Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/23/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/23/2009A Communist terrorist from the Philippines who is residing illegally in the Netherlands will be allowed to remain there, because he might be subject to torture or other inhumane treatment if he is returned to his native country. The Dutch government says it would love to deport the fellow, but unfortunately its hands are tied by the European Human Rights Treaty.

In other news, a Christian TV channel which broadcasts into Egypt from outside the country reports that the Egyptian government supports the actions of the “Islamization Mafia”, which abducts and forcibly converts Coptic Christians to Islam.

Thanks to 4symbols, C. Cantoni, Esther, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Lurker from Tulsa, RRW, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Workforce Oklahoma Plans Rapid Response for Arrow Trucking Employees
3-Step Plan to Stop Nationalized Health Care
Congress — Are They Stupid or Conspiring to Enslave Us All
Experts: Lawsuit Could End ‘Cancerous Pro-Jihad Group’
Ft. Morgan, Colorado Somali Murder Update: Gruesome Rumors Spreading
Man Holds 5 Hostage in Virginia Post Office
Obama’s Christmas Tree Graced by Chairman Mao, Transvestite
Political Activist Pleads Guilty in Window-Smashing
Senate Changes ‘Rules’ To Protect ‘Death Panels’
The Myth of the Anti-Muslim Backlash
Traitors, Every One
‘True Islam Cannot be Practiced in This Country’
Europe and the EU
Bad Weather: Still Freezing Cold in North, Hot in South
Denmark: Women Can’t Park
Denmark: Uproar in Free Press Society
EU Blames China, US for Failed Climate Summit
Germany Issues Gas Pipeline Permit as Europe Freezes
How Do I Know China Wrecked the Copenhagen Deal? I Was in the Room
Italy: 50,000 Tonnes of Dangerous Waste Found in Illegal Southern Dump
Norway: Women Better Drivers
Philippine Communist Leader Allowed to Remain Illegally in Netherlands
Scotland: Second Heroin User Anthrax Death
Sweden: Journalist From Kyrgyzstan Might Have Been Murdered
Sweden: Court Endorses ‘Kidnapping’ Of 7-Year-Old
Sweden: Parents Refused Right to Name Son Allah
Sweden: Gävle Goat Succumbs to Flames
UK: Bribed to Quit Britain: Foreign Criminals Offered Up to £5000 if They Agree to Go Home
UK: Coroner Furious After a Grandmother Dies in ‘Burning Agony’ Following NHS Injection Blunder
UK: Emergency Patient Has to Wait 32 Days as NHS Target Time is Exposed as a Sham
Grim Reality of Serbia’s EU ‘Dream’
North Africa
Curb on Veil in Egypt Backed by Islamic Clerics
Forced Islamization of Christian Girls Supported by Egyptian State
Gaza: Egypt Forbids ‘Cast Lead’ Anniversary March
Morocco: Berber Language Television by Year’s End
Israel and the Palestinians
200,000 From Italy to Bethlehem University
ANP: Survey Shows Strong Support for Barghuti
EU Commission Allocates 7 Mln for Territories
Gaza: Hundreds Protest Against Egyptian Wall
Media Falsely Reporting Bethlehem Christmas
Meloni in Holy Land, Help Palestinian Students
Shalit: Israel Conditions Agreement to New Requests
Vatican Explains Pius XII Move
Middle East
Exhibits: Damascus, Italian Embassy Promotes Iraqi Artists
Iraqi General Assassinated
Iraqi Kurd Poison Gas Victims Sue for Damages
Osama Bin Laden’s Missing Family Found in Secret Compound in Iran
Saad Hariri Marks New Relations Between Beirut and Damascus
Saudi Arabia: Flood Threat to Prophet’s Mosque?
Turkey: Ecumenical Patriarch “Crucified”
Turkey’s ‘Caferis’ Add Voice to Rights Chorus
Turkish, Syrian News Agencies Sign Cooperation Protocol
South Asia
Escalation Desired
India: BJP Leader Sponsors Christmas Concert Attended by Christians, Muslims and Hindus
Pakistani Eunuchs to Have Distinct Gender
Why Does Pakistan Hate the United States?
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Pope’s Recognition of Nun’s Miracle Welcomed
Sub-Saharan Africa
Eritrea Hit With UN Sanctions for ‘Aiding Insurgents’
Mali Albino Given Spanish Asylum ‘Fled Discrimination’
Latin America
Chavez Announces New Discount ‘Socialist’ Stores
Crime Has Gone Unchecked Too Long for Somali Community in Britain
Sweden: Immigrants a Risk Factor on Housing Group Form
UK: Failed Asylum Seeker Who Killed 12-Year-Old Girl Wins Court Bid to Stay in Britain
UK: Illegal Immigrants ‘Used Loophole to Create Sham Marriages’ For the Right to Live in Britain
Culture Wars
In US, 80 Pct Believe in God, One Third Say He’s in Control
Rep. Stupak: White House Pressuring Me to Keep Quiet on Abortion Language in Senate Health Bill
UK: Now the PC Brigade Wants to Re-Write Our Christmas Carols

Financial Crisis

Workforce Oklahoma Plans Rapid Response for Arrow Trucking Employees

SAPULPA, OK — Workforce Oklahoma will offer Rapid Response services to all impacted Arrow Trucking employees on Tuesday, December 29 at Central Technology Center in Sapulpa.

The Rapid Response session will provide information regarding Unemployment Insurance, Workforce Oklahoma services, and community resources. Session are scheduled to start at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“Yesterday, Arrow Trucking suspended operations indefinitely, impacting more than 300 Sapulpa area employees. Company officials are in negotiations with their principal and have not stated whether the suspension will lead to a permanent termination of employment for those impacted,” said Jacklyn Noden of Workforce Oklahoma.

Upon notification of the challenges faced by Arrow, nearly a dozen transportation employers have expressed a willingness to make room for the impacted employees on their payroll.

“There are approximately 300 truck drivers involved in this shutdown,” said State Rapid Response Administrator Lynda Baird.

“This is a very sad situation at this time of year, but we will do everything we can to assist these people in this very stressful time.”

There is currently no scheduled job fair or hiring event for the impacted Arrow employees; however, such events may be scheduled at a later date as additional details regarding the nature and duration of the suspension become available, Noden said.

The Oklahoma Rapid Response, composed by staffs of the Workforce Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, works to minimize the disruptions after a layoff.

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


3-Step Plan to Stop Nationalized Health Care

Congressional Democrats, after all their faux wrangling, open bribery and bully tactics, are poised to reach agreement on a massive makeover of the American health system. This makeover will bankrupt the insurance companies, raise premiums and eventually lead to the full nationalization of health care.

That’s what it is intended to do. By forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, the Democrats destroy all profit margin for the insurers, expecting that the healthy insured will pay for the unhealthy insured. To prevent the healthy insured from opting out of the system, the Democrats levy the threat of fines and jail time. And when the insurers go under, as they surely will, the Democrats will be waiting.

As Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, explained the morning after the Senate bill passed, “What we’re building here is not a mansion, it’s a starter home … it has room for expansion and additions in the future. If we don’t start the starter home, we’ll never get there. So this is not the end of health-care reform, this is the beginning of health-care reform.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Congress — Are They Stupid or Conspiring to Enslave Us All

There have been many commentaries on the constitutional oaths taken by our political leaders. There have even been organizations created around constitutional oaths of which I am a proud member (Oath Keepers). To me, and to every other person sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, it is and should be a solemn duty to ensure that our actions live up to that oath. But is that what is actually happening or has the oath and by extension the Constitution been relegated to mere politics.

I would say that for the vast majority of the rank and file in the military it is a solemn vow. I have come to the conclusion that for the vast majority of politicians, regardless of party, it has become a mere ceremony of attaining office and nothing more. I have drawn this conclusion from the actions of those in political positions and not from their words.

So where in the Constitution does Congress derive its power to interject itself into every facet of our lives? For those that have read the Constitution it cannot be found in the words of the Constitution but only based on inference and conjecture and then only if you have not studied the writings of those who penned the document.

[Comments from JD: Excellent explanation of the “welfare” limits of the Constitution.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Experts: Lawsuit Could End ‘Cancerous Pro-Jihad Group’

Defendants’ ‘filing shows unambiguously the legal fraud that CAIR has engaged in’

A lawsuit by the Council on American-Islamic Relations against a father and son who conducted an undercover counter-terrorism investigation of the controversial Muslim group could backfire badly, according to several counter-terrorism experts observing the case.


Steven Emerson, whose counter-terrorism expertise is relied on by many members of Congress, told WND that based on Horowitz’s work, “it certainly appears that CAIR changed its name due its being named as an unindicted co-conspirator” in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing case in Texas.

“The Horowitz filing is brilliant in establishing that CAIR does not exist legally and therefore cannot sue,” said Emerson, director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

“The filing shows unambiguously the legal fraud that CAIR has engaged in.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ft. Morgan, Colorado Somali Murder Update: Gruesome Rumors Spreading

Do you remember this story from back in the first week of November. From time to time, I’ve returned to the Ft. Morgan Times to see whatever happened with the case of the Somali woman stabbed to death by a Somali man with the same last name (honor killing?). Initially a gag order was placed on the case, but to the generally politically correct Ft. Morgan Times credit they appealed to have the gag order lifted and it was.

However, effectively there must be a gag order because I haven’t found another word printed about it since, until I saw this innocuously titled article from a few days ago: ‘Coffee with a Cop draws Ft. Morgan locals.’ The article begins with a boring paragraph about the mundane issues affecting the everyday lives of Ft. Morgan residents. But, then launches into what appears to be on many peoples’ minds—the Somali murder.

Gruesome details spreading on blogs? Gosh I would love to know which blogs! And, by the way, Ft. Morgan Times, if straight factual news reporting on the case would be occuring there would be no rumors spreading! I have seen no further reporting on the murder since early November (if there has been, someone send me a link!)…

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]

Man Holds 5 Hostage in Virginia Post Office

(CNN) — An armed disabled man took five people hostage in a Virginia post office Wednesday, the town’s mayor said.

The man entered the Wytheville, Virginia, post office about 2:30 p.m. and fired a shot, Mayor Trent Crewe said. No one has been hurt, but three postal workers and two customers are being held hostage, he said.

There also are reports that the man has a “device” and it appears the man’s car, parked outside the office, is equipped with some type of device, Crewe said. He did not elaborate on what the device could be.

The surrounding area of downtown Wytheville has been evacuated, Crewe said.

Wytheville is a small town in southeastern Virginia at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has a population of just over 8,000.

[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Christmas Tree Graced by Chairman Mao, Transvestite

White House décor also includes president on Mount Rushmore

The face of China’s Mao Zedong, blamed for the deaths of 50 to 80 million of his countrymen, graces an ornament on the White House Christmas tree for President Obama’s first holiday season in residence.

According to, the tree also features an ornament adding Obama to Mount Rushmore.

The images are attributed to the work of Simon Doonan, creative director of Barney’s New York, whose previous projects have included Margaret Thatcher as a dominatrix and Dan Quayle as a ventriloquist’s dummy, according to the New York Times.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Political Activist Pleads Guilty in Window-Smashing

Activist Maurice Joseph Schwenkler, 24, pleaded guilty Monday to a second-degree misdemeanor for smashing windows at the Colorado Democratic Party headquarters last summer.

He received one year of probation and was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution for the Aug. 25 incident at the party headquarters at West Eighth Avenue and Santa Fe Drive, according to the Denver district attorney’s office.

Schwenkler and an accomplice, who was never identified, took a hammer to 11 plate-glass windows. Police caught them in the act, and Schwenkler was arrested.

Anarchist websites across the country raised money for Schwenkler’s $5,000 bail, and identified him as “a transgendered anarchist” using the name Ariel Attack. Authorities have consistently identified him as male.

The gay, lesbian and transgender protest group Denver Bash Back characterized Schwenkler as one of its “friends and comrades.”

Initially, Democratic Party officials blamed conservative opponents of health care reform for stoking animosity directed at Democrats.

Then it became known that Schwenkler had previously worked for a Democratic candidate. Conservatives characterized the attack as an attempt to frame Republicans with the blame.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Senate Changes ‘Rules’ To Protect ‘Death Panels’

Fine print would require 67 votes to consider amendments

Majority Democrats in the U.S. Senate pushing for President Obama’s vision of a government takeover of health care have inserted in the fine print of the 2,000-plus page legislation a provision that it would take a supermajority of 67 votes in the Senate for future legislative bodies to even consider amendments to its provisions for “death panels.”

The revelation comes from the blog, which analyzed the provisions and cited a challenge to the plan from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.


“In short, it sets up a rule to ignore another Senate rule,” RedState’s analysis by Erick Erickson said.

DeMint jumped into action, questioning whether the current vote should require a two-thirds supermajority because it changes rules.

“I know that there have been amendments to bills that we required two-thirds because they include rule changes,” he said.

Democrats, however, said the rule change wasn’t really a “rule change.”

DeMint argued his point.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Myth of the Anti-Muslim Backlash

Hysteria hasn’t swept the country since the Ft. Hood terrorist attack.

It has been more than a month since U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly murdered 14 people and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood military base in Texas. And while we were led to believe that the rampage by Hasan, who is Muslim, would provoke a strong and violent reaction against Arab and Muslim Americans, a backlash has been conspicuous only by its absence.

In fact, in the immediate aftermath of each of the dozen attacks by Muslim Americans since 9-11, the conversation has been dominated by predictions of inevitable violence toward Muslims by bigoted Americans unable to control their rage. And each time a backlash has been virtually nonexistent. Our journalistic and political elites have become terrorism’s unwitting domestic enablers, perceiving religion-based violence where there is none, while ignoring it where it is widespread and intensifying.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Traitors, Every One

At 1 a.m. on December 21, 2009, in the dark of night, the first cloture vote was taken on H.R. 3590, Senator Harry Reid’s Obama Deathcare Bill.

