle Eastern states.

In Saudi Arabia alone there are an estimated 600 thousand Indonesian immigrants, 90% of whom are employed as domestic workers, labourers and drivers. Didi Wahyudi, head of the Jakarta consular service to Jeddah, explains that the number of returnees “is limited and represents only 1% of Indonesian workers in the country. But it has become an increasingly significant figure”.

The system that regulates the immigration of workers from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, and all Gulf countries except Bahrain, requires the employer to ensure a visa, usually of two years. This procedure puts the immigrants in a state of total dependence on those who employ them thus exposing them to abuse, exploitation and violence.

Didi Wahyudi said that the huge market for domestic workers usually attracts foreigners. An immigrant who arrives in Saudi Arabia to work in this sector receives a top salary of 800 rials per month, about 140 Euros, the minimum set by the Regulations. When they discover that foreign workers can earn up to 2 thousand rials they leave their employers, sometimes even before the expiry of two year visa, and chose to stay in the country as illegal immigrants.

The Saudi newspaper ArabNews says that in the month of September, about a thousand Indonesian immigrants, especially waiters, drivers and unskilled staff, went on trial for illegal residence in the country. Ryahd authorities say there are around 11 thousand illegal immigrants held in prisons.

The working conditions of foreign domestic staff in the Middle East concerns many Asian governments. The organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that Saudi Arabia alone employs around 1 and a half million women coming mainly from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

The government in Manila last week sent an official delegation to visit Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates for on the spot checks to verify the condition of so-called Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). The Manila Representatives reported an “indescribable” situation where mostly women employed as maids are exploited and live in anguish.

To date there are no bilateral agreements between the Philippines and the Gulf countries for the management of migration flows of workers. On the one hand this gives rise to the phenomena of exploitation as reported by the delegation in Manila, on the other it generates a traffic of illegal immigrants find themselves in the hands of unscrupulous Philippine recruitment agencies, ready to offer non-existent jobs to workers who want to immigrate to countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

After the visit, the delegation also wants to push the Manila government to suspend emigration of Filipinos to be employed as domestic servants in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

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

Refugee Centres Work to Improve Relations Between Locals and Asylum Seekers

Finland has recently witnessed worsening relations between asylum seekers and local residents. Personnel at refugee reception centres are now working to battle racism and improve cross-cultural interaction.

Recent problems between local residents and asylum seekers occurred in cities that are home to refugee reception centres. Last spring, a fight between asylum seekers and locals erupted in Rovaniemi, Lapland. There were also attacks at the reception centre in Kemi, also in Lapland. And a bomb went off at the centre in Suomusjärvi, southwest Finland.

Such aggression is quite rare in Finland, but officials are concerned. They believe the attacks could have been sparked by a number of reasons, including the economic downturn. Violence towards foreigners also intensified during Finland’s financial crisis of the 1990s.

Meanwhile in Rovaniemi, the situation deteriorated when a group of asylum seekers began harassing women in the city. According to youth director Anu Rastas, locals in Kemi were aggravated by the behaviour of some asylum seekers.

“It can be small things. One example is if an asylum seeker walks on the bicycle path and doesn’t allow others to pass,” she says.

Tearing Down Prejudices

Refugee workers are now trying to smooth things over. In Rovaniemi, discussions at the reception centre have eased tensions. Officials have also tried to combat racism by writing about refugees in local newspapers.

“Newspapers will tell the asylum seekers’ stories: where they come from and why they are here,” says Paula Lauhamaa, the director at Rovaniemi’s Refugee Reception Centre.

In Kemi, officials are trying to improve relations by including refugees in local activities like football.

“We have collaborated with many different organisations and officials. However just hanging out naturally with locals is a challenge,” says Sirpa Tervahauta, a social worker in Kemi.

Veikko Pyykkönen, who works for the Migration Division of the Ministry of Interior, says he believes information and daily contact will break down prejudices. The Ministry says it is concerned about the recent attacks against asylum seekers, but hasn’t planned to take official action to deal with the attacks.

“We all know what is right and what is wrong and how people should not be treated. We have to remember that asylum seekers are in a difficult situation. They have come from trying conditions and are living here in limbo,” Pyykkönen says.

Seeking Asylum a Human Right

Meanwhile, the Finnish Red Cross says seeking asylum is an international human right. The organisation is now working on multiculturalism talks to improve relations.

