Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/31/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/31/2010The big news of the day concerns President Obama’s decision to send missile defense forces to the Persian Gulf to protect against a possible Iranian missile strike. The Defense Department is sending Patriot missile batteries to defend its Sunni friends in Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait against the Shi’ite menace in Iran.

In other news, heavy snow — almost as heavy as fell yesterday here in Central Virginia — has struck northern Germany, causing chaos on the roads and isolating some of the islands in the Baltic. At the same time, a record cold snap in Sweden is expected to continue. In a possibly unrelated development, Swedish knife crime has recently reached epidemic proportions.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Gaia, Insubria, JD, JH, KGS, RRW, Sean O’Brian, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Greece: EU Warning, Situation Serious; ECB, Courage Needed
Greece: Almunia, EU Commission Ready to Intervene
The Battle of the Titans: JP Morgan Versus Goldman Sachs
Rifqa Bary: Muslim Parents Reject Deal With Christian Daughter
The People Behind Jimmy Carter’s Letter on Israel
The Sharp Dressed Man Who Aided Mutallab Onto Flight 253 Was U.S. Government Agent
Virginia Islamic School’s Expansion Met Protests
How Gun Registration and Confiscation Works in Canada
Europe and the EU
Atitech: Catalan Partner, Agreement Signed in Madrid
But Religion Has Nothing to Do With it: Minarets Are Political Symbols
Germany: Snow Causes Chaos in the North
Islam Welcomed in France by 54% of Frenchmen
Italy: Paris Now Further Away by Rail
Member of the Swiss Political Party That Pushed for Minaret Ban Converts to Islam
Snow Causes German Traffic Chaos With Three Deaths
Spain: Military Airbus Maiden Flight, 2 Years Behind Schedule
Sweden: Fatal Shooting in Central Malmö
Sweden: Stabbing on the Increase Say Hospitals
Sweden: Record Cold Snap to Stay
Swiss Industrialist Faces Trial Over Asbestos
Terrorists ‘Plan Attack on Britain With Bombs Inside Their Bodies’ To Foil New Airport Scanners
UK: Ministers Slammed for Speaking at Meeting With Muslim Who Justified Killing British Troops
Video: UK: Film Seized ‘Shows Children Being Radicalised’
Video: UK: Driver to Fight Fine ‘For Blowing His Nose’
Wilders to Show Fitna in London in March
North Africa
Libya: Italy: Scholarships to Colonialism Victims’ Descendants
Libya Quashes Swiss Businessman’s Jail Term
Pioneer of Moroccan Press Freedom Shut Down
Russia Announces Libya Arms Deal Worth $1.8bn
Israel and the Palestinians
Berlusconi Doubts Wisdom of Gaza Pullout
Elections Only if in Both West Bank and Gaza, Abbas
Minister Reassures Settlers, Freeze Fictitious
Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon: Conflict Widens to Syria
Diplomatic Scandal in Tehran: Loves Mails From the German Embassy
US Raises Stakes on Iran by Sending in Ships and Missiles
Russia: The Supreme Court Confirms: Jehovah’s Witnesses Outlawed in Rostov
South Asia
Pakistan Taliban Chief Reportedly Killed in U.S. Drone Strike
Role of the OIC in Afghanistan Gets Emphasized at the International Afghanistan Conference in London
Far East
Kazakhs Protest Against China Farmland Lease
A Modern Tale of Meatpacking and Immigrants
Italy: Asian Unionist’s Death Sparks Political Row
Lewiston, ME to be Used as Assimilation Model for Other Cities
Switzerland: Controversial Deportation Decision Postponed
Culture Wars
Spanish Bishops: Anyone Who Votes for Abortion Law Lives in Sin
Amazongate: New Evidence of the IPCC’s Failures
UN Climate Change Panel Based Claims on Student Dissertation and Magazine Article

Financial Crisis

Greece: EU Warning, Situation Serious; ECB, Courage Needed

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 10 — The emergency in Greece has burst onto the agenda of the EU leaders meeting in Brussels, who have called for courageous measures from Athens, along with president of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet. Greek Prime Minister, Giorgio Papandreou — who has just arrived from Athens, where he called for national unity — is trying to reassure his European partners: we are ready to accept full responsibility and carry out great changes in our economy. This time — despite categorical denials of any risk of bankruptcy by President of the Euro-group, Jean-Claude Juncker — none of the heads of State around the table is hiding his great concern over a crisis which risks hitting the whole Euro zone. The Swedish presidency of the EU admits that Greeces debt situation is very serious and difficult to resolve, and calls for courage, time and reforms. Meanwhile Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel is inviting Athens to make all the efforts needed to respect the criteria of the EUs Stability and Growth Pact, aware of the risks to the stability of the single currency. This will not be easy, seeing as Athens is expecting a public debt of 12.7% in 2009 and 9.4% in 2010. With the debt (estimated at around 300 billion euros) at 120% next year. However, the Greek Premier — who has welcomed his European colleagues solidarity and is convinced of the full support of the EU — is promising radical new measures in 2010, to further reduce the deficit and return it as quickly as possible within European parameters, mainly through a cut of over 10% in public spending. The road map for bringing Greeces public finances under control will be laid out by the European Commission by the beginning of February at the latest, when Brussels will send new recommendations to Athens, with new expiry dates for the reduction of the countrys deficit and debts.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Almunia, EU Commission Ready to Intervene

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 8 — The EU Commission “is monitoring the situation in Greece very closely, in close collaboration with the president of the Euro group, and is ready to assist the Greek government to put together a recovery and comprehensive reform programme as part of the measures provided for by the treaty for Eurozone member states,” said EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, in a statement. “We are aware of the fact that the sustainability of Greek public finances has attracted the attention of the financial markets and ratings agencies,” said Almunia, confirming how “a difficult situation in a member state in the Eurozone is an issue that regards the entire Euro area.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Battle of the Titans: JP Morgan Versus Goldman Sachs

Or Why the Market Was Down for 7 Days in a Row

We are witnessing an epic battle between two banking giants, JPMorgan Chase (Paul Volcker) and Goldman Sachs (Geithner/Summers/Rubin). Left strewn on the battleground could be your pension fund and 401K.