The bill and all actions taken thus far can be found by clicking here and, in the search slot, entering “H.R. 3590”, clicking on “Bill Number” then clicking “SEARCH”. (This procedure will work for any bill you wish to look at.)

How your Senator voted on cloture December 21, 2009, in the middle of the night, can be found here and also accessible under “All Congressional Actions with Amendments” when H.R. 3590 is put in the search slot on the main page of The vote was all Democrats (60) voting “yes” and all Republicans (40) voting “no”.

You will note that this bill, voted on by the Senate, is not a Senate bill; it is a House bill. How can it be that a House bill was used to introduce language written by the Senate?

A House bill was used, its language stricken and substituted by Senator Reid and his co-conspirators, because the Senate cannot, constitutionally, introduce a bill that appropriates money.

As such, the Senate’s way of circumventing this is to take a House bill, sent to the Senate after House passage, and strike the language and introduce language written by Senators.

Is this constitutional? Let’s put it this way, that was not what was intended when the Constitution was written. But then, the Constitution, in the words of John Adams, was written for a moral and religious people; being wholly inadequate for people who have no morals, no conscience and certainly no principles or standards; who believe right and wrong are situational, pliant to whatever their agenda is.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘True Islam Cannot be Practiced in This Country’

Evangelical Christian leader Franklin Graham challenged President Obama’s statement in Norway that Islam is a “great religion” and said Islam is “violent” and cannot be practiced in the United States.

Graham said on CNN Dec. 10 that “we have many Muslims that live in this country, but true Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can’t beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries.”

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bad Weather: Still Freezing Cold in North, Hot in South

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 23 — Italy is divided in two from a meteorological point of view, in the days leading up to Christmas. In the north, though the extremely negative weather conditions have subsided somewhat, many problems remain especially as concerns the

transport sector.In Lombardy many trains have been delayed and others have been suspended. Adverse atmospheric conditions have also limited the number of flights taking off from the Milan Linate airport. Last night in Venice saw high waters, reaching as much as 144 centimetres above the “average sea level’: its 8th highest level ever. This has all occurred while in San Giovanni Li Cuti, near Catania, many have spent a bit of extra time at the beach sunning themselves: in eastern Sicily the sun is shining and the regional capital saw a high of 24 degrees this morning. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Women Can’t Park

From Danish: According to a German study, women need an average 20 more seconds to park then a man, and they still do it will less precision than men.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Uproar in Free Press Society

Free Press Society president Lars Hedegaard describes Muslims as morally depraved and rapists

Three members of the Free Press Society’s advisory committee have resigned in the wake of comments made by the society’s president.

Lars Hedegaard has gone on a veritable tirade against Muslims in an interview with website Snappen, accusing them of raping their own children, lying without conscience and basically having no morals whatsoever.

‘When a Muslim man rapes a woman, it is his right to do it,’ he said in the interview, referring to his interpretation of the tenets of Islam.

‘Whenever it is prudent for a Muslim to hide his true intentions by lying or making a false oath in his own or in Islam’s service, then it is ok to do it,’ Hedegaard said.

Kathrine Lilleør, a Christian minister, author and member of the society’s advisory committee, said she would quit the committee if Hedegaard was not dismissed from his post.

The committee instead kicked Lilleør out. Subsequent to that action, MPs Søren Pind of the Liberal party and Naser Khader of the Conservatives both handed in their resignations from the advisory committee.

The Free Press Society’s board supports Hedegaard’s comments, although not necessarily agreeing with them 100 percent.

Board member Jette Plesner Dali said Hedegaard’s comments were valuable in that they broke the taboo of not criticising problems with Islam.

‘It’s a very off-limits and delicate issue that one has to address with a certain sensitivity — something that isn’t especially characteristic of Lars,’ she told Politiken newspaper. ‘It’s my feeling that an organisation such as the Free Press Society actually needs a president who can bulldoze his way through things a bit.’

Several leading media personalities are now challenging the society’s leadership and other members to take a stand on the issue, saying either they should come out in support of Hedegaard’s statements or quit the organisation.

Hedegaard sent out a press release yesterday as a follow-up to his interview. In it, he stood by his comments, although he attempted to soften the bluntness somewhat by saying he was referring more to the tenets of Islam than to individual Muslims.

‘I’ve always said that I’m not talking about all Muslims but about Islam and its fundamental view on women,’ the statement said. ‘It can be read in the holy scriptures about the Prophet’s actions and teachings.’

‘I don’t think all Muslims are aggressive, just that the ideology behind Islam is.’

Hedegaard has been reported to the police for racism over his comments by Yilmaz Evcil of the City of Århus’ integration council.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

EU Blames China, US for Failed Climate Summit

The European Union says that the US and China should be blamed for the failed UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“It was obvious that the United States and China didn’t want more than we achieved at Copenhagen,” Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said at a news conference in Brussels.

Carlgren said the world expects more from the US after the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen.

“It is now up to Washington to meet the world’s expectations,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Germany Issues Gas Pipeline Permit as Europe Freezes

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — German authorities have given permission for Russia to build a major new gas pipeline to the country, as the EU waits to see if the winter will bring another Russia-Ukraine gas crisis.

The Stralsund Mining Authority in the region of Mecklenburg-West-Pomerania issued its environmental permit on Monday (21 December), concerning a 50-km-long stretch of the so-called Nord Stream pipeline.

The project is still awaiting permission from Germany’s Federal Maritime and Hydrographical Agency and from Finnish environmental courts before construction can begin.

If it is built on schedule, the Russian pipeline will in 2012 pump 55 billion cubic metres a year of gas — about 10 percent of EU consumption — directly to Germany, the Benelux countries, the UK, Denmark and France.

It could also redraw the energy politics map in Europe.

Currently, Russia delivers 80 percent of its gas exports to the EU via the Ukraine transit system and most of the rest via the Yamal pipeline running through Belarus and Poland.

The set up makes it harder for Moscow to use gas as a political weapon, for example by cutting off unfriendly governments in Minsk or Kiev, without impacting its biggest customers in the rich West.

Poland has long depicted Nord Stream as a strategic threat. But it is trying to make the most of a bad situation as the project comes closer to reality, with the Polish and German foreign ministers last week discussing how to ensure the pipeline dose not obstruct Polish shipping in the Baltic Sea.

Meanwhile, uncertainty remains over how Ukraine’s 17 January presidential elections will impact political and commercial relations with Russia, amid calls in Ukraine to scrap an existing long-term contract for gas and concerns that Kiev does not have enough cash to pay for Russian gas deliveries in the New Year.

A bilateral dispute over gas bills last winter saw several EU states cut off during a cold snap in January, causing electricity cuts in Bucharest and Bratislava and shutting down factories for days.

With the Ukrainian elections looming, the freezing weather which has struck Europe in recent days will be an unwelcome reminder of last year’s hardships for many in the former Communist bloc.

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

How Do I Know China Wrecked the Copenhagen Deal? I Was in the Room

As recriminations fly post-Copenhagen, one writer offers a fly-on-the-wall account of how talks failed

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful “deal” so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

China’s strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world’s poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was “the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility”, said Christian Aid. “Rich countries have bullied developing nations,” fumed Friends of the Earth International.

All very predictable, but the complete opposite of the truth. Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday’s Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying “no”, over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who denounced the Copenhagen accord as “a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”.

Sudan behaves at the talks as a puppet of China; one of a number of countries that relieves the Chinese delegation of having to fight its battles in open sessions. It was a perfect stitch-up. China gutted the deal behind the scenes, and then left its proxies to savage it in public.

Here’s what actually went on late last Friday night, as heads of state from two dozen countries met behind closed doors. Obama was at the table for several hours, sitting between Gordon Brown and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. The Danish prime minister chaired, and on his right sat Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN. Probably only about 50 or 60 people, including the heads of state, were in the room. I was attached to one of the delegations, whose head of state was also present for most of the time.

What I saw was profoundly shocking. The Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not deign to attend the meetings personally, instead sending a second-tier official in the country’s foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama himself. The diplomatic snub was obvious and brutal, as was the practical implication: several times during the session, the world’s most powerful heads of state were forced to wait around as the Chinese delegate went off to make telephone calls to his “superiors”.

Shifting the blame

To those who would blame Obama and rich countries in general, know this: it was China’s representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. “Why can’t we even mention our own targets?” demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil’s representative too pointed out the illogicality of China’s position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why — because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord’s lack of ambition.

China, backed at times by India, then proceeded to take out all the numbers that mattered. A 2020 peaking year in global emissions, essential to restrain temperatures to 2C, was removed and replaced by woolly language suggesting that emissions should peak “as soon as possible”. The long-term target, of global 50% cuts by 2050, was also excised. No one else, perhaps with the exceptions of India and Saudi Arabia, wanted this to happen. I am certain that had the Chinese not been in the room, we would have left Copenhagen with a deal that had environmentalists popping champagne corks popping in every corner of the world.

Strong position

So how did China manage to pull off this coup? First, it was in an extremely strong negotiating position. China didn’t need a deal. As one developing country foreign minister said to me: “The Athenians had nothing to offer to the Spartans.” On the other hand, western leaders in particular — but also presidents Lula of Brazil, Zuma of South Africa, Calderón of Mexico and many others — were desperate for a positive outcome. Obama needed a strong deal perhaps more than anyone. The US had confirmed the offer of $100bn to developing countries for adaptation, put serious cuts on the table for the first time (17% below 2005 levels by 2020), and was obviously prepared to up its offer.

Above all, Obama needed to be able to demonstrate to the Senate that he could deliver China in any global climate regulation framework, so conservative senators could not argue that US carbon cuts would further advantage Chinese industry. With midterm elections looming, Obama and his staff also knew that Copenhagen would be probably their only opportunity to go to climate change talks with a strong mandate. This further strengthened China’s negotiating hand, as did the complete lack of civil society political pressure on either China or India. Campaign groups never blame developing countries for failure; this is an iron rule that is never broken. The Indians, in particular, have become past masters at co-opting the language of equity (“equal rights to the atmosphere”) in the service of planetary suicide — and leftish campaigners and commentators are hoist with their own petard.

With the deal gutted, the heads of state session concluded with a final battle as the Chinese delegate insisted on removing the 1.5C target so beloved of the small island states and low-lying nations who have most to lose from rising seas. President Nasheed of the Maldives, supported by Brown, fought valiantly to save this crucial number. “How can you ask my country to go extinct?” demanded Nasheed. The Chinese delegate feigned great offence — and the number stayed, but surrounded by language which makes it all but meaningless. The deed was done.

China’s game

All this raises the question: what is China’s game? Why did China, in the words of a UK-based analyst who also spent hours in heads of state meetings, “not only reject targets for itself, but also refuse to allow any other country to take on binding targets?” The analyst, who has attended climate conferences for more than 15 years, concludes that China wants to weaken the climate regulation regime now “in order to avoid the risk that it might be called on to be more ambitious in a few years’ time”.

This does not mean China is not serious about global warming. It is strong in both the wind and solar industries. But China’s growth, and growing global political and economic dominance, is based largely on cheap coal. China knows it is becoming an uncontested superpower; indeed its newfound muscular confidence was on striking display in Copenhagen. Its coal-based economy doubles every decade, and its power increases commensurately. Its leadership will not alter this magic formula unless they absolutely have to.

Copenhagen was much worse than just another bad deal, because it illustrated a profound shift in global geopolitics. This is fast becoming China’s century, yet its leadership has displayed that multilateral environmental governance is not only not a priority, but is viewed as a hindrance to the new superpower’s freedom of action. I left Copenhagen more despondent than I have felt in a long time. After all the hope and all the hype, the mobilisation of thousands, a wave of optimism crashed against the rock of global power politics, fell back, and drained away.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Italy: 50,000 Tonnes of Dangerous Waste Found in Illegal Southern Dump

Taranto, 22 Dec. (AKI) — Italian police on Tuesday uncovered 50,000 tonnes of dangerous waste including cancer-causing asbestos in a sprawling illegal landfill in the southern Puglia region. A formal complaint was filed against an unnamed individual in connection with the 10,000 square metre dump in Torricella in the Province of Taranto.

Formal complaints have been made against 92 people this year over 43 illegal landfills discovered in the province.

Shady waste disposal firms were planning to conceal 622,000 tonnes of dangerous waste in the illegal dumps.

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

Norway: Women Better Drivers

From Norwegian: Men are responsible for 90% of serious traffic offences, and only about 20% of drivers killed were women.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Philippine Communist Leader Allowed to Remain Illegally in Netherlands

THE HAGUE, 23/12/09 — The Philippine communist leader Jose Maria Sison is allowed to continue to live illegally in the Netherlands. Justice State Secretary Nebahat Albayrak will not deport him to his country of origin, she told the Lower House in a written answer to questions by the Party for Freedom (PVV).

Albayrak agrees with the PVV that the Netherlands must not be a haven for terrorists and criminals. She also considers that Sison should answer in the Philippines for the suffering he is said to have caused people there. But the state secretary says she has to respect the European Human Rights Treaty.

On grounds of Article 3 of the treaty, it is not possible to deport Sison, because this article specifies that nobody must be allowed to become subject to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments, according to Albayrak. She believes that this fate could await Sison in case of deportation. The fact that the death penalty has recently been abolished in the Philippines is irrelevant, in her view.