“We need more information for refugees and locals. We need collaboration with schools, and we need a media that is continually interested in this topic,” says Marisel Soto Godoy, a multicultural organiser at the Red Cross.

“One way to resolve these conflicts is to work openly and to be vocal. I think we are falling short of that right now,” she says.

Finland has signed international human rights agreements concerning asylum seekers. Currently nearly 200 people are waiting for a decision to be made on their asylum status at centres around the country. About half of the applications are rejected. This year, about one-third of the applicants have been granted refugee status or a residence permit.

Finland provides asylum seekers with shelter, food, healthcare and support for basic needs. Refugee reception centres also offer language and culture classes to asylum seekers.

The majority of asylum seekers in Finland come from Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. Women make up just over one-fifth of the applicants. Meanwhile, the number of asylum seekers in Finland is growing. This year, for the first time, over 5,000 people are expected to request for refuge in Finland. Nearly all refugee reception centres are currently at full occupancy.

More Cash for Refugee Centres


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

UK: Gordon Brown to Admit ‘Mistakes’ On Immigration After BNP TV Furore

Gordon Brown will concede today that Labour has made mistakes on immigration as he defends the benefits of workers coming from overseas.

The Prime Minister is expected to echo remarks by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, who said last week that some parts of Britain are disproportionately affected by an influx of foreigners. In his speech today Mr Brown will say that the door is being closed to hospital consultants, civil engineers, aircraft engineers and ship’s officers from outside the European Union. He will also say that UK the population will not, as predicted, reach 70 million in the next 20 years.

“A few years ago we had to allow into the country — and we benefited from it — very highly skilled medical staff,” he has told a newspaper. “We have now done a huge amount to train a new generation of medical staff in our country. We are now looking at how we can close the skills gap in this country so we can take occupations off the list where we need to recruit from abroad. Immigration will fall.”

In the interview with the Daily Mail he explained that one of the reasons that immigration would fall is “the tightening of the new points system” which, he said, will continue to tighten over the next few months. “One of the reasons for the points system is to make sure that nobody without a skill will come into the country. We are looking at the kind of skills we as a country need.

“We don’t want as an open economy to stop businesses being able to recruit where it’s an entirely specialist area. Companies keep telling us that this is absolutely important to their future.

“This is not an arbitrary cap. We are going to be setting out a programme for making sure that we in Britain can train our British young people and British workers who are looking for jobs.” Mr Brown will insist that Labour now has the right strategy for managing immigrants seeking work, even at a time of rising unemployment. He will acknowledge that mistakes have been made in the past. The speech will be seen as a response to the furore over the appearance on the BBC’s Question Time of Nick Griffin, the BNP leader. His fellow panellists were criticised for failing to defend the principle of migration. There are suggestions that the party could come third in today’s by-election in Glasgow North East.

Mr Brown’s remarks come days after the Tories accused the Government of trying to deceive voters over a plan to relax immigration rules. Last month the Office for National Statistics suggested that the UK population would rise from 61 million today to 71 million in 2033. The Prime Minister is expected to promise better skills training for Britons at further education colleges in order to make them better able to beat competition from migrants. He will highlight sectors, such as as the care industry, where he will acknowledge that more can be done to ensure jobs do not go to people from overseas. However, the approach risks reviving memories of the “British jobs for British workers” slogan in his speech to the 2007 Labour Party conference, which some colleagues suggested was inflammatory. European law prevents vacancies being reserved for Britons. Downing Street defended the speech later by insisting that he was referring to greater skills training rather than a dramatic new policy initiative.

The Prime Minister will point out that employers can recruit a migrant to a job that is not on the official list of shortage occupations only if they first go through the “resident labour market test”, showing that no qualified settled worker can fill the post. From next year all jobs must be advertised to UK workers in job centres for four weeks rather than the current two before people from outside the EU can be hired.

Mr Johnson set out four key principles for debate last week, including that all immigrants should learn English. Distancing himself from his predecessors, he said ministers had ignored for “far too long” problems in the immigration system that led to huge backlogs of asylum seekers and foreign national prisoners.

Immigration will be the main cause of population growth over the next quarter of a century. Net migration is expected to add 180,000 to the population every year. When immigrants’ children are added, it is expected that immigration will account for 68 per cent of population growth in the United Kingdom.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Government Toughening Rhetoric Not Policy on Immigration, Says Green

Mr Green accused the government on toughening its rhetoric but not its policy on immigration, ahead of an expected pledge from the Prime Minister to place new limits on migrant workers.

