Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/29/2009The big news of the day was the vote on the Swiss referendum to ban minarets. I posted about it earlier today, but I’ve included some additional articles here which may be of interest.

In other news, the number of paid clergy in Church of England will reportedly be decimated within the next five years.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Esther, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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FBI Moves to Seize CAIR Records From Author
His Name: Jihad. His Message: Peace
Impossible Numbers Certified in NY-23
Obama Administration a Master of Irony on Terrorism
Europe and the EU
A Baroness for Europe, A Baron for Britain
Film: Spain: EU Stops Aid, Directors Against Minister
Fr. Samir: In Switzerland, Yes Minarets, No to the Muezzin
Germany: Drunk British Soldier Puts Policewoman in Hospital
Government Seeks to Limit Impact of Minaret Ban
International Muslim Concern at Minaret Vote
Italy: Berlusconi Says Would Like to ‘Strangle’ Writers
Minaret Result Seen as “Turning Point”
Sweden-Finlad: “Now the Pages in the National Encyclopaedia Regarding Inland Ice Can be Torn Out and Burned”
Swedish Meats Chair Quits Over Pig Scandal
Taxed for Living
UK: Church of England Set to Lose a Tenth of Its Clergy in Five Years
UK: Home-Grown Terrorism: Our Values Are Not Optional for Minority Groups
UK: Heads or Tails? One of These £1 Coins is a Fake.
Women Lead Swiss in Vote to Ban Minarets
Mediterranean Union
Transport: Euromed Aviation, Extend Accords With EU
North Africa
Egyptian State Security Accused of Cover-Up in Muslim Riots
Egypt: France Grants 500,000 Books to Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Israel and the Palestinians
Chavez: ‘Israel Aims to Wipe Out Palestinians’
Israel: Orthodox Jews Spitting on Christians
Middle East
Bilingual Road Signs in Turkey’s Kurdish Villages
Expert Calls for a ‘Greener’ Hajj
Hizbollah Fears Al-Qaeda
Report: Suleiman to Meet Obama Next Month
Suleiman: Lebanon Has Right to Use All Legitimate Means to Liberate Lands
Turkey: ‘Valley of the Wolves’ Hopes to Spark More Nationalism
UK: Woman Fights for Son Taken by Sharia Court
South Asia
British Tip Off Led to Arrest of US Mumbai Suspect David Headley
Indonesia Minister Says Immorality Causes Disasters
Mount Everest to Host Nepal Cabinet Meeting
Nuclear: Obama and Indian PM Agree to Landmark Deal
Pirates Jailed for Yacht Murder
Thirteen Inmates Escape in W Afghanistan
U.S. Holds Detainees at Secret Afghan Prison, N.Y. Times Reports
Sub-Saharan Africa
Royal Marines Could Have Rescued Pirate Hostages, But the Order to Attack Never Came
UN Accuses Spanish NGOs of Supporting Rwanda Militia
Australia: Taps Off for Thirsty Asylum Seekers
Culture Wars
Out With Jesus, In With ‘Frosty the Snowman’
An Inconvenient Truth
Climate Battle Bill to Top $300 Billion: Guyana
Climate Change: This is the Worst Scientific Scandal of Our Generation
Evidence of Life on Mars Lurks Beneath Surface of Meteorite, NASA Experts Claim
Swine Flu Epidemic Escaped From Lab — Australian Scientists Say


FBI Moves to Seize CAIR Records From Author

In an unexpected move, the FBI and the Justice Department are wading into a court battle between a conservative author and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The feds reportedly served a grand jury subpoena Friday to seize thousands of pages of records allegedly stolen from CAIR by author David Gaubatz and his son Chris as part of an undercover infiltration of the group. The records were about to be returned to CAIR pursuant to a court order in a civil suit the organization brought against the pair.

Gaubatz, co-author of “Muslim Mafia,” which accuses CAIR of being a front for Islamic terrorism, agreed earlier this month to the order requiring the return of more than 12,000 pages of disputed records while a federal judge considered the lawsuit.

However, on Friday afternoon, the U.S. Government, which previously had no role in the civil lawsuit, filed a motion in the case. The legal papers were filed under seal, perhaps in response to complaints that the Justice Department unfairly smeared CAIR in a public court filing in 2007 suggesting CAIR had links to Hamas.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

His Name: Jihad. His Message: Peace

Jihad Turk — clean-shaven and youthful — is telling an interfaith audience that the prophet Muhammad traces his lineage to Abraham, the biblical patriarch.

Turk explains to the crowd of mostly Christians and Jews that Muslims also revere Jesus and Moses as prophets, and that Islam cherishes life.

But some in the Pepperdine University audience are skeptical. One man wants to know why so many Muslims are “willing with perfect ease to kill,” as he puts it, drawing brief applause.

A woman later needles Turk about what she views as Islam’s suppression of women. “You guys really need a good PR firm,” she tells him.

Without missing a beat, Turk responds: “If you know of one, let me know.”

U.S. Muslims are struggling mightily these days to win over a wary public. In Los Angeles, part of that task falls to the 38-year-old Turk, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California, one of the region’s most influential mosques.

Earnest and doggedly optimistic, Turk is an unflappable ambassador for an often embattled faith — a man whose American upbringing gives him a foothold in two sometimes colliding worlds.

The son of an American Methodist mother and a Palestinian Muslim father, Turk was elected homecoming king at his Phoenix high school and took some time off from college to explore his Islamic roots in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Impossible Numbers Certified in NY-23

CANTON, NY — The election results certified by the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections for New York’s 23rd Congressional District contain some numbers that are mathematically impossible. These numbers were requested in person and transmitted by e-mail just hours before certification on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009.

For six election districts in St. Lawrence County (the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 7th districts in Canton, the 14th district in Massena, and the 2nd district in Oswegatchie) negative numbers appear in the column for “blank” ballots, known in other states as “undervotes.”

The Board of Elections stated repeatedly that their numbers add up, and strictly speaking, they do. But negative numbers should not be required to make this happen.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Administration a Master of Irony on Terrorism

It’s time for liberals to make a choice. They can support the Obama administration. Or they can support civil liberties. But they can’t do both at the same time.

The tension between principles and partisanship has been building for months. The left gets nervous every time the White House seems to be lurching to the right — preserving the CIA policy of rendition of terrorism suspects, defending domestic wiretaps, dragging its feet on closing Guantanamo Bay.

More recently, many liberals are pleased with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to transport accused 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other defendants to New York and try them in federal court, thereby granting them all the rights that go to defendants in criminal trials.

Conservatives were appalled by Holder’s gesture, but liberals gladly received it as it was intended — as a pointed, if petty, rebuttal of George W. Bush’s policies. But what the left should have real trouble with are some clumsy and inappropriate comments made by top administration officials about the Mohammed proceedings and the overall topic of how they would handle terror suspects.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Baroness for Europe, A Baron for Britain

On Tuesday the Lisbon Treaty comes into force and the European Union (EU) takes on the status of a genuine state with its own President and Foreign Minister. The Russian newspaper Pravda (Nov. 4) recently wrote that the EU is beginning to look like a “reincarnation of the USSR.” The appointment of Cathy Ashton as the first EU Foreign Minister (full title” “High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy”) would seem to confirm this.

In the 1980s, Ashton was the treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), a British organization, infiltrated by Marxists, which advocated the disarmament of the West in the face of the Soviet Union’s arsenal of SS-20 nuclear missiles. It is almost certain that CND received Soviet funding for its efforts to thwart the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher which would lead to the collapse of the Soviet empire and the liberation of Eastern Europe.

Exactly 20 years after this liberation, at last month’s secret meeting of the governments of the 27 EU member states, Ashton, now a Baroness, was appointed Europe’s Foreign Minister. It came as an insult to the brave men and women who fought and died for Eastern Europe’s liberty in the four decades between 1945 and 1989. Last Wednesday, Nov. 25, Nigel Farage, a British member of the European Parliament (MEP), brought up Ashton’s CND past in a speech in the Parliament. He was shouted down and reprimanded by the Speaker. Farage was told that, if he continued to show “disrespect” for the EU leadership, he would face “disciplinary action.”

[Return to headlines]

Film: Spain: EU Stops Aid, Directors Against Minister

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 25 — Brussels has blocked aid to Spain’s film industry for which the contest for access to public contributions, which should have been published in Spain before December 31, will not be announced until next year. The postponement could cause the paralysis of the film industry for the foreseeable future, and is the consequence of the EU decision to push back the request of the Spanish government to approve to measure urgently, leaving the funding without judicial support. Brussels chose to use the ordinary procedures after having examined the recourse presented by a film association to which belong over 200 people from directors, producers, set designers, actors and technicians, against the ministerial text, who consider it against pluralism and cultural diversity because it favours large productions compared to smaller and independent ones. The ruling of the ministry, directed by Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde, who was also a director and head of Spain’s Film Academy, has been bitterly criticised since the publication of the monthly bulletin on October 24 because it states that public aid must be assigned on a central level and not in cooperation with the autonomous communities. For this reason, the filmmaker’s association criticised, it excludes the future contributions to the creation of the audio-visual sector or measures to support exhibitions, leaving films with a budget of less than 600,000 euros out of complementary aid, which would only be able to seek project funding: a maximum of 150,000 euros and in any case not superior to 50% of the total budget. According to the association, which includes some famous directors like Fernando Trueba, Oscar winner for the film Belle Epoque, Javier Rebollo and Salvador Garcia Ruiz, a segment of films that would be difficult to make would be created due to lack of funding from the state. From here came the decision to go to the European seat with the ministerial decision to see if it works against EU norms in the matter and spirit of public aid. As a part of the recourse, the association defined the implementation ordinance as a twisting of the text of the film law approved with parliamentary majority in December 2007. For its part, Spain’s Federation of Audio-Visual Producers, in a letter written to Brussels, expressed its support for the executive decision made in Madrid and that the lack of its implementation would be a catastrophe for Spanish cinema. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Fr. Samir: In Switzerland, Yes Minarets, No to the Muezzin

The referendum on whether to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland is an opportunity to rethink the use of these architectural elements. Their use to call people to prayer; or the race to make them ever higher, competing with churches, is excluded. Europe must learn to live with Islam, but Islam also has to rethink its life in Europe as a minority.

Rome (AsiaNews) — On 29 November, Swiss voters will be asked to vote in a referendum calling for a ban on the construction of minarets in the country. The proposal is supported by the Swiss People’s Party that fears the minarets are a sign of a progressive Islamization of the Federation. There are about 400 thousand Muslims in Switzerland, the majority originating from Turkey or the Balkans. According to a government inquiry, only 15% of them practice their faith actively. To date, out of about 150 mosques in the country, only five have a minaret.