The late Libertarian economist Murray Rothbard wrote that U.S. politics since 1900, when William Jennings Bryan narrowly lost the presidency, has been a struggle between two competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The parties would sometimes change hands, but the puppeteers pulling the strings were always one of these two big-money players. No popular third party candidate had a real chance at winning, because the bankers had the exclusive power to create the national money supply and therefore held the winning cards.

In 2000, the Rockefellers and the Morgans joined forces, when JPMorgan and Chase Manhattan merged to become JPMorgan Chase Co. Today the battling banking titans are JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that gained notoriety for its speculative practices in the 1920s. In 1928, it launched the Goldman Sachs Trading Corp., a closed-end fund similar to a Ponzi scheme. The fund failed in the stock market crash of 1929, marring the firm’s reputation for years afterwards. Former Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers all came from Goldman, and current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner rose through the ranks of government as a Summers/Rubin protégé. One commentator called the U.S. Treasury “Goldman Sachs South.”

Goldman’s superpower status comes from something more than just access to the money spigots of the banking system. It actually has the ability to manipulate markets. Formerly just an investment bank, in 2008 Goldman magically transformed into a bank holding company. That gave it access to the Federal Reserve’s lending window; but at the same time it remained an investment bank, aggressively speculating in the markets. The upshot was that it can now borrow massive amounts of money at virtually 0% interest, and it can use this money not only to speculate for its own account but to bend markets to its will.

But Goldman Sachs has been caught in this blatant market manipulation so often that the JPMorgan faction of the banking empire has finally had enough. The voters too have evidently had enough, as demonstrated in the recent upset in Massachusetts that threw the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s Democratic seat to a Republican. That pivotal loss gave Paul Volcker, chairman of President Obama’s newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board, an opportunity to step up to the plate with some proposals for serious banking reform. Unlike the string of Treasury Secretaries who came to the government through the revolving door of Goldman Sachs, former Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker came up through Chase Manhattan Bank, where he was vice president before joining the Treasury. On January 27, market commentator Bob Chapman wrote in his weekly investment newsletter The International Forecaster…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Rifqa Bary: Muslim Parents Reject Deal With Christian Daughter

The Muslim parents of an Ohio girl who ran away from home claiming she feared harm for becoming Christian have rejected a deal meant to resolve the conflict.

Mohamed and Aysha Bary of New Albany, Ohio, withdrew their consent in a court filing that alleges misrepresentation in the plan approved Jan. 19.

The Barys and their daughter, 17-year-old Rifqa Bary, had agreed she would stay in foster care and they would undergo counseling instead of going to trial to determine where the girl should live.

The Barys now allege that Franklin County Children Services are permitting Rifqa to communicate with a Florida pastor and his wife who helped her run away last summer.

[Return to headlines]

The People Behind Jimmy Carter’s Letter on Israel

In the weeks since, the abrupt nature of the Carter statement has led many to speculate about its purpose and the former president’s motives.

What very few know is that this first step toward reconciliation was the private initiative of several influential members of Atlanta’s Jewish community, whose ties to Carter date three decades and more. Conversations behind the confession/apology lasted a full year.

The former president’s grandson Jason Carter, a Decatur attorney, served as go-between.

This was a case of Jewish outreach to the former president, not vice versa. Which puts Jimmy Carter’s statement in a different light, and no doubt makes it more significant, not less.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Sharp Dressed Man Who Aided Mutallab Onto Flight 253 Was U.S. Government Agent

Please note that in the article that follows, I am not claiming that the U.S. Government knew Mutallab had a bomb or intended to hurt anyone on Flight 253 when the U.S. Government let him board.

Since our flight landed on Christmas Day, Lori and I have been doing everything in our power to uncover the truth about why we were almost blown up in the air over Detroit. The truth is now finally out after the publication of the following Detroit News article:

Let me quote from the article:

“Patrick F. Kennedy, an undersecretary for management at the State Department, said Abdulmutallab’s visa wasn’t taken away because intelligence officials asked his agency not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would’ve foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States.

“Revocation action would’ve disclosed what they were doing,” Kennedy said in testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Allowing Adbulmutallab to keep the visa increased chances federal investigators would be able to get closer to apprehending the terror network he is accused of working with, “rather than simply knocking out one solider in that effort.”‘

Now it all becomes apparent. Let me detail everything we know about the “Sharp Dressed Man” (SDM).

1. While being held in Customs on Christmas Day, I first told the story of the SDM.

2. My story has never changed.

3. The FBI visited my office on December 29, 2009, and showed me a series of approximately 10 photographs. None were of the SDM. I asked the FBI if they brought the Amsterdam security video to help me identify the SDM, but they acted as though my request was ridiculous. The FBI asked me what accent the SDM spoke in and I indicated that he had an American accent similar to my own. I further indicated that he wore a tan suit without a tie, was Indian looking, around age 50, 6’ tall and 250-260 lbs. I further indicated that I did not believe that he was an airline employee and that he was not on our flight.

4. During the first week of January, 2010, Dutch Military Police and the FBI indicated that over “200 Hours” of Amsterdam airport security video had been reviewed and it “Shows Nothing”.

5. The mainstream media picked up the “Shows nothing” story, which slanders my story. After visiting my office twice for a flight 253 special, Dateline NBC and Chris Hanson indicated that my story was “Unsubstantiated rumor dispelled as myth” and our story did not air during the tv special.

6. On January 2, 2010, I receive a call from a flight 253 passenger who indicated to me that it may be in my best interest to stop talking publicly about the SDM because he believes I am “wrong” in what I saw. He did not make any claim that he saw the SDM boarding gate incident at all. This call was made out of the blue after he made a “revelation” of this event on January 1, 2010. I later discover that this caller has ties to the U.S. Government.

7. On January 20, 2009, current Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Michael E. Leiter, made a startling admission. Leiter indicated that: “I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another.”

8. On January 22, 2010, CongressDaily reported that intelligence officials “have acknowledged the government knowingly allows foreigners whose names are on terrorist watch lists to enter the country in order to track their movement and activities.”

CongressDaily also reported, citing an unnamed “intelligence official” that Michael E. Leiter’s statement on January 20, 2010, reflected government policy and told the publication, “in certain situations it’s to our advantage to be able to track individuals who might be on a terrorist watch list because you can learn something from their activities and their contacts.”

