Friday, November 13, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/13/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/13/2009The big news of the day is that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the brains behind the 9-11 attacks — and other Gitmo terrorists will face criminal trials in Manhattan. The Obama administration is evidently resuming the Clinton-era policy of treating Islamic terrorism as a law-enforcement matter rather than as a national security issue.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s lawyer says that his client is paralyzed from the waist down due to the injuries he sustained in the Fort Hood firefight. Reports emerged today indicating that Maj. Hasan either sent or received wire transfers to or from Pakistan. There are even rumors that he recently traveled to Pakistan.

In other news, former Rep. William Jefferson, who infamously stashed $90,000 dollars of corrupt funds in his freezer, has been sentenced to thirteen years in prison.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Esther, Gaia, Henrik, Insubria, JD, JP, KGS, LN, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
China: Industrial Production and Foreign Trade Up, But the Yuan Remains Low
Hu and Obama in the War Over the Yuan
Alleged 9/11 Plotters Face Trial
Apple’s Rejection of iPhone App Showing Political Caricatures Rankles Creator
Atheist Soros Funds Catholic Groups
Ayers, Dohrn Accuse Hillary of ‘White Supremacy’
Brigitte Gabriel Takes the Gloves Off on Fort Hood and CAIR
Calling All Freedomists
Ft. Hood and the Clash of Civilizations: Security vs Political Correctness Revisited
Lawmaker: Hasan Had Communications With Pakistan
Louisiana Ex-Congressman Gets 13 Years on Corruption Conviction
Many Rally for Alleged Terrorist
Perry: Obama ‘Hell-Bent’ On Socialism
Reid Speeds Confirmation of Anti-Jesus, Pro-Abortion Judge
U.S. Authorities to Seize Four Mosques and 36-Storey New York Skyscraper That Are ‘Under Secret Control of Iran’
US Moves to Seize 4 Mosques, Skyscraper Owned by Foundation Linked to Iranian Government
Was Maj. Hasan in Pakistan Recently?
Europe and the EU
Airlines: Iberia Agrees to British Airways Merger Conditions
Belgian Passenger Data to US
Berlusconi: Italy is the West and America’s Loyal Ally
BNP, National Front Want EU Funding
Finland: Russian Diplomats Top Parking Scofflaw List
Finland: Organised Gang Bringing Roma Beggars?
Italy: Police Arrest Alleged Algerian Terror Gang
Italy: Venice to Stage Its Own Funeral
Italy-Slovenia: Frattini, Wide Convergence on All Issues
Latvian Candidate for EU President Says Selection Process is ‘Soviet’
Netherlands: Mild Sentence for Rotterdam Mayor’s Terrorist Cousin
Romania: UK Immigration Rules Unfair
Spain: Fungus and Drought, Iberian Pigs at Risk
Spain: Granada: Fines for Prostitutes’ Clients, Too
Swedish Comic to Extract TV Revenge on Vatican
Switzerland Takes Google to Court
UK: Benefits Britain: Labour’s Reign Puts 300,000 Families on Handouts Worth £20,000 a Year
UK: David Davies Publishes His Review of Free-to-Air Listed Events
UK: Ex-Soldier Faces Jail for Handing in Gun
UK: English Man Jailed for Racially Abusing His Scottish Neighbour
UK: Everyone in Britain Could be Given a Personal ‘Carbon Allowance’
UK: Fat Mothers-to-be Banned From Giving Birth at Their Local Hospital
UK: It’s Not Racist to Debate Migration, Says Gordon Brown as Tories Brand Him Hypocrite
UK: Lawyer Sacked From £150,000 Job After DNA is Wrongly Put on National Database
UK: MoD Spends Millions on Rent Bills
UK: The MOD Can Barely Run Itself, Let Alone a War in Afghanistan
Bosnia: Former Serb Officer’s War Crimes Sentence Cut
Croatia: Number of Artisans and Free Professionals Drops
Croatia: Number of Artisans and Free Professionals Drops
Serbia: Information Tecnologies Agreement Signed With EC
Serbia-United Arab Emirates Sign Open Sky Agreement
North Africa
Algeria: From 2010 First Digital Terrestrial TV Channels
Energy: French Companies Look to Libyan Market
Libya: Italian Cooperation Working on Date Project
Tunisia: English Presence Increases
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel Prepared to Fight Gaza Again, Says Army Chief
Netanyahu ‘Ready to Discuss Golan Pullout’
Middle East
Mosul Celebrating the Appointment of New Archbishop After the Death of Mgr Rahho
Turkey Unveils Reforms for Kurds
Turkish ‘Pirates’ About to Set Sail
Major Fire at Russia Arms Depot
Poland Concerned Over Russian Military Exercise
Russian Orthodox Breaks Ties With Protestants Over Female Leader
South Asia
Coup Feared Developing in Pakistan
Emergence of Anti-Taliban Militias a Cause for Concern
India Awaits Turkish Investors
India: Country to Renew Ties and Boost Trade With Iran
Indian Eunuchs Given Separate Ids
Pakistan: Iranian Consulate Official Shot Dead
Pakistan, India Trade Terror Charges
Sri Lanka: General Fonseka Resigns. Possibly to Run for President
Far East
Japan’s War ‘Contrary to Emperor’s Wishes’: Son
Seoul: Majority and Opposition Clash Over Environmental Policy
Sub-Saharan Africa
EU Soldiers to Help Somali Troops
MoD Vessel ‘Watched Yacht Hijack’
Navy Storms Somali Pirate Mothership
Finland: Chinese Sites in Kouvola Raided by Border Guard
Ireland: Failure of Welfare Rules
Powerless Danish Government Calls for Help on Gang War
Swedish Government Mulls New Law to Force Care for Asylum Kids
UK: Gordon Brown Offers Too Little, Too Late on Immigration
Culture Wars
10-Year-Old Refuses to Pledge Allegiance Until There’s Gay Equality in the USA
Catholic Conference of Bishops Dont’ Support Health Care Bill
Global Groups Reject Islam ‘Protection’ Plan
How U.N. Redefined ‘Pandemic’ To Heighten Alarm Over H1N1
Over 100 Groups Protest UN Debate on ‘Defamation of Religion’
The Jew Flu: The Strange Illness of Jewish Anti-Semitism

Financial Crisis

China: Industrial Production and Foreign Trade Up, But the Yuan Remains Low

Maximum growth in 19 months: +16.1 production, retail sales +16.2. The Yuan depreciated by at least 50%. Barack Obama makes requests to APEC. Some doubt on the recovery.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — In October, industrial production in China reached its highest level in over 19 months, showing signs of recovery from the global crisis. Several analysts attribute this growth to the low value of the Yuan and ask that it be appreciated.

According to figures published today by the statistics bureau, production increased by 16.1%, the strongest increase since March 2008.

Retail sales were up by 16.2%, showing that domestic consumption in China has also grown. The surplus in trade balance has doubled compared to September, reaching $ 24 billion, a sign that the reduction in exports, registered in the past months, has become less harsh: the minimum in 10 months.

The figures published today come just a few days from the meeting of the leaders of the Asia-Pacific area (APEC) in Singapore (14-15 November), where President Barack Obama will also speak. Obama almost certainly will ask China to appreciate the value of the Yuan, too undervalued and therefore considered able to impose itself unfairly in the export market. Premier Wen Jiabao has so far refused pressures on the value of the Yuan, hoping to increase exports even further and provide more jobs and more stability in his country.

Since July 2008, China has fixed the value of the Yuan at 6.83 to one U.S. dollar, with an increase of 21% compared to three years ago. But according to many economists, the real exchange rate should be 1 U.S. dollar to 3.821 Yuan (cf., 09/12/2008 Economic crisis: US, China and the coming monetary storm).

There are also doubts whether all this apparent recovery is not due to the aid package against the crisis of $ 4 trillion Yuan (over 390 billion) launched by the government last year as well as the indiscriminate granting of bank loans. According to the World Bank, more than 80% growth this year was produced by State support.

At the grassroots level, among the population increasingly high consumer prices were registered. At the same time, tens of millions of migrant workers have been laid off (because of fall in exports), who have since been re-employed on a part time basis on even lower wages than before.

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

Hu and Obama in the War Over the Yuan

Monetary policy will be a major topic on the US president’s agenda during his official visit to China. In light of the current economic crisis, China’s currency and how it is managed cannot be ignored. Beijing is in favour of revaluation but decoupled from the greenback.

Beijing (AsiaNews) —US President Barack Obama will be in China from 15 to 18 November. During his visit, he will meet his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao. The two leaders will have a busy schedule with a lot of issues, foremost trade and the value of China’s yuan-renmimbi. China has never been fully compliant with International Monetary Fund (IMF) rules, and Washington has been putting pressure on Beijing for quite some time to have the IMF determine the yuan’s real value.

Yesterday, the Chinese government announced it was ready to revalue the yuan vis-à-vis the US dollar and other currencies after an 18-month hiatus, this according to the People’s Bank of China’s third quarterly report. The exchange rate will be guided in a “proactive, controlled and gradual manner and based on international capital flows and movements in major currencies,” the report said.

Paper money (which is no longer backed by precious metals) is a stable domestic means of exchange that has legal tender. Its stability is regulated by monetary supply established by central banks, which usually try to maintain a growth rate that reflects that of the economy to avoid inflationary pressures. The same is not necessarily true for foreign currency exchanges, which are theoretically governed by international monetary rules.

When the new US administration took office in January 2009, it tried to get China to change its foreign exchange policy. Soon enough, US Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner accused China of manipulating its currency’s rate, provoking People’s Bank of China Chairman Zhongnanhai to respond with vehement denials. This in turn prompted US President Obama to repudiate what his treasury secretary had said. Still, Geithner’s remarks about the yuan being undervalued did stir an economic and political hornet’ nest.

Pressures from the US government to have the yuan re-valued would have further weakened the US dollar, and badly affected the world economy.

This is of special concern to China because of its huge foreign currency reserves in US securities and treasury bills: an estimated US$ 1.2 trillion out of US$ 2 trillion.

Beijing is already paying a hefty price for this because of US dollar devaluation against other currencies but especially the yuan.

Any sudden jump in the yuan could have unbearable consequences for the mainland, and force Beijing to sell off US securities to resist renewed US pressure for revaluation, with unimaginable consequences for the world economy.

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


Alleged 9/11 Plotters Face Trial

Civilian Court in Lower Manhattan Will Hear Terror Cases in Big Test of Justice System

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will be tried at a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, just blocks from the former World Trade Center site, in the ultimate test of the Obama administration’s strategy of trying terrorist suspects in U.S. civilian courts.

Prosecutors are expected to seek the death penalty for Mr. Mohammed and four others accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, who are now held at Guantanamo Bay, said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Friday’s announcement sets up what may be the trial of the decade, with the world’s eyes fixed on lower Manhattan as the U.S. government lays out for the first time in a public courtroom how it thinks Mr. Mohammad plotted the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

“After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice,” Mr. Holder said. “I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years.”

Mr. Holder said that the administration hopes to send a message to the world that the U.S. is giving the men a fair trial and upholding American values.

The decision to bring the alleged plotters to a New York City courtroom sparked criticism on a number of fronts, ranging from concerns about security to worries about baring state secrets. It marks only the beginning in a series of logistical, constitutional and political challenges that remain for the government. The accused have been held for years without charge, and some were subjected to harsh interrogations, including the use of waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning. A judge will have to decide whether statements made under those conditions are admissible in court. Messrs. Obama and Holder have called waterboarding torture.

Mr. Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times according to an internal Central Intelligence Agency probe, has proudly claimed responsibility for planning the attacks. At the same time he has claimed any information he gave to interrogators was caused by torture. Mr. Mohammed has rejected the assistance of lawyers. A military attorney assigned to him declined comment.

Formal charges aren’t expected to be announced for another few weeks, and trials aren’t likely until next year.

Critics called the move to hold civilian trials an unnecessary and dangerous gamble.

“Classified information can be inadvertently leaked,” said Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate. “Our cities will face enormous security problems. And our communities will be potential targets for attack.”

Mr. Holder said he had spoken to officials in New York and was confident of security precautions to ensure public safety.

Mr. Holder also announced military tribunals for five other Guantanamo detainees, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, alleged to have planned the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. Officials said the tribunals were chosen, over civilian courts, based on several factors, including the fact that their alleged crimes were against military targets or occurred overseas.

Navy Lt. Cdr. Stephen Reyes, the lawyer for Mr. Nashiri, said “The decision today was legally unsound. The real reason why the government chose to go to a commission was to ensure a conviction through otherwise inadmissible evidence.”

The Obama administration won congressional approval to add certain constitutional safeguards to the commissions, which were created by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. The commissions had faced repeated legal challenges and court setbacks related to due process for detainees. The location of the military trials hasn’t been determined.

One of President Barack Obama’s first acts in office was to announce plans to close the Guantanamo prison by January 2010. However, political and practical difficulties have dogged the effort, and officials now acknowledge the deadline is unlikely to be met.

The decision to put Mr. Mohammad on trial marks a milestone in the plans to close the prison, where 215 detainees remain. Once labeled “the worst of the worst” by government officials during the Bush administration, those held at Guantanamo include dozens considered dangerous foot soldiers of Islamist terrorism. There are also some 90 others who terrorism investigators have decided are safe enough to release. Administration officials say that although they are unlikely to meet the original deadlines, plans for closure remain on track.

The prisoners won’t be transferred for weeks, in part because of a law requiring at least 45 days notice to Congress before any prisoner transfer from Guantanamo. That restriction was put in place after Republicans and Democrats grew nervous about the prospect of bringing Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.

The detainees will be held at a federal prison in New York City.

Despite Friday’s announcement, the Obama administration isn’t nearly out of its Guantanamo thicket. Plans to send about 90 Yemeni nationals at Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia are falling apart, according to an official familiar with the matter. Since taking office, the administration has managed 16 transfers of prisoners to other countries, and nine repatriations. Homes have been found for up to another 26 detainees.

About 20 to 25 detainees may never be put on trial but are still considered too dangerous to release. They may be detained indefinitely, but it isn’t clear where, according to an official familiar with the matter.

Mr. Holder said he was confident judges could prevent detainees from using trials as a venue for anti-U.S. propaganda.

Even if prosecutors fail to win convictions, a senior Defense Department official said that the administration won’t release any dangerous detainees inside the U.S.

[Return to headlines]

Apple’s Rejection of iPhone App Showing Political Caricatures Rankles Creator

A conservative filmmaker in Hollywood thought he had developed a worthwhile iPhone app: a telephone directory listing every U.S. senator and congressman, with caricatures of the legislators drawn by an artist.

But Apple apparently didn’t see the value, and the computer behemoth said a cartoon drawing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was part of the reason why.

The filmmaker, Ray Griggs, told that his small firm, RG Entertainment, received a rejection letter from Apple this week calling the caricatures “objectionable.” He added that he has received several e-mails suggesting that Apple stock owned by Pelosi’s husband may have played a factor in the decision.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, when questioned about the application, said “this is the first I’ve heard of this.” He declined to comment further.

Apple didn’t return repeated phone calls and e-mails seeking comment for this story. RG has developed other apps for the iPhone that Apple has accepted.

The directory’s caricatures feature the drawings of every member of Congress — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike — by freelance artist Tom Richmond, who has drawn for Mad Magazine. The heads of the politicians bobble on the iPhone screen.

The app was developed for young voters who want instant online and telephone access to their senators and congressmen.