The discussion on the yes-or-no minarets has polarized the population. Those in favour of the ban rather than the minarets fear a spread of Islam and violence in the neighbourhoods of peaceful communities in Switzerland. The People’s Party quotes the Turkish premier Erdogan according to whom “minarets are the bayonets of Islam”. Those opposed to the ban are worried that it manifests xenophobia and betrays the tradition of openness and freedom in the country. Even the business community is concerned because it has many economic ties with Muslim countries and fear that a ban on minarets will produce a boycott of Swiss products in the markets of the Middle East, which recently recorded a growth of 14%.

The theme of the minarets in Europe, next to cathedrals and skyscrapers, is still an issue that needs to be addressed, given the growth of Islamic presence in the European Union. For Father Samir Khalil Samir the debate is an opportunity to help Europe welcome Islam and for Islam to integrate itself into the life of European society. Here is his expert opinion:

On 29 November in Switzerland will vote on a referendum to ban construction of minarets. How do we tackle this issue? By firstly looking at the facts. In the beginning of Islam there were no minarets. Only three generations later do we see the first ones appear, when watch towers were used to launch the call to prayer. These towers were not too high, to avoid the dispersion of the calling voice. Following this the minaret became increasingly common, until it became a symbolic and aesthetic ornament.

As long as it remains an aesthetic symbol, it can be accepted even in Europe. But if its purpose is to call people to prayer, this will create difficulties: microphones and loudspeakers will need to be powerful enough to be heard high above the horns of cars and traffic. Moreover, if the hours of prayer are being announced this means even those at 4 in the morning. And these times cannot be changed because they are established by God and not man. But this is the impasse: if one accepts that the minarets have microphones and the call to prayer, one must accept that it is also done at 4 am and 10 pm. It must be said that Saudi Arabia has minarets, but without microphones. The reason is that at the time of the Prophet these tools did not exist and therefore should not be used even now.

Yes then to the aesthetic symbol, but no to the muezzin and the call to prayer. Also because during the year, there are times such as Ramadan, in which the prayers are lengthy, such as reading the Koran.

Then the race to be the highest must be eliminated. In Islamic countries (and partly in Europe) the race is on to make the minarets taller than all surrounding buildings, especially churches. But then it would have to be admitted that the underlying reason for the construction of the minaret is to compete. On the other hand, saying it is merely a question of competition is not a good thing either because it ruins coexistence, which is why there is the demand for construction of minarets. If so there must be a minaret, it would be worthwhile for it to be a discreet symbol that meets with the consensus of the local population and surrounding environment.

This discussion on the minaret, the pros and cons, is an example of how to deal with your current situation in Europe, where increasingly there are Muslim communities. But it is also an opportunity for Muslims to rethink what it means to live among you, in a situation of welcome, but also as a minority. And being a minority they can not behave as in all Islamic countries, where they are the majority.

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

Germany: Drunk British Soldier Puts Policewoman in Hospital

A drunken British soldier bashed a German policewoman bloody and senseless in Lower Saxony at the weekend, during a brawl between soldiers and a group of local men, authorities said Sunday.

The 31-year-old policewoman was taken to hospital, a police spokesman said, while the 18-year-old soldier was taken in custody by British military police.

The assault happened in the town of Bad Fallingbostel, where there is a British army base.

The policewoman and a male colleague on patrol came across the brawl between the soldiers and locals. After calling for backup, they tried to break up the men.

But the men fled into a park. As the officers gave chase, the accused soldier allegedly turned on her and punched her repeatedly in the face and around the head.

He also tried to attack the second officer, who came to her rescue, but was stopped by the local men with whom he’d been brawling. The woman was left dazed and bleeding heavily.

Only when the police reinforcements arrived could the drunken soldier be subdued and arrested.

German police took an alcohol reading of the man before handing him over to British military police.

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

Government Seeks to Limit Impact of Minaret Ban

The government says voters’ approval of a ban on new minarets reflects fears among the Swiss population of Islamic fundamentalism.

However, it considers a ban is not the right way to prevent extremist tendencies. In an apparent effort to downplay the impact of the result, cabinet ministers maintained religious freedom for Muslims was not at risk and said inter-religious dialogue would continue.

The mood at Sunday’s news conference in the capital Bern was decidedly subdued when three cabinet members appeared before the media to comment on the outcome of the vote and take questions.

“The government is disappointed that it was not possible to convince voters to reject the initiative,” said Economics Minister Doris Leuthard.

In a major upset the proposal by members of rightwing parties won 57.5 per cent of the vote, despite recommendations by the government and a majority in parliament that the initiative be thrown out.

“Emotions were running high during the debate. This ruled out any possibility to show that a ban on minarets is a ‘proxy war’,” said Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

“The outcome of the vote is undeniably a reflection of the fears and uncertainties that exist among the population; concerns that Islamic fundamentalist ideas could lead to the establishment of parallel societies,” she added…

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

International Muslim Concern at Minaret Vote

Reaction to the Swiss anti-minaret vote in the wider Islamic community has reflected shock, sadness and concern, but also a determination to try to build bridges.

The vote revealed the hidden fears of many Swiss, and Muslims should respond by trying to build harmony across society, a leading Muslim scholar says.

The reaction of Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt, was echoed by a number of other Muslim scholars and commentators whom spoke to outside Switzerland.

“This result should draw our attention to the reality of the hidden fears which have been underestimated by decision makers,” Gomaa told

“We think that priority should be given to meeting the challenge of building societies capable of integrating diversity and difference… and we are ready to give every support to such an effort,” he said.

The grand mufti is the highest official of religious law in a Sunni Muslim country. Gomaa is regarded as a champion of moderate Islam.

“My first reaction is one of surprise and disappointment,” Babacar Ba, the Geneva ambassador of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), told

“It is a bad answer to a bad question. I fear that this kind of thing is simply a gift to extremism and intolerance.”

“I think we must be very vigilant in the face of the upsurge of islamophobia,” he added. “This vote is an open door to the dangerous process of calling fundamental freedoms into question.”


It had been widely expected that the ban would be rejected by voters, but Jaber al-Alawani, a Muslim thinker and director of the Cordoba Institute in the United States, told that he was not surprised.

“Islamophobia is widespread in Europe, all the more so because rightwing extremists see it as a kind of defence of European identity, which they haven’t so far quite been able to define.”

A British Muslim, Imam Abduljalil Sajid, imam of Brighton, and a member of the national executive committee of Interfaith UK, warned that ordinary Muslims were likely to react angrily, even though, as he stressed, the minaret is not a religious requirement.

“It will be seen negatively throughout the Muslim world, [as yet] another problem of Islam versus the West. I don’t want to see it develop negatively, but unfortunately that will be the case,” he told

Palestinian law professor Anwar Abu Aisheh, speaking to the Swiss News Agency, agreed.

“The vote will give arguments to Muslim extremists. They will see a frontal attack against Islam and its symbols,” he warned.

Measured response

Despite the disappointment felt by many Muslims, Gomaa called for a measured response.

“It is really important not to exploit this result wrongly for political ends, but to regard it as a call to build cooperation and harmony between our different religions and societies, in a new spirit,” he said.

Ba agreed on the importance of not over-reacting and of trying to build bridges.

“The main thing is to keep calm and to realise how much work still needs to be done to defend basic freedoms. I think we must do this by … taking a constructive part in the debate on all issues which cause fear and concern, and to try to bring people together in order to confront extremism wherever it comes from.”

Alawani also appealed to Swiss Muslims to keep calm.

“Avoid irrational reactions, and respect the views of the Swiss voters,” he said.

Misfer al-Kahtani, a Muslim thinker from Saudi Arabia agreed. He pointed out that many Swiss had voted against the initiative, but said that the Muslim minorities in Europe had to take into account the fears that many Europeans have about their religion.

“The real challenge is for the Muslim community to accept the decision by Swiss society … and work to change the cliche’s adopted by those who called for the ban on minarets, by showing a good example and applying the ideas and values of Muslim civilisation,” he told


A number of commentators reflected on what the vote said about Switzerland.

“Switzerland is noted for its capacity to integrate culturally diverse components … and article 15 of the Swiss constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and belief,” Gomaa commented.

“This isn’t a show of racism by the Swiss, just an upsurge of selfishness, [they are] worried that nothing should come and trouble their peace,” said law professor Abu Aisheh.

Mohamed Munir al-Ghodban, a Muslim thinker from Syria, pointed out that minarets had nothing to do with the basic tenets of Islam. But he also told that Muslims in Switzerland felt the vote interfered with their religious practices “which contradicts the basic principles of freedom and democracy, which Switzerland has been so proud of for such a long time.”

Praise from European right

“Extreme right groups everywhere, in France, in Holland or anywhere in the world will use this vote in their favour,” Imam Sajid warned, and immediate comments by rightwing leaders bear him out.

There were warm words of praise for the Swiss vote from Italy’s Reform Minister, Roberto Calderoli, who told the Italian news agency ANSA that a clear sign had come from Switzerland: “Yes to church towers, no to minarets”. He said Switzerland should be a model for Italy in this respect.

The head of Austria’s rightwing Freedom Party, quoted by the Austrian news agency, also sees Switzerland as a model, a sentiment echoed by the general secretary of another rightwing party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria.

Marine le Pen, of the French National Front, said in a statement on the party’s website that the Swiss had demonstrated their attachment to their “national identity, their countryside and their culture”, despite calls from the “élites” not to vote in favour of the ban.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Says Would Like to ‘Strangle’ Writers

ROME — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would like to “strangle” people who write books or made films about the mafia, he told young supporters of his Forza Italia party on Saturday.

“If I find out who is the maker of the nine seasons of ‘The Octopus’ and who has written books on the mafia, which give such a bad image to Italy across the world, I swear that I will strangle them,” he said.

“The Octopus” — in Italian, “La Piovra” — was a mafia-themed television series aired on RAI public television from 1984 through 2001.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Minaret Result Seen as “Turning Point”

Swiss voters’ clear decision on Sunday to ban the construction of minarets has generated a wide range of emotions, from stunned joy to rueful concern.

Supporters of the initiative said the Swiss electorate wanted to put a brake on the Islamicisation of their country, whereas opponents were concerned about the violation of rights, not to mention an international backlash and possible boycott of Swiss products.

“Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure — we don’t have that in Switzerland and we don’t want to introduce it,” said Ulrich Schlüer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets.

Oskar Freysinger, a member of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party and a driving force in the campaign, said he was “stunned and dumbfounded” by Sunday’s result “since the entire establishment was against us”.

“I would like to say to all the Muslims listening that this will in no way change their right to practise their religion, to pray or to gather [in mosques],” he said. “However, society wants to put a safeguard on the political-legal wing of Islam, for which there is no separation between state and religion.”

The president of the People’s Party, Toni Brunner, said voters had clearly rejected the idea of parallel societies and the further expansion of Islam — including radical, political Islam — in Switzerland.