9. On Janury 22, 2009, ABC News published an article that shoed a change of position in the government’s official story. Please see the following blog post for more information:

The U.S. government provided no explanation for the reason my story was initially discounted.

10. The SDM could not be from Al Qaeda. When speaking at the counter in Amsterdam, the SDM said the following “He is from Sudan, we do this all the time”. Who is “we”? If it is Al Qaeda, you surely don’t make such a statement to an airposrt security official.

11. The SDM could not be from airport security. The SDM did not dress in any secuirty uniform and did not appear to have any security badge. The SDM did not speak with a Dutch accent. The SDM dressed in a suit coat and pants. If the SDM was a higher up security official, he would not have to convince the ticket agent to let Mutallab on the plane without a valid passport. Instead, he would just order her to do it.

12. Could the SDM have been a U.S. Government official? He dressed in a suit and not a security uniform. Check. He indicated we do this all the time. Could “we” be the U.S. Government? Check. He spoke Enlish with an American accent. Check. Would he need to convice the ticket agent that this was a normal procedure to allow boarding without a passport? Check. Would he have the ability to obtain such clearance? Check. Could he enter this security area even though he wasn’t a passenger? Check. Would the ticket agent likely refer this request to a manager? Check. Would the U.S. Government not want this information public and try to hide it? Check.

13. The Amsterdam security video has not been released. A much more minor airport security violation occurred at the Newark New Jersay airport several days after the flight 253 incident. That video was released shortly thereafter.

14. Senators Levin and Stabenow, as well as Congressman Dingle, all refuse to discuss the matter with me.

With the information we already knew and the admission from the above referenced Detroit News article, we have evidence and claims made by government officials that the U.S. Government wanted Mutallab to proceed into the U.S. in order to obtain information on other terrorists involved with him. Once we take this statement and add it to my eyewitness account of a “Sharp Dressed Man” escorting Mutallab through the boarding process and allowing him to baord without a valid passport we can make the connection that the “Sharp Dressed Man” was a U.S. Government offical/agent.

The reasoning behind the following events now becomes very clear:

1. The reason Mutallab got through security despite the numerous warnings for months before our flight.

2. The reason why there have been so many lies from the U.S. Governemnt attempting to discredit my eyewitness account.

3. The reason why the Amsterdam airport security video is being hidden from the public.

4. The reason why the government is proposing a “Failed to Connect the Dots” account of the failure. The truth is too damning.

5. The reason why Mr. Wolf of the Obama administration indicated on the Keith Olberman Show that the White House was investigating a possible “intentional act” from within the U.S. Government as the reason for the Christmas Day attack.

6. The explanation for the cameraman and why he hasn’t been identified (Obviously, he was another U.S. Government agent) whose job was to film Mutallab for some governmental purpose.

7. The reason for the lax security after landing, which can be attributed to foreknowledge of the possible suspects involved.

8. The reason for the failure to search or secure the plane and passengers after landing, which can also be attributed to foreknowledge of the possible suspects involved.

9. The corporate media’s attempt to bury my eyewitness account.

10. Carl Levin’s, Debbie Stabenow’s and John Dingle’s intentional avoidance of my story and failure to return my calls/emails.

11. Janet Naploitano’s statement that “The System Worked”. From her point of view it probably did as this WAS PART OF THE SYSTEM!

[Return to headlines]

Virginia Islamic School’s Expansion Met Protests

In Northern Virginia, a private school needed the local county’s approval to expand to serve more students. This would have hardly raised an eyebrow had it not been for one particular detail: The school is Islamic, funded by the government of Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic Saudi Academy, located in Fairfax County, has long been under the microscope of its opponents. But for residents along the two-lane country road where the school sits, the debate was transformed from a local land-use issue into a heated discussion about the school, its teachings and the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States.

For people like Pat Herrity, supervisor of Springfield District, where the school is located, this should only ever have been about traffic.

“I can’t imagine putting another car every six seconds on Popes Head Road,” he says, standing in the ISA’s driveway counting the cars as they drive by. In August last year the county’s Board of Supervisors approved the ISA’s bid to expand its campus and double the number of students who attend, to around 500.

Herrity says that will just clog up the traffic on this road. The driveway he’s standing in is the academy’s only entry and exit point. Students who drive to school will turn into the driveway, up the hill and past the security guard to the school. Herrity says the additional traffic will make a small road seem even smaller and delay everyone. He says he voted against the bid. This is his area and the people who live here are his constituents.

People like Beth Parker, who lives next door. She was driving by the school and pulled over after spotting Herrity. She’s mad that politics got in the way of what she says was strictly a land-use issue.

Community Questions Mission Of School

But scratch the surface and it’s clear that there’s more to the issue than traffic. And that was clear when the board met to discuss the academy’s application for expansion. People lined up for hours to speak at public hearings. Speakers would first bring up traffic issues or other logistical matters, then invariably turn the talk toward religion.

The most recent debate regarding the Islamic Saudi Academy isn’t the first. In 2008, members of the Traditional Values Coalition held a demonstration outside the Alexandria, Va., campus of the ISA after the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom asked the State Department to secure the release of all Arabic language textbooks used at the school.

“I submit no Catholic textbook has anything near the venom and demonstrated incitement to murder as these Saudi textbooks,” Cosgrove said, “and rather than rushing to congratulate them on what they’ve removed, ask them what it was doing there for 20 years in the first place?”

People traveled from other states to speak at the hearings. Conservative Christian groups got involved. And parents who send their kids to the school went on the defensive. People like Rezan Fayez, whose 7-year-old son goes to ISA, stood up to defend the school’s curriculum and her son’s experience there.

“He can speak, read and write Arabic almost as well as he can English; he’s learning Islamic studies, understanding between Muslims and non-Muslim,” Fayez said. “If we were breeding terrorists, if there was any tinge of truth to what you’ve been hearing tonight, you would be hearing about it from the students.”

Iman Kandeel, a former ISA student and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, also spoke up. “In addition to the strong background I got in math and science, I also learned about giving back,” Kandeel said. “We are not taught Shariah law; we are not taught to destroy the Constitution.”

Doubts About Curriculum And Staff

But there are issues. A former valedictorian of the school is serving a life sentence for plotting to assassinate President Bush. A former principal was arrested because instead of reporting a complaint from one of his students about sexual abuse at home, he deleted the report and returned the child to her father.