He said the government is “toughening up its rhetoric but not changing its policies at the moment”.

“All ministers have got at their disposal to toughen up the way they talk, and that’s no good at all.”

He dismissed claims that the new points based system was working effectively as “a classic piece of spin and dishonesty by the government” adding falls in migrants were a consequence of people moving away from the UK as a result of the economic downturn.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: We’ll Stem Rising Tide of Migration: PM Finally Promises Action… Starting With a Curb on Doctors

[Note from JP: The last paragraph contains the killer quote by Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling: ‘In the past few weeks it has become quite clear that the Government deliberately allowed hundreds of thousands of new people into Britain for party political reasons and then tried to cover it all up.]

Gordon Brown will today pledge to close the door to foreign doctors and a string of other professions as part of a crackdown to cut immigration into Britain. After a decade in which Labour has allowed immigration on an unprecedented scale, England is now almost twice as crowded as Germany and four times as crowded as France.

But now the Prime Minister is insisting that he will not allow the population to soar to 70million over the next 20 years as official forecasts predict. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mr Brown signalled a major shift in his Government’s immigration policy as he admitted it had put key public services in some parts of the country under severe strain.

In what will be seized on by opponents as an admission that existing restrictions are too lax, he pledged to tighten the new points-based entry system before the next election. Speaking ahead of his first major speech on immigration as Prime Minister, he said: ‘A few years ago we had to allow into the country — and we benefited from it — very highly skilled medical staff. We have now done a huge amount to train a new generation of medical staff in our country.’

‘We are now looking at how we can close the skills gap in this country so we can take occupations off the list where we need to recruit from abroad. Immigration will fall.’ The NHS had a critical shortage of doctors and other health professionals when Labour came to power, and staff from abroad were encouraged to come and work. More than 40,000 have been recruited in recent years.

But the Government has faced controversy as homegrown junior doctors have struggled to find jobs. Mr Brown’s personal intervention is part of the Government’s belated recognition that its handling of immigration has helped alienate Labour’s core white, workingclass vote. Ministers concede that the lack of a proper debate on immigration has played into the hands of the far-Right BNP, which won two European Parliament seats earlier this year.

Controversy has been heightened by explosive claims by Andrew Neather, a former speechwriter to Tony Blair, that ministers allowed immigration to increase in part to make Britain ‘truly multicultural’ and to ‘rub the Right’s noses in diversity’.

Last week, Home Secretary Alan Johnson became the first to admit ministers had failed to grasp growing public concern about the pressures on jobs and public services, and had ignored problems about failed asylum seekers and foreign national prisoners.

Mr Brown insisted that immigration had been a source of ‘economic, social and cultural strength’ for Britain. ‘We have always been a diverse country,’ he said. ‘Britain’s history is one of an open, trading nation at the heart of the global economy.’

But he added: ‘I understand people’s concerns when they hear suggestions that levels of immigration are going to rise. Especially in difficult economic times, people have concerns. ‘I know people worry about whether immigration undermines their wages and the job prospects of their children and they also worry about whether they will get a decent home for their families. ‘They want to be assured that the system is tough and fair. They want to be assured that newcomers to the country will accept their responsibilities…. obey all the laws, speaking English is important, making a contribution.’

Mr Brown said the Government’s latest assessments were that net migration, which hit more than 290,000 in 2005, has fallen by more than 40 per cent over the last year — and pledged it would fall further. But he rejected the Tory approach of an annual limit on the number of non-EU migrants, calling it ‘arbitrary’. He said the points-based system, introduced last year to control the entry of non-EU citizens to the UK by grading incomers on the skills they can offer the country, would be further toughened up.

In his speech today, Mr Brown will say the door is being closed to non-EU hospital consultants, civil engineers, aircraft engineers and ship’s officers. ‘One of the reasons that immigration will fall is the tightening of the new points system and it will continue to tighten over the next few months,’ he said. ‘One of the reasons for the points system is to make sure that nobody without a skill will come into the country. We are looking at the kind of skills we as a country need. We don’t want as an open economy to stop businesses being able to recruit where it’s an entirely specialist area. Companies keep telling us that this is absolutely important to their future. This is not an arbitrary cap. We are going to be setting out a programme for making sure that we in Britain can train our British young people and British workers who are looking for jobs. There is a new determination to train people in the skills that we need. We want to ensure… that we don’t have to bring to the country people with skills when we can develop those skills quickly.’