According to final results, 57.5 per cent of voters and a majority of cantons backed the initiative — up from 34 per cent last month. Turnout was high at around 53 per cent.

Brunner said people who settled here had to realise that they couldn’t turn up to work in a head scarf or get special dispensation from swimming lessons.

What’s this?

People’s initiative

Government reaction

The government said in a statement it respected the decision.

For Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the outcome reflected fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies, “which reject our national traditions and which could disregard our legal order”.

“These concerns have to be taken seriously. The government has always done so and will continue to do so in future. However, we take the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies,” she said.

Widmer-Schlumpf underlined that Sunday’s vote was only directed against the construction of new minarets. “It is not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture. Of that the government gives its assurance.”

“Switzerland has lost”

Nevertheless, Saida Keller-Messahli, president of the Forum for an Advanced Islam, said the public’s fears had been too great and “hatred had won over reason”.

She said there would now be legal consequences, since the ban violated the freedom of religion.

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland also regretted the result, saying the propaganda of the campaign supporters had succeeded in frightening the majority of voters.

The federation said it was too soon to judge the negative social and legal consequences — what was important now was to strengthen their public relations and clear up any misunderstandings or prejudices concerning Islam.

“Switzerland has lost,” said Rifa’at Lenzin from the European Project for Interreligious Learning in Zurich, adding that the country was “leading the way” for Islamophobia.

Lenzin was only partly surprised by the result, “which corresponds to the current mood”. She said she was astonished, however, that the “subjective and far-fetched arguments” of the minaret opponents had found such great support.

She added that the opponents of the initiative had completely underestimated the situation and that the political parties had been asleep, with only the centre-right Radical Party actively campaigning. The public spaces had been dominated by the campaign supporters, she said.

“ Switzerland is heading straight for a battle with Islam. “

Jacques Neyrinck Swiss values

Reinhard Schulze, a professor of Islamic studies at Bern University, said he was “very surprised” by the acceptance of the initiative.

He described the result as a “turning point”, in that after many years of going in the other direction, voters had once again spoken for an unequal treatment of faiths.

“The next thing is obviously to look at how this plays with international law,” he said, adding that he could already envisage complaints from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Council of Religions, a body comprising Christian churches, Jews and Muslims, said in a statement it regretted the result. People of all faiths must work together even harder, it said, for the respect of rights of freedom, for dialogue with the Muslim community and for integration.

“These are values that make Switzerland strong,” it said.

Swiss image abroad

Looking at political reaction, the centre-left Social Democratic Party warned in a statement against the exclusion of Muslims in Switzerland.

“The yes vote was probably the result of a diffuse fear of a religious minority,” it said.

This fear must be taken seriously, it added, but it must not be misinterpreted as a vote of mistrust against all Muslims living in Switzerland.

The party said it was also concerned about Switzerland’s image abroad, saying that a foreign ministry offensive was clearly necessary, along with stronger integration efforts at all state levels.

Jacques Neyrinck from the centre-right Christian Democratic Party stressed that Switzerland would be the only country in the world to ban the construction of minarets.

“Switzerland is heading straight for a battle with Islam,” he said, adding that he feared a boycott of Swiss products.

“Dirty campaign”

The four minarets already attached to mosques in the country are not affected by the initiative, and the president of the Islamic community in Langenthal, canton Bern, assumed his organisation would be able to add a minaret to their mosque since it had already been approved.

Mutalip Karaademi said he was disappointed by the strong level of support and the “dirty campaign”, describing Muslims and Islamists and terrorists.

But Langenthal mayor Thomas Rufener, from the People’s Party, said he didn’t think the minaret would be built “for political reasons”.

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

Sweden-Finlad: “Now the Pages in the National Encyclopaedia Regarding Inland Ice Can be Torn Out and Burned”

People lived in the Torne River Valley on the border with Sweden and Finland some 11,000 years ago, an important new archaeological find has shown.

The settlement, found near Pajala in the far north of Sweden, are the oldest known find in the county of Norrbotten, according to the archaeologist Olof Östlund.

The find was uncovered when archaeologists were searching for ancient remains in the area around Kaunisvaar near Pajala where a new mine is set to open, according to a report in local newspaper Norrländska Socialdemokraten.

“Now the pages in the National Encyclopaedia regarding inland ice can be torn out and burned,” Östlund told the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Swedish Meats Chair Quits Over Pig Scandal

Lars Hultström has resigned as chair of Swedish Meats and all other leadership positions. Hultström owns one of the pig farms at the heart of an animal rights scandal.

In addition to resigning as the chair of Swedish Meats, an association representing more than 17,000 livestock farmers in Sweden, Hultström has also resigned his posts at Sveriges Grisproducenter, and association representing Sweden’s pig farmers, and the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF) as well as several other agricultural associations.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Taxed for Living

Forget taxes on income or consumption, the ultimate in regressive taxation is a tax simply for living. ObamaCare’s mandatory health insurance or fine helps pioneer the notion that people should be taxed just for being alive. In his interview with George Stephanopoulos, Obama called his health care tax a fine. Which would then mean that the United States government is now fining people for living.

Democratic politicians from Obama on down have used the trite metaphor of a driver’s license. But a driver’s license is based on a choice. You can choose to buy a car or not. You can’t however choose to be alive, or rather you can but the only alternative is death. That essentially makes ObamaCare a tax or a fine just for living. Which can’t help but seem like a gateway arch to euthanasia, expressing a value system that sees human life itself as an unwanted nuisance at best and an offense at worst.

The stated rationale that people have to be fined ahead of time for the costs that their illness might impose on the government is not only unconstitutional, but a dangerous slippery slope. If we are going to tax people for their potential illnesses, why not tax parents of newborns for the potential expenses that their children will run up. This notion has already been percolating among some global warming agitators, which means that it will make it to congress sooner or later. Furthermore under the same rationale used for mandatory health insurance, women might be given a choice between using birth control or paying a potential child tax. If you think that’s far-fetched, you haven’t listened to the strident rhetoric of environmentalists pushing Zero Population Growth programs.

That is only one of a thousand possible examples where the slippery slope of fining people for being alive and a potential expense for the government can take us. Once we assume that the government can fine or tax people just for being alive or a potential liability, by the same logic it becomes possible to tax the elderly who have a higher probability of needing medical services. Similarly anyone above the government recommended weight can be taxed or fined based on the potential health problems they might cause. Such an approach would fall into line with the philosophy of Obama Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein’s book, Nudge.

Essentially it would create on the one hand a whole new range of sin taxes targeting anything the government’s social monkeyers disapprove of, and on the other tax people for potential expenses they might incur, fleecing the sheep two ways for the benefit of an ever-expanding government bureaucracy constantly running short of new revenue sources. Essentially the US would turn into the EU with a government boot in everyone’s face, forever.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Church of England Set to Lose a Tenth of Its Clergy in Five Years

The Church of England is facing the loss of as many as one in ten paid clergy in the next five years and internal documents seen by The Times admit that the traditional model of a vicar in every parish is over.

The credit crunch and a pension funding crisis have left dioceses facing massive restructuring programmes. Church statistics show that between 2000 and 2013 stipendiary or paid clergy numbers will have fallen by nearly a quarter.

According to figures on the Church of England website, there will be an 8.3 per cent decrease in paid clergy in the next four years, from 8,400 this year to 7,700 in to 2013. This represents a 22.5 per cent decrease since 2000. If this trend continues in just over 50 years there will be no full-time paid clergy left in Britain’s 13,000 parishes serving 16,000 churches.

Jobs will instead be filled by unpaid part-timers, giving rise to fears about the quality of parish ministry. Combined with a big reduction in churchgoing, the figures will add weight to the campaign for disestablishment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Home-Grown Terrorism: Our Values Are Not Optional for Minority Groups

It would be better if we enforced Britain’s cultural values on immigrant communities, rather than allowing them to dictate government policy

by Janet Daley

How do you create a home-grown terrorist? For a while, Britain seemed to hold the copyright on the formula for this. First, you import a huge number of people from places where there are unresolved historical conflicts, with no stipulation that they learn anything about their adopted homeland (not even its language). Then you make no attempt to integrate these groups — which are large enough to constitute self-sustaining communities — into the culture and political traditions of the country that is now their home, nor do you advise the schools to inculcate any sense of pride or pleasure in the new national identity to which they are entitled. Indeed, you do precisely the opposite of this: you positively encourage not only the incomers themselves but their British-born children to maintain a separate, inward-looking ethnic community that stands apart from the mainstream life of the society and whose values may conflict with it.

So eager are you to show that you accept other cultures whose attitudes and assumptions (on, for example, the treatment of women) are opposed to the official values of your society, that you benevolently overlook what is being taught in their schools even when those schools are being supported by government funding. When your Government is caught in the act of having provided such funding, as happened last week with schools in Slough and Haringey, both of which had a history of links with the Muslim extremist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, the ensuing row is on purely technical points: which school officials held, or were connected to people who held, actual positions in the organisation on what dates? The question of whether schools with an explicitly separatist ethos should qualify as providing acceptable basic education is not even addressed.

So there it is: an instant recipe for estrangement and alienation that can turn (or be turned), in susceptible personalities under the right circumstances, into terrorist fodder. Until recently, as I say, we led the world in this particular specialism: the United States in particular was inclined to believe that the phenomenon of the native (as opposed to foreign) terrorist was a peculiarly British problem, which is why it introduced additional security measures to apply to visa-waiver UK passport holders.

But the US, having been confident that it was a country that knew what was required for the successful absorption of immigrant groups, has now produced a home-grown terrorist of its own, and the controversy that this event has inspired is not irrelevant to our debate (to the extent that we are permitted to have one) in Britain.

When the Muslim American Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, he did not just murder his military colleagues: he killed the American illusion that “it couldn’t happen here”. And he unleashed an argument not just on practical topics such as racial profiling but on the much wider question of how much America’s foreign policy decisions — how it should conduct itself in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example — should be influenced by the feelings of minority groups within the US itself.

This dispute revolves around the personality of Major Hasan: was he just an unbalanced individual for whom Islamic fundamentalism was nothing more than a delusional pretext for a psychotic break? This account has gained favour in Left-wing American circles for fairly obvious reasons: it allows Islamic fundamentalism to become simply an unwitting accomplice to the act, rather than its actual cause, and the act itself to be seen as a random, unreasoning crime rather than a terrorist attack. No big national problem here: just a nutter whose instability should have been spotted sooner but whose religious-cum-political “motives” can be ignored.

According to commentators on the Right, such as Charles Krauthammer, this thesis is a pernicious attempt to “medicalise” Major Hasan’s crime in the interests of avoiding any implication that there was a meaningful connection between his Islamic religious beliefs and his act. By defining the act as literally meaningless (insane), defenders of the liberal orthodoxy are not taxed by the problem of how to deal with a possibly murderous minority within their own country.