And then there is the debate over the textbooks.

“These are ideological materials that are indoctrinating young students in hatred,” Ahmed says. “If you are not a believer in their interpretation of the religion, you are not protected. Your blood, your honor and your property is up for grabs. And that explains suicide bombings a lot.”

In 2007 a bipartisan federal commission on international religious freedom called for the school to be shut while the government examined its textbooks. The commission was concerned that the school promoted religious intolerance and violence against people who aren’t Muslim. The school was closed temporarily and erased paragraphs from its textbooks in response to the inquiry.

Political Fallout Lingers

For now, the controversy continues, as does the pressure on local politicians. Michael Frey is on the Board of Supervisors. He voted for the school’s expansion and says he still gets criticized for it. One man approached him at his local supermarket on a Sunday morning. In an aggressive tone, he said he couldn’t believe Frey could consider himself a conservative after voting the way he did.

“I said, ‘I don’t believe anybody who wants local government to be reading texts and making decisions on schools based on what they teach is a conservative,’ “ Frey replied. “To me, that is one of the biggest intrusions you could possibly imagine.”

The State Department agrees. Conservative Christian groups that have lobbied for the school to be closed say that because it’s funded by the Saudi government, the State Department should intervene. But the State Department says ISA is a private school, not a foreign mission, and it has no role in accrediting or managing the school.

Frey points out that two Christian schools also filed applications to expand last year in Fairfax County and no one questioned their textbooks.

“How do I know this Christian school isn’t teaching hatred against non-Christians?” Frey asks. “I didn’t read their texts, but if you want me to start to base land-use decisions on that [it’s a] terribly, terribly slippery slope.”

For now Fairfax County is waiting for the school to submit its site plans. Before expansion can even begin at the academy, the county will have to install left- and right-turn lanes into the driveway from Popes Head Road. So that two-lane winding country road will need to get a little wider.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


How Gun Registration and Confiscation Works in Canada

[This is the sort of system the gun-grabbers want to bring to America.]

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Atitech: Catalan Partner, Agreement Signed in Madrid

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 25 — A Catalan partner for Atitech, a Naples company: the Mazel Ingeneiros group, an international leader in engineering services for aeronautics, automobiles and aerospace, naval and rail transportation, whose headquarters is in Barcelona, is to buy 30% of Manutenzioni Aeronautiche, the parent company of Atitech along with partners Alitalia-Cai and Finmeccanica. Atitech is the former Alitalia maintenance division. The investment agreement, which will lead to the entry of the Catalan group into the social capital of Manutenzioni Aeronautiche with 3 million euros, was signed today by the President and Managing Director of Meridie Spa and President of the Industrial Union in Naples, Giovanni Lettieri, and executive president and sole director of the Mazel group, Julio Elvira, at the Italian Embassy in Spain, in the presence of Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano. Manutenzioni Aeronautiche is the company which finalised the acquisition of 100% of Atitech last November 19 along with Alitalia-Cai and Finmeccanica, and registered 55 million in turnover in 2008.(ANSAmed). Meridie, the investment company which controls 98% of Manutenzioni Aeronautiche, will reduce its stake to 68% following the entry of Mazel. We have found a first-class industrial partner in Mazel who will be able to guarantee major commercial relations and a high level of experience in the civil and military aeronatics sector, contributing to the launch of Atitechs internationalisation process, stated Giovanni Lettieri after the signing of the agreement. The objective is to create a European hub for engineering and heavy maintenance of aircraft at the Atitech premises in Capodichino. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

But Religion Has Nothing to Do With it: Minarets Are Political Symbols

Il Giornale, December 3, 2009

As tothe decision by Switzerland to ban minarets, I would like first ofall to say that, in my years as a correspondent from Jerusalem, I hadto bear the Muezzin’s call from a nearby mosque every night at 4 a.m.,much before the cock crow. And nor far away from him came many othersimilar voices. However, I never thought that the Muezzin had to besilent. In his village, he does not sing to be heard also from me, butto call his followers to pray. This is religious freedom and Jerusalemgives it to everybody. Thinking that, down there, he was trying toconvey a political message in addition to a religious one, would mean togo well beyond what is legitimate for a person who is democratic,liberal and respectful of other people’s culture and religion.

Actually, except for some pathological cases, Islamophobia is aninvention of the U.N. Indeed, in 2004, the U.N. Secretary General KofiAnnan officially defined it as the cause of frustration for manyMuslims, without mentioning the rampant jihad and other huge problems.In fact, in most countries of origin and abroad, the official Islam hasnot accepted the universal declaration of human rights. But it hasresponded with other initiatives such as the Cairo Declaration, whichstates that “anyone has the right to support what is right and to warnagainst what is wrong and evil in line with the Islamic Sharia”.

Theultimate reason that led the Swiss to say no to new minarets, is notpoor respect for religious freedom. It is not even the loss of identitythat is driving us — erroneously — to ask for the cross on our flag. Ithas nothing to do with this. There are many simple reasons ofdiffidence that prevent from wishing for the expansion of Islam. Norshould we imagine that this choice invites the Muslim to embraceextremism. There are indeed other reasons behind jihadism — that is fedonly by itself and by its unflinching decision to convert the world.The Swiss watch the TV and are concerned: the Sharia leads to deathsentences, to the hanging of homosexuals, to stoning people to death.In general, Islamic countries are ruled by dictatorships, thedissidents suffer, they die. The Christians are persecuted, let alonethe Jews. The groups and the countries that cry their faith louder arealso the most evident ones: certainly both Ahmadinejad’s Iran and theHezbollah, or Hamas or Al Qaida, represent negative, terrorist models.

Ofcourse, the Islam is not all like this. But, let us talk about it. Letus thoroughly examine the problems without being accused ofIslamophobia; we have a problem, either we solve it by looking at theIslamic immigration in its eyes, or soon this concern will turn intorejection. And the idea that the true Islam is elsewhere with respectto jihad is not able to placate these fears within the public opinion:there are few and rare instances in which a brave Islamic voice speaksto guarantee the respect for democracy, sexuality, convertedindividuals, dissidents. It is the politically correct denial thatmakes jihad prosper: in Switzerland, after the arrest of eight peoplewho allegedly collaborated to some suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia, thereaction of the head of a local Muslim group was that “the problem isnot the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, but the intesification ofIslamophobia”. In the USA, the same happened after the Fort Hoodincident.