[Return to headlines]

Atheist Soros Funds Catholic Groups

On the surface, it would appear that Soros would be opposed to many positions of the Catholic Church. A major financial backer of the ACLU, Soros supports such causes as drug legalization, the rights of “sex workers” and felons, euthanasia, radical feminism, abortion rights, and homosexual rights. He does all of this in the name of promoting an “open society.”

But a review of the records of his Open Society Institute finds that a group calling itself Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) has received $200,000 from them over the last several years.

James Todd of, which represents traditional Catholics, calls such groups “CINOs,” or Catholics In Name Only. He explains, “This group and several others have sprung up recently—I suspect purposely organized and funded—to counterbalance the growing influence of the faithful Catholics AND to try to deceive and mislead the middle of the road Catholics that have determined the last 13 Presidential elections.”

An AIM investigation also finds, however, that Soros money has gone into the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), an organization established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops back in 1988. It has received at least $530,000 from the Open Society Institute.

The two issues merge in the fact that the Catholic Bishops are demanding that national health care legislation cover illegal aliens.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ayers, Dohrn Accuse Hillary of ‘White Supremacy’

Unrepentant radicals charge 2008 elections had ‘racist’ undertones

Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for the Democrat nomination deliberately appealed to white supremacy, fear and anxiety, charged longtime Barack Obama colleague and Weatherman terrorist William Ayers and wife, Bernardine Dohrn.

In a co-authored article in the socialist Monthly Review magazine, the two radicals argued last year’s national elections had “racist” undertones and that President Obama’s ascent to power can be used to “build a new society.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Brigitte Gabriel Takes the Gloves Off on Fort Hood and CAIR

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the nonprofit organization ACT! for America, and one of the leading terrorism experts in the world. Her expertise is sought after by world and business leaders. She has addressed the Australian Prime Minister, members of The British Parliament/House of Commons, members of the United States Congress, The Pentagon, The Joint Forces Staff College, The US Special Operations Command, The US Asymmetric Warfare group, the FBI, and many others. She is the author of the new book, They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It.

FP: Brigitte Gabriel, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Gabriel: It’s always a pleasure.

FP: I would like to talk to you today about the petition you are organizing against CAIR. This is part of your battle against Islamic jihad on our territory, which we just saw on horrifying and tragic display at Fort Hood.

What are your thoughts on that jihadi massacre on our own territory? It could have been prevented if it were not for our society’s and citizens’ fear of organizations such as CAIR right?…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Calling All Freedomists

Conservatives in the 1700 and 1800’s preferred government controls, privileges, monopolies, cartels and subsidies in the areas in which the revolutionary Americans believed government had no business whatsoever. Conservatives were those who wanted America to be the “British system without Great Britain.” (Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty: Libertarian Manifesto, 2nd Ed. [Auburn, AL, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2006], 8. These conservatives unsuccessfully attempted to interject their ideas for a centralized/national and monarchical government at the Constitutional Convention debates in 1787.


Conversely, liberals of the 1700 and 1800s were those who believed that government was to leave individuals, families, commerce and religion alone; that the freedom of the people to produce and prosper was more important than government sustainability and energy; and that the natural rights of man were to be protected, preferred and secured at the cost of government power and control. It was this freedom movement that led us from victory during the American Revolution in the 1700s to the Industrial revolution in the 1800s. Classic liberal leaders like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams and John Randolph fought vigorously to keep Old World conservatives like John Adams, Henry Clay, and Alexander Hamilton from creating in America through subversive constitutional (de)construction what they could not accomplish through transparent constitutional debates and ratification in 1787.


Through duplicity and deceit, classic liberalism was replaced with social liberalism, whereby the “[government] must regulate industry for the public good; substitute organized cooperation for the dog-eat-dog of the free and competitive marketplace; and above all, substitute for the nation-destroying liberal tenets of peace and free trade the nation-glorifying measures of war, protectionism, empire and military prowess.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ft. Hood and the Clash of Civilizations: Security vs Political Correctness Revisited

Since the Ft Hood atrocity, I’ve seen a meme going around that it somehow exposed a contradiction between “political correctness” and “security.” The avoidance of Nidal Hassan’s religion out of fear of offending anyone, goes the argument, created the conditions which allowed him to go undetected and unsanctioned in the months and years leading up to his rampage. American security, therefore, demands dropping the “political correctness” of avoiding a confrontation with Islamist ideas and asking the “tough questions” about Islam as a religion and the loyalty of Muslim-Americans.

This framing of the issue is almost 100% wrong. There is a connection between what these critics are calling “political correctness” and national security, but it runs in the opposite direction. The real linkage is that there is a strong security imperative to prevent the consolidation of a narrative in which America is engaged in a clash of civilizations with Islam, and instead to nurture a narrative in which al-Qaeda and its affiliates represent a marginal fringe to be jointly combatted. Fortunately, American leaders — from the Obama administration through General George Casey and top counter-terrorism officials — understand this and have been acting appropriately.

It’s worth walking through the connection once again, because how America responds to Ft. Hood really is important in the wider attempt to change the nature of its engagement with Muslim publics across the world. Get the response right, as the administration thus far has done, and they show that things really have changed. Get it wrong, as its critics demand, and the world could tumble back down into the ‘clash of civilizations’ trap which al-Qaeda so dearly wants and which the improved American approach of the last couple of years has increasingly denied it.

The grand strategy of al-Qaeda and its affiliated ideologues is, and has always been, to generate a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West which does not currently exist. Their great challenge is that the vast majority of Muslims reject their theology, ideology, strategy and tactics. That’s especially true of American Muslims. They therefore feel the need to change the environment in which Muslims live in order to change their calculations about the appropriateness of extremist identities and ideologies and actions.

Terrorism is a means towards that end. The object is to create a violent, polarized environment in which Muslims are forced to embrace a narrow, extreme version of Muslim identity. They want Muslims to accept a master narrative in which the Islamic umma is existentially threatened by Western aggression, and the only theologically and strategically appropriate individual response is to join the jihad in the path of god (as they have defined it).

They recognize that most Muslims won’t embrace this radical conception of their identity just through messaging, internet rhetoric, or preaching. To make inroads with mainstream Muslim communities, they need to change the context in which they live — to render their status quo unacceptable and to make their narrative resonate. And for that to happen, they need a lot of help — for the targeted governments to take inflammatory measures against their Muslim populations, for the non-Muslim citizens in the targeted countries to discriminate against them, and for the media to fan the flames of hatred and mistrust.

Understanding this strategy points towards some fairly obvious guidelines for judging various responses. Al-Qaeda and its affiliated ideologues don’t just want their targets to overreact with blanket crackdowns on the mainstream Muslim community — they are counting on it. They want to create a homogenous, undifferentiated Islam on whose behalf they speak and a coherent master narrative which justifies and validates their actions. American reactions which feed AQ’s master narrative, lump together disparate Muslim movements, and tar a wide range of Muslims with the AQ brush therefore serve al-Qaeda’s strategy. Responses which disrupt AQ’s narrative, disaggregate the Muslim world and relegate AQ to a marginal fringe frustrate its strategy.

A lot of people — some well-meaning, some clowns or worse — evidently want the American response to the Ft. Hood shootings to revive the post-9/11 “war of ideas” and “clash of civilizations” anti-Islamic discourse. It’s a jihad, they shout, demanding careful scrutiny of the loyalty of American Muslims. That’s what they seem to mean by the demand to throw away “political correctness” and confront the ideological menace. The overall effect of their recommendations, however, would be to revive the flagging al-Qaeda brand and to greatly strengthen the appeal of its narrative. And that’s exactly what we should not want.

I don’t think it’s going to happen. President Obama and his national security team clearly rejects such strategic misconceptions. They understand the importance of combining effective police work and international cooperation with a carefully calibrated rhetoric and strategic communications campaign. Americans have learned a lot since 9/11. And if the careful police work and investigation uncovers real ties to al-Qaeda, then I expect they will pursue those leads and carry out the appropriate response quietly and efficiently —- but without inflaming public hostilities, scoring cheap political points, or fueling the al-Qaeda narrative.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Lawmaker: Hasan Had Communications With Pakistan

FORT HOOD, Texas — The Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in a shooting spree at Fort Hood made or accepted wire transfers with Pakistan, a country wracked by Muslim extremist violence, a Republican congressman said Friday.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking GOP member of the House Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee, said people outside the intelligence community with direct knowledge of the transfers also told him Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan also had communications with Pakistan.

“He may have friends or relatives or whatever and this could be totally (innocent),” McCaul said in a telephone interview. “But if he is wiring money to Pakistan, that could be terrorist financing. If he was receiving money from Pakistan, that is more significant.”

McCaul said he does not know the direction of the transfers and communications, only that they passed between Hasan and Pakistan. He said the lack of additional information is why Congress should launch an investigation.

Hasan, 39, was charged Thursday with 13 counts of premeditated murder in a military court, and Army investigators have said he is the only suspect in the case and could face additional charges. His attorney, John Galligan, has said prosecutors have not yet told him whether they plan to seek the death penalty.

A pair of civilian police officers responding to last week’s attack, in which 43 people were also injured, including 34 with gunshot wounds, shot Hasan four times. Recovering in the intensive care unit at San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center, Hasan has told his attorney he has no feeling in his legs and extreme pain in his hands.

Galligan said doctors have told Hasan he may be permanently paralyzed from the waist down. He called his client’s medical condition “extremely serious” and said Hasan didn’t flinch when Galligan touched his leg during a meeting Thursday, when one of Hasan’s relatives was able to see him for the first time since he was hospitalized.

Hospital spokesman Dewey Mitchell said he could not confirm whether Hasan was paralyzed, since Hasan has directed hospital officials not to release any information about his condition or injuries.

The question of how Hasan spent his Army salary stems from the apparently frugal lifestyle he lived both in the small city of Killeen, Texas, outside of Fort Hood, and in the Washington, D.C., suburbs when stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In Texas, he lived in a rundown apartment that cost $350 a month and drove a 2006 Honda.

As an Army major with more than 12 years of service, Hasan earns just over $92,000 a year in basic pay and housing and food allowances, according to pay tables from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Hasan’s gross monthly salary is $6,325.50 a month, or $75,906 annually. He also gets $1,128 a month for a housing allowance and $223 a month for meals, which adds up to another $16,212 a year.

Military psychiatrists may also receive as much as $20,000 a year in incentive pay, according to the tables. But to get the bonus, they must meet certain requirements, such as agreeing to remain on active duty for at least one year after accepting the award. Hasan’s Army records are sealed due to the ongoing investigation, and it isn’t clear if he was eligible for the bonus or agreed to the conditions.

President Barack Obama has ordered a review of all intelligence related to Hasan and whether the information was properly shared and acted upon within government agencies. Several members of Congress, particularly Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, have also called for a full examination of what agencies knew about Hasan’s contacts with a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen and others of concern to the U.S.

Hoekstra confirmed this week that government officials knew about 10 to 20 e-mails between Hasan and the radical imam, beginning in December 2008.

A joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI learned late last year of Hasan’s repeated contact with the cleric, who encouraged Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The FBI said the task force did not refer early information about Hasan to superiors because it concluded he wasn’t linked to terrorism.

[Return to headlines]

Louisiana Ex-Congressman Gets 13 Years on Corruption Conviction

Alexandria, Virginia (CNN) — Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his conviction on 11 counts of corruption.

Jefferson was also ordered to forfeit more than $470,000 after his conviction for using his office to solicit bribes.

He will also have to pay $1,100 in special assessments.

The case against the former nine-term Louisiana Democrat included allegations of influence-peddling and the discovery of $90,000 in cash in his freezer.

Judge T.S. Ellis will determine at a hearing next Wednesday whether Jefferson will remain free pending appeal. Until then, he is free.

“The court’s sentence today reaffirms the principle that all people — no matter what their title or position — are equal before the law,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman in a statement.

“In a stunning betrayal of the public’s trust, former Congressman Jefferson repeatedly used his public office for private gain. The lengthy prison sentence imposed on Mr. Jefferson today is a stark reminder to all public officials that the consequences of accepting bribes can and will be severe.”

Jefferson’s family was in the courtroom when District Judge T.S. Ellis handed down the sentence.

He had faced up to 150 years in prison.

“This sentence should be a clear signal that our society will not tolerate bribery,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said in a written statement. “It’s not just another cost of doing business in government.

“Mr. Jefferson’s repeated attempts to sell his office caused significant damage to the public’s trust in our elected leaders. This sentence will begin to repair that damage and to restore that trust.

“Mr. Jefferson is well-known for the $90,000 found in his freezer. It is our hope that he will now be well-known for the tough sentence handed down today, showing that no one — including our elected officials — are above the law.”

Jefferson, of New Orleans, still faces the forfeiture of nearly $500,000 — money a jury said is linked to criminal activity for which he has been convicted.

On August 5, a jury found Jefferson guilty on four bribery counts, three counts of money laundering, three counts of wire fraud and one count of racketeering. He was acquitted on five other counts, including wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

He had remained free prior to Friday’s sentencing.

Jefferson was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 4, 2007, about two years after federal agents said they found the money in his freezer. Authorities said the cash was part of a payment in marked bills from an FBI informant in a transaction captured on video.

The trial was delayed while it was resolved whether an FBI search of Jefferson’s congressional office was constitutional.

Defense attorney Robert Trout had asked the judge for leniency, citing Jefferson’s personal history of humble beginnings and long-standing public service.

Prosecutors, in turn, filed a response saying Jefferson deserved no preferential treatment since he “still chose to cheat, steal and lie.”

“Congressman Jefferson has still not accepted responsibility for his own criminal conduct,” prosecutors wrote. He “still rationalizes his own unethical, illegal and immoral conduct.”

[Return to headlines]

Many Rally for Alleged Terrorist

A jailed Sudbury terror suspect fighting to be put under house arrest yesterday drew more than 100 outraged supporters to federal court, where his lawyer disclosed the trained pharmacist was charged only after he refused to become an FBI informant.

As prosecutors argued Tarek Mehanna, 27, is too “radicalized” to be sprung from Plymouth County Correctional Center, his supporters, including children wearing “Justice for Tarek” T-shirts, insisted outside the packed courtroom that he did nothing wrong.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Perry: Obama ‘Hell-Bent’ On Socialism

Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry accused President Barack Obama on Wednesday of “punishing” Texas and being “hell-bent” on turning the United States into a socialist country.

Speaking at a luncheon for a Midland County Republican Women’s group, Perry said that “this is an administration hell-bent toward taking American towards a socialist country. And we all don’t need to be afraid to say that because that’s what it is.”

Perry praised the tea party movement to the Republican activists in attendance, crediting the grassroots groups with discouraging some Democrats in Washington from pushing for a public option in the health care bill.


Perry also accused the Obama administration of intentionally dumping illegal immigrants from other western states in Texas, recalling a conversation he had with local officials notifying him that illegal aliens that were caught in Nogales, Arizona were being dropped off by federal authorities in Presidio, Texas.


“It’s called the alien transfer-and-exit program,” Perry told the crowd, “trucking them from Nogales, past El Paso down to our western border in Presidio.”

The Texas governor said he sees the action as “punishing this state” and urged the assembled Republicans to “stand up” to Washington.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Reid Speeds Confirmation of Anti-Jesus, Pro-Abortion Judge

Obama nominee claimed primary job to ‘write footnotes in the Constitution’

Republicans have attempted to block a vote on Hamilton’s nomination. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., called for a filibuster in April and May. Sessions recently sent a letter to several Republican legislators in opposition to Hamilton, warning that in more than a few instances, he “has used his position as a district court judge to drive a political agenda.”