The Left-liberal camp is now in the rather uncomfortable position of holding two contradictory interpretations of Major Hasan’s actions. There is the one that Mr Krauthammer describes: this incident is a one-off act of lunacy, so the fact that Hasan was a Muslim is of no importance (even if he thinks it was — after all, he is insane).

But the other argument made by the Left puts Hasan’s religion at the centre of his action: Muslims, even ones born and bred in the US, are being driven to violence by American foreign policy. It is the perceived American assault on Islamic peoples and countries that is responsible for pushing borderline personalities — who have been made susceptible by their cultural introversion — into extreme associations. So the conclusion is roughly this: the only possible way to avoid radicalising any more vulnerable, borderline psychotics who happen to be Muslims is to change our foreign policy so as not to inflame their hyperactive sensitivities.

Quite apart from the question of whether any ethnic group should be allowed to dictate government policy under the threat of violence, isn’t there a bizarre precedent here? Suppose an element within the animal rights lobby were to engage in a programme of major urban terrorism and threaten to persist until the consumption of meat was banned. Would we seriously entertain the idea that to continue to sell meat was an inexcusable provocation to a dangerous, unstable minority? And can there be any certainty about the causes of such provocation among Muslims? The grievances of Palestinians are the most frequently cited source of global Islamic anger, but most of the Pakistani recruits to Islamic fundamentalism in Britain have closer links with the Kashmiri cause than to any problems in Gaza. Add to this that a good few of those convicted of terrorist acts have been converts (such as Richard Reid, the shoe bomber) who had no inherited ties to any Muslim country.

What a miasma of moral confusion we are succumbing to — all for the sake of avoiding a question that must be asked: how does a liberal society cope with a minority in whose name acts of violence are carried out in its midst? Surely the answer must involve a much more muscular liberalism: a robust belief in the values that permit people of different beliefs to live together peaceably and an unapologetic determination to enforce those values in every quarter of the country.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Heads or Tails? One of These £1 Coins is a Fake.

Today every one in 40 is a counterfeit

In 2002, one in every 109 £1 coins was a fake. Today it’s one in 40. A former counterfeiter reveals how to spot the fake in your pocket… and asks the question: bearing in mind you can’t swap one for legal tender, would you throw yours in the bin?

In May a Liverpool businessman was jailed for producing 200,000 fake £1 coins. Mohmed Maljee had such confidence in the coins that he used a sidekick to deposit them in local banks before they were arrested in September 2006. The 39-year-old had the perfect cover: he owned a chain of petrol stations through which he would launder the counterfeit coins. Detectives believe that £200,000 was only the tip of the iceberg.

One of the reasons for their certainty that Maljee lay at the centre of a wider conspiracy was a discovery made in August last year, when two Albanians were stopped in a Hounslow car park after police noticed their Renault van was overloaded. Inside they found five oil drums packed with counterfeit £1 coins worth £125,000. Soca alerted Merseyside Police to the potential connection and it was discovered that the Hounslow coins were identical to those found in Maljee’s storeroom.

[Return to headlines]

Women Lead Swiss in Vote to Ban Minarets

People are worried about minarets dominating the Swiss skyline

Matthew Campbell

A right-wing campaign to outlaw minarets on mosques in a referendum being held in Switzerland today has received an unlikely boost from radical feminists arguing that the tower-like structures are “male power symbols” and reminders of Islam’s oppression of women.

A “stop the minarets” campaign has provoked ferment in the land of Heidi, where women are more likely than men to vote for the ban after warnings from prominent feminists that Islam threatens their rights.

Forget about tranquil Alpine scenery and cowbells: one of the most startling features of the referendum campaign has been a poster showing a menacing woman in a burqa beside minarets rising from the Swiss flag.

It seems to have struck a nerve in Langenthal, a small town near Bern where Muslims plan to put up a minaret next to their prayer room in a bleak former paint factory.

“If we give them a minaret, they’ll have us all wearing burqas,” said Julia Werner, a local housewife. “Before you know it, we’ll have sharia law and women being stoned to death in our streets. We won’t be Swiss any more.”

A spoof video game on the internet called Minaret Attack shows minarets popping up all over the idyllic Swiss countryside, after which a message proclaims: “Game over! Switzerland is covered in minarets. Vote to ban them on November 29.”

“It’s a dirty campaign,” said Mutalip Karaademi, an Albanian who leads Langenthal’s small Muslim community. “They’re trying to provoke us.”

A poll suggested the Swiss would narrowly reject a ban but the feminist involvement is having an effect: according to one poll, 39% of women were in favour of a ban, but only 31% of men.

Tatiana, a teacher who had previously voted for the left, was quoted in a newspaper as saying she would vote for the minaret ban as she could “no longer bear being mistreated and terrorised by boys who believe women are worthless”.

Socialist politicians have been furious to see icons of the left joining what is regarded as an anti-immigrant campaign by the populist Swiss People’s party, the biggest group in parliament.

One of them, Julia Onken, warned that failure to ban minarets would be “a signal of the state’s acceptance of the oppression of women”. She has sent out 4,000 emails attacking Muslims who condone forced marriage, honour killings and beating women.

Swiss business is horrified. There are fears of a reaction against Swiss products similar to the one suffered by Denmark over the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in 2005.

“The brand ‘Swiss’ must continue to represent values such as openness, pluralism and freedom of religion,” said Hanspeter Rentsch, a member of the board of Swatch, the watchmaker.

The government, for its part, is worried about reprisals plunging Switzerland into the front line of the war against terror. Micheline Calmy-Rey, the foreign minister, said a yes vote “could make Switzerland a target for Islamic terrorism”.

With a Muslim population of 400,000 and some 150 mosques and prayer rooms, the Swiss thought they had avoided the kind of tensions that have arisen over Muslims’ rights in bigger neighbouring countries such as France and Germany.

That changed in 2006, however, when a Sikh temple, complete with a gleaming white crown, was inaugurated in Langenthal. Karaademi appears to have been struck with cupola envy.

“I said to myself: why not us?” he recalled last week, adding that he had applied for a permit to build what would be Switzerland’s fifth minaret and permission had been quickly granted.

Encouraged by this, Muslim communities all over the country began applying for permits to put up their own minarets, regardless of the fact that noise regulations prevent the towers from fulfilling their traditional function of calling the faithful to prayer.

People began to worry about minarets dominating the Swiss skyline.

“They felt threatened,” said Patrick Freudiger, a Conservative MP who likes to remember a comment by Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, who once described minarets as the “bayonets” of the Muslim faith. “Minarets are symbolic of a quest for political and religious power,” Freudiger said.

A similar battle has been raging in Germany over plans to build one of Europe’s biggest mosques in the shadow of Cologne cathedral. The Danes are also locked in debate over plans for two grand mosques in Copenhagen.

In an initiative that would please Switzerland’s antiminaret campaigners, an Italian town seized the headlines last week by putting up signs banning women from wearing the burqa in public.

“If we ban the minarets, that won’t help communication between us,” said Thomas Ruefener, the mayor of Langenthal. “And immigration will continue all the same.”

Referendum or not, the arguments seem likely to continue. “In Switzerland,” said Hisham Maizer, president of the Swiss Federation of Islamic Organisations, “the debate about Islam is only just beginning.”

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

Mediterranean Union

Transport: Euromed Aviation, Extend Accords With EU

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 26 — “What we would like to do is to extend bilateral accords with the EU to the largest number of countries possible and over the long term we also have a multilateral outlook,” said Europeaid’s Roel Hoenders in summing up the outcome of the latest Brussels meeting of the Euro-med aviation project, which aims to promote a common air space between the EU and Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. The project is financed by the European Union through the Euro Med Transport programme. The project is developing a road map for the creation of the Euro-Med Common Aviation Area (EMCAA). “At the moment there is no deadline,” said Hoenders, “but we have expressed our intention as a group, not only as the European Commission but also as partner countries, to stipulate bilateral accords and, once these are ready, also multilateral ones.” For the time being it is difficult to make a rough estimate of which Mediterranean countries will be the first to bring in a common air space with the EU. However, the European Commission has received authorisation from the Council to negotiate accords with Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. In pole position there is still Morocco, which activated the first bilateral accord of a country with EU-Med area in 2006.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian State Security Accused of Cover-Up in Muslim Riots

by Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — In an effort to cover up the Muslim mob violence against the Copts which broke out last week in the town of Farshoot and neighboring villages (AINA 11-22-2009, 11-23-2009), and in view of the complete news blackout imposed by the Egyptian government, Egyptian State Security has intensified its pressure on the Coptic Church in Nag Hammadi and the victims of the violence into accepting extrajudicial reconciliation with the perpetrators, and opening their businesses without any compensation. Similar State Security scenarios have been experienced by Copts in all sectarian incidents in the past, in which they always come out as losers, having been forced to give up civil and criminal charges, while the criminals get away scot-free.

“There will be no reconciliation before full financial compensation has been paid to the Coptic victims, and the criminals are brought to justice, so that safety and security can be restored to the district,” said Bishop Kirollos of the Nag Hammadi Diocese.

Free Copts reported that Bishop Kirollos has sent his grievance to President Mubarak, the Prime Minister , the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council, asking for speedy financial compensation to the Coptic victims.

In solidarity with the affected businessmen, the remaining Farshoot Coptic merchants have closed their shops in protest.

It has been reported that orders were given to the police in Farshoot by Qena State Security not to issue police reports to the victims; instead, they have to travel 60 KM away to make their reports with the Attorney General in Qena. The authorities have not yet carried out estimates of the losses in spite of several demands made by the Church.

It is estimated that 10 pharmacies and 55 shops and businesses in Farshoot, Abu Shousha, Kom Ahmar and el-Aaraky were looted, vandalized and torched, with total losses exceeding 5 million Egyptian Pounds (1 million USD).

State Security has been putting pressure on the Church to convince the victims to open their stores, “despite the fact that they were told that the victims have no money to clean up and decorate their shops after being looted, vandalized and torched by Muslims, nor the money to buy stock,” Bishop Kirollos told activist Wagih Yacoub of the Middle East Christian Association (MECA). “Having failed to make me bend to their pressure, State Security has tried putting pressure on the victims, but without success. I told them that no pharmacy or shop will be opened before the rights of my children in the Diocese are fully restored.”

Having failed to get results from the Church, State Security has drawn in the help of the area’s members of parliament. “They are trying to pacify the people by holding conferences, to make the matter ‘go to sleep’, so that they would escape paying any compensation to the victims,” he commented. “But I am now sending a message to the parliament members: ‘If you don’t support the Christians, the Christians will boycott the coming elections.’ Let them look for someone else to make them win.”

People who were forced to attend those conferences said that they were told that having to close down their businesses “does not look good to the outside world, and would harm the reputation of Egypt on the international level.”

One other pressure tactic often used successfully by the State Security to enforce its decisions on the Church is taking into custody innocent Copts and using them as “hostages” in what has come to be know as their “Let go and I will let go” policy.