It is forbidden to laugh for some cartoons that talkabout Islam. It is forbidden to deal with the terrifying oppression ofwomen, it is disgraceful to stress that there is an evidentidentification between the Islam and totalitarian regimes. It ishorrible to raise the issue of honor killing, polygamy and ofdisfiguring women with acid that push us back in time (yes, many ofthese episodes result from tribal and not by religious habits, butplease let us look at the geographical and sociological distribution ofthese episodes) and especially it is generic to speak about jihad…And then, since whatever is concrete is forbidden, the reaction isagainst the symbols of the Islam.

There are millions of mosqueswithout minarets in Islamic countries. But if they are built close tochurches, they are taller, more proud and powerful. The construction ofan Islamic place of worship has a series of explicit secular meaningsthat always reiterate the holy competition of the Islam to conquer theworld. Many mosques have been built on ancient Jewish and Christiantemples.

A revolt against the politically correct on the Islammay occur anywhere and the trigger will not be religious intolerance:it does not belong to us or to Switzerland or to Europe.

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

Germany: Snow Causes Chaos in the North

More than 25 centimetres of new snow disabled traffic throughout northern Germany on Saturday, particularly in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where Baltic islands have been cut off.

The low pressure front known as “Keziban” has brought more brutal winter weather to Germany. Storms, new snow and several-metre-high snowdrifts have disrupted rail and road traffic throughout northern Germany. One Interior Ministry spokesman said that conditions were “even more drastic” that the storm front “Daisy” from a few weeks ago in some areas.

Hundreds of road accidents have been reported throughout Germany, with around 70 cars apparently stuck on the roads of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The entire public transport system in the town Rostock has been shut down, as have several rail services in the area.

Ferry services to and from Germany’s Baltic Sea islands have also been partially shut down, with the island of Hiddensee completely cut off.

The police and rescue services have been severely hindered by the weather, and the police have appealed to the population to avoid unnecessary journeys. The German Weather Service extended its storm warnings to huge parts of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the morning, and warned against entering wooded areas, where the weight of the snow threatens to bring down many trees.

All football matches in the state have been cancelled, including Hansa Rostock’s second division match against Union Berlin.

The extreme weather has extended to other states. A total of 42 people were injured in around 300 accidents reported in North Rhine-Westphalia, and a man was killed on the A16 motorway near Bedburg. The A33 motorway has been closed between Paderborn-Sennelager and Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock.

A driver was also killed in Bavaria after his car skidded off an icy road, while a truck crashed on the A21 in Schleswig-Holstein, blocking the motorway for several hours.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Islam Welcomed in France by 54% of Frenchmen

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 10 — A majority of the French, 54%, say that the Muslim religion is compatible with community life, against 40% who consider it to be incompatible and 6% who have no opinion, according to a survey carried out by CSA for Le Parisien. The survey comes after the referendum in which Switzerland has banned the construction of minarets. A debate is in progress in France on national identity, initiated by President Nicolas Sarkozy, and on the burqa. French Justice Minister proposed today to refuse the French nationality to a man whose wife was wearing a full veil. Regarding the Jewish religion, the same question was answered by 72% saying that the religion is compatible with community life, 21% see it as incompatible and 7% abstained. Fourteen percent sees the Catholic religion as incompatible, and in this case 4% abstained. According to the president of the French council for the Muslim religion, Mohamed Moussaoui, that 54%, though it is a positive result, particularly in the current debate in which everything is often lumped together, it shows that people don’t know the Muslim religion and have an irrational fear for it. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Paris Now Further Away by Rail

From 13 December only one train a day will provide direct link from Milan to French capital

PARIS — The Eiffel Tower has never looked so far away from Milan. From 13 December only one train a day will provide a direct link from Milan to the French capital. The move, dictated by technical considerations, will cause disruption on a heavily used route as the year-end holidays approach. Alternative routes lengthen the journey by one to five hours. The drastic reduction of service also raises questions about a part of the network where in coming months Trenitalia could be competing with itself, or one of its partners.

CHANGES — From 13 December, only one high-speed TGV will leave Paris for Milan at 7.42 am. The return train will leave Milan’s Stazione Centrale at 4.10 in the afternoon. These are the only direct trains, a reduction in service of 50%. The TGV at 3.24 pm will terminate at Porta Nuova station in Turin, forcing passengers for Milan to transfer to Porta Susa station for the connecting service. This will inconvenience the more than 40,000 passengers who typically choose to travel to Milan or Paris by rail in December. The route attracts half a million passengers a year with an average occupancy rate of 70% but journey times will now lengthen by more than one hour. The decision was taken by Artesia, the company that manages the route, and was dictated by the need to upgrade rolling stock to comply with new Italian regulations for high-speed trains. Normal service will be resumed in March, according to Artesia. At least in theory.

COMPETITION — Reseau Ferré de France (RFF), which owns French rail infrastructures, has revealed that Trenitalia has acquired the right to operate its high-speed trains on the Milan-Paris-Milan route from 14 December. Trenitalia claims it is awaiting formal authorisation. Meanwhile, Trenitalia’s booking web site offers high-speed Frecciarossa trains as a night-time option for passengers travelling to Paris from Milan. There are two changes at Turin Porta Susa and Chambery for a total journey time of 12 hours. The offer, not yet on sale, in effect puts Trenitalia in competition with itself since Artesia, a joint-venture owned equally by France’s SNCF and Trenitalia, operates day and night services on the same route.

EQUITY STAKES — SNCF plays down what is an ambiguous situation. “We will ensure the Paris-Milan service and co-operation with Trenitalia remains the preferred solution, if shared”. It is one way of silencing rumours of a possible SNCF partnership with Luca di Montezemolo’s NTV, in which the French hold a 20% stake, on the Milan-Lyon-Paris route. The strategy is “not on the agenda” according to NTV. For Trenitalia, the French market is key, not just on the Milan-Paris line but also Genoa-Paris, via Marseilles, one of the busiest routes. It remains to be seen when Italian trains will actually be able to operate on the two routes, although according to RFF, this will probably be in June. The date again raises the issue of competition with Artesia and Trenitalia’s partners, SNCF, but the Italian rail company prefers not to comment.