Sessions said Hamilton declared in a 2003 speech that a judge’s primary job is “write footnotes in the Constitution” and said he believes “empathy” should sway a judge’s decisions.

“This view evidences an activist judicial philosophy,” Sessions warned. “Judges are not given the power to amend the Constitution or write footnotes to it.”


In the 2007 case United States v. Rinehart, Hamilton requested clemency for a 32-year-old police officer who pled guilty to two counts of child pornography. The officer said he had “consensual” sex with two teenagers and videotaped the incidents.

In 2008, Hamilton issued a ruling against a law requiring sex offenders to release personal information such as e-mail addresses and screen names, and to submit to regular search warrants.

Hamilton, a Yale graduate, served a vice president for litigation and a board member of the Indiana branch of the ACLU prior to becoming a federal judge. He also previously worked as a door-to-door fundraiser for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, a community organizing group currently riddled in scandal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Authorities to Seize Four Mosques and 36-Storey New York Skyscraper That Are ‘Under Secret Control of Iran’

Prosecutors filed a civil complaint yesterday in federal court against the Alavi Foundation in an attempt to take control of more than $500million in assets.

The move may be one of the biggest counter-terrorism seizures in American history.

The assets include bank accounts; Islamic centres consisting of schools and mosques in New York City, Maryland, California and Houston; more than 100 acres of land in Virginia; and a 36-story glass office tower in New York.

The mosques and the skyscraper will remain open while the case is tangled up in the courts. It is expected to be a long legal process.

What will happen to them if the government wins is unclear. The U.S. government usually sells properties it has seized through forfeiture, and the proceeds are sometimes distributed to crime victims.

Prosecutors claim the Alavi Foundation managed the office tower on behalf of the Iranian government.

Working with a front company known as Assa Corp., the Foundation illegally funnelled millions in rental income to Iran’s state-owned Bank Melli, they claim.

Bank Melli has been accused by a U.S. Treasury official of providing support for Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It is illegal in the U.S. to do business with the bank.

The U.S. has long suspected the foundation was an arm of the Iranian government. A 97-page complaint includes details of the involvement of several top Iranian officials in the Foundation’s business — including the deputy prime minister and ambassadors to the United Nations.

The skyscraper in New York, known as the Piaget building, was erected in the 1970s on Manhattan’s posh Fifth Avenue under the shah of Iran. The shah was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Tenants of the skyscraper include law and investment firms, among other businesses.

The sleek, modern building, last valued at $570million to $650million in 2007, has served as an important source of income for the foundation over the past 36 years.

The most recent tax records show the foundation earned $4.5million from rents in 2007.

Rents collected from the building help fund the Islamic centres and other ventures, such as sending educational books and other literature to jailed Muslims in the U.S.

The foundation has also invested in dozens of mosques around the country and supported Iranian academics at prominent universities.

If federal prosecutors seize the skyscraper, the Alavi Foundation would have almost no way to continue supporting the Islamic centres, which house schools and mosques.

That could leave a major void in Shiite communities, and hard feelings toward the FBI, which played a big role in the investigation.

‘For two decades, the Alavi Foundation’s affairs have been directed by various Iranian officials, including Iranian ambassadors to the United Nations, in violation of a series of American laws,’ U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Confiscating the properties would be a sharp blow against Iran, which has been accused by the U.S. government of bankrolling terrorism and trying to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran’s U.N. Mission has not yet commented on the case.

So far no British link has emerged in the operation.

The Alavi Foundation is the successor organization to the Pahlavi Foundation, a non-profit group used by the shah to advance Iran’s charitable interests in America.

But authorities said its agenda changed after the fall of the shah in 1979.

There were no raids yesterday as part of the forfeiture action. All the government had to do was post notices of the civil complaint on the property.

John D. Winter, the Alavi Foundation’s lawyer, said it intends to fight back against the move.

He said the foundation has been co-operating with the government’s investigation for the better part of a year.

‘Obviously the foundation is disappointed that the government has decided to bring this action,’ Mr Winter said.

It is extremely rare for U.S. law enforcement authorities to seize a house of worship. To do so immediately raises questions about the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

The move is also expected to inflame tensions between the U.S. government and American Muslims.

Many Muslims in the U.S. are already fearful of a backlash after last week’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood military base, blamed on a Muslim American major.

‘Whatever the details of the government’s case against the owners of the mosques, as a civil rights organization we are concerned that the seizure of American houses of worship could have a chilling effect on the religious freedom of citizens of all faiths and may send a negative message to Muslims worldwide,’ said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

‘No action has been taken against any tenants or occupants of those properties,’ U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Yusill Scribner said.

‘The tenants and occupants remain free to use the properties as they have before today’s filing. There are no allegations of any wrongdoing on the part of any of these tenants or occupants.’

As prosecutors outlined their allegations against Alavi, the Islamic centres and the schools they run carried on as normal yesterday. The mosques’ leaders would not comment on the case and accusations.

Parents lined up in their cars to pick up their children at the schools within the Islamic Education Center of Greater Houston and the Islamic Education Center in Rockville, Maryland.

No notices of the forfeiture action were posted at either place as of late last night.

At the Islamic Institute of New York, a mosque and school in the city’s Queens borough, two U.S. marshals came to the door and rang the bell repeatedly.

When there was no answer, the marshals taped a forfeiture notice to the window and left a large document sitting on the ground. After they left a group of men came out of the building and took the document.

The fourth Islamic centre marked for seizure is in Carmichael, California.

The operation comes at a tense moment in U.S.-Iranian relations, with the two sides at odds over Iran’s nuclear programme and its arrest of three American hikers.

But Michael Rubin, an expert on Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, said the timing of the forfeiture action was probably just a coincidence.

‘Suspicion about the Alavi Foundation transcends three administrations,’ Mr Rubin said.

‘It’s taken ages dealing with the nuts and bolts of the investigation. It’s not the type of investigation which is part of any larger strategy.’

Legal scholars said they know of only a few cases in U.S. history in which authorities have seized a house of worship.

Marc Stern, a religious-liberty expert with the American Jewish Congress, called such cases extremely rare.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

US Moves to Seize 4 Mosques, Skyscraper Owned by Foundation Linked to Iranian Government

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors have taken steps to seize four U.S. mosques and a Manhattan skyscraper owned by a non-profit Muslim organization long suspected of being secretly controlled by the Iranian government.

In what could prove to be one of the biggest counterterrorism seizures in U.S. history, prosecutors filed a civil complaint Thursday in federal court against the Alavi Foundation, seeking the forfeiture of more than $500 million in assets.

The assets include bank accounts; Islamic centres consisting of schools and mosques in New York City, Maryland, California and Houston; more than 100 acres (40 hectares) in Virginia; and a 36-story glass office tower in New York.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Was Maj. Hasan in Pakistan Recently?

[Note from Esther: I really wonder what happened to the two boys he had]

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

CNN’s Arab commentator, Octavia Nasr, 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. Hassan was wearing the “shalwar-kameez,” the traditional attire worn by Pushtoons 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. No Arab male would ever want to be seen wearing this garb. Having said that, there is one particular group of Arabs who did embrace the garb of the Pushtoons. They were the “Afghan Arabs” who went to Afghanistan to wage jihad alongside al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Airlines: Iberia Agrees to British Airways Merger Conditions

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 12 — Iberia has agreed to the conditions placed by British Airways to formalise the merger between the two companies, which have been under negotiations for the past year and half, according to sources quoted by ABC today. British Airways will control 55% of the shares of the new company, while Iberia will have control over the remaining. The news of the calling of an extraordinary board meeting for Iberia today in Madrid to vote on the agreement already ratified last week by the executives of the British group, caused Iberia shares to rise sharply this morning on the stock exchange, by 7%, while those of BA saw a 6% increase. BA will have a capitalisation of 2.079 billion euros compared to the 1.993 of Iberia. According to what has been announced in advance by sector sources, Antonio Vazquez, Iberia president, will be the president of the new holding, while Willie Walsh will be managing director. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Belgian Passenger Data to US

From Dutch: The Belgian Senate approved the EU decision to hand over data on flight passengers to the US.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi: Italy is the West and America’s Loyal Ally

(AGI) — Rome, 13 Nov. — “Now there is only one West, made up not only by the countries of the European Union but also the United States. We have sound relations with these governments, and enjoy ever-increasing solidarity, we are considered sure and loyal allies” Silvio Berlusconi tells those who ask if boosting political and economic relations with the countries of the East could risk creating difficulties with Italy’straditional partners in the West.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

BNP, National Front Want EU Funding

Extreme-right groups led by the British National Party (BNP) and France’s National Front are negotiating with like-minded movements in a bid to secure European Union funding, they said Thursday.

BNP leader Nick Griffin said money for political activities would be shared between the members of a far-right alliance in the European Parliament — which currently needs an elected representative in one more EU nation to meet the criteria for official political status and the funding that goes with it.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Finland: Russian Diplomats Top Parking Scofflaw List

Most diplomats fail to pay parking tickets in Helsinki, reports the free daily Metro. Russian diplomats are responsible for the largest number of unpaid fines.

As of late September, 108 tickets had been slapped on cars with “CD” plates registered with the Russian Embassy. None had been paid, according to Metro.

The paper adds that last year, more than 100 fines were left unpaid by Russian Embassy staff.

At the other extreme, US diplomatic vehicles have incurred 16 parking tickets this year. All but one of these fines have been paid. Last year 18 fines were paid out of 22 imposed on American Embassy vehicles.

According to Embassy spokesperson Anne Laanti, US diplomats pay for their parking tickets out of their own pocket, and no disciplinary measures have been needed. Russian Embassy press secretary Irina Naletova declined to comment on the matter.

Overall only about 10 percent of fines placed on CD cars are paid in an average year.

Altogether more than 600 tickets have been written out for illegally parked diplomatic cars this year, of which around 80 have been paid. The City of Helsinki lost out on more 21,000 euros in unpaid fines in the first three quarters of the year.

The second-largest offender so far this year is South Korea, which collected 42 tickets in the first nine months of the year, up from around 15 during the same period last year.

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

Finland: Organised Gang Bringing Roma Beggars?

Police in Romania have searched homes and detained 12 people on suspicion of systematically bringing Roma beggars to Finland.

Finnish and Romanian officials have been working together since last summer to confirm suspicions that organised crime lies behind the steady flow of members of the EU state’s Roma minority onto Finnish city streets.

In late October, Helsinki city officials began dismantling illegal shanty and tent camps built by Romanian beggars.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Italy: Police Arrest Alleged Algerian Terror Gang

Milan, 12 Nov. (AKI) — Police authorities in various European countries on Thursday arrested 17 Algerian criminal and terrorism suspects, six of them in the northern Italian city of Milan. The suspects are accused of being in possession of fake IDs as well as material to make counterfeit documents and extortion among other things.

According to investigations carried out by the anti-organised crime branch of Italy’s tax police, some of the arrested Algerians appear on a United Nations list of terror suspects.

Other suspects had allegedly made contact with North Africans who are being investigated for international terrorism in various European countries.

The UN list said that the suspects were producing the fake documents to allow people to cross borders in Europe and North Africa.

The group was also allegedly involved in numerous criminal acts such as kidnapping and theft. It is alleged its members then used false IDs to send the cash from these activities to Algeria. The fake IDs included those of Algerian football players who once played in Europe’s professional leagues, according to investigators.

Italian police reportedly cooperated with their French, Austrian, Swiss, Spanish, English and Algerian counterparts to carry out the operation, dubbed ‘Special Hajj’.

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

Italy: Venice to Stage Its Own Funeral

Remaining natives aim to stem population decline

(ANSA) — Venice, November 12 — Venice residents are to stage a mock funeral for the city Saturday to highlight the drastic shrinking of its native population.

Three gondolas will escort a red coffin along famed canals in a symbolic lament for the once-flourishing city’s decline.

In the 1950s there were some 300,000 native Venetians but the latest surveys say the population has shrunk to 60,000.

People aren’t scared the city is sinking but have been fleeing to cheaper and more liveable local towns, experts say. There has been a rising tourist influx that has pushed up consumer prices and a spike in property values that has seen wealthier outsiders buy second homes there.

One of the organisers of Saturday’s funeral, pharmacist Andrea Morelli, thinks the event may make Venetians fonder of their roots and more likely to stay.

“Who knows, it could even spur a rebirth,” he said, standing at a population ticker he installed outside his pharmacy, which recently dropped below the 60,000 mark.

“We have to create a Venice new residents will want to stay in”.

According to the US newsmagazine Newsweek, there may not be a single ‘trueborn’ Venetian left there by 2030.

The city has taken strong measures in recent years to reduce the impact of an estimated 55,000 daily tourists, most of them in-and-out backpackers.

They have been barred from misbehaving, eating in historic piazzas and going around bare-chested.

The city council has also considered entry fees.

At the end of August officials said it would take “drastic” new moves to curb the daily tourist influx that is driving residents away.

“There’s a physical threshold you can’t go over,” councillor Enrico Mingardi said.

Venice has just been through another summer of throngs of backpackers and other one-day tourists jamming the city’s narrow streets and packing waterboats.

Venice dwellers “can no longer stand these disruptions,” Mingardi said, proposing that only those with overnight bookings should be let in.

He said the city council would thrash out restrictive measures with residents’ groups and tourist associations.

But retailers’ and hotels’ interests are often in conflict with those of home-owners, observers say.

In recent years struggling businesses have been charging residents the same prices they used to just hit tourists with, they say.

In conjunction with Saturday’s funeral, an American research group will take DNA samples from male volunteers with at least one grandparent born in Venice.

The aim is to trace the roots of the Venetians and their subsequent expansion across a maritime empire that once ruled much of the eastern Mediterranean.

The team, from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, also aims to figure out where the ancient Venetian tribes originally came from.

This is believed to be somewhere in eastern Europe.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy-Slovenia: Frattini, Wide Convergence on All Issues

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, NOVEMBER 10 — There is “great convergence and consensus on all of the agenda’s issues” between Italy and Slovenia: on issues of “delicate international policy we are on the same front”, no “divergence or dissent”. The Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, in Ljubljana to participate in the meeting, the second since the constitution a year ago of the coordination committee made up of the ministers of the two countries, stressed in this way the “climate of friendship, collaboration and cooperation” between Italy and Slovenia. He also said that he was optimistic on that which at the moment seems to be the ‘apple of discord’ between the two countries: the Zaule-Trieste regasifier, a plant which produces 8 billion cubic metres of gas per year, on which Slovenia has taken a position for some time and threatened to ask for Europe’s judicial help. “We are supplying important documentation to Slovenia which will give them all of the responses they are waiting for”, Frattini explained in a press conference next to the Minister of the Environment Stefania Prestagiacomo who, as a part of the committee’s work, has met with her Slovenian counterpart Karl Erjanec. “They are clarifications which will allow the project to move forward”, Frattini added. But Ljubljana has slowed down. “It was a worthwhile meeting, but more will be needed”, explained Erjanec highlighting that “he does not agree” with the fact that the supplied documentation “can end doubts for the lovenian government”. Ljubljana, he reminded, would like to “see an evaluation of environmental impact which also takes into consideration the trans-border impact. Many aspects have been cleared up, but we want a total overview that includes environmental mitigation measures”, the Slovenian minister added. “It was an important meeting and of great convergence”, stressed Frattini explaining that on delicate questions like Afghanistan and the western Balkans “we are on the same front”. And “we are convinced that on the western Balkan front a European prospect must be guaranteed beginning with visas”, he added explaining that there is also the commitment to work together during a summit, in 2010, under the Spanish presidency. “We have expressed appreciation for the recent agreement with Croatia” on the maritime border dispute which will allow for Zagreb to adhere shortly. In the course of the meeting, as the final declaration signed by the two foreign ministers reported, the question of minorities in the two countries was also addressed. Italy, Frattini explained, guaranteed the allocation of the financing approved last year (over 4 million euros) for 2010 as well and will try, again next year, to allocate another million with the a new bill for exceptions. “We expect the same from Slovenia for our minority in the country”, Frattini added citing the necessity to “recognise Radio-TV Capo d’Istria”. In the bilateral talks with Zbogar, Frattini said, “we also spoke of the new Europe” in the light of the Lisbon Treaty and the “many other themes, in the spirit of absolute positive collaboration”. There was also the issue of cooperation on the railroads, energy and agriculture. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Latvian Candidate for EU President Says Selection Process is ‘Soviet’

Mrs Vike-Freiberga, 71, the former Latvian President and the Baltic state’s first post-Communist leader after independence from the Soviet Union, attacked the EU for operating in “darkness and behind closed doors”.