“State Security has taken into custody fours Copts who were victims of the violence, they were told they would be detained until they forfeit their claims and sign a ‘reconciliation’ note, so as to make it appear as a case of personal differences between individuals,” Bishop Kirollos told Free Copts.

A fact-finding commission of rights activists and journalists was refused entry on November 22, 2009 into the affected areas by State Security. “We were escorted to the Farshoot chief detective, Essam Ghanem, who cautioned us not to try to estimate the losses or take photos, and we were asked to leave town, otherwise charges will be brought against us,” said activist Rafat Samir. “The pretext they gave us was that we are strangers to the town, and when we asked him who gave such orders, he said it was from a higher authority.”

In an interview with Free Copts, Bishop Kirollos said “We gave the authorities the names of two of the perpetrators who are ex-convicts from Farshoot, they arrested then released them. They are the masterminds behind the latest attacks, and their presence presents a danger to us.”

Commenting on the deportation of 35 Coptic families from the villages of Kom Ahmar and Ezbet Sherif, he said “State Security told me that they fear for their safety, so I told them why don’t you protect them? If they wanted to protect them, they could have easily done that. State Security is mighty. However, after the families left, Muslims looted their homes and completely destroyed two of them.”

Many Copts believe that the increase in the deportation of Copts whenever there is a Muslim-Christian incident, is an objective of the government to migrate Copts from Upper Egypt, where they constitute the largest congregations of Christians in Egypt.

The violence that took place in Farshoot and the neighboring villages on November 21, 2009, was prompted by a rumor that the Copt Guirgis Baroumi allegedly sexually abused a 12-year-old Muslim girl. Although the girl’s family agreed with the Church to wait for the police investigations, a mob of nearly 3000 Muslims, mainly students from Al-Azhar Institute in Farshoot, incited by their Principal, went on a rampage of looting and burning Coptic-owned properties. “The family of the involved Muslim girl did not join in.” Bishop Kirollos told Free Copts.

Coptic Organizations in the Diaspora issued a joint communiquÃ(c) on November 25, 2009 condemning the attacks on Farshoot and the neighboring villages as well as the role of the State Security for failing to protect the Coptic citizens. The statement appealed to all human rights organizations in the world to join them in condemning the Egyptian government, and in protecting the Christians in Egypt from the war of systematic extermination waged against them, implementing the Wahhabi policy which is “against everything that is non-Muslim.”

[Return to headlines]

Egypt: France Grants 500,000 Books to Bibliotheca Alexandrina

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 27 — France has granted half a million books to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), Mena reported. France will hand over to Egypt a copy from all the books that were published during the period 1996 to 2006, the French culture ministry said Thursday. The first consignment, comprising 35,000 books, will arrive in Egypt on Monday from Marseilles, the ministry said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Chavez: ‘Israel Aims to Wipe Out Palestinians’

In a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday night, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused Israel of aiming to “exterminate” the Palestinians.

Standing beside Abbas at the presidential palace, Chavez saluted the Palestinians for what he called their “fight against the Yankee empire … against the genocidal state of Israel, which attacks, which kills, which attempts to exterminate the Palestinian people.”

Abbas thanked the Chavez government for its support and said: “We’re all on the same path.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Israel: Orthodox Jews Spitting on Christians

News stories about young Jewish bigots in the Old City spitting on Christian clergy — who make conspicuous targets in their long dark robes and crucifix symbols around their necks — surface in the media every few years or so. It’s natural, then, to conclude that such incidents are rare, but in fact they are habitual. Anti-Christian Orthodox Jews, overwhelmingly boys and young men, have been spitting with regularity on priests and nuns in the Old City for about 20 years, and the problem is only getting worse.

“My impression is that Christian clergymen are being spat at in the Old City virtually every day. This has been constantly increasing over the last decade,” said Daniel Rossing. An observant, kippa-wearing Jew, Rossing heads the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations and was liaison to Israel’s Christian communities for the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

For Christian clergy in the Old City, being spat at by Jewish fanatics “is a part of life,” said the American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi David Rosen, Israel’s most prominent Jewish interfaith activist.

“I hate to say it, but we’ve grown accustomed to this. Jewish religious fanatics spitting at Christian priests and nuns has become a tradition,” said Roman Catholic Father Massimo Pazzini, sitting inside the Church of the Flagellation on the Via Dolorosa.

These are the very opposite of isolated incidents. Father Athanasius of the Christian Information Center called them a “phenomenon.” George Hintlian, the unofficial spokesman for the local Armenian community and former secretary of the Armenian Patriarchate, said it was “like a campaign.”

Christians in Israel are a small, weak community known for “turning the other cheek,” so these Jewish xenophobes feel free to spit on them; they don’t spit on Muslims in the Old City because they’re afraid to, the clerics noted.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bilingual Road Signs in Turkey’s Kurdish Villages

DIYARBAKIR, Kurdish Southeastern region of Turkey, — The first bilingual road signs in Turkish and Kurdish have been erected in Turkey’s southeast as part of efforts by Ankara to win over its restive minority, an AFP reporter observed Thursday.

The direction signs feature the names in both languages of villages around Diyarbakir, the largest city of the Kurdish-majority region which has been the scene of a bloody insurgency since 1984.

The initiative was spearheaded by the Diyarbakir municipality, which is held by the Democratic Society Party, Turkey’s main Kurdish political movement.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Expert Calls for a ‘Greener’ Hajj

An Islamic expert is calling on Muslims to reduce the environmental impact of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Dr Mawil Izzidien of the University of Wales, Lampeter, says the event is beset by wasted and misused resources.

He has called on Muslims to avoid air travel to Saudi Arabia where possible and stay in less luxury while there.

The Muslim Council of Wales said avoiding air travel and good hotels was unrealistic but agreed “a practical look” at the event’s future was needed.

Between 25-30 November around two million Muslims will converge on Mecca — the holiest place in Islam — to take part in an event which combines piety and passion.

One of the pillars of the Islamic faith, every adult Muslim must undertake Hajj at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.

Many Muslims save for years in order to perform the pilgrimage, often having to travel thousands of miles to do so.

Dr Izzidien, a reader in Islamic Studies who has written about the environmental dimensions of the pilgrimage, said the main green issue surrounding Hajj was “to encourage Muslims to reduce the number of trips towards Mecca if they can.”

He said: “Rather than travelling twice, or performing Hajj twice, if they have done the first one then there is no need to do the second one.”

Funds to be used for a second Hajj would be better used helping other Muslims make the journey, or to tackle poverty in the world, he suggested.

Dr Izzidien also focused on the luxurious way in which he said many Muslims travel to, and stay in, Saudi Arabia.

“They travel by first class airplanes and when they arrive in Mecca they live like they are living in a five star hotel, and they pay lots of money to do that,” he said.

“Hajj is really all about travelling with difficulty. It is encouraged within Islam that the best Hajj is that which is performed with difficulty. The more difficulty a person has, the more reward he will have.

“Of course we are not saying that to travel from Africa or from Europe to Mecca on foot, but to reduce the amount of cost and carbon footprint is in many ways important.

“Maybe groups of pilgrims can perform Hajj by travelling by sea rather than by travelling by air. If they use a ship in order to travel from their location to Mecca, or to Jeddah and then to Mecca, that would reduce the environmental cost of Hajj.”

The amount of food wasted during Hajj, and the wastage of meat from sacrificed sheep are other issues which need addressing, Dr Izzidien said, though he added that the local organisers were to be commended for their efforts so far to make the event more environmentally friendly.

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

Hizbollah Fears Al-Qaeda

The primary concern for Hizbollah’s security wing at the moment has been a reported influx of Sunni jihadists from across the region who are drawn to Lebanon because of its poor internal security, proximity to Israel and its large population of Shiites, said the military wing official.

“The Qa’eda guys want to target us, you can see their statements on the internet about targeting the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon,” he said.. “Now we are seeing new things in many of the Sunni neighbourhoods: Women wearing the niqab, men who dress like Afghans or Pakistanis. We have put many of them under surveillance, but we know that real Qa’eda guys will cut their beards and dress as westerners to avoid us.

“We can’t really stop their first attack, if they decide to do a suicide bombing in the southern suburbs or near our facilities,” he added. “But we can make sure it’s only one attack. Lebanon is very small and doesn’t have many Salafist Sunnis, so we could shut them down and kill them all if we need to.”

The increased security procedures include mandating rigorous background checks for foreign workers employed anywhere near Hizbollah’s key power centres.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Report: Suleiman to Meet Obama Next Month

President Michel Suleiman is expected to visit Washington next month for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and other top officials, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported on Sunday.

The newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Suleiman will arrive in Washington on December 10 for a four-day visit.

The Lebanese president had met Obama in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York.

Al-Hayat said that Suleiman asked for an official meeting with Obama and the White House set the date for December.

Preparations are underway for an official and media delegation to accompany Suleiman to the U.S., according to the daily.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Suleiman: Lebanon Has Right to Use All Legitimate Means to Liberate Lands

BEIRUT, Nov. 21 (Saba)- President Michel Suleiman said Saturday Lebanon has the right to resist to liberate its occupied lands through all legitimate means and available capabilities, according to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) as reported on Saturday.

Suleiman, in a televised address on the eve of the Independence Day, said the collective will of the Lebanese people succeeded in confronting the Israeli aggression and liberate most of the occupied lands. This will, he added, has confronted terrorism.

Suleiman said Lebanon has the right to resist by all legitimate means to liberate the rest of its lands.

He said there should be a plan to reject any form of settlement for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, but to work on clearning the Lebanese-Palestinian elations.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Turkey: ‘Valley of the Wolves’ Hopes to Spark More Nationalism

In a line of TV series and movie adaptations, ‘Kurtlar Vadisi’ (Valley of the Wolves) franchise continues with a new movie. ‘Kurtlar Vadisi — Gladio’ hopes to follow the footsteps of its predecessors, aiming straight at the heart of frustrated crowds with a newfound nationalistic angst who can’t get more of deep state conspiracies.

The phenomenon that is “Valley of the Wolves” once again hopes to cash in on Turkey’s recent agenda of conspiracies of the “deep state” fuelled by the Ergenekon investigation, and draw frustrated crowds with a newfound nationalistic angst to movie theaters.

“Kurtlar Vadisi — Gladio” is yet another movie adaptation from the immensely popular Turkish TV series “Kurtlar Vadisi” (Valley of the Wolves), that ran for three seasons from 2003 with almost 100 episodes.

The cult TV series was created by director Osman Sinav, establishing a leading man in the image of a mafia-macho Turkish guy, admired by the unemployed and frustrated young men all over Turkey. Polat Alemdar (portrayed by Necati Sasmaz) was the Turkish equivalent of “24’s” Jack Bauer, entangled in the deep state, disguised as a mafia boss. Short and ordinary looking, Polat has a self-defined sense of justice that included hanging traitors in the city center of Istanbul.