Sison is suspected of having ordered the murder of former fellow partisans in the Philippines from the Netherlands in 2003 and 2004. The Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) however dropped a case against Sison earlier this year because insufficient evidence was found against him.

The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed branch the New People’s Army (NPA) was arrested in his home in Utrecht in August 2007. Because he is living in the Netherlands illegally, he is officially required to leave the country, but his residence has already been tolerated for years.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Scotland: Second Heroin User Anthrax Death

Health officials have confirmed that a second heroin user, who tested positive for anthrax, has died.

The man was being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Last week, a man with the infection died in the city’s Victoria Infirmary.

A woman who tested positive for anthrax is also being treated there. A further drug user has died but tests have yet to confirm the presence of anthrax.

Meanwhile, a fourth case of anthrax has been confirmed in Lanarkshire.

The patient, who is a drug-injecting heroin user, is being treated at Monklands District General Hospital.

Dr Syed Ahmed, consultant in public health medicine, said: “There have been no new drug injecting heroin users with infections admitted to hospitals in the west of Scotland since the weekend.

“I urge all drug injecting heroin users to be extremely alert and to seek urgent medical advice if they experience an infection.

Contaminated batch

“Drug injecting is extremely risky and dangerous. The possible presence of a batch of heroin contaminated with anthrax makes drug injecting even riskier and even more dangerous.”

Anthrax is an acute bacterial infection most commonly found in hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep and goats.

It normally infects humans when they inhale or ingest anthrax spores, but cannot be passed from person to person.

The last previous death from anthrax in Scotland was in 2006 when Christopher Norris died after inhaling the spores.

The 50-year-old craftsman, from Stobs, near Hawick, made drums with materials such as untreated animal hides.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Journalist From Kyrgyzstan Might Have Been Murdered

From Swedish: Gennadij Pavljuk, a critic of the Kyrgyzstan regime and one of the country’s most famous journalists, died after a week in a coma, following a fall from the 5th-6th story.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Court Endorses ‘Kidnapping’ Of 7-Year-Old

Social services allowed to keep custody of homeschooled child

An appeals-level court in Sweden has affirmed the “kidnapping” of a 7-year-old boy who was snatched by police from a jetliner as it prepared to take his family to their new home in India.

The days-old decision from the Administrative Court of Stockholm affirms the state custody of Dominic Johansson, who was taken by uniformed police officers on the orders of social workers even though there was no allegation of any crime on the part of the family, nor was there any warrant, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The group, the premiere homeschool advocacy association in the world today, has been alarmed by the case that developed apparently because school and social services officials in Sweden objected to the homeschool program for the child.

“This court decision is deeply disturbing,” said Michael Donnelly, director of international affairs for HSLDA. “The hostility against homeschooling and for parent’s rights is contrary to everything expected from a Western nation.”

He continued. “This decision echoes the German courts who have ruled homeschooling illegal, and that it is OK to take children from parents who do homeschool. We had hoped that the appeals court would return Dominic to his family. Since they are not, we believe it is critical all freedom-loving people respond to this outrageous decision.”

“HSLDA is gravely concerned about this case as it represents what can happen to other families who might wish to homeschool their children,” Donnelly said. “Furthermore, in response to inquiries from HSLDA, Swedish authorities have cited the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child to explain and defend their actions.

If the U.S. were to ever ratify this treaty, then state-sponsored kidnapping could occur here. Every homeschooler would be at risk. Such treatment of families and children is inhumane and inconsistent with a reasonable understanding of basic human rights. Therefore, we are asking our members to contact Swedish officials asking them to return Dominic Johansson to his family,” he said.


“Since our hearing … they have told us that we can no longer see our son,” he said. “They have said that the visits are traumatic for him. Is it any wonder? The poor boy has been kidnapped from his parents and is being forced to live with other people. … He wants to come home but is being held against his will.

“What you have here is a socialist country trying to create a cookie cutter kid,” said Roger Kiska, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney based in Europe. “This kind of thing happens too often where social workers take a child and then just keep him.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Parents Refused Right to Name Son Allah

In the latest battle over what people may legally call their children, the Swedish Tax Authority (Skatteverket) has ruled that the parents of a two-month-old boy in Skåne in southern Sweden may not call their child Allah.

According to the decision, Skatteverket does not approve “names that can give offence or be seen to cause discomfort for the bearer”. In this case, Skatteverket was “of the opinion that the name can be seen as objectionable for religious reasons.”

Skatteverket legal expert Lars Tegenfeldt told The Local that devout members of the public might take offense to certain names with highly religious connotations.

“God or Allah or the Devil is offensive to the public. Not me personally, but there are religious people who think so,” he said.

“Some religious names though, like Jesus, are normal,” he added.

There have been several high profile cases in Sweden over the authority’s seemingly arbitrary decisions regarding first names it deems acceptable.

In 2007, for example, a couple was initially banned from calling their daughter Metallica (a decision later overturned), while authorities in another part of Sweden allowed a baby boy to be called Google. Other controversial names rejected by the agency have included Q, Token and Michael Jackson.

The parents told The Local they do not plan to appeal the Skatteverket’s decision rejecting the name Allah.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gävle Goat Succumbs to Flames

Yuletide arsonists have once again successfully set the Gävle goat ablaze. Police received a call around 3am on Wednesday that the Christmas goat in the eastern Swedish town was on fire.

While last year’s goat managed to survive until December 27th, this year the 13-metre-tall straw billy succumbed to flames just three days before Christmas.

This was the 43rd traditional straw goat that Gävle has erected in the main city square a few weeks prior to Christmas. It has become a local sport to attempt to burn the goat to the ground.

“It was more or less just a skeleton by the time we got there,” Göran Lyrberg, commander on duty at the Gävle police, told TT news agency.

No one has been arrested for the incident, which is classified as serious vandalism. Most Gävle goats have been burned down or vandalised in some other way.

In the last couple of years, the goat has not been treated with flame retardant because it previously discoloured the straw creature and detracted from its grand stature.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Bribed to Quit Britain: Foreign Criminals Offered Up to £5000 if They Agree to Go Home

Thousands of foreign criminals are being offered credit cards pre-loaded with more than £450 of taxpayers’ cash if they agree to return home.

Rapists, muggers and burglars are being offered the astonishing perk as part of a package worth up to £5,000 designed to ‘bribe’ them to leave the UK.

The credit cards are loaded with money which the convicts can spend as soon as they leave British soil.

The remainder of the windfall is payable ‘in kind’ when they return home, and can include cash to set up a business.

Shadow Justice Secretary, Dominic Grieve said: ‘This is simply outrageous. It is bad enough that Gordon Brown lost control of our borders and has let thousands of foreign criminals into the country.

‘Now we learn that foreign prisoners are being given cash cards loaded with hundreds of pounds of taxpayers’ money. The lesson is clear: under Labour, crime pays and the taxpayer foots the bill.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Coroner Furious After a Grandmother Dies in ‘Burning Agony’ Following NHS Injection Blunder

A grandmother died after ‘gross failures’ by NHS doctors who injected her lungs with a chemical that was ten times the recommended strength, a coroner ruled today.

Rosemary McFarlane, 64, spent ten days in ‘burning agony’ after receiving the lethal dose during what should have been a routine procedure.

The caustic chemical, phosphate buffered saline, burned the inside of her lungs.

The hospital’s usual supplier had run out of the PBS fluid and a pharmacy was asked to provide the solution.

It was bought over the internet by a junior pharmacist, who mistook ‘10x’ on the label to mean ten bottles of the liquid rather than its super-strength concentration, an inquest heard.

At that strength it is used for preserving tissue samples in laboratories and is unlicensed for use on the living.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Emergency Patient Has to Wait 32 Days as NHS Target Time is Exposed as a Sham

Labour’s A&E waiting-time target was exposed as a sham last night after it was revealed hospitals were fiddling the figures.

No one is supposed to wait more than four hours in hospital casualty departments before being treated — but patients are waiting far longer and one was not treated for 32 days.

Evidence collected by the Tories shows that hospitals often put patients in curtained-off ‘emergency assessment units’ — where they are still waiting but do not count towards the A&E target because they are technically no longer on the ward.

People are waiting an average of 17 hours in these units. Emergency units are mixed-sex and often do not contain proper beds: just trolleys. Critics say they are being used as dumping grounds so hospitals can ‘stop the clock’ and hit the admissions target.

The Tories have pledged to scrap Whitehall targets, but fear that this will lead to a return to long waiting times. While no one in the NHS waits for more than 18 weeks for treatment; under the Conservatives waits of 18 months were not uncommon.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Grim Reality of Serbia’s EU ‘Dream’

Federalists bleat buzzwords about Serbia’s European ambitions but the EU, like Nato, only wants to force it into neoliberal line

A blizzard of platitudes has been unleashed by Europe’s leaders this week as Serbia formally applies for EU membership. No opportunity to declare the occasion “historic” or to assert that Serbia has a European “vocation” is being passed up.


This body should be tasked with finally unearthing the truth about why Nato bombed Serbia in 1999.

None of the alliance’s personnel has yet been charged by an international tribunal with crimes relating to that war, even though it was conducted with the use of cluster bombs, weapons that literally slice the limbs of their victims. Nor should it be forgotten that the war lacked UN approval and helped usher in the dubious concept of “humanitarian intervention”, under which military action can be taken on the flimsiest of pretexts.

I’m sure that I will soon hear or read some federalist (or should I say fantasist?) trying to wax lyrical about the significance of Serbia embracing countries that were attacking it little over a decade ago. What the fantasists won’t acknowledge, though, is that Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s then president, didn’t earn his status as a favourite bogeyman of the west purely because he did dreadful things to the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo, as the official narrative would have us believe.

The west could probably have tolerated his autocratic streak if he was more favourable to its pervading ideology. But Milosevic’s refusal to accept the neoliberal precepts on which the global economy is being run seem to offer a more plausible explanation as to why Bill Clinton and his then cronies in Europe insisted he must go.

Such a conclusion seems to me inescapable when you examine the fine print of what the EU and America have been pressing Serbia to do over the past 10 years. Privatising state-owned industry is now a standard condition of EU accession, as many countries in central and eastern Europe have discovered, often at enormous social cost.

But what makes Serbia unique is that many of the facilities it has been required to sell off were first damaged by Nato bombs, with the result that western firms could snatch some of them up at bargain basement prices. More than 1,800 privatisations have occurred since Milosevic was ousted; much of the country’s metal industry is now in the hands of US Steel, which has been busy shedding jobs, while the national car company Zastava has been bought by Fiat.

The European commission’s latest “progress report” for Serbia states that finalising privatisation is a priority for the country’s “partnership” with the EU. Moreover, it indicates that the welfare state that has provided a lifeline to the country’s citizens must be radically altered. It is no exaggeration, then, to say that the austerity budget rubber-stamped in Belgrade, also this week, was to a large extent written in Brussels and Washington, home to the IMF, which has so generously come to Serbia’s “rescue”.

No doubt, the pensioners whose income has been reduced at the behest of foreign institutions aren’t weighed down by the hand of history on their country’s shoulder at the moment. Instead, they will face 2010 with the dreaded sensation of a hair shirt on their backs.

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

North Africa

Curb on Veil in Egypt Backed by Islamic Clerics

Prominent religious leaders say social habit of wearing niqabs has no roots in Islamic law. ‘Any girl is free to wear the niqab as long as she understands that when asked to reveal her face she should do so accordingly,’ sheikh says

Egypt’s three most prominent religious leaders have backed a government ban on the niqab, or full face veil, in dormitories and examinations, saying it had no basis in Islam.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Forced Islamization of Christian Girls Supported by Egyptian State

by Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — The phenomenon of abduction, rape and forced Islamization of Christian girls in Egypt was shown for the first time on the Christian TV channel “Life TV”, which broadcasts from outside Egypt and has nearly 60 million Arab-speaking viewers in Egypt and around the world.

The testimonies of the victims and their families came as a shock to many, including Egyptian Christians, since this issue is taboo for the Egyptian media, “Our role is to expose those behind those crimes,” said Rasheed El Maghreby, the program’s moderator.

The program was aired in mid-November 2009, and interviewed Mr. Magdi Khalil, an authority on Coptic affairs who has made a complete field study on forced Islamization of Christian minors in Egypt. Mr Khalil explained that this phenomenon in its present form is nearly 40 years old, and most of these conversion crimes, with a few isolated exceptions, are carried out by organized Islamization gangs or “Islamization Mafia”, a termed coined by him, which are fully funded by the state and supported by State Security.

“Those highly organized gangs carry out systematic planning,” says Khalil. “Besides violent forced abductions, other devious means include allurement, deception, psychological pressure, financial temptation, emotional relationships ending in rape and photographs taken to blackmail the victims into conversion, and spreading fear in the hearts of their families. They turn the minor into a broken, humble, and submissive person who drifts along a road which would have been impossible for her to take under normal circumstances or in an atmosphere of family or legal protection, and of her own free will.”

The TV program aired three cases of victims throwing light on the complete disadvantage of the affected families in front of the “Islamization mafia”, in view of the complete lack of support, if not collusion, of the authorities.

Ingy Adel, now 16, was abducted at the age of 12 on her way to school by being anaesthetized and bundled into a car. “I was taken into a room by a man called Sultan, who tied my hands behind my back and raped me,” said Ingy. Four men followed Sultan in raping her, “I felt as each one of them raped me, that I was their enemy. They have beaten me ferociously.” She said that for a whole month she was given drugs and raped, “more than 50 men raped me.” After two months and only through the efforts of her father she was found and brought back home. When they reported the crime to the State Security she was beaten by the officer to change her testimony and say that she ran away from her family with her own free will. “Until today they have done nothing about it and will not do anything, because I am a Christian,” sobs Ingy (see testimony).