“The European Union should stop working like the former Soviet Union,” she said.

She is the only person to have openly declared herself as in the running to become EU President, a job created by the Lisbon Treaty.

European leaders will choose both a President and EU foreign minister over a summit dinner in Brussels next Thursday but the list of up to 12 candidates for each post is a closely guarded diplomatic secret.

Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian prime minister, is thought to be the current favourite for president. He has French and German support but has not publicly declared himself to be in the contest.

Other names in the ring are Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, and Jan Peter Balkenende, the current Dutch leader. Neither man has openly put himself forward as a candidate.

David Miliband, an undeclared candidate for the post of EU foreign minister until he pulled out on Wednesday, compared media efforts to work out the EU appointment process as akin to “Kremlinology”.

Kremlinology was the name given to Cold War era attempts to understand the inner workings of a secretive and totalitarian Soviet government.

The lack of public, democratic campaigning during Soviet leadership battles left Western observers trying to divine internal political dynamics from apparent trivia such as seating orders at official banquets and the removal of portraits.

“Trying to work out who is going to be President of the EU Council is not dissimilar to decoding who was in or out in the Kremlin in the 1970s. It seems strange to many of us that 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall we have to dust off our Kremlinology skills here in Brussels,” said an Eastern European diplomat.

Frederik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister and current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, is overseeing the secretive job selection. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he denied that there was any comparison to the Soviet Union.

“I think it is a wrong comparison to use the word Kremlinologist because the Communist oppression was nowhere near what we are trying to achieve with democracy in Europe,” he said.

Mrs Vike-Freiberga, who speaks English, French, German and Spanish in addition to Latvian, steered Latvia into the EU and Nato in 2004 and served as president for two consecutive terms between 1999 and 2007.

Known as the Latvian “Iron Lady” for her support of the Iraq war and military intervention in Afghanistan, she is not a member of a political party but is regarded as from the centre-right.

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

Netherlands: Mild Sentence for Rotterdam Mayor’s Terrorist Cousin

THE HAGUE, 13/11/09 — An appeal court in Amsterdam has found Lahbib Bachar and his wife Hanan Sarrokh guilty of terrorism. They received jail sentences of 104 and 74 days respectively, the same length as the time they already spent in custody.

Bachar is a second cousin to Ahmed Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, a remarkable fact which however did not draw much media attention during the court case. He and his wife were found guilty of playing a supporting role in the group around terrorists Samir Azzouz and Noureddine el Fatmi, who are serving long prison sentences for preparing attacks on various Dutch politicians.

A district court in Rotterdam earlier sentenced the couple to three years in jail. The lower court said it would have sentenced them to between 8 and 10 years in jail if mitigating circumstances were not taken into account. The most important was that they acted as witnesses against Azzouz and El Fatmi.

Bachar and Sarrokh participated in making preparations for terrorist crimes such as a bombing attack, murder or manslaughter, aimed at Dutch parliamentarians of all political movements. Bachar and Sarrokh admitted that they made all kinds of preparations for attacks, on the orders of Azzouz and El Fatmi, including hiding them from authorities in a Brussels apartment and trafficking automatic weapons to that apartment. They stated that they did so for fear of being seen as apostate Muslims and therefore killed.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Romania: UK Immigration Rules Unfair

New Home Office restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants have been attacked by Romania’s Foreign Ministry.

Officials say the rules are unfair and are cheating Romanian workers out of free access to the British jobs market.

Britain this week announced its plans to deny open door immigration to the two new EU states for another two years because of the credit crunch.

Yesterday (Wednesday) Romania’s Foreign Ministry described the ban as “disappointing” saying its country’s workers should not be denied full rights to the British jobs market.

“One country maintaining blocks against the free circulation of workers in the community prevents using the entire employment potential of the EU to overcome the current economic crisis,” added a spokesman.

At the heart of the row are new official figures from Romania showing that its struggling economy has never been worse.

Government officials are desperate to see a surge in workers leaving the country to seek work in the UK to ease the pressure on state handouts at home.

New statistics from the Save the Children Fund charity show that nearly a third of all children in Romania are living in poverty.

And fewer children than ever are attending school while more than 70,000 youngsters are working as illegal child labour, says the charity’s report.

“This country is flat broke and bursting at the seams with poverty stricken workers with no jobs. They are desperate to get to Britain and work there.

“It would solve so many of Romania’s problems,” said one official.

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

Spain: Fungus and Drought, Iberian Pigs at Risk

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 11 — A fungus from Australia, drought, insects and climate change have made an explosive cocktail that threatens the oak woods from Andalusia and Estramadura and their acorns used to feed the prized Iberian pigs used for the celebrated and registered Spanish prosciutto. The alarm was raised by the progressive risk by changes in the ecosystem of the pastures by the pig farmers who raise their livestock used for Bellota prosciutto, the best of the Spanish hams, exclusively on acorns. The oak trees are threatened by a fungus from Australia, mostly responsible for the draught already aggravated by climate change. Currently, according to a report in today’s El Pais, there are 500 places where the fungus has been identified and experts admit that for now there is no solution to the problem which in the medium term could damage the raising of Spanish pigs. Gerardo Moreno, a professor of biology at the Estremadura university explains that the poisonous effect is the result of a series of combined factors including excessively compact planting, the on-going draught and air pollution all which contribute to the spread of the disease. The mortality rate may not be high but the problem is that no new trees are growing and the pasture is considered a fossilized wood, explained Moreno. In 2008 the drought hit 246,000 of the 2.5 million hectares of oak wood used for pasture in raising the pigs according to data from the Forum for its defence and conservation, Encinal. Last summer, according to the state meteorological agency, was the hottest since 1961, with temperatures 1.9 degrees higher than the seasonal average. Another aggravating factor is connected to the socioeconomic changes over the last decades, since, as Moreno points out, currently twice the amount of livestock are let out to pasture in the oak woods. Climate problems and overuse have caused the ecosystem to deteriorate with affects production of the Bellota ham. The biggest worry, according to the biologist, is not knowing what causes the disease or how to fight it. Farmers are asking for solution because they say without the acorns there won’t be any Spanish pigs. (ANSAmed) (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Granada: Fines for Prostitutes’ Clients, Too

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 10 — The sex market on the streets is banned starting today in Granada with fines up to 3,000 euros for prostitutes and clients if the offer, request, negotiation or acceptance of sexual services happens less than 200 metres from a residential areas, schools, stores or offices. A city ordinance in force today was approved in September with votes in favour from the Popular Part and the PSOE and votes against from the IU, the radical left. If prostitution takes place outside the indicated zones, fines can be up to 750 euros, both for clients and prostitutes. Revenue will go to social programmes. The ordinance also bans insistent or aggressive begging, street arts including mimes, singers and artists without city permits, windshield cleaners at stoplights and graffiti or murals on buildings with fines varying from 751 to 1,500 euros. Writing on monuments, considered serious infractions will be punished with fines of up to 3,000 euros. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedish Comic to Extract TV Revenge on Vatican

Swedish comic and author Jonas Gardell has announced plans to use his religious TV programme to respond to a Vatican ruling to bar him from Rome’s churches claiming that Jesus would not have excluded him.

Jonas Gardell and his Sveriges Television film team were informed this week that their permit to film in St.Peter’s Basilica, or any other Catholic place of worship in Rome, to film material for his new series on Christianity, had been revoked, according to a report on the Christian website Dagen.

Gardell, who is a practising Christian, claims that it is the Swedish Catholic church bishop Anders Arborelius who is behind the decision to block his TV team, arguing that Jesus would never have excluded them, or anyone else.

Arborelius’ spokesperson, Maria Hasselgren, has confirmed that the bishop has not supplied Gardell and SVT with the required references to gain entry to the churches but denies that there has been any contact with the Vatican.

“He has said simply that he can not support Jonas Gardell filming in St.Peter’s. It has nothing to do with his sexuality, but due to his unsubstantiated criticism of the Catholic Church,” Hasselgren told Sveriges Radio’s (SR) “Studio Ett” programme referring to Gardel’s homosexuality.

“He (Jonas Gardell) is not prepared to conduct an objective debate and so it would be very strange to admit him to our holy places. Would the Jews admit representatives from the (far-right) Sweden Democrats to report from the synagogue?”

Gardell has responded to his exclusion by writing in a new feature in his programme in which he will address the subject of the “exclusionary Jesus” and will instead film from the from the steps of the basilica.

Gardell, who is a honorary doctor in theology from Lund University and the author of a recent book entitled “About Jesus” (Om Jesus), explained to SR that as he understands the situation the withdrawal of the permits also encompass a ban on him personally entering any of Rome churches.

“It is very upsetting, it means in practice that they have imposed a form of “bull of excommunication” against me.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Switzerland Takes Google to Court

Web search giant Google faces a court case in Switzerland because of privacy concerns over its Street View service.

The application allows a 360-degree view of any street-level location.

“Numerous faces and vehicle number plates are not made sufficiently unrecognisable,” said data protection commissioner Hanspeter Thuer.

Google said it was disappointed by the move. The firm says it is sure that Street View is legal in Switzerland and will “vigorously contest” the case.

Line of sight

Mr Thuer is especially concerned about people shown in sensitive locations such as hospitals, prisons or schools.

He also said that the height of the camera was problematic because it allowed a view over fences, hedges and walls, meaning that more could be seen from Street View than by a normal passer-by.

The commissioner said Google was asked in August to take various measures and had not complied with the requests.

It is likely to take months before any court case actually starts, but it could have a more immediate impact on the Swiss availability of the service.

Mr Thuer has asked a tribunal to order Google to remove all pictures of Switzerland and to cease taking any more until a ruling has been made.

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

UK: Benefits Britain: Labour’s Reign Puts 300,000 Families on Handouts Worth £20,000 a Year

The number of families raking in more than £20,000 a year in benefits has trebled since Labour came to power, figures showed yesterday.

Britain’s culture of spiralling welfare dependency means 300,000 households now receive that figure or more in benefits — up from 100,000 in 1997.

A worker would have to earn £27,000 a year to take home £20,000.

The figures also showed that the number of households receiving more than £15,000 a year from the state has doubled from 600,000 to 1.2million.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: David Davies Publishes His Review of Free-to-Air Listed Events

Sporting events with a special national resonance should continue to be protected for the widest-possible television audience. There is still a place for a listed events regime, but its long-term future in a changing media landscape is by no means certain.

That’s according to the independent review Panel into the future of listed events which reported today.

If the Government chooses to continue listing events to ensure free-to-air broadcast coverage, there should be a single list of live events, the Panel concluded. Protected coverage of highlights is now insufficient and out-of-step in a multi-channel, digital and online world. In the absence of any other agreed way forward, the Panel recommended a list that met amended criteria for events of national resonance.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ex-Soldier Faces Jail for Handing in Gun

A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces at least five years imprisonment for “doing his duty”.

Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday — after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.

The jury took 20 minutes to make its conviction, and Mr Clarke now faces a minimum of five year’s imprisonment for handing in the weapon.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Clarke said: “I didn’t think for one moment I would be arrested.

“I thought it was my duty to hand it in and get it off the streets.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: English Man Jailed for Racially Abusing His Scottish Neighbour

An English man who racially abused his Scottish neighbour by yelling ‘Go home before you die’ has been jailed for harassment.

Walter Green, 57, also told office maintenance manager Ian Wilson to ‘F*** off back to Scotland’.

He had previously been jailed for 30 weeks in 2007 after admitting harassing Mr Wilson’s Philippines-born wife Anita, 52 at their semi-detached bungalow, in Elmswell, Suffolk.

But after serving his sentence, he once more began to verbally abuse her — and then turned his attention on her husband, 47.

He told Mr Wilson to ‘F*** off back to Scotland’ in June this year.

But police were only called in July after jobless Green bellowed ‘Go home before you die’ through Mr Wilson’s window at 6am in the morning as he was having a cigarette.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Everyone in Britain Could be Given a Personal ‘Carbon Allowance’

Everyone in Britain should have an annual carbon ration and be penalised if they use too much fuel, the head of the Environment Agency will say.

Lord Smith of Finsbury believes that implementing individual carbon allowances for every person will be the most effective way of meeting the targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

It would involve people being issued with a unique number which they would hand over when purchasing products that contribute to their carbon footprint, such as fuel, airline tickets and electricity.


Lord Smith will call for the scheme to be part of a “Green New Deal” to be introduced within 20 years when he addresses the agency’s annual conference on Monday.


Ruth Lea, an economist from Arbuthnot Banking Group, told the Daily Mail: “This is all about control of the individual and you begin to wonder whether this is what the green agenda has always been about. It’s Orwellian. This will be an enormous tax on business.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Fat Mothers-to-be Banned From Giving Birth at Their Local Hospital

Pregnant women are to be barred from giving birth at their local hospital if midwives consider them to be too fat, it emerged today.

Mothers-to-be with a body mass index of over 34 — the equivalent of a woman of 5ft 6in weighing 15 stone — will be turned away from the unit because of fears among staff that obese patients could die there during childbirth.

Instead they will then be forced to travel a further 20 miles to another hospital which boasts a more high-tech maternity unit.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: It’s Not Racist to Debate Migration, Says Gordon Brown as Tories Brand Him Hypocrite

Gordon Brown staged a major Labour U-turn over immigration yesterday by insisting it was ‘not racist’ to discuss the issue.

In his first speech on the subject for two years, the Prime Minister said he had ‘never agreed with the lazy elitism that dismisses immigration as an issue, or portrays anyone who has concerns about immigration as a racist’.

He added: ‘Immigration is not an issue for fringe parties, nor a taboo subject — it is a question to be dealt with at the heart of our politics, a question about what it means to be British.’

His words left him open to accusations of hypocrisy, however. Labour has previously accused the Tories of pandering to racism when they have raised the issue.

At the last General Election, the then Conservative leader Michael Howard was criticised by Labour for claiming it was ‘not racist to talk about immigration’.

The then premier Tony Blair said of the Tory campaign: ‘It is an attempt deliberately to exploit people’s fears, to suggest that for reasons of political correctness, those in power don’t dare deal with the issue.’

Last night Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling described Mr Brown’s comments as ‘pure hypocrisy’.

He added: ‘Labour have spent the last ten years trying to cover up a deliberate policy of uncapping immigration whilst accusing their opponents of irresponsibility when raising the issue.

‘Now they’ve discovered that they are losing votes as a result and are desperately trying to do something about it.’

The row came as Mr Brown unveiled a series of measures to control the flow of immigrants. He said they would ensure Britain’s population stayed below the 70 million predicted by official figures for 2029.