“Kurtlar Vadisi” became an instant hit with its references to Turkish politics, its unabashed abuse of social sensitivities on patriotism, and with unprecedented scenes of violence that included assassination and torture on television. Not unlike John Woo’s “Face/Off,” an undercover Turkish agent goes through a set of plastic surgeries to infiltrate the mafia, along with a gunman who walks surefooted in this muddy underworld. The two go through ordeals of every kind for Polat to become the next baron so that he can break them apart.

The series had reached such a cult status that many young men officially changed their names to Polat Alemdar. The hype eventually got so big that the final episodes featured Andy Garcia as the big American mafia boss and Sharon Stone as his wife, eventually lending a kiss to our hero.

Polat travels to Iraq

Then came the movie “Kurtlar Vadisi — Irak” (Valley of the Wolves — Iraq) in 2006, the most expensive Turkish movie to date. The new installment in the franchise told the story of hero Polat Alemdar’s fight against the “evil” U.S. troops in Iraq. The movie opened in 14 countries, drawing an audience of over 2 million in less than two weeks in Turkey. When the movie version, with a storyline different from the series, came to screens with the anticipated hype, teenage boys all over Turkey found their way to movie theaters. For some of them, it was their first time in a cinema.

“Kurtlar Vadisi — Irak” based its story on real-life events that took place in Sulaimaniya during the occupation of Iraq, where 11 Turkish soldiers were detained by U.S. troops. Pictures of them with sacks over their heads were not taken lightly by the Turkish public at the time. The film showed Polat Alemdar and his men going to northern Iraq to fight with U.S. troops and avenge the honor of Turkish soldiers.

The cast included Hollywood actors Billy Zane and Gary Busey as the evil Americans. In terms of technical standards, the movie played above average, with impressive visual effects. But when it came to dramatic structure, the film was in shambles. Stereotypical does not explain the heroic Turks against the evil Americans. The one-dimensional, cardboard characters made ‘Rambo’ stand as a respectable war movie. In the movie, American soldiers raided a wedding, they shot innocent people, a Jewish doctor sold organs to rich people in the West, and they tortured the war prisoners. You can guess where all these led up to with our hero Polat in charge.

The enemy within

“Kurtlar Vadisi — Gladio” comes to theaters in the heat of the Ergenekon investigation, an alleged ultra-nationalistic organization with ties in the military, media and justice, and accused of terrorism, a media-favorite for the last six months. The film puts a peripheral character in the series at its center, Iskender Büyük (as ridiculous as it can get, his name translates as Alexander Great), a deep throat claiming that he knows the answers to such deep state secrets on the terrorist organization the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, coups in the last half-a-century, and alleged assassinations against a previous president, all stories bearing close resemblances to real events.

This time, however, U.S. is portrayed not as evil to be defeated but a reckoning force that puts an immediate halt to impending coups. The movie features a plethora of plot holes, inconsistencies within the script, with real time events, and with its predecessors. Those who are hoping for impressive action scenes like in “Kurtlar Vadisi — Irak” go home empty-handed as well.

The film, as everything else in the “Kurtlar Vadisi” franchise, feeds on the emerging neo-nationalist sentiments, reactions to the pro-Islamist government, and Turkey’s position with the European Union and the new world order. Nationalism in Turkey, more often than not, gains its power through creation and recreation of enemies. Turkish cinema history has had its fair share of enemies, from Byzantines and Vikings to Amazons and even aliens. It was time for a contemporary enemy. Now the Americans seem outdated as well, the enemy within seems to be the best option.

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

UK: Woman Fights for Son Taken by Sharia Court

Mrs Jones says her son was “kidnapped” while visiting his Arab relatives in the Gulf state eight weeks ago. She claims she was tricked into signing legal documents she did not understand.

Mrs Jones, a former bank executive who lives in Bahrain, has been told after a series of Sharia hearings that she is no longer the legal guardian of Adam. With the backing of human rights campaigners she is now seeking to have the case transferred to Qatar’s civil courts.

Last week she was allowed to meet Adam for the first time since he was taken away. During the tearful encounter she says the boy, who suffers from dyspraxia, begged to return home with his mother.

Mrs Jones, 43, who is originally from Sheffield, moved to Bahrain 25 years ago where her father worked for the Merchant Navy. She married Adam’s father, Jamal Al Madhaiki, in 1998. They were divorced the following year but remained on good terms until he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

South Asia

British Tip Off Led to Arrest of US Mumbai Suspect David Headley

David Coleman Headley, also known as Daood Sayed Gilani, made frequent visits to the Indian city where he mixed with the Bollywood set as a cover for his activities, it is claimed.

He joined a local gym in the upmarket Breach Candy area and stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the targets, in April and May 2007.

In fact, according to a US indictment, Headley, 49, was a freelance reconnaissance agent for terrorist groups including Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the Mumbai attacks a year ago that killed 173 people.

Sources have told the Daily Telegraph that the British collected vital information that identified Headley, a US citizen living in Chicago who was arrested in October. They declined to give further details for operational reasons.

British intelligence was responsible for the arrest of another US terrorist suspect, Najibullah Zazi, 24, who was allegedly planning attacks on the New York subway when he was arrested in Denver in September.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Indonesia Minister Says Immorality Causes Disasters

A government minister has blamed Indonesia’s recent string of natural disasters on people’s immorality.

Communication and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring said that there were many television programmes that destroyed morals.

Therefore, the minister said, natural disasters would continue to occur.

His comments came as he addressed a prayer meeting on Friday in Padang, Sumatra, which was hit by a powerful earthquake in late September.

He also hit out at rising decadence — proven, he said, by the availability of Indonesia-made pornographic DVDs in local markets — and called for tougher laws.

According to the Jakarta Globe, his comments sparked an angry reaction on the internet, particularly among those who followed him on social networking site Twitter.

Why focus on public immorality when there was so much within the government, one respondent reportedly asked.

More than 1,000 people died in the Padang earthquake, which toppled hundreds of buildings in and around the city.

Padang lies to the south of Aceh province, which was devastated in the December 2004 Asian tsunami.

Indonesia lies across a series of geological fault-lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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

Mount Everest to Host Nepal Cabinet Meeting

Nepal is to hold a cabinet meeting on Mount Everest to highlight the threat global warming poses to glaciers.

On 4 December prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and those politicians physically fit enough will ascend 17,192ft (5,250m) to base camp.

In October the Maldives held a cabinet meeting underwater to warn of the effect of rising sea levels.

This meeting, to be held before the Copenhagen climate conference, aims to highlight Himalayan glacier melt.

With ice in the region melting at a rapid rate, lakes have been formed which could flood nearby villages.

Melted ice and snow also makes mountaineering routes more hazardous.

At such a high altitude health is a major concern, so a team of doctors will accompany the politicians.

They will fly to Everest’s only airstrip, Lukla.

Doctors will make a final health assessment before a helicopter takes the cabinet to base camp, at the foot of Everest.

Once there they will hold a brief outdoor meeting.

Mount Everest is the highest point on earth, with a summit 29,035 ft (8,850 m) above sea level.

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

Nuclear: Obama and Indian PM Agree to Landmark Deal

Washington, Nov. 25 (AKI/IANS) — United States president Barack Obama and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh have vowed to implement a landmark nuclear agreement and reaffirmed the “global strategic partnership” between their two countries.

“The two leaders reiterated their intention to realise the full potential of the India-US agreement for cooperation concerning the peaceful use of nuclear energy through the implementation of its provisions,” the leaders said in a joint statement.

The statement was issued on Tuesday after talks in Washington between Obama and Singh during the Indian leader’s state visit which began on Monday.

The civilian nuclear deal gives Delhi access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel in return for inspections of its civilian but not military nuclear facilities.

“They agreed to expedite US firms’ participation in the implementation of this agreement,” the joint statement said without indicating a time frame.

Obama and Singh also agreed to boost a high technology transfer, another key objective of Singh’s visit.

“Strengthening high technology trade between their countries is in the spirit of their strategic dialogue and partnership,” the statement said.

The two leaders pledged to deepen cooperation in areas from security and climate change to trade and education.

They committed to continue pursuing defence cooperation via security dialogue, defence exercises, trade besides technology transfer and collaboration.

They also agreed to collaborate in the application of their space technology and that related to development, including in the field of agriculture.

They announced eight cooperation memoranda including on education and green technology and and annual economic and financial forum to be held next year.

After their meeting, Obama said he had accepted an invitation to visit India next year and said he and Singh had agreed to work more closely on sharing information between law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Obama also said he intends to ‘finish the job’ of rooting out Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, where over 60,000 US troops are currently deployed.

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

Pirates Jailed for Yacht Murder

Three Burmese teenagers have been jailed for murdering a yachtsman from East Sussex off the coast of Thailand.

Malcolm Robertson, 64, of Hastings, was bludgeoned and thrown overboard off the Andaman coast after the pirates boarded his vessel, the Mr Bean, in March.

His wife Linda, who was left fearing for her life as they kept her tied up for about 10 hours before they fled the yacht, welcomed the prison sentences.

She said she hoped the pirates would reflect on their “heinous” crime.

The Foreign Office said the killers were sentenced by a Thai court on Thursday.

They were named in reports from Thailand as Eksian Warapon, 19, an 18-year-old known as Aow, and a 17-year-old boy, known as Ko.

The men, who had pleaded guilty, were each sentenced to 25 years in prison at Satun Provincial Court.

The boy, who was convicted of murder, was jailed until he reaches the age of 24.

“I don’t want to trivialise Malcolm’s death but I don’t think 25 years in a Thai prison is going to be pleasant for them,” said Mrs Robertson, 59.

“I do hope the time they spend in jail will help them reflect and realise the heinous crime they committed.

“I also believe they were victims themselves.

“I don’t think they had any plan. The fact that they didn’t kill me, which they could quite easily have done, shows some compassion from them.”

Local reports said the killers had been stranded on an island after jumping from a Thai fishing ship.

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

Thirteen Inmates Escape in W Afghanistan

KABUL, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) — Over a dozen inmates escaped from prison in Farah province west of Afghanistan, provincial police chief Faqir Mohammad Askar said Sunday.

“Thirteen prisoners by digging a tunnel fled away from jail on the first day of Eidul Adha on Friday night,” Askar told Xinhua.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

U.S. Holds Detainees at Secret Afghan Prison, N.Y. Times Reports

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. military is holding some detainees for weeks at a time and not allowing any visits from International Committee of the Red Cross representatives, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified human rights researchers and former detainees.

The site at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base isn’t subject to a recent order by President Barack Obama banning so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency, the newspaper said. The prison is run by U.S. Special Operations forces, the newspaper said.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Royal Marines Could Have Rescued Pirate Hostages, But the Order to Attack Never Came

The disturbing truth behind the Royal Navy’s failure to prevent Somali pirates kidnapping a British couple from their yacht can be revealed today.