Another victim was Amal Zaki from Mahalla el-Kubra. “I received a phone call at work, informing me that my father was taken ill and lies in hospital and wishes to see me urgently. A work colleague with a Burka offered to accompany me. Outside was a car full of sheikhs, and when I refused to get in, I was pushed inside the car, and woke up in a dark room in Dar el Eftah [Al-Azhar affiliated Islamic Legislation Authority]. I knew that I was married to a certain Ahmed Ramadan, the cousin of my Burqa colleague. He tied me to the bed, after three hours I was taken to hospital suffering with haemorrhage.” Amal’s father continued the story: “I went to State Security and they assured me that they will get her back, but they were just fooling me; they knew all along were my daughter was. When I reported Ahmad Ramadan to the police, he said in the police report that State Security told him to marry Amal, take her to Cairo ! for conversion to Islam, and after 9 days, they told him to divorce her. He presented documents to support his claims” Amal was returned 9 months later after her father paid a ransom to her abductors. Although she never went to Al-Azhar to convert to Islam, she still got a conversion certificate.

Another incident was described by a villager who said that his daughter, who was less than 16-years-old, was abducted as she went to the nearby grocery store. When he reported the matter to the police, he was told he was causing ‘sectarian strife.’ He said: “I asked to see my daughter just for 10 minutes, but they refused. I was detained at the police station until the officer received a phone call that my daughter was taken away.” He said that the police forced him to leave the village. “My daughter returned to the village 3 days after I left. They have taken my home by force and now my daughter lives in it with her Muslim husband (see testimony).

“This is thuggery. As long as it is for the benefit of Islam, all authorities join together as if it is an ‘armed invasion.’ Sharia over the law and Islam over the nation,” said Khalil.

The latest fraud mentioned on the TV program is that Muslim gangs who dress as Coptic priests, offer a car lift to Christian girls and then abduct them. “The Coptic Church has warned its congregation against letting any unknown person dressed as a priest into their homes or accepting a lift,” said Khalil.

Several international organizations have criticized Egypt regarding forced Islamization of minors, among which is the International Religious Freedom report from 2005 to 2009, the Helsinki Commission Report of November 9th, 2006, Human Rights Watch Report of November 12th, 2007, and on November 10th, 2009, Christian Solidarity International issued a report quoting 25 cases of forced Islamization of minors.

H.H. Pope Shenouda protested as far back as December 17th, 1976, during a conference held in Alexandria, saying: “There is a practice to convert Coptic girls to embrace Islam and marry them under terror to Muslim husbands.” He demanded that the abducted girls be returned to their families.

Sheikh Fawzy al-Zafzaf, former head of the Azhar committee for inter-religious dialogue told Al-Destoor Newspaper on November 17th, 2009, that he did not deny the existence of cases of abduction and forced Islamization of Coptic girls in Egypt. He called on the government to intervene to stop such acts by imposing just penalties on people who commit them.

Pope Shenouda warned during a lecture on March 17, 2004 that he received thousands of letters of abduction of Christian girls through certain Islamic store chains which lure them away by being told they won a prize and have to go to an upper floor in the building to collect it.

“Christian activists who work in cases of abductions and forced Islamization have a good idea about who the organizations, State Security officers and businessmen supporting the Islamization gangs,” he explained.

According to Ms. Rasha Nour, chief of Egypt4Christ, which specializes in abductions of minors, funding for Islamization comes from a financial network of dozens of companies, charities, and banks such as Bank of Islamic Solidarity, Faisal Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, and Islamic Relief Organization, as well as numerous companies created through money-laundering operations, and which are supervised by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Explaining the difficulty in tackling this issue by human rights organizations, Khalil said “Unfortunately no one can discuss this issue, not the Egyptian Family Minister Mosheera Khattab or any research institute, as they would be told ‘this issue belongs to the State Security which manages the Coptic Portfolio the way they like.” He sees no prospects of any improvement on the Coptic portfolio before it is taken away from State Security and handled as a political issue.

Khalil accused the Egyptian State, with its executive, legislative and judicial authorities of being an accomplice.

The role of the State Security is evident and vital in all abduction cases “They know where the girls are, and withhold information from their families.”

Despite the existence of laws in Egypt setting the minimum age of conversion to Islam at 21, as well as legally forbidding marriage of a girl younger than 18 without the consent of her parent or guardian, “we still find fatwas (religious edicts) being issued to justify those criminal acts,” says Khalil.

The Chairman of the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, Sheikh Abdulah Mogawer, talking to Al-Arabya-net justified the marriage of two underage Christian girls (15 and 17 when abducted) by saying that they accept Islamization at the age of 16 . “According to Sharia, the main criteria for marriage to be valid is for the girl to reach puberty and is not tied to a specific age. Aisha married [consummated] the Prophet at the age of 9. Some girls might reach puberty at 14 or 15 years old, depending on her physical growth,” said Mogawer.

“In spite of international and local condemnation, still nothing is being done about this by the State. It is a big shame on the Egyptian government to be an accomplice to these crimes against humanity,” commented Khalil .

[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Egypt Forbids ‘Cast Lead’ Anniversary March

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 21 — Egyptian authorities prohibited a solidarity march towards Gaza scheduled to take place in the next days that was set up by some international organisations on occasion of the first anniversary of Israels Cast Lead military operation into the Gaza strip. A statement by the Foreign ministry reads that “Any attempt to break the law or public order on Egyptian territory by any local and international group will be dealt with according to the letter of the law”. Aside from highlighting problems relative to requests filed by such organisations, the ministry also pointed out a difficulty in cooperating with the march initiative because of the delicacy of the situation in Gaza, insofar as an area subject to Israeli occupation. In any case, the ministry added that anybody breaching Egyptian security laws will assume full responsibility for it”. AFP specified that some 1,000 activists coming from some 40 Countries had planned to join the march to remember the Cast Lead operation which took place from December 17 to January 17 and which caused, according to Palestinian sources, approximately 1,400 casualties. In the meantime Hamas announced another demonstration this afternoon to protest against the new underground barrier which Egypt is apparently building along the border with Gaza. Informal sources and eyewitness reports from the Rafah pass stated that work on the barrier came to a standstill and that the machinery has been taken away, while approximately 500 policemen were deployed along the border and on rooftops. In recent days various shots were reported being fired from Gaza towards work in progress along the border.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Berber Language Television by Year’s End

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, DECEMBER 23 — By the end of the year Morocco will have a public television network in the Amazigh language. It will be broadcast for 6 hours during normal days, and for ten during weekends. It as a project which has been expected for some time by the Berber community, which sees it as a way to preserve a culture and language that has been marginalised for some time. According to the last census in 2004, about 8.5 million Moroccans (28% of a total population of 31.5 million) speak one of the three Berber dialects on a daily basis: Tarifit, in Rif (the north); Tamazigh, in the Middle and High Atlas (central); Tashelhiyt, in Souss, the most important Berber speaking region with the important city of Agadir (south). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

200,000 From Italy to Bethlehem University

(ANSAmed) — BETHLEHEM, DECEMBER 21 — Italy’s Minister for Youth Politics has donated 200,000 euros to the University of Bethlehem for microfinance projects aiming to help young Palestinians find jobs, and in particular to start up entrepreneurial activities after their studies. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed today in Bethlehem by the minister, Giorgia Meloni, and the rector of the university, Father Peter Bray. “Studying is the first way to be free and to defeat war,” commented the minister in addressing also the students present. “The Italian government,” added Meloni, “has always been strongly committed to helping Palestinians, and recently provided 2.5 million euros in aid. We are frequently frightened of this conflict which seems unending, but I see here many who are trying to live with dignity while facing many difficulties.” “We try to give hope to these young people,” said Father Bray, “ there is war here, there are checkpoints, and it is difficult to have any teaching staff from abroad since they can only stay for three months on a visa. Those living here feel abandoned and isolated. We do not know when and if peace will ever come, but when it does, Palestine will need young people prepared for it.” The minister had first paid a visit to the Deisha refugee camp, where she visited a primary school run by the UN organisation for Palestinian refugees, a nursery school and a centre for Palestinian women which until not long ago had been run by the UNWRA and which now, even though with must difficulty, are run by the local community. Minister Meloni is involved in verifying the possibility of raising additional funding and of taking on the role of EU spokesperson for the cause. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

ANP: Survey Shows Strong Support for Barghuti

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 22 — Support for Marwan Barghuti strengthens in the Palestinian territories. Barghuti is the leader of al-Fatah currently serving life-sentence in Israel for having inspired the attacks led by the al-Aqsa Brigade of Martirs. According to an opinion survey carried out in the Left Bank and Gaza by the ‘Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey’, if Barghuti were to run for President of the Anp, he would gather 67 pct of votes, whilst the expected candidate of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh would have to make do with 28 pct. The same survey last year in August had come up with 62 pct for Barghuti and 31 pct for Haniyeh. Presidential and legislative elections were set for January 2010 in the Territories, but have been postponed due to the permament disagreement between Anp leaders in Ramallah and those of Hamas in Gaza. The survey was published but Barghuti’s fate remains uncertain. His name was included in a list by Hamas of Palestinian prisoners to be released by Israel in exchange for the freedom of corporal Ghilad Shalit. But it remains to be seen whether Benyamin Netanyahu’s government will accept freeing Barghuti, or if it may accept to do so only on the condition of his being expulsed abroad.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Commission Allocates 7 Mln for Territories

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 22 — The EU Commission has allocated another seven million euros in aid for the Palestinian territories in addition to the 74.4 million already given in 2009 for the Gaza Strip as well. The funds will be used to create emergency jobs and for the distribution of food aid through the UN refugee agency and the World Food Programme for the people in the West Bank. The communities in the Palestinian territories are vulnerable and fighting for survival, observed EU Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht due to “the serious restrictions to access caused by the fragmentation of their territory”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Hundreds Protest Against Egyptian Wall

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, DECEMBER 21 — Today in Rafah (south of Gaza) some 700 people joined a demonstration staged in this portion of Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas Islamic radicals to protest against the underground steel barrier planned by Egypt along the only section of the Gaza Strip border that is foreign to Israel. The protesters gathered in front of the so-called Saladins Door, near the Egyptian border, but not in front of the main Rafah pass. The crowd included local residents, local Hamas activists and even one of the movements spokespersons who arrived from Gaza City, Sami Abu Zahri, who requested a halt to work in progress and the dismantling of the section of the barrier that has already been built. During the gathering people chanted slogans inviting Egypt not to choke the people of Gaza and to help the Palestinian people, while others carried signs saying Stop the siege or Enough walls and invoked Arab solidarity. Hamas security, present in force, however avoided any excessive approach to the border and incidents of any kind. The barrier, which was created with the help of American technicians, represents Cairo’s reply to the problem of underground tunnels which allow the passage of vital goods to the Gaza Strip (which has been under an almost total Israeli blockade since Hamas rose to power in 2007) in addition to weapons, militiamen and illegal aliens. According to reports referred in recent days by the BBC and by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the project estimates a total final length of 10 kilometres for 30 metres of depth. Initially denied, the start of work was later confirmed by Cairo sources, which claimed Egypt’s right to control its borders. And they blamed Hamas intransigence for the failed agreement (where Egypt acted as middleman) over inter-Palestinian reconciliation, which is considered as one of the reasons behind the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Media Falsely Reporting Bethlehem Christmas

Aaron Klein exposes international coverage of ancient Christian city

TEL AVIV — Like clockwork, every year at this time reporters file misleading and, in some cases, outright false reports about the state of Christmas in Bethlehem.

They claim Israeli policies have wreaked havoc on the city’s economy and that Israel is responsible for the massive flight of Christians from Bethlehem. Yet the news media completely ignore Muslim intimidation and get their facts wrong on documented history and the true state of affairs in this ancient town.


Bethlehem was more than 80 percent Christian when Israel was founded in 1948. But after Arafat took control, the city’s Christian population plummeted to its current 23 percent. And that statistic is considered generous since it includes the satellite towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Some estimates place Bethlehem’s actual Christian population as low as 12 percent, with hundreds of Christians emigrating each year.


Suddenly, after the Palestinians gained the territory, reports of Christian intimidation by Muslims began to surface.

Christian leaders and residents told this reporter they face an atmosphere of regular hostility. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spokes of instances in which Christian shopkeepers’ stores were ransacked and Christian homes attacked.

They said in the past, Palestinian gunmen fired at Israelis from Christian hilltop communities, drawing Israeli anti-terror raids to their towns.