Mr Brown insisted that ministers had taken action on immigration ‘in the last two, two and a half years’ — a pointed suggestion that the issue only began to be addressed when he became Prime Minister in the summer of 2007. He said the biggest mistake over recent years had been the scrapping of embarkation controls — physically checking people in and out of the country.

Mr Brown said that ID cards for foreign workers — while controversial on the grounds of liberty — would help.

Mr Brown pledged that the measures the Government was taking would ensure the population would not reach 70million by 2029, as forecast by the Office of National Statistics. ‘It won’t,’ he said. ‘The points system that is now being tightened and being strengthened is having a major effect.’

Mr Brown added that in the past, there was an ‘implicit assumption’ that newcomers would behave well, learn English, get to know their neighbours and integrate with local community and faith groups. But he added: ‘Now we have got to be clear that the responsibilities that people accept are not implicit, they are explicit. People have to be sure that the person next door and the person in the next street is accepting their responsibility as a citizen. We ask people to show that they abide by our laws, we ask people to show that they understand our constitution and our democracy, we ask people to show that they understand the values of liberty, fair play and responsibility.’

The Conservatives highlighted new Home Office figures showing that in the first nine months of this year, 115,807 people passed the Government’s citizenship test as evidence that there was ‘no letup’ in the number of people being allowed to stay in Britain.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘In the past few weeks it has become quite clear that the Government deliberately allowed hundreds of thousands of new people into Britain for party political reasons and then tried to cover it all up.

‘The conduct of Labour Ministers has been disgraceful and it’ll take a new administration to sort things out.’

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Dutch Website Offers Suicide Tips

A website providing detailed information on how to use medicine to commit suicide has been launched, reported de Volkskrant.

The site, created by Right to Die-NL, is reportedly one of the first sites worldwide to provide detailed information on a number of ways to commit suicide.

“We found there was a great need for this kind of information and we wanted to prevent people with a death wish having to resort to gruesome methods. Sometimes they jump in front of a train, hang themselves or set themselves on fire. This is not only terrible for them, but also for the next of kin and aid workers. We believe people have the right to die with dignity,” said the director of Right to Die-NL, Petra de Jong.

One has to be above 16 to become a member of the website and to view its content. The membership fee is EUR 17.50.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Media Matters as PC Language Police

You’re a homophobic bigot if you believe there is such a thing as “traditional marriage.”

So says commissar Jamison Foser of the George Soros-backed slime factory Media Matters for America who fancies himself to be an enforcer of linguistic correctness. The more media figures listen to him, the more they will find themselves needlessly walking on eggshells.

This lexical thug who would no doubt be a fascinating psychological case study has taken it upon himself to decide which phrases you are allowed to use when discussing marriage in the battle over same-sex marriage. In the process he demonstrates his complete lack of understanding of the process of word-creation.

Foser’s argument boils down to this: traditional marriage is by definition anti-gay and hateful. Therefore, if you support traditional marriage you are a homophobic bigot worthy of ridicule and ostracism. This means you, inhabitants of the 30 or states who have chosen to define marriage traditionally.

A personal note before I deconstruct Foser’s utterly irrational argument: as someone with a foot in both the conservative and libertarian camps I am torn on the issue. I like traditional marriage as an institution and recognize that it is socially beneficial but at the same time I recognize that a nation founded upon freedom of contract can hardly deny people the ability to make contracts about their domestic relationships. An argument can be made for both forms of marriage, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

[Return to headlines]

Mormons Throw Support Behind Gay-Rights Cause

It looked like a stunning reversal: the same church that helped defeat gay marriage in California standing with gay-rights activists on an anti-discrimination law in its own backyard.

On Tuesday night, after a series of clandestine meetings between local gay-rights backers and Mormons in Salt Lake City, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it would support proposed city laws that would prohibit discrimination against gays in housing and employment.

The ordinances passed and history was made: It marked the first time the Salt Lake City-based church had supported gay-rights legislation.

The Mormon church — which continues to suffer a backlash over its support last year of Proposition 8, the measure banning gay marriage in California — emphasized that its latest position in no way contradicts its teachings on homosexuality.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Why Communism Doesn’t Make People Happy

Germany’s ranking in the Prosperity Index is a validation of those who risked their lives to tear down the Berlin Wall, writes Ryan Streeter.

Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. Its collapse marked the beginning of a reunified Germany and the end of the Cold War.