An investigation by The Mail on Sunday demolishes accounts by the Ministry of Defence and the head of the Navy which suggest that a naval vessel at the scene had no rescue force available.

In fact, far from being a toothless bystander, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Wave Knight was within seconds of unleashing a crack team of 20 lethally armed Royal Marines.

Wave Knight’s crew have been so angered by the official portrayal of events that one witness has given us a career-risking statement.

His evidence raises troubling questions about Government and military policy on piracy. And many people will want to know why an elite commando troop, mustered in black combat fatigues only yards from the kidnappers, was not permitted to put its air and seaborne assault training into action.

The astonishing stand-off occurred on day six of the hostage crisis as the pirates attempted to transfer Paul Chandler, 59, and his wife, Rachel, 55, to their mother ship.

The Chandlers had been seized early on October 23 as they tried to sail their yacht, Lynn Rival, from the Seychelles across the Indian Ocean to Tanzania.

The couple no doubt believed their voyage was safe. In the past, Somali pirates have operated closer to their home ports some 1,000 miles north.

But increasing anti-piracy patrols by Nato and other navies have pushed them south to seek new hunting grounds, and armed pirates aboard at least two fast motorised skiffs ambushed them only 150 miles into the trip.

The Chandlers, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, managed to send out a distress call but were quickly overpowered.

Realising it would take too long and be too risky to sail Lynn Rival back to northern Somalia, the kidnappers radioed for support from one of the country’s most notorious pirate ‘nests’ — Haradheere.

Within 72 hours, accomplices were sailing south in the 24,000-ton container vessel Kota Wajar, itself hijacked while en route from Shanghai to Kenya on October 15.

On October 26, the commander of Wave Knight, Captain Clarke, was briefed on the crisis. Intelligence sources had uncovered Kota Wajar’s role as mother ship to the kidnappers and she was being tracked.

As the closest Royal Navy ship available, Wave Knight was ordered to find her and slow her down by any means. A Wave class supply ship, she is mostly crewed by 75 civilians working under military discipline.

‘They had just trained for exactly this scenario’However, crucially, Captain Clarke had on board the Marines, a Merlin helicopter and firepower in the form of 30mm and 50mm cannons. Around 25 Royal Navy sailors were also present.

The MoD’s first version of events avoided mentioning any chase, confrontation or rescue plan. This was all air-brushed out of the official picture — along with the Marines.

Indeed, the MoD at first acknowledged simply that an unnamed Royal Navy vessel had come across the Chandlers’ empty yacht. Only after the Daily Mail revealed that Wave Knight was almost alongside the Chandlers, her crew watching as the couple were hustled aboard the Kota Wajar, did the MoD change stance.

A second, carefully worded statement then claimed that ‘everything possible was done without further endangering the lives of Paul and Rachel Chandler’.

It added: ‘We do not comment on operational detail but RFA Wave Knight did very well under the circumstances.’

Days later, the head of the Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, went further, insisting that Wave Knight’s ‘sailors with pistols couldn’t do the job of ensuring the safety of the Chandlers’.

And even last week he insisted that everything possible had been done to rescue the Chandlers.

In a speech at Chatham House, he said: ‘Wave Knight did exactly the right thing… Had there been an opportunity to intervene, while being sure of guaranteeing Paul and Rachel Chandlers’ safety, they would have done so.’

In fact, according to our source, these official explanations are travesties of the truth. His account states that Wave Knight left her British base at Bahrain around October 14 and headed south into the Gulf of Aden’s so-called ‘pirate alley’.

Her role included servicing and refuelling ships from Nato’s task force but she was also fully equipped for boarding operations.

As news of the Chandlers’ kidnap spread around the world, the crew kept in touch with developments via news websites. On October 26, Captain Clarke issued a loudspeaker announcement, or ‘information pipe’, explaining that they were heading south — away from traditional pirate waters. Although he didn’t mention the Lynn Rival by name, our source says it was obvious to the crew that a rescue attempt was ‘on the cards’.

The 31,500-ton Wave Knight sighted the Kota Wajar on the evening of October 28 and immediately tried to intimidate her by closing to less than 100 yards. At this point the Lynn Rival was not in sight so there were no hostages on board the pirate ship.

The supply ship was ‘closed up’ for action — meaning that all hatches, doors and gun emplacements were sealed with personnel out of sight. Lights were extinguished except for the powerful searchlights raking back and forth across the Kota Wajar’s hull.

At first the pirates appeared to be unconcerned. Their vessel was, in the source’s words, ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ for the first 30 minutes.

But suddenly it, too, snapped out its lights and the two ships steamed alongside each other in darkness.

But Wave Knight’s tactics had no effect. Even warning bursts from one of her two bridge cannons, which fire 30mm shells with the power to penetrate the hull of a small air or sea craft, failed to alter the pirates’ course or speed.

The cannons have a range of about a mile and can fire up to 1,000 rounds a minute travelling at 600 yards per second. Undeterred, the pirates returned fire using small arms and the cat-and-mouse confrontation continued.

According to the source, it now became clear that the Marines were preparing for action. They had just completed two weeks of intensive training for precisely the scenario they faced — an air and seaborne assault on a pirate vessel.

‘In horror and disbelief, Wave Knight’s crew watched as a line was thrown from the Lynn Rival’The Wave Knight and the Kota Wajar were still some distance from the Lynn Rival and Chandlers, so there was no danger of the hostages being caught in crossfire.

Like all the ship’s military personnel they had been on a state of permanent readiness, known as ‘Alert 60’, for two weeks. This required that they could muster within an hour.

Twice that night, between 10pm and 1am, they went a step further. On each occasion the codeword indicating imminent action — Quickdraw — was repeated over the ship’s intercom.

Each time the Marines gathered quickly on deck, their all-black fatigues, balaclavas, night-vision goggles and carbines a picture of professional menace.

Close by, Royal Navy aircrew sat at the controls of the Merlin awaiting their start-up order.

The ship’s gun teams — who are also armed with general purpose machine guns firing 7.62mm rounds at up to 950 per minute with a range of 4,000 yards — stared out at target areas on the Kota Wajar.

But on each occasion the assault team — part of the Royal Marines Fleet Protection Group based at Faslane on the River Clyde — was stood down.

According to our source the pirates, still apparently believing that they were up against a mere supply ship, appeared almost contemptuous when they finally drew alongside the Chandlers’ yacht and hailed the kidnappers on board.

In horror and disbelief, Wave Knight’s crew watched as a line was thrown from the Lynn Rival. The yacht was then casually hauled in and moored alongside the Kota Wajar together with the pirate skiffs.

Throughout this 20-minute period, the Chandlers and their captors could be fleetingly glimpsed as shadows and silhouettes in the supply ship’s searchlight.

Although the Wave Knight remained darkened, it is inconceivable that the couple could have mistaken it for anything other than a naval vessel and perhaps dared to hope a rescue was imminent.

In the sweltering night, illuminated only by the stars and sweeps of the Wave Knight’s searchlights, the Chandlers could be seen climbing a ladder on the side of the Kota Wajar, with pirate guards above and below them.

Then they disappeared into the ship’s hull. The Kota Wajar turned and steamed slowly north with its hostages.

It was, according to our source, a surreal moment. Having been feet away, poised for a dramatic rescue, some of the world’s most feared fighting troops were now being ordered to pack their kit and go to bed.

A pursuit of the Kota Wajar was, apparently, deemed pointless.

The source added: ‘The mood among the Marines was one of intense anger and frustration. These guys were right up for it — absolutely champing at the bit. It was precisely the situation they had trained for.

‘We had all watched them practising rapid-roping [descending at speed on ropes from a helicopter] and sea-borne assaults. They knew exactly what to do. They were poised there like a bunch of Ninjas and the adrenaline was pumping.

‘They couldn’t believe the orders to stand down. The anger was obvious. I heard one joke later that they had all the gear while Northwood [UK command HQ] had no idea. We had a chance to strike a real blow at the pirates and send a message that you don’t mess with the Royal Navy.

‘Judging by its actions, the Kota Wajar had no idea who we had on board. They thought we were just a supply ship. There was a great opportunity to take them by surprise.’

The source recalled seeing the silhouettes of the pirates and the Chandlers being taken off the yacht.

‘The Marines were saying, “Now’s the time. Surely it’s got to be now.” But the order never came.

‘The Kota Wajar just sailed off slowly as if to say, “You can’t touch us now. We’ve got the hostages.” They knew they’d won.’

The crew member added: ‘The Marines were more than capable of seizing the Kota Wajar way before she got near the Chandlers.

‘At that time there were no hostages on board. You can argue that the Chandlers would still have been at risk from the pirates on their yacht. But we would have been in a strong position, having taken the Kota Wajar.

‘If the pirates had killed the Chandlers they would have had nothing and would have been totally exposed. It’s more likely that they would have negotiated a hostage exchange for their mother-ship and crew.

‘No rescue was without risk. But the Marines were in a great position and were never allowed to exploit it.’

The crew member is unsure precisely what weapons the Marines were carrying. But the Fleet Protection Group’s standard issue includes SA80 assault rifles, SA80A2K carbines, MP5a3 9mm sub-machine guns and high-power 9mm Browning pistols.

It can also deploy specialist marksmen known as Maritime Sniper Teams, skilled at ‘slotting’ enemy forces from distance. It is unclear whether an MST was present.

As dawn broke, the crew of the Wave Knight sighted their flagship, HMS Cumberland. The frigate had arrived some two hours after the Kota Wajar’s departure.

Between the two vessels the abandoned Lynn Rival drifted ghost-like on the breeze. She was eventually hauled on to Wave Knight.

According to our source, the Navy’s refusal to attempt a rescue of the Chandlers appears to have been at least partly influenced by plans for a covert operation involving HMS Cumberland and a Special Boat Service troop.

He says the idea was to parachute 20 SBS men from a military transport plane into the sea off the Somali coast. They were to be picked up by Cumberland — whose movements throughout have never been revealed — to lead a rescue attempt.

However, the source claims the plan went disastrously wrong from the off. He says the SBS team, assembled at RAF Brize Norton, was delayed for around six hours due to ‘unforeseen events’. By the time Cumberland picked them up from the drop zone they were at least two hours behind the action.

Wave Knight ferried the SBS team — complete with parachutes, arms and equipment — 1,000 miles north to the Omani port of Salalah. It was during this trip, says the source, that nuggets of information emerged from the SBS men in Wave Knight’s mess rooms.

They were, he says, appalled at the lack of flexibility among senior commanders to adapt the rescue plan and send in the Marines.

Within hours this sense of frustration was heightened further. The source says that en route to Oman, the supply ship came across another pirate vessel — little more than the size of a tug — which opened fire on them.