CISALPINO — The SNCF portal offers travellers from Milan to Paris an alternative to the Artesia TGV on Lyria, another TGV, to Lugano, Geneva or Zurich in Switzerland, before changing to a Cisalpino service. This would lengthen the journey by one to three hours and there is another problem. Cisalpino, a joint venture between the Italian and Swiss railways, was wound up in September and will cease to operate on 13 December.

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Member of the Swiss Political Party That Pushed for Minaret Ban Converts to Islam

The news about Switzerland’s ban on the construction of minarets has made the headlines, providing shocking evidence of the strength of increasing intolerance in Europe. I shall be writing more about the minaret ban and its implications later, God willing, but right now I wanted to share an interesting side note.

Daniel Streich was a member of the Swiss People’s party (SVP), the political party that pushed the minaret ban initiative. Streich is a military instructor in the Swiss Army and a local politician in the commune of Bulle. Formerly a devout Christian, he converted to Islam•and kept it a secret for two years.

Streich has left the SVP, made his conversion to Islam public, and has denounced the SVP’s anti-Muslim campaign as a witch hunt. As far as I can tell, this story has not broken in the English language press. So, I translated a news article on Streich from German to English, published at the Swiss news site Twenty Minutes Online. Here it is…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Snow Causes German Traffic Chaos With Three Deaths

Heavy snow and high winds have caused traffic chaos across Germany with at least three deaths reported nationwide.

Conditions closed some motorways and caused long traffic jams on many others.

North Rhine-Westphalia, which includes the cities of Cologne and Dusseldorf, recorded 300 accidents on Friday night and Saturday morning.

Public transport in some areas has been shut down and police have advised people not to travel if possible.

The traffic chaos in North Rhine-Westphalia led to one death and 40 more people injured, while in Bavaria another two people were killed on frozen roads.

Flights at some airports were cancelled or delayed.

Sport hit

Bus services in the northern city of Rostock were suspended and sports fixtures cancelled after 30cm (12in) of snow fell in one night.

Police warned motorists that if they got stranded they might have to wait hours for help.

“People should just stay at home,” a spokesman said.

But despite the weather, some intrepid Germans were determined to enjoy the weekend.

In Hamburg hundreds of families skated across the frozen Alster Lake, which forecasters said was a once in a decade phenomenon.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Spain: Military Airbus Maiden Flight, 2 Years Behind Schedule

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — The A400M military transport plane has carried out its maiden flight today in Seville, with almost two years of delay to the schedule. The four-engined plane took off at 10:15am from the San Pablo aerodrome, where the Spanish plant Airbus EADS Company is based, in front of an audience of 2,500 people invited from all over the world, reports the company. These included King Juan Carlos and authorities from the seven partner countries of the project: Germany, Spain, France, UK, Turkey, Belgium and Luxembourg, who will analyse the consequences of the delays to the development of the A400M. The airplane will allow helicopters and combat aircraft to refuel in flight and to quickly transport large cargos over long distances. It has a cargo capacity of 37 tonnes, is 45.1 metres long and 14.7 metres high. Its range can reach 6,389km with a cargo weighing 20 tonnes. 184 A400M airbuses have been ordered so far from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the UK. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Fatal Shooting in Central Malmö

A 26-year-old man was shot dead in Malmö in southern Sweden early on Sunday morning.

The man, who was reportedly shot in the central Stortorget square at around 3am, was given first aid by ambulance crews but died shortly after being brought to hospital.

There are unconfirmed reports of several shots being fired. One eye-witness told the news agency TT that the shootings took place in a car park on the square.

Other unconfirmed reports indicated that shots were fired outside a fast food restaurant.

“I cannot say exactly where he was shot, we need to wait for the results of the technical investigation,” police spokesman Mikael Persson told TT, adding that the man lived locally.

“He is known to have been involved in criminal circles, but we cannot comment on which ones for now.”

Persson could not confirm whether the police are looking for one or more suspects.

Police teams cordoned off the crime scene shortly after the shooting, and forensic teams, including a police sniffer dog, are examining the car park and the surrounding area.

“Half the square is sealed off. It’s packed with people and many are upset and wondering what happened,” said a witness.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Stabbing on the Increase Say Hospitals

The number of assaults, especially stabbing, are increasing, according to statistics from the emergency wards at two of Sweden’s biggest hospitals.

Ten years ago, it was rare that anyone came to Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gothenburg with a serious knife injuries, now it is part of an everyday routine, Gregor Nilsson, trauma coordinator at Sahlgrenska, tells Swedish Radio News.

“There are more of them, and the number of serious wounds from stabbing have increased. People are stabbed in more than one place and in their vital organs,” Nilsson says.

In 2002 ten people with life threatening wounds from stabbing came into the emergency ward at Sahlgrenska. Last year, there were 68 such patients.

Also at the Söder Hospital in Stockholm, a similar development has been noted. The number of seriously assaulted patients have almost tripled in seven years.

“There are more injuries to more organs. People have been hit more and stabbed more, says Gregor Nilsson.

But the researchers at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention say they have no data to show that the violent crimes have increased since the 1990-ies. Only very few hospitals keep statistics of the victims of violent crimes, which makes it hard to draw conclusions from it, according to Felipe Estrada, research director at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Record Cold Snap to Stay

The Swedish Met Office (SMHI) has issued a weather warning for mountainous northern areas and says extreme cold and snowy weather conditions will continue next week.

Northern Sweden can expect temperatures in the region of 25 degrees Celsius below freezing and the Met Office warns of strong winds and a high wind-chill factor in the mountains of Lapland. Most areas will continue to get light snowfall, while heavier snow is forecast for the southern region of Skåne.

The recent Arctic weather conditions have made roads dangerous in many areas, but in and around the capital the situation has improved due to lighter snow and slightly warmer temperatures and no recent accidents have been reported.

Linköping in south-central Sweden had its coldest temperatures since 1942 yesterday with 29 degrees below freezing and the sub-zero conditions are set to continue.

“It will be below freezing in the whole country for as far ahead we can forecast,” meteorologist Elin Torstensson told news agency TT.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Swiss Industrialist Faces Trial Over Asbestos

A major trial opens in Italy on Thursday in which a Swiss industrialist is accused of co-responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of workers.