On Monday, Berliners knocked down a wall of Styrofoam “dominoes” — more fanciful than foreboding — to commemorate the moment when East Germans began hammering their way to freedom. Dominoes are quite a fitting symbol indeed. In 1989, dominoes were toppling all through the Soviet bloc. And in the wake of this unprecedented revolution, new nations were undertaking high-stakes experiments with democracy and free-market capitalism.

Two decades later, the results of those experiments are both striking and exhilarating. Just look at the Legatum Institute’s recently released 2009 Prosperity Index. The study evaluates 104 nations — 90 percent of the world’s population — along nine criteria. Our goal was to answer a simple question: What makes people around the world wealthy and happy? The index demonstrates that countries that most successfully shed the constraints of communism for free markets and political transparency are much more likely to be prosperous today.

Slovenia, once part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ranks 20th worldwide in the Index — outperforming even Italy and Portugal. Also garnering a place among the top 40 nations are the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Slovakia, Croatia, and Latvia — places where freedom was a mere dream just one generation ago.

Countries that have not broken so cleanly from communist ideology, however, are in decay — serving as an indictment of top-down state control. Russia, once the power nucleus of the USSR, has been slower than many of its former satellite countries to embrace capitalism and political reform. Its elections have been widely regarded as rigged. And the 2009 Freedom House Map of Freedom notes that property rights are precarious and the rule of law is too frequently subjugated to politics. Little wonder that Russia places a lowly 69th on the Prosperity Index. The same goes for Belarus, which ranks a dismal 85th. The country’s government maintains excessive control over the economy, reserving the right to control prices, dictate currency exchange rates, and intervene in the operations of private businesses..

The two explicitly communist countries in the index — China and Vietnam — place 75th and 77th respectively.

Our analysts, advised by a panel of academics from leading universities, identified 79 different variables that define prosperity according to measures of economic growth, innovation, quality of life, and the quality of government behavior and policy.

The small, homogenous countries of Scandinavia dominated the top positions in the index due to their sound balance between growth and social stability, while large countries such as Australia and the United States landed in the top 10 because of their combination of free-market capitalism and transparent democracy.

Germany, now a hybrid of its former Western and Eastern halves, came in 14th overall — a validation of those who risked their lives to tear down the Berlin Wall. Today’s reunified Germany ranks 8th worldwide for entrepreneurship and 6th for health. Indeed, it’s in the top quarter of the world’s countries in all nine Prosperity Index categories, from education to personal freedom.

Poland has also flourished since the fall of the Soviet Union — it lands in the top 30. The economic liberalization that swept through the country in 1990 made Poland one of the fastest growing economies in Central Europe. Prior to the current economic downturn, the country’s unemployment rate was falling faster than the EU average. And even today, Poland’s GDP continues to grow.

Another success story can be found in the Czech Republic, where two decades ago some 300,000 protesters flooded Wenceslas Square, noisily jangling their keys in a symbolic call to throw off communism. Despite memories of the 1968 Prague Spring that had been brutally crushed by Soviet tanks, they refused to be suppressed. When they prevailed, those jangling keys ultimately unlocked the doors to a free and independent Czech Republic. Today, it’s a hub of entrepreneurship and liberty, and lands in the top quarter of countries in the Prosperity Index based on economic fundamentals, democratic institutions, health, and personal freedom.

In only one category did the former Soviet satellites rank lower than average — social capital, which measures community spirit and how much citizens feel they can trust and rely on their family, friends, and neighbors.. Perhaps that result is to be expected in countries where repressive regimes once made use of secret police and urged citizens to inform on one another.

The prosperity challenge of the next generation is to forge stronger community bonds and build interpersonal trust. Succeed at that, and they will have torn down the social walls that are the final lingering remnants of the Cold War.

Ryan Streeter, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at the London-based Legatum Institute. The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index is available at

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


anti-uffe said...

"Denmark: Priest Flees Home After Hell’s Angels Attacks."

Oh no he did not. That was spin that one story originating at state television dinosaur DR tried to put on it. Hell's Angels know better than to fire shots at their own compound and throw explosive devices into neighbouring gardens.

What happened was that the priest inadvertently got caught up in the running feud between HA and Muslim gangs. The HA site happens to be within the perimeter of a heavily ethnicised area, and local gang bangers were just routinely harassing the bikers.

laine said...

We can't believe a single word the lying spinning media say anymore, including "and" and "the".