Some Christian leaders said one of the most significant problems facing Christians in Bethlehem is the rampant confiscation of land by Muslim gangs.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Meloni in Holy Land, Help Palestinian Students

(ANSAmed) — BETHLEHEM — The first day of a visit by Italian Youth Minister Giorgia Meloni in the Holy Land was a marathon of solidarity for the Palestinians. The mission which will include, for equal treatment, visits and meeting by the youngest member of the Italian government with Israeli representative in Jerusalem. Young people were the focus of the most concrete event today in Bethlehem. With the chancellor of the University of Bethlehem, Peter Bray, Giorgia Meloni signed an agreement of understanding whereby the ministry allocated 200,000 euros to finance micro-credit projects for graduates looking to start businesses. “To study is the first way to be free and conquer war”, commented the minister to the students. “The Italian government has always been strongly committed to helping the Palestinians, even recently 2.5 million euros in aid has been given. Often we hear this conflict which seems without an end”, said Meloni, “but here I see many people that try to live with dignity in the middle of difficulty”. “We try to give these young people hope”, said Bray, “here there is war, there are check points, it is complicated even to have professors from abroad because they can only stay three months due to the visa. The people here feel abandoned and isolated. We don’t know when and if peace will come, but when it does, Palestine will need prepared young people”. Prior to the signing the minister visited the Deisha refugee camp and the school run by the United National Work and Refugee Assistance (UNWRA) and then a nursery school and a center of Palestinian women until recently run by UNWRA but now, although with great difficulty, run by the local community. Giorgia Meloni promised to investigate the possibility of finding other resources. Then the minister went to the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce where she was given a mother-of-pearl creche made by local artisans to be given to the young people in Italy who were victims of the Abruzzo earthquake. Immediately afterwards the minister visited a fashion institute near the Beit Sahur area where she discussed the possibility of students having internships with Italian textile and fashion businesses. In the afternoon, after a visit to the site of the Nativity, the minister took part in a conference on cooperation organized by the Life and Peace association where the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh asked her to put pressure, together with European partners, on the United States and Israel for the Jewish state to accept the UN resolution to tear down the wall. Meloni underlined that there are many obstacles to peace in the Middle East, admitting that peace could take “a very long time” and “what is needed for peace is not a wall”, referring to the words of Pope John Paul II, “in the Holy Land there is greater need for bridges than walls, we must work to build bridges”. The mayor of Bethlehem then replied to the minister, “if peace does not come soon, there will not be a square metre where Palestine can be built”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Shalit: Israel Conditions Agreement to New Requests

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 22 — Two days of closed negotiations for Premier Benyamin Netanyahu and his closest ministers on the possible prisoner exchange with Hamas ended last night with no official communication. According to the press Israeli leaders proposed to accept the release of the detainees requested by Hamas in exchange for Corporal Ghilad Shalit (prisoner in Gaza since 2006), but with a condition: that a large number of them are expelled to other countries or confined to Gaza. That is to impede Hamas from reorganising in the West Bank the infrastructure that would allow it to launch a new series of terrorist attacks in Israel like those of the first years of the intifada. In comments it was affirmed that the Israeli negotiator Haggai Hadas received instructions from Netanyahu to continue contact with the German negotiator that runs between Jerusalem and Gaza. “Now it will have to be Hamas to decide”, different analysts maintain. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Vatican Explains Pius XII Move

‘Won’t be beatified with John Paul’

(ANSA) — Vatican City, December 23 — The Vatican on Wednesday tried to mend fences with Jews irked by Saturday’s move towards sainthood of a wartime pope accused by some of not speaking out against the Holocaust.

WWII pope Pius XII would not be beatified along with John Paul II, the other pope whose ‘heroic virtues’ were recognised Saturday, putting them two steps away from sainthood, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

“There is no reason to forecast a dual beatification,” said Lombardi in an implicit reply to critics surprised at the still-controversial Pius apparently being yoked together with the widely popular John Paul.

Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to sign Saturday’s decree was not to be seen as a hostile act towards Jews, the statement said.

The statement voiced the hope that Pius’s progress towards sainthood “will not be considered an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church”. The Vatican explained the concept of the “heroic virtues” for which Pius was declared ‘venerable’, putting him two steps from sainthood.

The virtues, it stressed, concerned “his relationship with God and his Faith”.

The recognition of these qualities did not therefore constitute “an assessment of the political scope of all his operational choices”.

Detractors claim Pius XII didn’t do enough to save Jews, particularly via a public anathema, but his supporters say he did not speak out loudly so he could help Jews behind the scenes, which he did.

Saturday’s move caused friction with Jews in Italy and abroad and cast some doubt on Benedict’s planned visit to the Rome Synagogue on January 17, the second since John Paul made the first-ever papal visit in 1986.

On Wednesday the Grand Rabbinate of Israel said it would be sending a delegation if the visit goes ahead.

However, it reiterated criticism of the “timing” of the Pius move, repeating a longstanding Jewish demand that his cause should advance once the Vatican opens its wartime archives to shed full light on his pontificate.

The Vatican has repeatedly stated that there is so much material on that period that it cannot be expected to open the secret files before 2015 at the earliest.

Wednesday’s statement was seen as a response to a call from the The World Jewish Council for “greater sensitivity” on the issue, which the Grand Rabbinate reaffirmed was “a very painful and burning question for so many Jews”.

A meeting of Rome’s Jewish community on Wednesday evening will discuss the Synagogue visit.

In light of the pains the Vatican has taken to explain its move, it is now expected to greenlight the visit.


Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has said moves to make Pius a saint were the Vatican’s business.

“The representation of Pius XII as indifferent towards the victims of the Nazis…or even as ‘Hitler’s Pope’ (the title of a bestselling book) is outrageous and historically unsustainable,” Bertone told a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Pius’s death last year.

Bertone said the polemics — revived last October when a Jewish minister called the plans to beatify Pius “unacceptable” — were “biased and ever less comprehensible”.

Pius was the victim of “a defamatory legend,” Bertone said, reiterating a view expressed by Pius’s supporters.

Benedict praised Pius at an anniversary Mass in October 2008.

He reiterated that Pius saved the “largest possible number of Jews” by acting in silence to “avert the worst”.

He told the mass that Pius’s action had been recognised after the war by Jewish leaders including Golda Meir.

In order to be beatified, the two popes now need the certification of a miracle that happened to someone who prayed to them.

To be canonised and join the ranks of the saints, a second one would then be required.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Exhibits: Damascus, Italian Embassy Promotes Iraqi Artists

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, DECEMBER 21 — The Iraqi Cultural Forum in Damascus is hosting 33 works by Iraqi artists until December 30. The exhibition, says the Italian Embassy in Damascus, is part of the project Arts. Support for art, womens crafts and access to basic services for Iraqi refugees in Syria, which is an initiative of the Office for Cooperation at the Italian Embassy, and is part of the Emergency programme IRIS. The exhibition opened on December 15. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraqi General Assassinated

A senior Iraqi army officer has been shot dead in front of his home west of Baghdad, an interior ministry official said on Wednesay.

Brigadier General Riad Abdel Majid, an inspector for the defence ministry, “was killed in Ghazaliya by unknown persons who opened fire on him while he was in front of his house,” the official said.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Iraqi Kurd Poison Gas Victims Sue for Damages

A court in the Netherlands is hearing a case by Kurdish victims of poison gas attacks in northern Iraq in the 1980s.

They want compensation from a Dutch businessman, who sold chemicals — which were used against the Kurds — to Saddam Hussein’s government.

Frans van Anraat, 67, was convicted in the Netherlands in 2005 of war crimes and sentenced to 16-and-a-half years in jail.

Other courts have refused to award damages to the 16 victims.

The courts have said that it would be too difficult to get the money from Van Anraat, who says he spent all his cash fleeing from country to country after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

More than 5,000 people were killed in March 1988 when Saddam Hussein ordered an attack on the Kurdish Iraqi town of Halabja, as part of a campaign to crush a Kurdish rebellion.

Some of the survivors were left permanently disabled, suffering lung damage, blindness and skin diseases.

Van Anraat was convicted of complicity in war crimes, but cleared of genocide at his trial four years ago.

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

Osama Bin Laden’s Missing Family Found in Secret Compound in Iran

Osama bin Laden’s closest relatives are living in a secret compound in Iran, members of the family said last night. They include a wife and children who disappeared from his Afghan camp at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

There has been uncertainty about the family’s whereabouts for the past eight years, with reports that some of the children had been killed in bombings, while others had joined their father in planning terrorist attacks. However, relatives said that they found out last month that the group, including one of Osama’s wives, six of his children and 11 of his grandchildren, had been kept in a high-security compound outside Tehran.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Saad Hariri Marks New Relations Between Beirut and Damascus

Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri makes his first official visit to Syria, meets Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The 2005 attack is not mentioned. Saudi Arabia brokered the summit. Some in Lebanon fear a return of Syrian influence. Lebanese analyst believes Damascus has rebuilt its privileged position in Lebanon.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) — For Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, his visit to Damascus constitutes a “landmark” during which he held “friendly, open and positive” talks to ease tensions between his country and Syria. In the course of his two-day stay in the Syrian capital, the Lebanese leader met Syrian President three times. They discussed the demarcation of the border between the two countries and future cooperation. The assassination of Rafik Hariri, which some blame on the Syrian government, was not discussed.

“We want privileged, sincere and honest relations . . . in the interest of both countries and both peoples,” the prime minister said at a press conference at the Lebanese Embassy, which opened less than a year ago. He also announced some agreements with President Assad on a number of issues, including borders.

Saudi Arabia played an important role in paving the way for Syrian-Lebanese rapprochement. Moreover, the United States and the West have abandoned their policy of isolating Syria and have instead renewed relations with Damascus.

However, in Lebanon public opinion is still wary about the relationship with Syria, fearful that the visit might signal a return of Syrian influence on Lebanese affairs, which Damascus controlled for 30 years.

For instance, Elias Muhanna, a political analyst who writes on the Lebanese blog Qifa Nabki, “the image of Hariri coming over the mountains means they’ve come full circle. It demonstrates to all the power centres in Damascus” and that “Bashar has restored Syria’s position of strength vis-à-vis Lebanon.”

In 2005, Syria was forced to pull its troops out of Lebanon because of widespread popular unrest following to the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the current prime minister’s father.

At present, an UN-sponsored international tribunal has been investigating the possible involvement of fringe elements in Syria in the assassination.

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

Saudi Arabia: Flood Threat to Prophet’s Mosque?

MADINA — Concern has been raised about the possible flood threat to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina because it lies on low ground, through which Wadi Bathan passes.

The issue of the mosque’s safety, and other buildings on Madina’s valley routes, was raised in a recent meeting of the city’s Municipal Council. The council questioned the mayoralty’s ability to protect the mosque.. It was stated that only an 11 meter-high sand dam currently redirects the course of Wadi Bathan to the Al-Aqiq area.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ecumenical Patriarch “Crucified”

A statement by Bartholomew about the difficulties Turkish authorities create for the Christian Orthodox community provokes an irate response from Turkey’s foreign minister. Turkey continues to subordinate the reopening of the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Halki to the opening of a mosque in Athens, Greece.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — When a journalist from CBS asked whether he is still felt “crucified” by the difficulties he has to face every day, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said yes, thus venting the frustrations that come from running the Ecumenical See of Orthodox Christianity.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu responded immediately. He said, “I hope this is just a slip of the tongue. It is a very unfortunate statement. We do not deserve it. Crucifixion has never been a part of our history. I cannot see such a comparison coming from such a levelheaded person. I hope they were said by mistake.”

In reality, history shows that 19 Orthodox patriarchs were hanged, imprisoned or sent into exile by Turkish authorities. Yet, for Davutoglu, the Turkish nation was built on religious intolerance, and the Turkish Republic is a secular state; a democracy based on the rule of law that does not judge its citizens based on their religious affiliation, a place where every citizen is equal.

“If Patriarch Bartholomew has complaints about this issue, he can convey them to the relevant authorities who will do whatever is necessary,” the foreign minister said. “We cannot accept comparisons that we do not deserve.”

Bartholomew reacted to the minister’s comments in an interview with the Turkish-language news agency Haberturk in which he said that as a citizen of “this country [i.e. Turkey, where he did two years of military service) he wants to be treated as an equal and not as a second class citizen.

The Patriarch said he raised several times in writing the issue of the Theological Seminary in Halki and other matters with Prime Minister Erdogan. The answer he got was the same: reciprocity. For Halki to reopened, the Greeks have to allow a mosque in Athens. In reality, the Greek capital already has an Islamic Centre with an adjacent place of worship.

“We are not against a mosque in Athens,” Bartholomew said. “But they are making us pay for something which we are not responsible for.”

The Theological Seminary in Halki was run in accordance with the regulations of the Education Ministry until it was shut down in 1971, Bartholomew said. It had a high school and a college.

“We have asked for permission to close the school because we have not had any students for years and still have a deputy school principal who gets paid for a place that stands empty. Instead, we applied to reopen the college, which the authorities closed.”

“Schools that belong to other minorities are in the same situation. Even the Education Ministry says that there is no legal obstacle to our request, but falls back on the notion of reciprocity with regard to the Muslim minority in Greek Thrace,” the Patriarch said.

However, the two situations are very different. There are only 3,000 Greek Orthodox are left in Istanbul compared to 150,000 Muslims in Greek Thrace (who have 400 mosques and three Qur’anic schools).

That was not the case in the recent past when Istanbul was home to 130,000 Orthodox Christians.

Some claim they left of their own accord, but no one leaves if they have a business or a job. Instead, those who left fled because of the “incidents” of September 1955 (when Greek property was destroyed), real estate taxes (targeting minorities), forced exile in Askale, the Cyprus issue, and more. For this reason, we feel let down, the Patriarch said, and we shall take all legal steps at our disposal.

Even in Istanbul’s diplomatic circles, such remarks have raised eyebrows because several times in the past Bartholomew said that he believed in Erdogan’s goodwill. Still diplomatic sources acknowldge that Turkey’s situation is very complex and it is hard to understand whether what officials say expresses a desire for real change or not.

For his part, Istanbul-born historian E. Milas notes that whilst the authorities do not recognise the Ecumenical Patriarchate, they do recognise the so-called Turkish Orthodox Church, which was set up by the Turkish state, whose membership is so small it could not fill up a minibus even if it tried, but whose offices (confiscated from the Greek Orthodox Church) served as the headquarters for the ultra-nationalist Kemalist group Ergenekon.

Even well-known writer A. Aslan said that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, or the priest Bartholomew as Turkish authorities continue to call him, is greeted by everyone with his historical title of patriarch, “whilst we continue to stick our heads in the sand, thinking that we can solve our problems with the Kurds and the Alevi and forget everything about we have done to the Armenians.”