Stephan Schmidheiny, one of Switzerland’s richest men, and his fellow accused, the Belgian Jean Louis Marie Ghislaine De Cartier, were majority shareholders in the Italian Eternit Genova company, which owned four asbestos factories in Italy.

Thousands of people are expected to turn up for a demonstration outside Turin’s law courts as the trial opens.

Asbestos victims and their families have organised buses to take them to the city, many of them from the small town of Casale Monferrato in the northern Italian Piedmont region, home until 1986 to one of the factories belonging to Eternit.

In the past few decades some 1,400 people have died from the consequences of asbestos dust in this area alone. About 40 new cases are reported every year. And the story is not over yet: the latency period for the typical incubation period for mesothelioma, the cancer typically caused by asbestos, is 20-40 years.

The accused

The case submitted by state prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello is that Schmidheiny and Cartier knew of the dangers of asbestos but did not take the necessary measures to protect those coming into contact with it.

If found guilty, they could face up to 13 years in prison.

The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is also being summoned ex officio, since the Italian state is accused of exercising its duty of supervision.

The Italian insurance institution for occupational illnesses is acting as joint plaintiff. It is demanding damages of €246 million (SFr375 million).

Justice for the families

Having spent more than three months examining the case, the investigating magistrate Cristina Palmesino decided in July that the charges were admissible.

About 3,000 sufferers and their families are involved as a civil party in the trial, the biggest in the history of Italian justice. It is expected to last for two or three years.

“This is an incredibly important moment for the victims and their families,” said Zurich journalist Maria Roselli, whose 2007 book ‘Die Asbestlüge, Geschichte und Gegenwart einer Industriekatastrophe’ (The asbestos lie, the past and present of an industrial disaster) was the fruit of a detailed investigation into the production of this building material and its fatal consequences.

“Many of them gave up believing it would ever happen, so the mere fact that the trial is starting is seen as a small victory for justice,” she said — an opinion echoed by representatives of the victim help organisations.

Schmidheiny absent

Stephan Schmidheiny will not appear in court himself, his Italian lawyer Astolfo Di Amato said.

“The company invested 70 billion lire (SFr70 million) in safety between 1976 and 1986 and earned nothing. That can be seen clearly in the accounts,” Di Amato maintains. That means there is no question of there having been any speculation on the backs of the workers, he said.

Peter Schürmann, Schmidheiny’s spokesman in Switzerland, said he was never really an owner of the Italian Eternit works, nor did he have any operational role there.

“However incomprehensible this trial is from Mr Schmidheiny’s point of view, there is at least one good thing about it: it will clarify the responsibilities which form the basis for the charges being laid against him.”


Schmidheiny has always maintained that the asbestos issue is a “social problem” and cannot always be solved on the basis of “individual responsibility”.

In the run-up to the trial the Swiss industrialist offered victims’ families compensation of €60,000 if they abandoned their civil action.

Given that trials in Italy can last for ever and their outcome is uncertain, many families accepted the offer. According to Di Amato 700 have done so, while Schürmann puts the figure at 1,500 people.

The trial is being observed closely by Swiss asbestos victims. For if the accused should be found guilty, Swiss victims could bring civil actions later, explained Massimo Aliotta of the Association of Asbestos Victims in Switzerland.

Some 200 cases are still pending which involve workers employed in the Swiss Eternit factories but who died in Italy. But under the statute of limitations, no criminal case about the asbestos issue can now be brought in Switzerland.

Switzerland’s highest court has made this clear. “Even if Stephan Schmidheiny were to be found guilty in Italy, time has run out for a trial in Switzerland,” Aliotta admitted.

Gerhard Lob, (adapted from German by Julia Slater)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Terrorists ‘Plan Attack on Britain With Bombs Inside Their Bodies’ To Foil New Airport Scanners

Britain is facing a new Al Qaeda terror threat from suicide ‘body bombers’ with explosives surgically inserted inside them.

Until now, terrorists have attacked airlines, Underground trains and buses by secreting bombs in bags, shoes or underwear to avoid detection.

But an operation by MI5 has uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda is planning a new stage in its terror campaign by inserting ‘surgical bombs’ inside people for the first time.

Security services believe the move has been prompted by the recent introduction at airports of body scanners, which are designed to catch terrorists before they board flights.

It is understood MI5 became aware of the threat after observing increasingly vocal internet ‘chatter’ on Arab websites this year.

The warning comes in the wake of the failed attempt by London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner approaching Detroit on Christmas Day.

One security source said: ‘If the terrorists are talking about this, we need to be ready and do all we can to counter the threat.’

A leading source added that male bombers would have the explosive secreted near their appendix or in their buttocks, while females would have the material placed inside their breasts in the same way as figure-enhancing implants.

Experts said the explosive PETN (Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate) would be placed in a plastic sachet inside the bomber’s body before the wound was stitched up like a normal operation incision and allowed to heal.

A shaped charge of 8oz of PETN can penetrate five inches of armour and would easily blow a large hole in an airliner.

Security sources said the explosives would be detonated by the bomber using a hypodermic syringe to inject TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide) through their skin into the explosives sachet.

PETN — the main ingredient of Semtex plastic explosive — was used by Richard Reid, the British Al Qaeda shoe-bomber, when he unsuccessfully tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami in December 2001.

In November, a Somali man who attempted to board a flight carrying a syringe, liquid and powdered chemicals was arrested before take-off.

The airliner had been due to fly from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu to Dubai.

The Somali was carrying a nearly identical package to that of Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate it by injecting TATP from a syringe.

Abdulmutallab had stuffed explosives down his underpants as the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam made its final descent to Detroit carrying 280 passengers.

But the detonator fluid set his clothes on fire rather than the device, and he was overpowered.

Security sources fear the body-bombers could pretend to be diabetics injecting themselves on airliners, Tubes or buses in order to prevent anyone stopping their suicide missions.

Companies such as Smiths Detection International UK, which is based in Watford, Hertfordshire, manufacture a range of luggage and body scanners designed to identify chemicals, explosives and drugs at airports and other passenger terminals around the world.

These include high-specification X-ray equipment that could identify body bombs.

But one source with expertise in the field said: ‘They can make as many pieces of security equipment as they like but there is no one magic answer that can spot every single potential terrorist passing through.’