He announced a review of student visas to clamp down on those applying to study in the UK with the intention of working here illegally.

The review, which will report next month, will consider whether visas should be granted only to foreign students on degree and postgraduate courses and stopped for those attending short, low-level courses.

Mr Brown also announced plans for a reduction in the number of posts on the Government’s list of occupations for which Britain needs to recruit from abroad.

He said hospital consultants, civil engineers, aircraft engineers and ship’s officers are being removed.

The list will be narrowed further in the coming year, with officials considering removing more engineering roles, skilled chefs and care workers.

The length of time employers will have to advertise jobs in Britain before recruiting from abroad will be extended from two weeks to four.

Mr Brown said this would be coupled with an increase in training opportunities for British workers.

Mr Brown told an audience in London that he did ‘get it’ over public about immigration. He said he recognised that while the middle classes had benefited from the willingness of immigrants to take low-paid jobs, others felt squeezed out.

But opponents accused him of doing too little, too late.

LibDem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: ‘Gordon Brown is attempting to shut the stable door long after the horse has bolted.’

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch, said the Prime Minister was still in ‘deep denial’ about the scale of the challenge.

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

UK: Lawyer Sacked From £150,000 Job After DNA is Wrongly Put on National Database

A high-flying city lawyer was fired from her £150,000-a-year job after a ‘routine security check’ revealed her DNA was held on the national database — over a ‘false allegation’ made against her.

Lorraine Elliott said that she felt ‘gobsmacked and depressed’ after bosses spotted her file during ‘background clearance’ checks as she was just about to start work on a new project.

The mother-of-three today described her reputation as having been ‘tainted’ after she was dismissed from her post following the discovery of her DNA profile — despite never having been charged with an offence.

She said: ‘I was gobsmacked that something so ridiculous, a completely made up allegation, could have such awful consequences.

‘It has tainted my reputation.’

The keen horse rider who lives in Kent is now struggling to keep her home after her legal career was left in tatters following her arrest on September 24 this year.


She is now working as a stable hand to make ends meet.

She was taken to her local police station in Ashford after a complaint was made against her that she had tried to fraudulently obtain a nursery school place.

She was accused of forging a signature on an application form and then finger-printed and swabbed for her DNA.

But following extensive interviews with officers she was released without charge and the very next day she received a letter saying there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to prosecute.

Despite ‘no further action’ being taken her genetic record was kept on file..

And she is now battling to have her name removed after the government announced on Wednesday that DNA profiles of innocent people would be kept for six years.

She added: ‘If that is left on a police record for anybody to see — and anybody doing a check — it taints my reputation.

‘And my reputation has been tainted purely by a false allegation.’

Ms Elliott was just about to take up working on the government’s own national identity card scheme which required the routine checks to be made before she was ‘cleared’ for the role.

But she is now fighting Home Office red tape to have her name removed from the database as an ‘exceptional case’ — and relaunch her legal career.

She has won the backing of human rights group Justice which said her experience is not an ‘isolated case’.

Eric Metcalfe, spokesman for human rights group Justice, said: ‘This is not an isolated case.

‘There’s likely to be a much larger category of cases of people who are involved.

‘They may not realise for several years before they get caught up in a security check or background clearance of some kind only to find out they have been barred from some area of working.’

Meanwhile Ms Elliott, who has children aged four, six and eight — has been left struggling to keep a ‘roof over their heads’.

She said: ‘I’ve gone from working five days a week and being able to spend my weekends with my children to now working seven days just to keep a roof over their heads.’

[Return to headlines]

UK: MoD Spends Millions on Rent Bills

The Ministry of Defence spends £5.6m a month on rented private sector accommodation for members of the armed forces, it has been revealed.

This is despite thousands of MoD properties lying empty.

The bill was disclosed in response to a Parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrats, who called it a “shameful” waste of money.

The MoD said it provides rented housing where shortages exist but was working to make more military homes available.

A spokesman said: “The Armed Forces population is extremely mobile and this can lead to shortages of MoD-owned accommodation of the right size in the right location.

“When this occurs, privately rented accommodation is provided for service personnel and their families.

“We are working hard to ensure we have the right amount of houses in the right locations by driving down the number of voids and completing refurbishments.”

The figures obtained by Lib Dem defence spokesman Willie Rennie showed the monthly bill for substitute family accommodation was £1,821,172 a month, with £3,768,532 a month being spent renting homes for single personnel.

Mr Rennie said that a breakdown of the figures by area showed property was having to be found in areas such as Colchester, which was the site of a permanent military base.

“This is yet another shameful example of the MoD wasting money at a time when our troops are still suffering equipment shortages on the front line,” he said.

“It is hard to believe that the government is throwing millions of pounds a month at rentals despite having thousands of empty properties on its hands.

“[Defence Secretary] Bob Ainsworth must explain whether this vast expense is due to mismanagement or the shameful condition of the properties the MoD already holds.”

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

UK: The MOD Can Barely Run Itself, Let Alone a War in Afghanistan

The rank ineptitude of the Ministry of Defence cannot be allowed to continue, says Con Coughlin.

Never has the phrase “not fit for purpose” been more applicable in Whitehall than to the shambles that today passes for the Ministry of Defence. Whether it is wasting billions of pounds on equipment that is completely irrelevant for the conflicts the military is fighting, or failing to get even the most basic kit to the front line, the MoD is a department drowning in the mire of its own institutional incompetence.

The bulk of Britain’s military efforts are focused on low-intensity but highly challenging counter-insurgency campaigns. First in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan, the Army has been stretched to breaking point in its efforts to defeat a determined and resourceful enemy. But rather than equipping our troops with adequate numbers of helicopters, or vehicles that afford proper protection against deadly roadside bombs, or the equipment necessary to detect and defuse such devices, the MoD has blithely pressed ahead with a range of high-profile and highly expensive procurement projects totally extraneous to the war being fought in the plains and foothills of Afghanistan.

The RAF’s new Typhoon fighter is a breathtaking piece of engineering. No one who has seen the jet soar into the skies can fail to be impressed by its speed or manoeuvrability. In mock skirmishes with its equally sophisticated American rivals, such as the F-16, it invariably triumphs. But so far as Afghanistan is concerned, it is useless. Conceived when the British military was still structured to fight the Cold War, it is brilliant at intercepting and destroying Russian MiGs. It is less effective at taking out Taliban insurgents lying in wait to attack British patrols, because it has no ground-attack capability — the ability to drop bombs, to you

and me. However, that has not stopped the MoD blowing a cool £20 billion on purchasing 232 of the aircraft. Some are now undergoing an expensive refit, in the hope that they can be adapted for duty in Afghanistan. But whether the Typhoon will ever be deployed for combat operations is an open question; meanwhile, we must make do with our ageing squadrons of Harrier jump-jets — perfectly suited for the Afghan terrain — and Tornadoes, which can only function when weather permits.

Then there are the two new gargantuan aircraft carriers that have been ordered for the Royal Navy, and are to be built at the Rosyth shipyards close to Gordon Brown’s Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency. At more than £8 billion each (at current estimates), they will be an impressive sight at any future Fleet Review, but not much use in Iraq and Afghanistan, where sea access is at a premium, to put it mildly.

The list goes on. The Joint Strike Fighter, the new Type 45 destroyers, the A400 air transporter that is due to replace the C-130 Hercules, the backbone of the “air bridge” to Afghanistan — all have been dogged by delays and overspending. All told, Bernard Gray’s recent report into defence procurement found that the MoD has wasted a staggering £35 billion through internal incompetence and “political fudge”. No wonder its reputation is at such a low ebb.

Understandably, the MoD — in the shape of Bob Ainsworth, our hapless Defence Secretary — did its level best to suppress Mr Gray’s report, so explosive was the exhaustive catalogue of ineptitude deemed to be. But even when “Mr Jobsworth”, as the Defence Secretary is unflatteringly referred to by his subordinates, was forced to reveal its contents, he quickly booted the central recommendation — that private-sector management be drafted in to overhaul procurement — into Whitehall’s long grass.

In fact, far from being mortified by the sheer magnitude of their ministry’s incompetence, officials have awarded themselves £47 million in bonuses for their performance this year. Presumably, this includes the morally bankrupt decision to initiate court action to claw back payments awarded to two servicemen injured while fighting for their country. One hopes that no such awards have gone to any of those responsible for the appalling trail of negligence that resulted in an RAF Nimrod exploding in mid-air over Kandahar in 2006, killing the 14-man crew.

Much of the blame for the ministry’s plight rests with Labour, which encouraged the payment of bonuses in Whitehall as part of its attempts to incentivise the Civil Service. They are not universally popular, particularly with serving military officers, many of whom do not believe they should be rewarded simply for doing their duty. One officer who recently declined to accept a bonus was warned that he could face disciplinary action as a consequence, as he would be deemed to be in breach of his conditions of service.

There are still many talented and conscientious officials at the MoD. Their problem, though, is that they are required to work in a system that is overly bureaucratic, and in a departmental culture obsessed more with meeting Treasury spending targets than the defence of the realm. They are also required to do the bidding of politicians put in place by Downing Street, which under Gordon Brown has consistently failed to appoint men of the right calibre to the post of Defence Secretary: Mr Ainsworth is just the latest sorry example.

The same problem applies to the senior civil servants who run the department. In the past, the Permanent Under-Secretary was an official of significant stature and clout, such as Sir Frank Cooper or Sir Michael Quinlan. They had spent most of their careers steeped in defence issues, and were well equipped to fight the ministry’s corner in the departmental turf wars. Bill Jeffrey, the present incumbent, can hardly be described as a Whitehall heavyweight. His previous experience relates to more prosaic domestic matters, such as prisons and immigration, where his contribution during the 1990s won few plaudits. But he pleased his political masters enough to be parachuted into the MoD in 2005, with precious little defence experience.

The consequences can be seen by all. Mr Jeffrey was, by all accounts, as complicit in the attempts to suppress the Gray report as the equally inexperienced Defence Secretary he was supposed to be advising. That tells you all you need to know about the quality of leadership in what should be one of the most prestigious departments of state, particularly in time of war..

Clearly the MoD’s rank ineptitude, which is having a detrimental effect on departmental morale and the combat effectiveness of troops in Afghanistan, can no longer be allowed to persist. As a matter of national urgency, the MoD needs to be made fit for purpose. The best way would be to streamline decision-making and remove unnecessary bureaucratic barriers. Only then will we have a ministry that is equipped to fight the wars of the 21st century.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Former Serb Officer’s War Crimes Sentence Cut

The Hague, 12 Nov. (AKI) — The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Thursday reduced wartime Bosnian Serb general Dragomir Milosevic’s sentence from 33 to 29 years in jail. His sentence was cut after he provided proof that he was in a hospital during the notorious shelling of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo’s Markale market in August 1995 in which 38 civilians died and dozens were injured.

Presiding judge Fausto Pocar said that the entire population of Sarajevo had been “victims of terror” at the hands of the Bosnian Serb forces.

Milosevic, 67, former commander of the Sarajevo corps of the Bosnian Serb army, was sentenced to 33 years in December 2007 on five counts of murder, terrorising civilians and inhumane acts.

The forces under his command shelled Sarajevo during an almost two year siege in 1994-1995, in which thousands of civilians were killed.

Milosevic’s predecessor, general Stanislav Galic, was sentenced by the court to life in prison in November 2006 for crimes committed during 44-month siege of Sarajevo.

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

Croatia: Number of Artisans and Free Professionals Drops

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 10 — The number of autonomous workers in the artisan sector and independent professionals is decreasing in Croatia, show statistics that were released today. From August to September their number decreased by 3.3% to 252,000, or 8,000 less. 230,000 of them operated in the artisan sector while 22,000 of them were independent professionals. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Croatia: Number of Artisans and Free Professionals Drops

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 10 — The number of autonomous workers in the artisan sector and independent professionals is decreasing in Croatia, show statistics that were released today. From August to September their number decreased by 3.3% to 252,000, or 8,000 less. 230,000 of them operated in the artisan sector while 22,000 of them were independent professionals. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Information Tecnologies Agreement Signed With EC

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, OCTOBER 26 — The Serbian Telecommunications Ministry and the European Commission Commissariat for Information Technologies signed an agreement in Brussels for the European Union’s support of the development of information technologies (IT) in Serbia, reports BETA news agency. The memorandum of understanding for the participation of Serbia in the program for competitiveness and innovation in the field of IT was signed by Serbian Telecommunications Minister Jasna Matic and EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding. Minister Matic said that the total value of the program is more than 750 million euros for the next three years and enables Serbian companies and institutions to compete for funds and participation in the program. “The funds are not limited by countries and the selection depends on the quality of the project that is being proposed, while the individual projects would be valued at about 10 million euros,” Matic said. She added that Serbian companies must compete in a consortium together with companies from other European countries. “Serbian scientific and research institutions have been very successful in similar programs and have been able to receive a lot of money and a large number of projects, and we expect that now Serbian small and medium-sized companies will also participate,” Matic said.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia-United Arab Emirates Sign Open Sky Agreement

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, OCTOBER 19 — Representatives from Serbia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) met in Belgrade to sign the Air Traffic Agreement, which will enable the functioning of the ‘open sky’ regime, reports BETA news agency. The document is to be ratified by both governments. It was stated after the meeting in the Serbian government that the Agreement will enable Jat Airways and five airlines from UAE to set up an unlimited number of flights between Serbia and UAE, and to fly to other countries via the two countries’ airports. Until now, the only line between Serbia and UAE was operated by Jat, which flew twice a week from Belgrade to Abu Dhabi. Head of the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate Nebojsa Starcevic assessed that, by signing the agreement, Serbia “is opening the air corridor to the East,” reminding that the “open sky” regime with the EU is already in force. He added that 20 pilots and around 250 stewardesses from Serbia work in the Emirates.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: From 2010 First Digital Terrestrial TV Channels

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, NOVEMBER 10 — 5 new channels will be created in Algeria for digital terrestrial television which will begin to be installed from 2010. The announcement was made by the secretary of state in charge of communication, Azzedine Mihoubi, during an international seminar on digital terrestrial television which included the participation of experts from the European Union for broadcasting, as well as Digitag and Eutelsat. “From 2010”, Mihoubi said, “we will progressively phase out standard TV to pass over to a digital system” with the installation of transmitters throughout the country. Initially three stations will be created in Chrea (centre), Tessala (west) and Kef Lekhlal (east), then in a second and third phase, more than 100 transmitters will be placed in the central region and in the deep south. The five new channels, the minister added without supplying other information, will be dedicated to “sport, culture, education and information” and “will be launched when their content has reached maturity”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Energy: French Companies Look to Libyan Market

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, NOVEMBER 11 — The transfer and distribution of electricity in Libya was the main item on yesterdays agenda in Tripoli in the meeting of 9 of the biggest French companies in the industry. Led by Ubifrance, the French agency for international development by companies, and Gecol, the General Company for electricity in Libya, the French companies presented their products and services: production of energy without CO2, the creation of electricity substations, networks and management systems, technologies to be used where high tension cables are present, the optimisation of costs, and quality for medium and high tension solutions, generating groups and much more. This is a first step by the French in an industry which is obsolete in Libya, according to the heads of the economics office at the French embassy in Tripoli. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Italian Cooperation Working on Date Project

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI (LIBYA) — The date has always been considered the basic food of communities in Libya that live in desert and pre-desert areas. The improvement and development of the date palm is the aim of a cooperation project between Libya and Italy, which began just over two weeks ago in the Oasis of Al Jufra and is financed by the General Directorate for Cooperation in Development of the Foreign Ministry. The project is making use of experience in the field of tropical and sub-tropical agriculture from the Overseas Agronomic Institute of Florence (IAO). The Libyan partner in this project is the Tripoli organisation for the development of the date palm. It is a pilot project, pointed out Carmine Nutolo, head of the cooperation office in Tripoli, which could find further application in similar situations. The project provides for the involvement of various actors from the date sector and a note from the IAO reads experience gained in Italy in the field of the production of typical local products (ICP, DOC and DOP). The Slow Food movement is also involved in the project. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: English Presence Increases

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, NOVEMBER 11- 182,000 English tourists visited Tunisia in the August — September period. This is an increase of 2% on the same period in 2008. The data supplied by the British magazine Tourism Trade Gazette from figures provided by the National Office of Tunisian Tourism. The latter believes that the campaign entitled affordable luxury carried out in England underlining the advantages that Tunisia offers given that it is not in the Eurozone had a positive effect and results in luxury hotels being more affordable. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel Prepared to Fight Gaza Again, Says Army Chief

Tel Aviv, 13 Nov. (AKI) — A top Israeli army chief said on Friday that Israel is ready to fight again in war-torn Gaza if needed and would not hesitate to respond to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. “We will operate again in the Gaza Strip to stop the rocket fire,” said Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, speaking to a group of Israeli high school students, quoted by Israeli daily Haaretz.