As an apostolic nuncio with a long experience in the Middle East said, things in Turkey hardly change. Even when there is some movement, change is too often nipped in the bud.

Perhaps there is some hope in younger Turks, who have travelled abroad and seen the world, and who might make a difference in a society that is in transition.

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

Turkey’s ‘Caferis’ Add Voice to Rights Chorus

Turkey’s Shiite minority community is following in the footsteps of the Circassians as it prepares to tell the government that it also wants equal rights. This Saturday, the Caferis will celebrate Aþura Day, which might serve for the first time as an opportunity for community leaders to draw attention to the demands they say have been long overlooked

Turkey’s ‘Caferi’ community will soon try to make its voice heard to a government already dealing with demands from Alevis, attempting to reconcile with the country’s Kurds and trying to solve problems with non-Muslim minorities.

Following the recent demand for rights by the Circassians, the Caferis, Turkey’s Shiite minority, believe that they also deserve equal rights.

As the Caferi community prepares to commemorate Aþura Day, which marks the killing of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hüseyin and his family, on Saturday, the event could for the first time turn into an occasion that draws attention to their requests.

“The Kurdish initiative, the Armenian and Roma people’s initiative… when will our turn come? Are we so unlikable?” said Selahattin Özgündüz, leader of the Caferis and head of CaferiDer, an association that conducts research and education on the Caferi faith.

Özgündüz said he believes the Turkish government has neglected the Caferi community.

“If cultural diversity makes a [society] rich and is something that deserves rights, why are we treated as ‘others’ and alienated? When will they ask us what we want?” said Özgündüz, who addressed the issues faced by the Caferi community in his speech for Aþura Day.

When the government asks the community to list its problems, he said, the Caferi will bring together the right people and establish a team to address the issue.

Problems in Shiite community

“Our problems are great enough to destroy our souls,” Özgündüz said.

These problems primarily have to do with how Caferis are defined in elementary school religion textbooks, training and paying the salaries of both Caferi imams and Sunni Muslim preachers, building mosques and obstacles members of the community face on pilgrimages to Mecca.

“The Caferi faith entered the textbooks last year, but only on one page,” said Özgündüz. “There are three different dates for the birth of the Caferi faith. What should these children believe in: the things that their parents teach them or their teachers?”

The main problems derive from the fact that the Religious Affairs Directorate and other public institutions, such as schools, address only Sunni Muslims, said Özgündüz. “But the Shiite community also pays taxes,” he added. “We indirectly pay the salary of a Sunni imam and the community also trains and pays the salary of a Caferi imam.”

Although the Religious Affairs Directorate does not seem to be a sufficient institution for Shiites in Turkey, Özgündüz said, it should not be removed because the consequences of such an act are unknown.

If the directorate is removed, sheiks from different religious cults might emerge and lead people to radicalism, Özgündüz said, adding, “The country might descend into chaos as a result.”

Changes in the law could bring equality among different sects of Islam and different religions, according to Özgündüz. He said the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, or TRT, should also establish programs that introduce the Caferi faith.

Özgündüz underscored that the community does not feel like, nor does it attempt to be, a minority in Turkey. He also said national unity would be in the Caferis’ best interests.

Another group that is demanding rights from the government is the Arab-Alevi community in southern Turkey. It agrees about the struggles over the years regarding the attempts to have their own imam or mescid, also known as a prayer house.

“After the Alevi workshop, we were able to have our own imams, which was very difficult in the past,” said Ahmet Topacýk, a member of the Arab-Alevi community living in the Adana province. He also works for the Mediterranean Social Solidarity, Education, Health and Culture Foundation, or ASDA.

“We want to live our faith freely,” Topacýk said. “Our community is not a rebellious one and it wants peace and unity in Turkey. These rights will increase that peace.”

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

Turkish, Syrian News Agencies Sign Cooperation Protocol

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, DECEMBER 23 — Turkish and Syrian national news agencies signed today a cooperation protocol. Hilmi Bengi, the director general of Turkey’s Anadolu Agency (AA), and Adnan Mahmoud, the director general of Syria’s news agency (SANA), signed the protocol in Damascus on the sidelines of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Syria. Under the protocol, the two news agencies will exchange stories and photographs and cooperate in various areas. The Syrian news agency launched news broadcasting in Turkish some time ago. The two news agencies will give technical and training support to each other. Also, state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) and its Syrian counterpart signed a cooperation protocol. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Escalation Desired

Germany Intensifies Mission in Afghanistan

The German-ordered air strike that led to civilian casualties in Afghanistan in early September was more than an aberration by a Bundeswehr officer. The German government and the military leadership have long supported taking a tougher approach against the Taliban.

He said nothing about the crux of the matter. German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was standing in the German parliament, the Bundestag, giving a speech that was filled, as usual, with well-made sentences, and yet it resolved nothing.

His appearance in the Bundestag last Wednesday had been preceeded by reports that morning that Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the former inspector general of the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, had accused the defense minister of “not telling the truth.”

It was a declaration of war, an outrageous move for a senior military commander to be making against his defense minister. In his speech to the Bundestag, Guttenberg could have dismissed the accusation, but he didn’t. Instead, he attacked the opposition while saying nothing about Schneiderhan’s central charge.

Officials with the Defense Ministry are now claiming that Schneiderhan and Peter Wichert, a state secretary in the defense ministry, concealed the fact that there were other reports on the Kunduz bombing (in addition to the NATO report Guttenberg already had) when the defense minister specifically asked the two men about the existence of such reports in a meeting on Nov. 25. In an interview with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Schneiderhan rejected this claim, saying: “With regard to the afternoon of the 25th, he is not telling the truth.”

Both Schneiderhan and Wichert have since been dismissed. But Guttenberg will not be able to remain in office for long if it turns out that he lied about his conversation with the highest-ranking soldier in the Bundeswehr. For the time being, however, it remains a matter of one man’s word against another’s.

It is now up to the Bundestag Defense Committee, which announced last Wednesday that it would also serve as investigative committee in the Kunduz scandal, to determine who is telling the truth. The committee plans to hear testimony from Guttenberg and Chancellor Angela Merkel soon, and a civil trial could ensue. Meanwhile, Schneiderhan has stated that he had not authorized the publication of the remarks he was quoted as saying.

The committee will also have to determine what really happened in the early morning hours of Sept. 4, when German Colonel Georg Klein ordered an air strike against Taliban fighters gathered around two kidnapped tanker trucks that resulted in numerous civilian casualties.

A Whitewashing Campaign

The incident also marked the beginning of a massive campaign to cover up and whitewash what actually happened in Kunduz. Not a single politician or senior military official told the public the full truth. The subject was to be kept off the radar during Germany’s fall parliamentary election campaign, so as not to ruffle the feathers of an already skeptical electorate. Now the incident has been magnified to a far greater extent than would have been the case if those involved had decided to come clean with the public in the first place.

This was precisely what the chancellor had promised voters: that nothing would be withheld or sugarcoated. Precisely the opposite occurred, resulting in a disaster for German democracy.

There are three phases to the Klein case, and new details are emerging almost daily. Each phase is explosive in its own right, and each illustrates the extent of Germany’s misgivings over going to war, any war.

The main phase consists of the hours between the kidnapping of the tanker trucks and the air strike. New information suggests that there was even disagreement between the assessments of Colonel Klein and his forward air controller during this phase.

Retooling from a Reconstruction Team to a Combat Force

The preliminary phase began roughly in the fall of 2008. The events leading up to Sept. 4, 2009 show that the Bundeswehr in Kunduz, responding to political pressure, had gradually transformed itself from a reconstruction team to a combat force. For this reason, Klein’s fatal order cannot be treated as an isolated aberration.

The follow-up phase began immediately after the air strike. According to the latest information, the Bundeswehr immediately began its efforts to cover up the incident.

In the NATO investigative report, which deals with the main phase, the forward air controller, whose code name was “Red Baron 20,” said on the record that he and Colonel Klein had had differing assessments of the situation. According to his statement, on the night of Sept. 4 he and Klein were sitting in the German operations center in Kunduz, where Red Baron was responsible for contact with the American “Trinity” air operations center. The third officer in the room was Captain N., who was in charge of intelligence operations in Kunduz.

At 12:48 a.m., an American B-1 bomber that was circling above the tanker trucks sent a radio message consisting of the word “Bingo.” This meant that it was time for the aircraft to refuel. Red Baron requested other aircraft, but the American air command center replied that it could not provide air support unless there were “troops in contact,” that is, German soldiers in contact with the enemy.

It was in that moment that the subsequent course of the night would be decided. If Klein had told the Americans the truth, there would not have been air strike.

Red Baron later told the NATO investigative team that Klein had repeatedly kept him out of the loop on that evening, either disappearing into another room or whispering something to Captain N. That was what happened after the B-1 bomber had left the scene, according to Red Baron, who told the NATO investigators that Klein and Captain N. had discussed the situation privately for a few minutes and then reached a decision: Colonel Klein would have the forward air controller report that there were indeed “troops in contact” and request air support. He did so, and soon two F-15 fighter jets were dispatched to the scene.

According to the NATO investigative report, Red Baron testified, on Sept. 26, that he had not believed that the situation posed an immediate threat, nor did he believe that it was “necessary to report troops in contact.” The investigators asked Red Baron why he had not raised an objection to stop Klein. The forward air controller replied: “I am a soldier, and he is my commander.”

‘Questionable’ Information

Red Baron was apparently also unsure whether the people crowded around the tanker trucks were only Taliban. The NATO report states that the Bundeswehr’s Afghan informant had reported that the only people at the scene were insurgents, but that Red Baron had considered the information “questionable.”

At 1:18 a.m., the American pilots wanted to know what had happened to the drivers of the kidnapped trucks. At that point, the Afghan informant had already reported that one of the drivers had been shot and killed, but that the other one was still alive and had merely been beaten by the Taliban. Nevertheless, Red Baron’s response to the Americans’ question was that he had no information about the fate of the drivers. The US pilots, concluding that no innocent civilians would be killed on the ground, released their bombs.

Why did Klein lie? He has not commented on the incident yet. Until Sept. 4, he was not seen as a reckless man, but as a model officer. Could it be that he felt a need to act in accordance with political wishes? There is a history leading up to his order to bomb the tanker trucks that suggests that this could be the case.

Two hundred well-trained and well-equipped soldiers, members of the Bundeswehr’s Quick Reaction Force, or QRF, left Germany for Afghanistan in June 2008. They were being sent to replace a group of Norwegian troops, and their mission was to wage offensive war against insurgents. “We are not talking about patrols and evacuations, but about offensive operations,” said Birgit Homburger, the defense policy spokesperson of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) parliamentary group at the time.

“QRF is not PRT,” said then Bundeswehr Inspector General Schneiderhan, putting it in a nutshell. The PRT, or Provincial Reconstruction Team, is the name used to describe the bulk of Bundeswehr troops in Kunduz. Its mission is to provide the Afghans with reconstruction assistance. This does not apply to the QRF, whose purpose is to attack members of the Taliban. Despite the QRF’s obvious combat orientation, the German government and representatives of all parliamentary groups, with the exception of the Left Party, approved the mission.

In the coming months, the combat unit — which was in fact stationed in the relatively quiet Mazar-e-Sharif — was needed more and more frequently in the Kunduz area, where “incidents affecting security” were becoming more common.

On Oct. 20, 2008, two German soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing.

On Oct. 21, two state secretaries, August Hanning of the Interior Ministry and Peter Wichert of the Defense Ministry, traveled to Afghanistan, where they remained until Oct. 25.

‘It Cannot Go On Like This’

When the two Germans met with Afghan National Security Advisor Zalmay Rassul, they wanted to know “why known backers of the attacks on German police officers and soldiers were not being called to account.” Their words carried an unspoken threat: We will take matters into our own hands, if necessary.

Back in Berlin, Wichert scheduled an unusual meeting. He asked representatives of the Chancellery, the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, to attend a confidential meeting at the Defense Ministry. The attendees were contacted by telephone. There was no written invitation. The meeting revolved around two concrete questions: Who was behind the attacks in Kunduz? What could the German government do against the backers of those attacks?

“It cannot go on like this. I’m very concerned,” said Hanning, who, together with Wichert, had convened the meeting and was reporting from Afghanistan. “The situation in and around Kunduz is far more dramatic than the public believes,” he told the group. Hanning, intent on hunting down the Taliban backers, favored a tougher approach. From his perspective, for German troops the conflict boiled down to either hunting or being hunted.

Armin Hasenpusch, the BND’s vice president for military affairs, summarized the situation as his organization saw it. On a colorful chart prepared by the BND to depict the region surrounding Kunduz, an oval area shaded in green identified the sphere of influence of an important commander in northern Afghanistan, whose name is on the NATO troops’ wanted lists: Mullah Shamsuddin. He’s an experienced Pashtun commander who controlled the surrounding villages and had ordered girls’ schools there closed a few months earlier. The mullah is a member of the so-called Northern Afghanistan Shura Council, a shadow government appointed by the Taliban leadership in Pakistan.

From Bridge Builders to Combat Soldiers

The group of senior German government officials would convene several times after that initial meeting, always at the Defense Ministry, and it introduced an unspoken paradigm shift: Bit by bit, the bridge builders of the PRT were to become combat soldiers.

The German position shifted a little further in early May. The BND had located a local Taliban leader named Abdul Razeq, and its agents knew where he was and what he was planning. Razeq, who apparently headed one of the local terrorist cells, was believed to be responsible for various attacks on the Germans. The Bundeswehr knew that it could catch him, but it had to be interested in catching him. Until then, it had had no interest in Razeq.