‘It makes you wonder, what is the Royal Navy for?’

By now Wave Knight had 20 Marines and 20 SBS soldiers on board — arguably the most lethal assault force of any Nato vessel in the anti-piracy operation. The pirates had no known hostages aboard.

An assault party was placed on ‘Quickdraw’ alert and expectation rose among the crew that at last action was imminent.

Our source said: ‘We thought it was inevitable. Pirates had fired first at a Royal Navy ship. If this doesn’t satisfy the Rules of Engagement, then what does?

The pirates wouldn’t have done that to an American ship because the Americans shoot back — with interest.

We had all the firepower and expertise we needed several times over. Yet again the order came to stand down. It makes you wonder, what is the Royal Navy for?’

The SBS force was flown off Wave Knight by helicopter on November 1, landing in Salalah. A military transport plane immediately returned them to the UK.

Frustration among Wave Knight’s crew was not lost on senior commanders and early that morning Captain Clarke included a long, personal communique to the entire company in his Daily Orders.

The document confirms the presence of Royal Marines but refers to the SBS only as ‘embarked forces’. It is headed: ‘Command Aim TLC [Tender Loving Care] for embarked forces and make preparations for the safe and timely disembarkation of RM [Royal Marine] passengers and 814 Sqn Det [Merlin helicopter crew].’

The captain passed on congratulations from commanders at Northwood, near London, the Navy’s operational HQ and home of the Armed Forces Permanent Joint Headquarters, which controls all UK overseas operations.

They emphasised that the ship’s conduct was a ‘success story’, despite Northwood’s refusal to sanction a Marine rescue attempt.

After disembarking the SBS, Wave Knight headed back to the UK Maritime Component Command base in Bahrain, where 25 Royal Navy crew were landed.

The ship went on to Cyprus, where most of the Marines were dropped off for a week’s leave before being re-deployed or returning to their families.

She then returned to the UK, docking last Thursday in Portland, Dorset, with only her 75 civilian crew aboard.

The Lynn Rival, which had been stashed on Wave Knight’s deck as our exclusive picture shows, was craned into the sea, then lifted on to a lorry and transported under cover to an unknown destination.

The Mail on Sunday’s revelations are certain to increase pressure on Admiral Stanhope to explain why he made an apparently misleading statement to The Times — an interview reprinted by other newspapers — on November 18.

His quote reads: ‘Two dead Chandlers would not have been good, and we wouldn’t have wanted to be part of that… It’s a huge piece of water and the fact that Wave Knight found the yacht was impressive, but we were not in a position to engage [the pirates]. We were too late for that.

‘You need special expertise to deal with hostage rescue, and we didn’t have that expertise [on board].

‘Sailors with pistols couldn’t do the job of ensuring the safety of the Chandlers. It was highly frustrating. There were broad rules of engagement that had to be followed, and it was a fairly easy decision to make because the security of the Chandlers was the most important thing.’

He added: ‘What could it [Wave Knight] do under the circumstances? Wave Knight is not a warship. There was only a flight [helicopter crew and engineers] on board, and as soon as they got close, the pirates threatened the hostages. They did the best they could, but the security of the Chandlers was the overriding factor.’

Last Friday he repeated his view in a speech at Chatham House, London, saying: ‘The sailors did a tremendous job in finding the Chandlers’ yacht in the first place. But once you have a hostage situation your military options, as most people would understand, are inevitably limited.

‘Had there been an opportunity to intervene, while being sure of guaranteeing the Chandlers’ safety, they would have done so. The decision not to was undoubtedly the right one.’

A senior Royal Navy source insisted last night that there were ten Marines on board Wave Knight, not 20.

An MoD spokesman said: ‘The First Sea Lord has always been clear that Wave Knight and those in command of this mission did exactly the right things.

‘As in all situations of this sort they had to balance capabilities and possible actions against the risk to life.

‘They did everything that they could in that operation and, could action have been taken, with a guarantee on the safety of the Chandlers, they would have done so.

‘Previous statements have only concerned detail that is already in the public domain, or would not be of use to the pirates we are trying to counter. We will not comment further on this detail. Discussing our capabilities in this way could reveal valuable information.’

For the Royal Marines and crew of the Wave Knight, those words surely carry a hollow ring.

As for the Chandlers, whose lives are being ransomed in Somalia for £4million, the agonising memory of October 28 is unlikely to fade soon.

They saw the Navy come to their rescue and then sink their hopes.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UN Accuses Spanish NGOs of Supporting Rwanda Militia

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 25 — The UN has accused two Spanish NGOs of supporting Hutu guerrillas in the Congo, headlines daily newspaper Publico today. The newspaper reports on results from a confidential report to the Security Council drafted by a group of experts for the Democratic Republic of Congo, appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The report accuses two Spanish activists, members of organisations that have received public funding in Spain, of having given financial, logistical and political support to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the armed Rwandan group that opposes the regime of Kigali and which operates in the east of the Congo. According to reports in the newspaper, Joan Casoliva, president of the Inshuti/Amigos del Pueblo de Ruanda organisation registered in Barcelona, and Joan Carrero, president of the Fondacion Solivar, a Christian group registered in Palma di Majorca, which in the past has presented a denunciation to the Audiencia Nacional di Madrid against some 40 official of the current Rwandan regime. The report says that the FDLR has regularly received financial, logistical and political support from people belonging to both the charitable organisations, which in turn have received funding directly or indirectly from the government of the Balearic Islands. The UN Security Council is set to discuss the report today. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Australia: Taps Off for Thirsty Asylum Seekers

TONNES of bottled water, costing thousands of dollars, are being airlifted to Christmas Island for dehydrated asylum seekers as they step on to the arrivals wharf — despite a tap being just metres away.

And the Federal Government will not splash out a couple of thousand dollars to bring a new tap closer for the thirsty arrivals, preferring to jet in the expensive bottles.

Problems arise when refugees first land on the island.

Initial screening takes place at the wharf with the tap about 20m away.

The asylum seekers are then moved to a construction camp — formerly used by workers who built the detention centre and now housing refugees — where the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said there were “limited options for tap water”.

The latest shipment of water, about 2.5 tonnes, was flown to the island on Monday on a department charter flight.

The department would not reveal how much it cost, but a four-tonne delivery earlier this year is understood to have cost $6 a kilogram — or $24,000.

One long-standing islander, who did not want to be named said: “It’s bloody ridiculous. There’s plenty of water to drink on the island, there are taps near the wharf, but the Government won’t fix it up.

“I could do it for a couple of thousand dollars. No worries.”

Flying water to the island also angered local businesses but it is understood that when the Government invited them to tender for the supply their prices were higher than the cost of air-freighting.

A department spokesman said this week’s delivery was part of a freight consignment on a charter flight.

The spokeswoman said the department and its detention centre service provider Serco, had a duty of care to people in detention.

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

Culture Wars

Out With Jesus, In With ‘Frosty the Snowman’

Federal court upholds school district’s ban on tunes about Christ

The 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has upheld a school district’s ban on Christmas carols such as “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” — and approved “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.”

In the Nov. 24 ruling the Third Circuit approved the school policy banning all religious Christmas music, including instrumentals, that had been part of the South Orange—Maplewood School District’s Christmas program for years — until one parent complained.

Attorneys with the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., argued to reverse a lower-court ruling affirming the policy. The firm argued the district’s ban on religious music conveys a government-sponsored message of disapproval and hostility toward religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.

“Christmas is a national holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, not the birth of Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center. “This ruling is another example of how the courts have tyrannically twisted the Establishment Clause as a weapon against Christians in the War on Christmas.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


An Inconvenient Truth

“One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.” — Thomas Sowell

The brouhaha over the recent epiphany regarding junk science and climate change duplicity is a big deal.

Science is ‘supposed’ to be all about facts, evidence and proof. The scientific method that kids are taught at an early age is explained as “A method of discovering knowledge about the natural world based in making falsifiable predictions (hypotheses), testing them empirically, and developing peer-reviewed theories that best explain the known data.” It is not ‘supposed’ to be a sporting event of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ or team competition.

Reportedly, computer hackers obtained some 160 megabytes of emails from the Climate Research Unit a University in England. The e-mails were exchanges between researchers and policy advocates who shared a similar gospel according to them. Shockingly, authorities were discussing the “destruction and hiding of data that did not support global-warming claims”. HELL-0!?!?

Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, exchanges about “the trick of adding in the real temps to each series…to hid the decline (in temperature),” is way egregious. Professor Phil Jones, head of the Climate Research Unit and professor Michael E. Mann at Penn State are now tap dancing.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Climate Battle Bill to Top $300 Billion: Guyana

AFP — The true cost of fighting climate change will top 300 billion dollars and developed countries may balk at footing the bill, Guyana’s Prime Minister Bharrat Jagdeo said Saturday.

Leading economists have calculated that “the cost of action and mitigation would be about one percent of the global economy,” he told journalists. “This is one percent of the GDP of a 30-trillion-dollar global economy,” he estimated.

“If resources of that magnitude were available then you’d be able to take serious mitigation action immediately.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Climate Change: This is the Worst Scientific Scandal of Our Generation

Scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

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Evidence of Life on Mars Lurks Beneath Surface of Meteorite, NASA Experts Claim

Nasa scientists have produced the most compelling evidence yet that bacterial life exists on Mars.

It showed that microscopic worm-like structures found in a Martian meteorite that hit the Earth 13,000 years ago are almost certainly fossilised bacteria. The so-called bio-morphs are embedded beneath the surface layers of the rock, suggesting that they were already present when the meteorite arrived, rather than being the result of subsequent contamination by Earthly bacteria.

“This is very strong evidence of life on Mars,” said David Mackay, a senior scientist at the Nasa Johnson Space Centre , who was part of the team of scientists that originally investigated the meteorite when it was discovered in 1984.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Swine Flu Epidemic Escaped From Lab — Australian Scientists Say

Three Australian experts are making waves in the medical community with a report suggesting swine flu may have developed because of a lab error in making vaccines.

“It could have happened in a lab where somebody became affected and then travelled with it,” virologist Dr Adrian Gibbs said yesterday.

Conjuring up a vision of Frankenstein’s fictional monster fleeing the laboratory, he added: “Things do get out of labs and this has to be explored. There needs to be more research done in this area.

“At the moment there is no way of distinguishing where swine flu has come from.”

The research, published in the Virology Journal on Tuesday, was compiled by two former researchers at the Australian National University — Dr Gibbs and programmer John S. Armstrong.

Dr Jean Downie, once the head of HIV research at Westmead Hospital, was also involved. The article claimed the swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus that appeared in Mexico in April has at least three parent genes which originated in the US, Europe and Asia.

“The three parents of the virus may have been assembled in one place by natural means, such as by migrating birds, however the consistent link with pig viruses suggests that human activity was involved,” the research found.

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