Although the Hamas rulers in Gaza have of late been “restraining themselves and others, we must not fool ourselves,” said Ashkenazi.

“We must defend ourselves when we see a militant cell rigging Grad rockets in the direction of Be’er Sheva, and that is exactly what we did [during the January war],” the IDF chief said, referring to the southern Israeli city.

However, deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, from the Hamas movement, warned that Israel is already planning another offensive on the Gaza Strip, said Iran’s Press TV on Friday.

The 22-day Israeli military operation in December 2008 and January 2009 was launched with the stated aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks against Israel.

The offensive killed some 1,400 Palestinians and injured more than 5,400 others, according to United Nations and rights groups figures.

Israel, however, puts the death toll at 1,166.

In addition, more than 50,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed by the Israeli army, as well as 29 mosques, two churches and 200 schools.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians hit by cross-border rocket fire were killed in the conflict.

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

Netanyahu ‘Ready to Discuss Golan Pullout’

Dubai, 12 Nov. (AKI) — French president Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to deliver a message from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad expressing Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal.

A report on Dubai-based Al-Arabiya said on Thursday that an unnamed French source confirmed the message sent by Netanyahu to Sarkozy, adding that the Israeli prime minister had already agreed to a withdrawal from the Golan.

However, Netanyahu’s bureau denied the report, saying that instead the prime minister was seeking French mediation.

On Wednesday, however, Netanyahu said Israel would be prepared to hold peace negotiations with Syria, as long as the talks were held without preconditions.

Earlier this week, al-Assad said that “resistance” was the essence of his policy on the Golan Heights.

“Resistance is the essence of our policy in the past and in future. We have no conditions to achieve peace but rather rights and we will not abandon them,” Assad said in a speech opening the 5th Conference of the Arab Parties titled “The Independent Arab Decision.”

In 1967 Israel captured the West Bank from its then-administrator Jordan, the Gaza Strip from neighbouring Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War.

In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights to its territory. Syria and Israel have been technically at war ever since.

In May 2008, Israel and Syria launched peace talks aimed at a comprehensive peace agreement, under the auspices of Turkey.

Negotiations reached a stalemate in September after the resignation of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.

Syria then withdrew from the talks in protest against Israel’s three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip in late December 2008 and January 2009 in which at least 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 5,400 others were injured.

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

Middle East

Mosul Celebrating the Appointment of New Archbishop After the Death of Mgr Rahho

Benedict XVI approves the election of Rev Emil Shimoun Nona by the Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Church. The diocese had no leader since March 2008 when Mgr Rahho was abducted and murdered. Catholics in Mosul are full of “joy and renewed hope.”

Mosul (AsiaNews) — The Diocese of Mosul in northern Iraq is celebrating the appointment of Rev Emil Shimoun Nona as its new archbishop. Pope Benedict XVI today approved his canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Church. The clergyman belongs to the eparchial clergy of Alqosh and has been called to lead the diocese left vacant in March 2008 by the abduction and subsequent murder of Mgr Paul Faraj Rahho. Mosul Catholics welcomed his appointment with “joy and renewed hope.”

Rev Emil Shimoun Nona was born in Alqosh on 1 November 1967. In 1985, he entered the Chaldean Patriarchal Seminary and was ordained as a priest on 11 January 1991 in Baghdad. From 1993 to 1997, he was parish vicar in Alqosh, then parish priest until 2000, when he went to study at Pontifical Lateran University.

He graduated in theology in 2005 and then came home to perform his pastoral ministry as parish priest in Alqosh. Today, he is protosyncellus in the Archeparchy of Alqosh and teaches anthropology at Babel College. He speaks, Arabic, Italian and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and knows English.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Catholic sources in Mosul said that the faithful were happy about the new archbishop, who is a source of “renewed hope for the local diocese.”

“We were waiting, anxious about the appointment. We hope he starts playing his role as soon as possible, and that he puts order in the diocese and become an authoritative voice that can get Christian rights respected.”

Since 13 March 2008, the Archdiocese of Mosul has been without a pastor, following the death of Mgr Rahho in captivity. “Since then many things have changed,” the source told AsiaNews. “The number of faithful has dropped because many have fled.”

“Under Saddam, the largest parish in the diocese had more members that the entire diocese does today.”

The source slams the atmosphere of “fear and in security” that is felt today in Mosul and the campaign of persecution against local minorities, a situation recently confirmed by Human Rights Watch.

“Christians,” he said, “are caught up in a political battle full of episodes of violence. Those who are left and the new pastor now have the task of rebuilding the Church and the life of the faithful.” (DS)

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

Turkey Unveils Reforms for Kurds

The Turkish government has formally launched a peace plan to try to end the conflict in the mainly Kurdish south-east of the country.

The interior minister presented a reform package to parliament, including freedom to use the Kurdish language.

But Besir Atalay said more substantial reform to the Turkish constitution would take time.

There was no mention of the amnesty that the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has requested.

Four months after it first announced a plan to end the Kurdish conflict, the government is still having trouble spelling out what it intends to do.

“We should never forget that behind our all our problems lies injustice,” Mr Atalay told MPs.

“We want everyone in this country to be treated equally,” he said, but then warned that there would need to be a complete change in the mindset of the Turkish people to achieve that goal.

Easing tensions

He listed reforms the government wanted to implement soon — full freedom to use languages other than Turkish, fewer military checkpoints in the south-east, new human rights bodies and bringing back people driven from their homes by fighting.

But throughout his half-hour speech, Mr Atalay refused to refer specifically to the Kurds, whose resistance to the Turkish state is the real reason for these reforms.

Instead he chose to describe them as primarily for combating terrorism and preserving national unity.

The ferocious criticism the government has received over its initiative has clearly made it nervous, despite its commanding majority in parliament.

The leader of one nationalist party accused the government of lacking the courage to fight terrorism head-on.

In this deeply polarised society, there will certainly be many people who agree with that view.

Some 40,000 people have been killed in the 25-year Kurdish fight for autonomy.

Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader, has been in jail since 1999.

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

Turkish ‘Pirates’ About to Set Sail

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the Swedish Pirate Party’s rank among the country’s political parties.

The man behind the Pirate Party movement in Turkey believes it is high time that Turkish politics wakes up and takes a whiff of the digital coffee.

When the first Pirate Party was founded in Sweden on Jan. 1, 2006, with a platform of reforming copyright and patent laws and strengthening the right to privacy, almost nobody took it seriously. Today, it is the third biggest political party in the country outside of the Swedish parliament and has two seats in the European Parliament.

The concept did not stay confined to this wealthy northern European country either; it is now a global movement under the Pirate Party International, or PPI, umbrella organization with registered parties in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Active, but unregistered parties literally reach the four corners of the globe, from Chile to Russia, and from the United States to Australia.

In Turkey, Serdar Kuzuloglu, a columnist for daily Radikal, is attempting to launch a local Pirate Party movement as well.

Just who and what is a ‘pirate,’ exactly?

“‘Pirate’ is not a title anyone would choose for themselves; yet it is [a title] associated with average people,” said Kuzuloglu.

There is a significant difference between the “pirates” of the Pirate Party and the pirates plaguing software companies, movie producers and organizations such as the Turkish Phonographic Industry Society, or MÜYAP, he said. According to Kuzuloglu, a pirate is a profiteering CD or book bootlegger who has a stand in a back alley, not the average Internet user who shares favorite songs and videos with loved ones and complete strangers and makes no profit from it.

“One is a criminal, the other is a protester,” said Kuzuloglu. “There is nothing defensible in making an exact copy of a commercial product, sticking another label on it and selling it; everybody accepts that. However, there is a sharing culture in the world of the Internet that is exclusive to that venue. There is no commerce here, no price. It is based on people sharing what they enjoy with others who do, too.”

According to Kuzuloglu, there is no difference between this sharing and making a mix tape of music, as people used to do before the digital age, or handing a beloved book to a friend to read. He added, however, that there is a powerful commercial lobby that tries — and has often succeeded — in making the general public believe that the two types of “pirating” are one and the same.

Questioning the structure

“There are, let us say, thousands of companies, but there are billions of Internet users in the world,” said Kuzuloglu, who expressed the strong belief that the sharing culture is unstoppable because nearly all the measures to try and do so that have been attempted already have failed.

Contrary to the views of opponents, Kuzuloglu said, many copyright holders benefit from this web of sharing, which brings public attention to many musicians, writers and poets who would be otherwise unknown. Kuzuloglu contrasted this with the many artists under contract with major entertainment companies who are getting exploited in an age when a professional album can be recorded in one’s own home.

In the case of software, Kuzuloglu said, open-source programs are competitive with, and generally more popular than, their commercial competitors.

“We have to decide, both as the media and as consumers, are we the defenders of the companies or of our own freedoms?” Kuzuloglu asked. He added that he is not saying that everything should be free, but that there is something wrong with the amounts being demanded, and uncertainties on the sharing of collected royalties as well.

In addition, Kuzuluoglu said, much of the content that is available online would not be accessible without the Internet. “I believe something being available is more important than who is providing it.”

Kuzuloglu calls the entire structure of the copyright issue, which is based on people benefiting from something offered to human culture for generations, strange, noting that it applies not only to pieces of art but also to medicine, and even our genes. “We are becoming figures in a commercialized world and they are trying to make us believe the whole point is the royalties of musicians and actors,” he said.

Using his own work as an example, Kuzuloglu said he receives a fee for his columns for daily Radikal, and that it does not bother him when he sees them on hundreds of other Web sites because the paper itself offers his content for free. “It offers content that comes with a price without asking for one,” he said. “There are two reasons for that: The cost of Internet features is marginal and if Radikal were to cancel its online content, it could not contribute to the agenda.”

Kuzuloglu said content has to be online and free, because if you do not exist on the screens of people’s computers and cell phones, you do not matter anymore.

What to expect from the party

The Pirate Party will not lead Turkey. Nor does it intend to. It will not even have a policy on education or health, nor does it claim it will enter elections at this point. Instead, the Pirate Party intends to create awareness and inspire other parties to generate policies on matters they otherwise would not bother with, just as the original did in Sweden.

According to Kuzuloglu, there are two beautiful things about this structure: It is independent from traditional ideologies and does not require a central organization. Right or left, conservative or liberal does not matter to the Pirate Party and the group does not need a massive building in Ankara to operate.

“This is an idea — anyone can take it and copy it in the way he or she wants to,” said Kuzuloglu.

The Internet is not only overpriced, but also under pressure in Turkey, where thousands of Web sites are banned, he said. “Obscenity is a meaningless term that changes from person to person,” he said, adding that the Turkish Pirate Party will have to deal with more problems than its European counterparts.

Kuzuloglu said he believes such an organization is especially needed in Turkey because the traditional political parties are prisoners to the agenda of their roots. They do not understand the Internet or the world of today and can be easily manipulated by lobbies, not only in Turkey but also abroad, he said. According to Kuzuloglu, this is the reason behind the international movement’s success.

Expressing confidence that the Pirate Party will succeed in Turkey too, Kuzuloglu said, “There are no fans of a football team, nor members of a political party or a cultural unit in Turkey that exceed the number of Internet users.”

While these users are not homogenous, Kuzuloglu said, they are all affected by limitations on the Internet, while there is no group that would be hurt by the Internet becoming widespread or popularized — nor is there any kind of social group that would not benefit from easy access to information.

“Even if we do not succeed, would that mean our point is wrong?” Kuzuloglu said. “No. I would discuss and prove everything I have said in this interview at any platform.”

‘Winners’ and ‘losers’

“We have been raised on the ‘wasted vote’ cliché,” said Kuzuloglu, criticizing the Turkish political perception that when a party and its votes only reach 9 percent — below the 10 percent threshold in elections — it “loses.”

“We have thought of democracy as the dominion of those who are represented. We never realized that every vote represents something,” he said. “We could not be convinced that a party receiving 2 percent of the votes is doing politics that concerns thousands of people.”

Kuzuloglu said the slices of the Turkish political pie would not be so thick if voters were aware of the value of a single vote.

“Can the Pirate Party change that?” he said. “I do not know, but it is better to try and lose then not to try, because there is not actually anything for us to lose.”

Saying that he does not want to be seen as the sole leader and symbol of the movement, Kuzuloglu said his name is not even mentioned in the party’s online Wikipedia listing. Asked why there is not much content at the moment, he replied: “Write it. Let’s do it together.”

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


Major Fire at Russia Arms Depot

At least two people have been killed after a series of explosions and fires at a weapons depot in central Russia, officials say.

The blasts ripped through the defence ministry navy depot on the outskirts of Ulyanovsk when soldiers attempted to decommission munitions.

The officials later said that 43 people who were feared dead had been found safe in a bomb shelter near the site.

Some 3,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding area.

The depot is about 900km (550 miles) south-east of the capital Moscow.

‘Like fireworks’

Two fire-fighters died at the Arsenal 31 depot after the blasts and fires, Ulyanovsk Governor Sergei Morozov told the BBC.

Mr Morozov was earlier quoted in Russian media as saying that at least 10 people were taken to hospital.

The governor also told Russia’s First Channel TV: “More than 40 people have been saved, including those who were reported missing.”

He was referring to the 43 people who had been found safe and well in the bomb shelter.

Explosions at the depot continued into the night, with TV footage of the area showing intermittent blasts sending thick plumes of smoke high into the air. The blasts shattered windows of nearby homes.

The first explosion happened about 1600 local time (1300 GMT) while ammunition was being disposed of at the site. The blast set off a series of explosions and also started fires.

“There was a loud bang, then there was silence and then there were explosions, explosions, explosions, like fireworks on New Year,” local resident Igor Komandin told First Channel.

Fire-fighters at the scene were battling the blazes several hours after it started.

A large exclusion zone has been set up around the depot.

The Federal Security Service advised Ulyanovsk residents to buy gauze masks and stock up on drinking water, but added that the situation was under control.

Officials said artillery shells and torpedoes were kept at the arsenal, adding that a nearby chemicals weapons depot was not in any danger.

A criminal investigation into the accident is now under way.

Ulyanovsk sits beside the Volga river and is the birthplace of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

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

Poland Concerned Over Russian Military Exercise

Poland’s foreign minister says his country is concerned about recent Russian military maneuvers near its border and he has expressed his worries in a letter to NATO.

Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said in a radio interview on Thursday that he sent the letter to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen setting out Poland’s concerns and asking that the alliance take the matter into account.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Russian Orthodox Breaks Ties With Protestants Over Female Leader

The Russian Orthodox clergy is threatening to cut ties with Germany’s Protestants for electing a divorced woman, Margot Käßmann, as the head of their church.

Dialogue between the churches, which has been strong and steady for the past 50 years, was no longer possible because of Käßmann’s election, said Rev. Georgy Zavershinsky, spokesman for the Russian church’s office of external relations in Moscow.

The church permitted no ordination nor even leadership roles for women, he said.

“This question is very serious,” said Zavershinsky.

Ultimately, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Cyril I, would have to rule on the matter, he said.

In late October, Käßmann, 51, was elected to lead Germany’s Protestant church, or Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD), for the next six years. She is the mother of four children but was divorced from her husband in 2007.

However, it appears to be the fact of her being a woman, rather than a divorcee, that the Russians object to.

The leader of the Russian church’s foreign office, Hilarion Alfeyev, Archbishop of Volokolamsk, said the planned celebration of 50 years of dialogue between the two churches, scheduled for late November, would be the last contact between them, according to the Russian daily, Kommersant.

The end of co-operation between the churches appeared to have the backing of Russian media on Thursday, with one paper, Vremya Novostei, writing that “the Patriarch must not deal with the new leader of the German Lutherans.”

Many conservative Protestants in Russia also supported the decision. Alexander Prilutski, the leader of the Protestant church of Ingria — a Christian denomination based around St Petersburg — called Käßmann’s election a “sign of crisis in Western society.”

Käßmann said late on Thursday she was surprised by the Russian reaction.

“Ecumenism means accepting different churches and appreciating their offices,” she said.

She recognised that some churches did not accept women leaders but called for them not to impose their standards on others.

“Mutual respect is the most important basis for ecumenism,” she said.

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

South Asia

Coup Feared Developing in Pakistan

Turkish officials dispatched to head off possible military takeover

Turkey, which has been positioning itself as a mediator among Muslim nations, has dispatched a team of high-level officials to meet with Pakistani military and political leaders, prompting concerns a coup may develop in the nuclear nation, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Turkish Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug has appealed to his counterpart, Pakistani Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, chief of staff of the Pakistani army, not to take over the civilian government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Emergence of Anti-Taliban Militias a Cause for Concern

To make up for a lack of manpower in the fight against the Taliban, the Afghan government has encouraged the formation of armed militias in Kunduz Province. But German soldiers fighting in the area are unsure how to deal with these roving bands of guerillas fighters.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

India Awaits Turkish Investors

The Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers Association, or IEEMA, announced that India was waiting for Turkish investors in the country.

“We want to increase the cooperation and trade between Turkey and India regarding electricity, energy, electrical transmission and distribution,” Murali Venkatraman, chairman of IEEMA, told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday

IEEMA members met with local journalists during their visit in Istanbul. They were expected to meet with local companies to invite them to the 9th International Exhibition Of Electrical and Industrial Electronics Industry, or ELECRAMA 2010, which will be held in Mumbai in January.

The association visited Istanbul on Nov. 10 in order to announce that India was searching for Turkish companies to take a part in ELECRAMA 2010. “We hope to strengthen the ties between Indian and Turkish companies,” Venkatraman said.

The visit to Istanbul was the second day of their talks with local journalists and businessmen, as the members of IEEMA arrived in the Turkish capital Ankara first. On Monday, they met with Hasan Ali Çelik, chairman of the Turkish Parliament’s energy commission. They also met with several Ankara-based companies. Their second stop was Istanbul, the country’s largest metropolitan city.

IEEMA wants to see Turkish companies at the ELECRAMA fair, said Venkatraman. “There are few Indian companies exporting to Turkey. There are also some Turkish companies looking to invest in India and vice versa … The purpose is to see how to improve the number of visitors from Turkey,” he said.

“India and Turkey share the same perspective as well as problems. What we are saying is that with the Indian equipment, Turkey can get the best quality and affordable price. Indian companies know how to operate in a harsh and difficult environment. The equipments we manufacture are very durable,” said Venkatraman, adding that India also has much to offer in the field of energy.

Commenting on the investment climate of India, he said: “Companies are 100 percent free at investing in India. There are no restrictions. There is a complete freedom and security for intellectual property.”

Founded in 1948, IEEMA currently represents 650 member-organizations from public, joint and private sectors. The association reaps more than $22 billion turnover in a year and it represents more than 90 percent of electricity equipment production in India.

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

India: Country to Renew Ties and Boost Trade With Iran

New Delhi, 13 Nov. (AKI/Asian Age) — India and Iran will take steps towards improving trade and investment linkages when India’s foreign minister S.M. Krishna meets his Iranian counterpart next week in the capital New Delhi.

Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki of Iran is due to arrive in New Delhi on 16 and 17 November. He will be accompanied by a delegation comprising deputy ministers and officials.

Mottaki’s visit will be the first high-level contact between India and Iran after Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second consecutive terms in office earlier in 2009.

The focus of the talks will be on banking, insurance, investment, energy cooperation and preferential trade agreement (PTA).

Some of the investment projects will relate to setting up of a steel plant in Iran and an off-shore refinery in India.

Both sides are also expected to review the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to hold general discussions on the India-Pakistan-Iran (IPI) gas pipeline project.

The agenda of Mottaki’s two-day visit will be to “open a new chapter of cooperation” between the two countries, Iran’s ambassador to India, Seyed Mehdi Nabizadeh told Indian daily The Asian Age.

Nabizadeh said that Iran will be open to the idea of delivering natural gas at the Pakistan-India border but for that to happen, the negotiations on price of gas and other technical aspects of the project will need to be revisited.

The Iranian envoy hoped that prime minister Singh, who has accepted an invitation to visit Iran, will make that journey early in 2010.

India and Iran have intensified their dialogue, leading up to Mottaki’s visit.

Last week, a delegation comprising officials from the Central Bank of Iran held talks with the Reserve Bank of India and public sector banks.

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

Indian Eunuchs Given Separate Ids

India’s Election Commission has given eunuchs an independent identity by letting them choose their gender as “other” on ballot forms.

The commission said it had received representation from various individuals and interest groups on the subject.

So far, eunuchs were forced to put down their gender as either male or female.

There are about 500,000 eunuchs in India. Known as hijras, they comprise the hermaphrodite, transvestite and transsexual communities.

Eunuchs are feared and reviled in many parts of India, where some believe they have supernatural powers.

The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi says the election commission’s recognition of eunuchs as an independent group is a first step towards an official recognition of the community which has so far remained on the margins of society.

‘Readily agreed’

“The commission has duly considered the request and has decided to allow eunuchs and transsexuals to indicate their sex as ‘Other’ where they do not want to be described as male or female,” the Election Commission said in a press release.

“Necessary instructions have been issued to all electoral registration officers through the chief electoral officers of all states and union territories (areas directly administered by the central government in Delhi) to give effect to the above decision of the commission.”

The commission said it had received several representations from individuals and groups to include eunuchs in the electoral rolls with a separate identity.

“When the representations came, we readily agreed,” Times of India newspaper quoted Election Commissioner SY Qureishi as saying.

“Why should a section of the population be left out? The decision will help in mainstreaming a section of the population,” he said.

Most eunuchs earn a living by collecting cash gifts from people during marriages and child births.

But in recent times, with the decline in their traditional roles, many have been forced to work as commercial sex workers.

However some have contested elections and entered the public arena.

But correspondents say these success stories are rare.

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

Pakistan: Iranian Consulate Official Shot Dead

Peshawar, 12 Nov. (AKI) — Gunmen on Thursday killed a Pakistani working as the director of public relations at the Iranian Consulate in the northwest city of Peshawar, a police official said. The gunmen shot dead Abul Hasan Jaffery near his home before escaping, according to police.

Jaffery was critically wounded in the attack and later died from his injuries at a military hospital in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province located near the Afgan border.

Before joining the Iranian consulate, Jaffery was a well-known journalist. He had served with the provincial government as press officer and worked for two chief ministers.

The city has suffered a spate of recent attacks by militants in apparent retaliation for the ground and air offensive in the northwestern tribal area of South Waziristan during which the army claims to have killed some 500 militants since the operation began in mid-October.

Relations between Iran and Sunni-majority Pakistan have been strained since Iran claimed Pakistan-based agents were behind a suicide bombing last month in south-east Iran in which 42 people died.

The attack has been blamed on the Sunni resistance group, Jundullah. Islamabad has dismissed claims that the leader of Jundullah was in Pakistan.

Also on Thursday, Pakistani media reported that two militants had been killed and three injured during the ongoing offensive in the in the Ladha and Makeen areas of South Waziristan.

The army says that it is in control of 80 percent of South Waziristan

A three-day general strike began Wednesday in the NWFP town of Charsadda following a bombing on Tuesday which killed at least 32 people.

Officials now say the attack, which injured 70 others, was probably aimed at the head of police in the district.

More than 300 people have been killed in a wave of attacks since Pakistani troops launched an assault against the Taliban in South Waziristan.

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

Pakistan, India Trade Terror Charges

Analyst says ‘both fighting radicalism on their own terms’

Pakistan and India are charging each other with sponsoring terrorism.

India’s foreign ministry wants the international community to pressure Pakistan to act on its promise to fight terror groups, while the Pakistani foreign ministry has responded by charging India with sponsoring terror.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: General Fonseka Resigns. Possibly to Run for President

With a five-page letter the architect of the military victory over Tamil rebels announced his retirement at odds with the government. The General accuses Rajapaksa of wanting to dismantle the army and being unable to secure the peace promised to the country and refugees.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — General Sarath Fonseka (photo) has resigned from his role as commander of the Defence Forces of Sri Lanka. One of the main protagonists in the victory over the Tamil Tigers thus abandons the armed forces at odds with the Colombo government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa.

After the defeat of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Fonseka was moved to a position of pure representation, the commander of Defence Forces. For many commentators the Fonseka’s farewell to the army announces his descent into politics ahead of presidential election in 2010 in which the general could challenge the same Rajapaksa.

The government has not yet responded officially to the resignation of Fonseka who has stated his intention to retire on December 1, ahead of the end of his term which ends December 18. “I have my reasons,” the general said in announcing his decision to the government with a five-page letter which explains in detail the reasons for his choice.

In the letter, dated November 12, bitterness and controversy emerges. Fonseka claims the merits of the victory over the Tamil Tigers and lamented the treatment received after the end of the war. He defines his shift to commander of Defence Forces as a lack of respect for his 40 years of service. He accuses the Colombo executive of wanting to dismantle the army that has achieved the historic victory over the rebels and remove the most capable, from positions they hitherto occupied.

Fonseka also mentions the situation of refugees of war and the current military leadership, accusing the government of not being able to guarantee the future peace of Internally Displaced People which had been promised the refugees at the end of the conflict.

Answering questions on his upcoming presidential candidacy, Fonseka said “I know that my name has been mentioned a little ‘everywhere.” But then he added: “The authenticity of these items should be verified by asking the authors who reported them”.

Sarath Fonseka is known as a strong supporter for Sinhalese nationalism, and more than once made statements in which he called the majority that inhabits the island the only true people of Sri Lanka.

In October, in a recent private trip to the United States, the General risked being called upon by the U.S. to answer for war crimes against civilians committed by the military during the conflict. Fonseka had rejected the accusations. Even then the General had declared his willingness to leave aside the uniform to get into politics if the government of Rajapaksa failed to exploit the end of the war with the Tigers to boost the economy, to permanently close the Reign of Terror and ensure true peace to the country.

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

Far East

Japan’s War ‘Contrary to Emperor’s Wishes’: Son

TOKYO — Japan’s Emperor Akihito, celebrating 20 years on the throne, offered a rare defence of his father’s wartime record, saying Japanese aggression had been contrary to his wishes..

The 75-year-old said his father Hirohito had opposed Japan’s march to war, an unusual comment on the emperor who at the time was considered divine by his people but seen as an aggressor by the Allied powers.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Seoul: Majority and Opposition Clash Over Environmental Policy

The Lee administration launches the ‘Four Rivers Restoration Project’ worth US$ 20 billion to improve the environment, promote tourism and bring under control recurrent flooding and drought. Opposition Democrat Party says a conflict of interest, the administration’s “dictatorial” ways and a waste of resources taint the project.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — South Korea’s ruling and opposition parties are at loggerhead over the multi-billion dollar Four-Rivers Restoration Project. For the opposition the whole scheme is a dictatorial scam and the worst civil engineering project in Korean history. For this reason, it has launched a full-scale campaign to stop construction. For President Lee Myung-bak’s administration, the project will mean less water is wasted, water quality will be improved and the economy of local provinces will get a boost.

The ‘Four Rivers Restoration Project’ is designed to solve the problem of recurrent cycles of flooding and droughts, restore the environment, create new jobs and strengthen the government’s ‘green policies’. The overall plan includes land reclamation, the building of new riverbanks, small dams, cycling paths and the development of the tourist potential of the affected areas.

Chung sye-kyun, president of the Democrat Party (DP), slammed the Lee administration for its “dictatorial” and “unilateral” behaviour in the matter. For the opposition, the 23 trillion won (US$ 20 billion) project is both too expensive and unnecessary; an investment of a trillion won (US$ 865 million) would be enough to improve water quality.

DP spokesperson Woo Wi-yeong called the Four Rivers Restoration Project a “scam” by the ruling majority, which has refused to take into consideration the views of the opposition.

For DP lawmaker Park Ju-seon, the Four Rivers Restoration Project also violates the National Finance Law, the Rivers Law, the Basic Law on Environmental Policy and the Korea Water Resources Corporation Law.

The opposition claims that President Lee Myung-bak, aka the Bulldozer, is in a situation of conflict of interest, because he was previously involved in the construction industry and had promoted a canal project across the country.

However, the ruling majority is squarely behind the president and his administration. Yesterday the government allocated 19 billion won (US$ 16 million) to dredge and restore the four major rivers involved in the project, namely the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan Rivers, raising their riverbanks and building small dams along their combined 3,200 kilometres.

Prime Minister Chung Un-chan said that the three-year project would reduce water wastage, improve water quality and boost the economy of local provinces, creating thousands of jobs.

When completed in December 2012, the government says the rivers will be open to transportation and tourism, whilst floods and droughts will be controlled.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

EU Soldiers to Help Somali Troops

The European Union is expected to endorse plans to send troops to help train up to 2,000 Somali troops, according to an EU official.

Under the plan, up to 200 EU troops will train Somali military personnel in Uganda in a bid to broaden engagement in the crisis-hit state.

A decision is expected to be taken at a meeting of EU ministers next week.

The move comes on the heels of a request by the Somali government to help build a 6,000-strong police force.

“Once this is approved, which we expect is going to happen during the (EU) council then we will be launching the real planning,” said Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

“We think that this is a very good contribution to the global approach that the European Union has in order to tackle the Somali problems and all of its impact.”

The training plan is expected to last for roughly a year and will be carried out in two or three phases.

The move by the EU is expected to complement efforts made by France, Djibouti and Uganda who have all committed to training Somali troops.

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

MoD Vessel ‘Watched Yacht Hijack’

The crew of a UK military ship watched as a British couple were taken hostage by Somali pirates but were ordered not to open fire, it has emerged.

The RFA Wave Knight did not act for fear of endangering the couple’s lives, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, aged 59 and 55, from Kent, were ordered off their yacht by gunmen in the Indian Ocean in the early hours of 23 October.