Then things changed. This time the Bundeswehr sent out its KSK special forces unit. Sixty kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Faizabad, in northeastern Afghanistan, the elite unit stormed a farmhouse and then chased Razeq as he fled into the mountains, where he was caught. The Germans then flew Razeq to Kabul on board a Transall military transport aircraft and turned him over to a special prosecutor.

By now it was clear that the Germans had changed their position. Now they were hunting the Taliban.

Meanwhile, back in Berlin, the defense ministry and senior military officials were hard at work to ensure that German soldiers would be capable of engaging in combat.

Part 2: The Bundeswehr Gets Teeth

On April 8, 2009, the following sentence was deleted from the NATO operations plan: “The use of deadly force is prohibited, unless an attack is underway or imminent.”

The Germans had originally included these “national clarifying remarks” in the wording of the NATO plan to ensure that Bundeswehr soldiers would only be permitted to shoot in self-defense. In statements relating to the NATO rules of engagement numbered 421 to 424 and 429A and 429B, the Germans clarified that they did not wish to characterize their attacks as “attacks,” but as the “use of appropriate force.” But now none of this applied anymore.

At this time, the defense policy experts at the Bundestag were addressing concerns about military equipment. Rainer Arnold, the defense policy spokesman of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) parliamentary group, said that it was irresponsible to “send soldiers on their dangerous missions without giving them the protection that would be possible as a result of superior Western technology.” Arnold wanted the Bundeswehr to have combat helicopters in Afghanistan.

His counterpart with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Bernd Siebert, campaigned for the Panzerhaubitze 2000 (“Armored howitzer 2000”), a serious weapon, the use of which quickly came to be associated with dead civilians.

The soldiers, for their part, were not just concerned about the lack of equipment, but also the question of what exactly they were permitted to do on this mission. The German government has been consistently reluctant to refer to the conflict as a war, even though the men and women stationed in northern Afghanistan had long felt that they were involved in one, except that they were not being truly permitted to fight.

He had felt like bait in a trap, a soldier wrote to his comrades in June. Despite being in a dangerous situation, the soldier wrote, regulations required that he wait until the Taliban attacked before returning fire. Others reported having to attract attention by slamming doors or flashing their headlights before they could begin fighting with insurgents waiting to ambush them. This raises the question of whether the legal qualms of the mission leadership turned the soldiers into targets.

Despite the deleted clauses in the NATO operations plans, the Germans still face limited options. Under the rules of engagement, which every Bundeswehr soldier stationed abroad carries with him in the form of a so-called pocket card, the German troops are only permitted to defend themselves against attack, ward off attacks or provide emergency assistance.

Sounding the Attack

At the behest of members of parliament, the legal department at the Defense Ministry amended the soldiers’ pocket cards. The cards now read: “Attacks can be prevented, for example, by taking action against individuals who are planning, preparing or supporting attacks, or who exhibit other forms of hostile behavior.” The Bundeswehr was sounding the attack, as the Germans began a major military offensive in an attempt to regain control over the region surrounding Kunduz.

“The time had come to commence the escalation,” then Inspector General Schneiderhan told the Berlin press on July 22.

The defense experts in the Bundestag were enthusiastic about the new military approach. “The ministry has finally recognized that the German interpretation of the rules of engagement are not consistent with the realities in Afghanistan,” said FDP politician Rainer Stinner.

And SPD politician Rainer Arnold said: “It’s good that the pocket card is now being amended to reflect the realities of the mission, thereby preventing uncertainty among the soldiers from arising in the first place.” German soldiers, he added, couldn’t simply run away from terrorists once they had recognized them.

The situation in Kunduz came to a head in August, when the BND warned that the Taliban was preparing to overrun the German base there. According to the BND, a suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with explosives would break through the first barrier into the base, making way for a second truck, also filled with explosives, to blow up the main gate. This would allow 50 to 100 Taliban fighters to enter the camp and attack the PRT directly.

There had also been indications in the preceding weeks that several suicide attacks against Germans were planned. Mullah Shamsuddin and his men were presumed to be behind all the plans.

At this point, there was also a so-called Task Force 47 unit in the camp. With a few dozen KSK soldiers and Bundeswehr scouts, the unit’s mission was to project the Kunduz camp. The soldiers monitored the surrounding area, searched for rocket positions, evaluated drone images, recruited local informants and, together with interpreters, listened in on the radio communications of possible enemies.

The KSK soldiers call it “tracking,” when they detect and follow insurgents. At the beginning of September, the KSK unit was apparently tracking four local Taliban leaders, Mullah Abdul Rahman, Maulawi Naim, Mullah Siah and Mullah Nasruddin. Each of them commanded about 15 fighters and controlled small areas around Kunduz.

In the night between Sept. 3 and Sept. 4, these local Taliban leaders appeared at the hijacked tanker trucks when they were stuck on a sandbar.

The trucks had been kidnapped in Shamsuddin’s territory on the evening of Sept. 3 by one of his local commanders, Mullah Abdul Rahman. The Afghan intelligence service had had its eye on Rahman for some time and was listening in on his mobile phone conversations. The BND also had him under surveillance.

Shamsuddin and Abdul Rahman were the enemy, the people who had launched repeated attacks on Colonel Klein’s soldiers. It is quite possible that the incident on the Kunduz River boiled down to a power struggle between Mullah Abdul Rahman and Colonel Klein. Klein himself used the word “destroy” to convey the intention of his order.

He had good reason to believe that his superiors and the German government would approve of his robust actions, particularly after having looked on as they had paved the way for a stronger German military response in the preceding months. However, Klein bears sole responsibility for probably having lied to convince the Americans to drop the bombs.

Part 3: ‘At Least 100 Were Apparently Killed’

The third phase was also characterized by lies. It began directly after the air strike.

Only a few hours later, still on Sept. 4, a confidential, three-page report, of which SPIEGEL has a copy, was written in Kunduz. The author is a sergeant who manages Afghan informants. His report proves how early the Bundeswehr knew about the devastating effects of the strike within the civilian population. According to the Bundeswehr, the informant was an Afghan “with direct access to information on the activities of the insurgents in the Chahar Dara district.” The informant’s information had been “relatively credible” in the past.

According to the informant, the casualties included “Taliban as well as civilians.” The Taliban had apparently intended to distribute the fuel from the tankers, the source reported. “This was the reason for the large number of civilians in the area.” At least 100 people were apparently killed.

The sergeant felt that the informant’s report was credible, because it confirmed the mission “at its core.” According to the sergeant, it seemed “likely that civilians were also killed in the air strike,” and it was even “conceivable” that, at the time of the bombing, “a large number of civilians was present” to collect free gasoline from the tankers.

The sergeant, concerned about the fallout, wrote in his report: “Should the information prove to be true, particularly the information about the large number of civilian casualties, negative consequences are quite possible.”

The report remained classified. Publicly, the Bundeswehr, ranging all the way up to then Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, initially claimed that there were no civilian casualties, and that all those killed were Taliban. The investigative committee will now have to determine who knew about the document when, and who decided, against his better judgment, to claim the opposite was true.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Karlsruhe in southwestern Germany is now looking into whether it should launch an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Klein. Until now, the investigators have assumed that purpose of the air strike was to defend against impending attack. In that sort of a situation, international criminal law permits the killing of enemies, even if this could lead to civilian casualties.

There is no clear mathematical formula in international criminal law defining a military strike as a violation of international law once a certain number of casualties has been reached. Until now, the Karlsruhe investigators have been eager to give Klein the benefit of the doubt. From their offices in a provincial southern German city, they have been loath to decide how a commander in Afghanistan should view the world.

But the picture becomes more complicated if it turns out that Klein knew, at the time of the bombing, that there were still civilians and an innocent truck driver in the target area. The federal judges will now have to determine whether Klein was prepared to accept the possibility of collateral damage during the attack.

The clearer it becomes that there was no acute threat and that the air strike was ordered out of a purely destructive desire, the narrower the investigators’ latitude, and the more thoroughly federal prosecutors have to examine the case. And the more serious the outcome of the Karlsruhe investigation is, the greater the collateral damage for the Bundeswehr will be. Soldiers pay very close attention to the consequences a commander must anticipate when he makes a decision with fatal consequences.

And so the soldiers remain stuck somewhere between the Taliban and the law. The Taliban attack the Germans where they can, and the prosecutors pay close attention to whether the Germans strike back on a regular basis.

This is what happens when a democracy wages war. It cannot be any different. But when a military mission is accompanied by lies and cover-ups, democracy squanders its moral advantage.


Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

India: BJP Leader Sponsors Christmas Concert Attended by Christians, Muslims and Hindus

Some 4,000 people attend the Festival of Christmas held in Bandra, Mumbai. Titled ‘Let us celebrate the birth of Jesus together”, it was sponsored by Ashish Shelar, the new face of the local BJP.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The Supari Talao Ground in Bandra, Mumbai, hosted a Christmas concert attended by Christians, Hindus and Muslims. The event was organised to aid Atmavishwas, a NGO, and was sponsored by Ashish Shelar, the rising star of the local wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The 36-year-old attorney heads the Hindu nationalist party at the State level. The theme of the event was “Let us celebrate the birth of Jesus together”.

Nearly 4,000 people came to the Christmas festival to hear carols like ‘Holy Night’ and some original compositions like ‘It’s Christmas Day today’ written and performed by Bashir Sheikh, a Muslim singer.

The event ended in a sour note when police moved to stop the concert because of the noise.

For organisers, the police was unfair, but they complied with the injunction to avoid politicising the event.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Ashish Shelar said that the Christmas festival was an initiative designed to focus on ‘expression through culture”.

For him, India’s secular values are enshrined in the constitution. “As a lawyer, I have defended the rights of the Christian community and it is admirable that it has never demanded anything illegal, and is known for dialogue, tolerance and peace.”

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

Pakistani Eunuchs to Have Distinct Gender

Pakistan’s Supreme Court says eunuchs must be allowed to identify themselves as a distinct gender in order to ensure their rights.

The eunuchs, known as “hijras” in Pakistan, are men castrated at an early age for medical or social reasons.

The court said they should be issued with national identity cards showing their distinct gender.

The government has also been ordered to take steps to ensure they are entitled to inherit property.

‘Respect and identity’

There are estimated to be about 300,000 hijras in Pakistan and they are generally shunned by the largely Muslim conservative society.

They tend to live together in slum communities, surviving through begging and by dancing at weddings and carnivals.

A hijra association has welcomed the order, saying it is “a major step giving respect and identity in society”.

Indian authorities last month agreed to list eunuchs and transgender people by using the term “others”, distinct from males and females, on electoral rolls and voter identity cards, after a long-running campaign by the members of the community.

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

Why Does Pakistan Hate the United States?

Because it is dependent on us.

Give credit to the vice president: He really does enjoy politics and “can’t see a room without working it,” as a colleague of mine half-admiringly remarked last Wednesday morning. We were waiting to enter the studio and comment after Biden had finished his interview with the Scarborough/Brzezinski team, in which the main topic was Afghanistan. Exiting, he chose to stop and talk to each of us. Not wanting to waste a chance to be a bore on the subject, I asked him why he had mentioned India only once in the course of his remarks. Right away Biden managed the trick—several good politicians have mastered this—of reacting as if the question had been his own idea. Of course, he said, it was vexing that Pakistan preferred to keep its best troops on the border with India (our friend) rather than redeploying them to FATA—the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas—where they could be fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida (our enemy). My flesh was pressed, and it was on to the next. The newspapers that morning revealed that Pakistani authorities showed no interest in apprehending a Taliban leader in Afghanistan whom they considered an important asset. The newspapers the following morning reported that Pakistan was refusing to extend the visas to U.S. Embassy and other American personnel, resulting in a gradual paralysis of everything from intelligence-gathering to the maintenance of helicopters.

Several questions arise from this. The first: Who is in charge of policy in the area? When some hard words had to be spoken to President Hamid Karzai about the dire and ramshackle nature of his regime, it was the vice president who drew the job of delivering them. For the rest of the time, the Af-Pak dimension is supposedly overseen by Richard Holbrooke, who seems lately to show some outward signs of discontent. Yet on one day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may appear on the tarmac at Kabul or Islamabad. On another it will be Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or the CIA or any number of a series of generals. If this is really a “team of rivals,” it doesn’t seem to have had the effect of clarifying policy differences by debate. It looks more like one damn thing after another.

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

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Pope’s Recognition of Nun’s Miracle Welcomed

Sydney, 21 Dec. (AKI) — A woman cured of inoperable lung cancer has welcomed a decision by Pope Benedict XVI to recognise her recovery as a miracle. The woman, who wants to remain anonymous, prayed to Mary MacKillop, the Sisters of St Joseph nun now set to become Australia’s first saint.

Benedict confirmed Mary’s second miracle on Saturday, paving the way for her to become Australia’s first saint.

The approved miracle, which involved the healing of a woman with cancer during the mid-1990s, had to be assessed by a number of medical experts as well as theologians before it was decreed by the Vatican.

Speaking in the Australian city of Sydney on Sunday, Anne Derwan said the woman at the centre of Mother Mary’s second miracle did not yet wish to be identified, but would tell her story when the time was right.

Meanwhile, the woman has released a statement which was read by Sister Derwan.

“This is wonderful news,” the statement said.

“I feel personally humbled and grateful to Mary MacKillop, and the influence she has had on my life.

The woman added Mary had always provided her with hope and inspiration.

“I hope this news today provides others, especially younger Australians, with inspiration and encouragement to live as generously and as compassionately as Mary did.”

The Vatican confirmed Mary MacKillop’s first miracle in 1971.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995 and she is expected to be canonised in 2010.

She died at Alma Cottage, adjacent to Mary MacKillop Chapel, North Sydney, in 1909.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Eritrea Hit With UN Sanctions for ‘Aiding Insurgents’

The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on Eritrea because of aid it says it has been giving to Islamic insurgents in Somalia.

The resolution places an arms embargo on Eritrea, and also imposes travel bans and asset freezes on businesses and individuals.

Members of the Eritrean leadership are expected to be affected. The resolution was backed by 13 votes to 15.

China abstained while Libya, the only Arab council member, voted against.

Eritrean officials have repeatedly denied the allegations, calling them a “fabrication” of US intelligence.


The country suspended its membership of the African Union in protest at the call for sanctions in April.

A draft of the resolution obtained by Reuters news agency demands that Eritrea “cease arming, training and equipping armed groups and their members including al-Shabab”.

As a result of the Security Council vote, Eritrea becomes the first new country to be subjected to UN sanctions since they were imposed on Iran in 2006.

In a letter to the council last week, Eritrea’s ambassador to the UN, Araya Desta, called the sanctions “ludicrous punitive measures”.

He warned that their imposition risked “engulfing the region in to another cycle of conflict as it may encourage Ethiopia to contemplate reckless military adventures”.

The UN has frequently expressed concern about the flow of arms in to Somalia, where hardline Islamists of al-Shabab and Hizbul-Islam are battling with government forces for control of the capital Mogadishu.

Somalia has been subject to a UN arms embargo for many years, but weapons are still freely available in the Mogadishu weapons market.

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

Mali Albino Given Spanish Asylum ‘Fled Discrimination’

Lawyers for a Malian albino man granted asylum in Spain have told the BBC he faced constant discrimination at home.

Abdoulaye Coulibaly, 22, who arrived illegally by boat in the Spanish Canary Islands in April, says he also survived two kidnap attempts in 2007.

Cases of violence aimed at albinos are unusual in Mali, but there have been numerous cases of murder, kidnap and torture of albinos in East Africa.

Lawyers say Mr Coulibaly’s case shows the problems are more widespread.

In Tanzania, witchdoctors sell good-luck potions made from the body parts of albino people for thousands of dollars.

‘Bad luck’

Mr Coulibaly is the first albino man from Africa to be granted asylum by Spain.

His case was taken up by the Spanish refugee aid agency, CEAR.

“He found it difficult to get work in Mali and whenever anything went wrong in his town, people would blame him,” Kimi Aoki, a lawyer from CEAR in Las Palmas, told the BBC.

“They said he brought bad luck,” she said.

Mr Coulibaly was even blamed when the boat that carried the migrants to Spain from Africa got into difficulty.

Ms Aoki said he escaped two kidnap attempts with the help of people on the street.

“They tried to kidnap me twice to use my body,” Mr Coulibaly told Spanish newspaper El Pais.

“I know they cut off the fingers and hands of other albinos to use them in rituals.”


“We’ve been telling people that albinos are human like anyone else, that their hair doesn’t bring happiness or wealth, that their heart is the same as anyone’s,” the foundation’s Mamoutou Keita says.

“More and more people are starting to understand that an albino is like anyone else. All that’s different is the lack of melanin in their skin.”

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

Latin America

Chavez Announces New Discount ‘Socialist’ Stores

President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday announced a new chain of government-run, cut-rate retail stores that will sell everything from food to cars to clothing from places such as China, Argentina and Bolivia.

“We’re creating Comerso, meaning Socialist Corporation of Markets,” Chavez said at the opening of a “socialist” fast-food location for traditional Venezuelan arepas (cornbread).

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]


Crime Has Gone Unchecked Too Long for Somali Community in Britain

Somalia’s reputation as a failed state is unsurpassed. War has raged for decades, a seemingly never-ending civil and religious conflict that has spawned brutality, oppression, poverty, hunger and a tide of refugees.

At one extreme there is the Islamist Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahidin, a violent faction driven by religious fervour. At the other is the pirates who prey on international shipping lanes and are motivated solely by Mammon.

It is tempting to look at the large Somali community in Britain and find those extremes at play. There have been reports that the pirate captains are directed from London by contacts who have access to information about what ships might be worth attacking, and reports that al-Shabaab is fuelled by recruits from these shores.

The reality, however, is that the piracy connection to London is not established and, although the jihadi link is real, the numbers travelling to train, fight and die in Somalia are believed to be small compared with the thousands in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The only terrorist plot here with a firm link to Somalia was the failed bombings of July 21, 2005. One Somali youth volunteered to be a bomber but the investigation proved that the entire cell had been radicalised in Britain before its leader went to Pakistan to complete his indoctrination.

The most destabilising by-product of the large-scale Somali migration to Britain has been the propensity of a significant number of young Somali men to become involved in crime and to use violence. It is not the done thing for senior police officers to discuss such trends bluntly — the racial overtones are too sensitive — but on the front line the reality has been inescapable.

The murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, by a Somali gunman in Bradford, West Yorkshire, is the best-known example of violence from criminal elements within the Somali community. In Sheffield, police tackling a gang problem were struck by the lack of inhibition among the Somali members when it came to using violence — describing it as verging on torture.

In Birmingham in 2005, police obtained an injunction to keep a Somali man out of the Edgbaston red light district after identifying him as a suspect in a series of knife-point rapes. He was later convicted of the attacks.

London’s Somali gangs are many in number, contemptuous of the police and prolific in crime and violence. There are encouraging signs however that a community characterised by its tribal structure, distrust of authority and sense of alienation is beginning to tire of its reputation and realise that it can empower itself to improve its situation.

Youth forums are working with the police and women’s groups are emerging from a male-dominated culture to make their voices heard. A Somali woman recently joined the Metropolitan Police and witnesses from within the community played a part in solving a murder in South London.

These fragile shoots are being nurtured by the police and other agencies who recognise that the problems of crime and violence from within a difficult-to-reach community have gone unchecked for too long.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Immigrants a Risk Factor on Housing Group Form

“Immigrants” were listed along with “asbestos” and “noise” on a list of 39 risk factors on a form to be filled out by cooperative housing associations belonging to HSB Skåne in southern Sweden, reports Sydsvenskan newspaper. The list was intended to assess the health and safety environment of various HSB properties.

Christina Gyland, chairman of a housing association in Lund, adding that it bordered on being racist.

Katarina Burle, head of communication at HSB Skåne, told Sydsvenskan that the immigrant criteria was poorly formulated and was in the process of being removed from the form.

Burle said that it was initially used in housing areas with significant immigrant populations and was primarily intended to flag properties that would need information posted in multiple languages.

The risk assessment form originally came from Fastigo, the employer organisation of the real estate industry.

Fastigo head lawyer Jonas Stålnacke told the newspaper that while he understood how the immigrant criteria could be misunderstood, “it is not the case that we consider immigrants to be a risk factor in the working environment.”

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

UK: Failed Asylum Seeker Who Killed 12-Year-Old Girl Wins Court Bid to Stay in Britain

A failed asylum seeker who fled after knocking down and killing a 12-year-old girl has won his appeal to stay in Britain.

The family of Amy Houston, who was left dying under the wheels of Aso Mohammed Ibrahim’s Rover car as she walked to the shops, have spoken of their disgust at the decision.

The Kurdish Iraqi was on bail and already disqualified from driving when he hit the schoolgirl.

Ibrahim, 32, who has never held a driving licence, was jailed for four months for driving while disqualified and failing to stop after an accident.

Now the father-of-two has won a court appeal against him being deported.

Amy’s father Paul said: ‘They may as well give passports out in lucky bags because that is all they are worth.

‘I cannot believe the judge’s decision and that he thinks it is right for him to stay here. Is he on another planet?’

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has pleaded to take the case to Home Secretary Alan Johnson in an attempt to force an appeal.

Mr Houston, 39, from Darwen in Lancashire, said: ‘It was very difficult for me to go to the hearing and stand 10 feet away from the man who killed my daughter.

‘If I thought he was genuinely sorry, I would have stood up in court and said I didn’t want him to be taken away from his children.

‘I know what it feels like to have your family broken up, but the fact that he has got to stay is an absolute travesty.

‘It’s the best Christmas present he could wish for and a terrible one for my family. Where is the justice in that?’

He added: ‘I will fight this decision for the rest of my life — or until he leaves the country. I owe Amy that much.’

Weeks before killing Amy in November 2003, Ibrahim had been banned for nine months for driving while disqualified, without insurance and without a licence.

Amy Houston was outside her home when she was knocked down.

Ibrahim was approaching traffic calming measures when a boy ran across the road, and Amy followed running into the path of Ibrahim’s car.

The youngster, who lived with her mother Joanne Cocker, had to be freed from underneath the vehicle by firefighters.

She was still trapped under the car when Ibrahim jumped out of the vehicle and ran off.

A police officer drove the ambulance to hospital so both paramedics could treat Amy but despite their efforts she died in hospital later that day.

After the accident Ibrahim confessed to a friend, who took him to a police station where he owned up.

Ibrahim, of Blackburn, had exhausted all his appeals to stay in Britain but was allowed to stay because Iraq was unsafe.

He has since married a British woman called Christina and now has two children.

In 2006, he was again convicted of driving while being disqualified.

Fourteen months ago he was taken to a deportation centre and UK Border Agency officials vowed they would try to deport him ‘at the earliest opportunity’.

But he was later released on bail and an appeal against the deportation began on the grounds he had married a British woman and they had two children.

Mr Houston added: ‘Why should he be allowed to walk free after what he has done?

‘I need to carry on fighting because I don’t want anyone else to find themselves in this position and I don’t want anybody else’s kid to get killed.

‘He’s just laughing at the British justice system. It is so wrong. Where is the justice for my Amy?’

Mr Straw said the judge’s decision, who was sitting at a court in Manchester, was very disappointing.

‘I will be speaking to the Home Secretary to see if there’s any way we can appeal against this decision, and I will also be talking to the family.

‘They have been through an awful time.’

Jo Liddy, regional director of the UK Border Agency in the North West said: ‘We are extremely disappointed.

‘We have made it clear that we will prioritise the removal of those foreign nationals who present the most risk of harm to the public.’

Speaking at the time of one appeal hearing, Ibrahim said: ‘This incident when Amy died was an accident and should not stop me living in this country with my family.

‘I did not expect to meet Christina or have any children when I came here seven years ago but it has happened and I cannot leave them.

‘I cannot go back to Iraq. Do you not watch the news? It is far too dangerous.’

In 2007, the Government introduced longer prison sentences for people causing a death while driving a car while disqualified or without valid insurance.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Illegal Immigrants ‘Used Loophole to Create Sham Marriages’ For the Right to Live in Britain

Illegal immigrants used a ‘loophole’ to bypass a government crackdown on sham marriages and pay cash to wed European women with the right to live in Britain, a court heard today.

They fooled Anglican Church officials into believing they were genuine couples in love and agreeing to allow the ‘bogus’ marriages to take place.

But a registrar suspicious about the number of Nigerian men marrying women from Slovakia and the Czech Republic tipped off police who uncovered a major conspiracy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

In US, 80 Pct Believe in God, One Third Say He’s in Control

WASHINGTON — More than eight in 10 American adults believe in God but only three in 10 believe He controls what happens on Earth, and a mere one percent believe He is a She, a poll showed Tuesday.

Not all of the 82 percent of Americans who told the Harris polling agency that they believe in God were unshakable in their belief: only 59 percent were “absolutely certain” there is a God, while 15 percent were somewhat certain, the survey showed.

Born again Christians were the most likely to believe — 87 percent, followed by Protestants taken as a whole (76 percent), Republicans (72 percent), southerners (69 percent) and around two-thirds of blacks and women.

The least likely to believe in God were young and university-educated.

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Rep. Stupak: White House Pressuring Me to Keep Quiet on Abortion Language in Senate Health Bill

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said the White House and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives have been pressuring him not to speak out on the “compromise” abortion language in the Senate version of the health care bill.

“They think I shouldn’t be expressing my views on this bill until they get a chance to try to sell me the language,” Stupak told in an interview on Tuesday. “Well, I don’t need anyone to sell me the language. I can read it. I’ve seen it. I’ve worked with it. I know what it says. I don’t need to have a conference with the White House. I have the legislation in front of me here.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Now the PC Brigade Wants to Re-Write Our Christmas Carols

Christmas carols are being rewritten to make them politically correct, a music teacher claimed yesterday.

Nic Robinson was surprised to find the words to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing had been changed to be ‘gender-inclusive’ by removing the words ‘man’, ‘men’ and ‘sons’.

Attending a carol service at his 13-year-old daughter Hannah’s school, he noticed that in verse two, the line ‘Pleased as man with man to dwell’ was changed to ‘Pleased with us in flesh to dwell’ on the printed sheet.

In the next verse, the lines ‘Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of Earth, Born to give them second birth’ were changed to ‘Born that we no more may die, Born to raise us from the earth, Born to give us second birth’.

Mr Robinson, 45, of Littleover, Derby, said: ‘It’s completely unnecessary. I don’t know any women who feel belittled by the use of the word ‘man’ or ‘son’.

‘Nowadays, there is a section of society that says everything has to conform to this bizarre gender-inclusive business.

‘It’s such a shame that things which are so well established are being changed for no reason at all. It makes me angry because I love the traditions around Christmas and the Church.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Marylee said...

The ObaMAD Legend

Here's a suggested book title for anyone who will someday write about the hopefully short-lived, Obamaniac dictatorship:

"Double-Crossers, Cross-Dressers & Cross-Bashers"

(For more Obamagic, Google "Obama Avoids Bible Verses" and "Obama Supports Public Depravity.")

[now you know who's behind the Franklin Graham snubbing!]