The Chandlers had been travelling to Tanzania from the Seychelles.

Details of the Navy operation were leaked to the press by an anonymous crew member of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship.

The crew member revealed that the RFA Wave Knight had come within just 50ft (15m) of the couple’s yacht, the Lynn Rival, at one point.

A MoD spokesman said: “Every effort was made by the Royal Navy and the international maritime fleet to locate the Lynn Rival.

“We did everything we could possibly do without further endangering the lives of Paul and Rachel Chandler.

“We do not comment on operational detail but RFA Wave Knight did very well under the circumstances.”

The replenishment tanker was carrying 75 merchant seamen and 25 Royal Navy sailors, as well as a helicopter, at the time of the incident.

An official account of the kidnap released last month said only that a Royal Navy vessel had found the couple’s yacht empty, without disclosing that the couple were within sight at the time.

In a phone call on 29 October, the couple, from Tunbridge Wells, said they were initially moved from their yacht to a container ship, the Kota Wajar, which had also been seized by the pirates.

It is thought they were then moved to another ship anchored off the eastern coast of Somalia before being taken to the mainland.

The pirates have issued a $7 million (£4.3 million) ransom demand but the British government has insisted it will not make any ransom payment.

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

Navy Storms Somali Pirate Mothership

French commandos have stormed aboard a Somali pirate ‘mothership’ and arrested 12 gunmen, the military announced, adding that the gangs are increasingly operating in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean.

Tipped off by spotters on a Luxembourg maritime reconnaissance plane, the French frigate Floreal intercepted a dhow towing two motorised skiffs 500 nautical miles north-west of the Seychelles on Thursday (local time).

A helicopter from the warship fired a warning shot across the vessel’s bows as its crew began to throw incriminating material over the side.

French troops boarded the ship and arrested the pirates without violence.

On board they found grappling hooks, GPS navigation devices and assault rifles, French military spokesman Admiral Christophe Prazuck said.

“Last year or at the start of this one the centre of gravity was in the Gulf of Aden,” Admiral Prazuck said, referring to the straits between Arabia and the Horn of Africa that have become notorious for pirate attacks.

“The European team in place has significantly reduced the number of boats taken hostage. Though they still threaten the Gulf of Aden, the pirates have switched their activity further offshore into the Indian Ocean.”

Admiral Prazuck said pirates were now striking in areas up to 800 nautical miles from their bases on the coast of Somalia, a lawless and largely ungoverned African state plagued by faction-fighting.

Several naval task forces now carry out anti-piracy patrols, including flotillas commanded by the European Union, NATO and the United States.

Floreal is fighting under EU colours as part of Operation Atalante.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


Finland: Chinese Sites in Kouvola Raided by Border Guard

Police and the Finnish Border Guard have raided several houses in Kouvola which they believe were used by criminals organizing illegal immigration into Finland.

The organisation is suspected of arranging for tens of residence permits under false pretences for would-be Chinese immigrants. Around ten Finns and Chinese are being questioned as suspects.

“What’s happened is that they got a school or business or private individual to sponsor a visa for someone. Then this visa was misused to obtain a residence permit on the false grounds,” explains the head of the investigation, Captain Sami Paila of the Border Guard.

The residence permits were supposedly obtained by a company needing workers from China. Some of the applicants knew nothing about the company they were ostensibly coming to work for.

Around 150 officials participated in the raids. They targeted the China Center (Kiina Center) in Kouvola and the Leishi centre in Valkeala, among other sites.

Some of the illegal immigrants may have already moved on to other Schengen countries, say officials.

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

Ireland: Failure of Welfare Rules

Recent figures from the Department of Social and Family Affairs show that foreign nationals now represent more than 40 per cent of the people on welfare in Ireland.

The social welfare budget in Ireland for 2009 is €23 billion; 40 per cent of that is almost €10 billion, which is now being spent on social welfare benefits to foreign nationals in Ireland.

A loophole in Irish welfare rules means that foreign nationals who worked in other EU accession states can move their welfare credits to Ireland. Many migrants from the EU accession states earn more on welfare in Ireland than they do working in their own home countries, and have opted to exploit this loophole. According to official statistics, more than half the foreign nationals on Irish welfare have not paid the required PRSI contribution in Ireland.

Instead of cutting dole payments for people who have paid PRSI, the Irish government should stop all welfare payments to foreign nationals who have not paid the required PRSI contribution in Ireland. In 2004, Bertie Ahern was the only leader in Western Europe to allow immigrants from the new accession states to come to Ireland without any restrictions. If the Irish government had the courage to update our welfare rules in line with those of France, Germany and Spain, Ireland would save €5 billion a year in payments to welfare migrants.

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

Powerless Danish Government Calls for Help on Gang War

Copenhagen — Picturesque Copenhagen, renowned for its fairytale palaces and Little Mermaid, has for more than a year been the scene of a full-blown gang war that the government admits it is powerless to end.

Daily police patrols, raids and harsher sentences for gang-related crimes have failed to quell the wave of drive-by shootings, execution-style killings, and grenade attacks that have rocked the Danish capital and its suburbs since August 2008.

Although Denmark is no stranger to gang wars after dealing with clashes between rival biker gangs Hells Angels and Bandidos in the 1990s, this upsurge of violence — pitting biker gangs against youths of immigrant origin — has spiralled out of the authorities’ control.

“I am asking everyone for help and good advice,” Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen implored, taking directly to citizens his plea for ideas to bring a halt to the bloody conflict.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Swedish Government Mulls New Law to Force Care for Asylum Kids

Government parties have called for legislation to force municipalities to care for children seeking asylum amid recent protests over the housing of young refugees in Vellinge in southern Sweden.

On Thursday, around 30 asylum-seeking boys from Afghanistan and Somalia moved into temporary accommodation in Vellinge, outside of Malmö.

The local council and residents fought a bitter battle over the issue after having long-been opposed to offering care of asylum seekers.

In light of these events, government politicians say they are running out of patience with county councils and are discussing legislation to force them to take their share of responsibility.

Centre Party migration spokesperson Fredrick Federley was among those arguing that patience had run out.

“We have ensured that they gain a financial incentive. We have appealed to their humanity, to their compassion, and to their societal responsibility.” he told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Of the country’s 290 municipalities, only 103 have an agreement with the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) over asylum housing issues. According to SvD there are currently 500 asylum children in Sweden with nowhere to live.

Politicians are calling for a unified approach to the problem and state that municipalities should not control their own asylum and migration policies.

The government’s alliance parties are now considering legislation, which would force local councils to house children.

“We have to think about new measures. And that is to go in and legislate,” said Gunnar Axén, chair of Sweden’s National Social Insurance Committee (Socialförsäkringsutskottet).

The parties are now discussing how a possible law could be implemented and whether a quota system would work.

Concerns have however been raised over such a proposal. Referring to the Vellinge case Fredrick Federley adds that children must be taken to a place where they are welcomed.

“We have to offer children security and protection,” he said.

“You can’t put them in a place where they are hated from the very beginning.”

Sweden’s opposition parties have already discussed the issue and are in agreement that more pressure needs to be put on local councils.

“More municipalities must take responsibility,” said Veronica Palm, Social Democrat MP and vice chair of the National Social Insurance Committee.

“We had hoped that a system could work between municipalities and the Migration Board but now it seems things have come to a halt.”

           — Hat tip: LN[Return to headlines]

UK: Gordon Brown Offers Too Little, Too Late on Immigration

Telegraph View: A country that refuses to accept incomers will, in time, become stagnant and inward-looking; it is a question of balance — and the Government got it wrong

In the year before Labour came to power, British citizenship was granted to 37,000 foreign nationals. In the first nine months of this year, 118,000 people born overseas have already been issued with a British passport. Since 1997, more than 1.3 million grants of citizenship have been made.. This is the backdrop for Gordon Brown’s speech yesterday on immigration, one of the very few he or any other senior minister has made on the subject. With an election approaching, the Government is very keen to raise an issue that it once refused to talk about — and tried to stop others talking about, too. At the last two general elections, any attempt to have a serious debate about immigration was howled down by Labour and its cheerleaders, accompanied by insinuations of racism. Are we now to thank Mr Brown for being open-minded enough to discuss it?

Immigration, he said, is “not an issue for fringe parties nor a taboo subject”. Yet that is precisely what it became, even as the country was experiencing the fastest increase in immigration in its history; and that is why extremists such as the BNP have been able to get a foothold in parts of the country most affected by the changes wrought by Labour’s open-door policy. Of course, Mr Brown denies Labour ever had such a policy. Yet one Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said there was “no obvious limit” to the number of immigrants; Alan Johnson, the incumbent, loses no sleep over the consequential rapid population growth. Whatever the motives (and they were political, cultural and economic), the policy has allowed far more people than ever before to come to work in Britain and to remain as citizens. It ill behoves Mr Brown now to try to disavow that approach. If it was the right policy, why does he not defend it more forcefully; if it was wrong, why does he not admit as much?

Nothing in his speech addressed the central issue of whether immigration is to be substantially cut back. There are obvious advantages to immigration — though adding to GDP is not necessarily one of them, as a study by a House of Lords committee showed last year. The main beneficiaries are immigrants themselves and employers who have access to cheap labour. But this must be weighed against the impact on domestic workers and on the cohesion of the nation as a whole. A country that refuses to accept incomers will in time become stagnant and inward-looking; it is a question of balance — and the Government got it wrong. Belatedly, controls have been put in place. But if the Prime Minister believes that will exonerate Labour from blame for failing to manage migration much earlier, then he is likely to be disappointed.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

10-Year-Old Refuses to Pledge Allegiance Until There’s Gay Equality in the USA

A ten-year-old boy from Arkansas has refused to pledge allegiance to the flag until gays and lesbians have equal rights.

Will Phillips, a pupil in West Fork School District in Washington County, decided to remain seated on Monday October 5th while other children in his class stood to pledge allegiance to the US flag.

A substitute teacher tried to make him stand, but Will refused. He continued to refuse for several more days until the teacher became angry. At this point, Will admitted he had told her to “respectfully … go and jump off a bridge”.

He was then made to complete an assignment on why Americans make the pledge while the principal called his mother Laura Phillips, who asserted it was Will’s legal right not to stand.

Will told the Arkansas Times that he hoped to be a lawyer one day but added: “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.”

Although his parents are straight, the family has attended a number of gay Pride events and have gay friends.

He added that he had been called a “gaywad” by some students but many friends had been supportive. He has refused to pledge allegiance since.

When the newspaper asked Will what it means to be American, he replied: “Freedom of speech. The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.”

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

Catholic Conference of Bishops Dont’ Support Health Care Bill

We’ve looked a bit at the coverage of Rep. Bart Stupak’s successful amendment to the House health care legislation that prohibits the use of tax dollars to fund abortions. Catholic representatives and the Catholic Conference of Bishops were key players in getting this amendment passed, certainly.

Does that mean that Catholics or, specifically, the Catholic Conference of Bishops, endorse the Democrats’ health care bill? Hardly.

And yet that’s what the Los Angeles Times claimed in a story written by reporter Kim Geiger. Here’s how the story begins:

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Global Groups Reject Islam ‘Protection’ Plan

U.N. proposal would outlaw criticism of Muhammad, followers

Global organizations representing humanists, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, scientologists and even several Muslim organizations are lobbying against a United Nations proposal that would provide Islam with worldwide legal protection against criticism.

And it appears to be working. A preliminary committee vote in the United Nations’ Third Committee today resulted in 81 votes for the protections, 55 against and 43 abstentions, a significant change from the most recent vote.

Officials said there were five fewer votes in support, two more in opposition and one more abstention, revealing a continuing pattern of dropping support for the plan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

How U.N. Redefined ‘Pandemic’ To Heighten Alarm Over H1N1

World Health Organization quietly changed qualification of term in case of ‘swine flu’

In light of a perceived swine flu outbreak, the World Health Organization raised its influenza pandemic alert to its second highest level in May — but evidence reveals the agency may have made it easier to classify the flu outbreak as a pandemic by changing its definition to omit “enormous numbers of deaths and illness” just prior to making its declaration.

WHO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, issued its pandemic declaration — the first in 40 years — just as 74 countries had reported 144 deaths from the novel H1N1 infection.


In a July 21 interview with Der Spiegel magazine, Jefferson asked, “Don’t you think there’s something noteworthy about the fact that the WHO has changed its definition of pandemic?”

He continued, “The old definition was a new virus, which went around quickly, for which you didn’t have immunity, and which created a high morbidity and mortality rate. Now the last two have been dropped, and that’s how swine flu has been categorized as a pandemic.”

Jefferson said there’s money to be made when a pandemic occurs.

“The WHO and public health officials, virologists and the pharmaceutical companies. They’ve built this machine around the impending pandemic,” he said. “And there’s a lot of money involved, and influence, and careers, and entire institutions! And all it took was one of these influenza viruses to mutate to start the machine grinding.”

He said he saw no difference in the definition between the swine flu and a normal flu epidemic. Jefferson told the magazine that there are hundreds of other viruses that can be deadly, but researchers aren’t as interested in those because the money isn’t as readily available.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Over 100 Groups Protest UN Debate on ‘Defamation of Religion’

New York — More than 100 non-governmental organizations on Thursday protested attempts by some governments to push through a United Nations resolution to save religion from defamation. Those NGOs said such a move, if it leads to a binding UN resolution, could give states more reasons to adopt new domestic laws clamping down on human rights and freedom of expression.

The UN General Assembly’s human rights committee was considering a draft resolution put forward by Syria, Venezuela and Belarus asking the UN to oppose the “negative stereotyping of religions.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

The Jew Flu: The Strange Illness of Jewish Anti-Semitism

The 1930s Labor Zionist leader Berl Katznelson asked “Is there another People on Earth so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful, while every murder, rape, robbery committed by their enemies fill their hearts with admiration and awe?”

This is Jew Flu — the virus of Jewish Anti-Semitism, and its Jewish Anti- and Post-Zionist mutations, afflicting a small but inordinately loud minority of Hebrews.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Zenster said...

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s lawyer says that his client is paralyzed from the waist down due to the injuries he sustained in the Fort Hood firefight. Reports emerged today indicating that Maj. Hasan either sent or received wire transfers to or from Pakistan. There are even rumors that he recently traveled to Pakistan. [emphasis added]

Too bad Major Hasan wasn't paralyzed from the waist up.

Anonymous said...

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s lawyer says that his client is paralyzed from the waist down due to the injuries he sustained in the Fort Hood firefight

If I didnt know any better, I would have thought this soldier deserves a medal.

Zenster said...

Alleged 9/11 Plotters Face Trial

Civilian Court in Lower Manhattan Will Hear Terror Cases in Big Test of Justice System

The administration's intention of treating Muslim terrorism as a "crimial" offense is symptomatic of its inability to properly address Islam's declaration of war against the west. This is an actionable level of incompetence with respect to neglecting America's most fundamental national security interests. It also continues a pattern of fighting the war against Islam "one-bullet-at-a-time" in a bottom up strategy whose inadequate response will invite WMD terrorist attacks.

This totally inept order of battle has a much greater probability of resulting in a catastrophic nuclear reply than the sort of measured response through persistent disproportionate retaliation that could actually deter such terrorist WMD attacks.

Thus will Islam's grotesque manipulation of liberal Western politicians yield the unexpected dividend of a Muslim holocaust. While Islam remains the root and branch of this looming calamity, it is the West's callow and spineless response to perennial Muslim aggression that seals the ummah's fate.