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub-Committee, said: ‘Our enemies are constantly evolving their techniques to try to defeat our methods of detection.

‘This is one of the most savage forms that extremists could use, and while we are redeveloping travel security we have got to take this new development into account.’

Senior Government security sources confirmed last night that they were aware of the new threat of body bombs, but were not prepared to make any official comment.

           — Hat tip: JH[Return to headlines]

UK: Ministers Slammed for Speaking at Meeting With Muslim Who Justified Killing British Troops

Two Cabinet Ministers are facing questions over their judgment after appearing at the same event as a Muslim activist who once suggested that the killing of British troops in Iraq was justified.

Azad Ali spoke at yesterday’s Progressive London conference, which was also attended by Equalities Minister Harriet Harman and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband.

Mr Ali, a Treasury civil servant, was suspended from his job last year after The Mail on Sunday revealed a series of controversial comments on his personal website, including one in which he praised Abdullah Azzam, Osama Bin Laden’s mentor.

He described the late Azzam as one of the ‘few Muslims who promote the understanding of the term Jihad in its comprehensive glory’.

He then quoted Azzam’s son as saying: ‘If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation. If I saw the same soldier in Jordan I wouldn’t touch him. In Iraq he is a fighter and an occupier — here he is not. I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for Jihad.’

Last week, Mr Ali lost an attempt to sue The Mail on Sunday over its article, which was published in January last year. Mr Justice Eady said Mr Ali ‘was indeed . . . taking the position that the killing of American and British troops in Iraq would be justified’. The judge added that Mr Ali’s case was bound to fail and had about it ‘an absence of reality’.

But at yesterday’s conference, organised by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Mr Ali defended Hamas and Hezbollah, which have been condemned by some Western countries as terrorist organisations.

Mr Ali took part in an event called There Is No Progressive Imperialism, during which the panel was asked by a Lebanese man to comment on Hezbollah, which he accused of ‘actively stopping the progress of [Lebanon]’.

Mr Ali responded: ‘If you ask the people of Lebanon, Hamas are known as people who build. Hamas provide an unbelievable amount of social services, as do Hezbollah, medical services and everything. These are the things that people are fighting — this is the imperial mindset, the colonial mindset.’

Later, Mrs Harman spoke about a ‘progressive agenda to stop the Right in 2010’. Meanwhile, Mr Miliband spoke about tackling climate change on the platform vacated by Mr Ali.

Last night Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘The Labour Party relies on Muslim votes and it is pretty obvious that these Ministers are trying to ingratiate themselves with Labour Party members before a General Election. If you are a member of the Cabinet you should be more careful about who you deal with and put the interests of the country before narrow political interests.’

Secretaries of State at the same event as someone who is praising Hamas. It gives people who support terrorist organisations credibility and legitimacy.’

A spokeswoman for Ed Miliband said: ‘Ed Miliband is invited to speak on climate change at a number of different events and is happy to do so.’

She added that Azad Ali spoke at a ‘completely separate event’.

A spokesperson for Mrs Harman said: ‘Harriet did not share a platform with Mr Ali. You should speak to the organisers of the event about who they have invited.’

In a statement released by the conference organisers, Mr Ali said: ‘I have never called for or supported the killing of British soldiers or any violence whatsoever. My work with the Muslim Safety Forum and response to the terrorist attacks which took place in London are a testament to this.

‘I have given presentations to senior police officers and other officials on how dialogue is the best way forward, and not confrontation and the use of violence. At these meetings, I have openly condemned Al Qaeda as abhorrent and very far removed from Islam.

‘I have been an active community worker for more than 20 years, and my ethos has always been dialogue and engagement.’

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Video: UK: Film Seized ‘Shows Children Being Radicalised’

Counter-terrorism police say their discovery of a film of children being encouraged to hold guns is evidence of attempts to radicalise youngsters.

The Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) in North West England revealed they found the film during a raid in Manchester.

Officers say it shows two children, aged about three and six, playing with a pistol and a Kalashnikov rifle.

Material seized separately included the advice: “No child is ever too young to be started off on Jihad training.”

The footage, which police believe was filmed in Pakistan, was uncovered on the hard drive of a computer during a raid carried out under the Terrorism Act 2000. Police have not revealed when the material was seized.

‘I want to kill’

Police believe the firearms are real.

The video shows a girl and young boy playing with guns and a man’s voice says: “What do you do with the weapon?”

He answers his own question: “I want to kill the infidels [non-believers].”

A senior officer in the CTU, who cannot be identified for security reasons, said: “We believe this was filmed abroad.

“We have no idea who the children are. We were shocked to find it at the house. We have no reason to believe this is faked. The guns are real.”

Police say they have also found flash cards, used to teach young children the alphabet, in another house raid.

The officer said: “We found a series of flash cards and documents on how to raise Mujahid children [who will fight for Islam]. The cards were written in English — and instead of having M for Muhammad they had M for Mujahideen…”

“They have the potential to indoctrinate. It just shows the mindset of some people and what we are up against.”

Police say they also found documents downloaded from an extremist website which instructs parents to raise Mujahid children.

The documents say: “The key is to start instilling these values in them while they are babies. Don’t wait until they are seven. No child is ever too young to be started off on Jihad training.”

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

Video: UK: Driver to Fight Fine ‘For Blowing His Nose’

A man says he will fight a fine given to him by the police for blowing his nose while driving.

Michael Mancini said he was sitting in stationary traffic in Ayr, with the handbrake on, when he used a tissue to clean his nose.

A police officer issued Mr Mancini with a fixed penalty for not being in proper control of his car.

He has refused to pay the £60 fine and the case may now proceed to court.

Mr Mancini spoke to BBC Breakfast about what happened.

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

Wilders to Show Fitna in London in March

Anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders will travel to London on March 5 to show his short video compilation Fitna at the invitation of two members of the British upper house of parliament, the House of Lords.

Last February Wilders was refused entry to Britain to screen his film because the government said his presence would be a threat to public order.

But in October, a British immigration tribunal ruled Wilders should not have been refused entry.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: Italy: Scholarships to Colonialism Victims’ Descendants

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI (LIBYA), DECEMBER 10 — One hundred young Libyans who are descendents of the fighters in the resistance movement against Italian colonialisation have been granted scholarships for Italy by the People’s General Congress (the Libyan parliament). The scholarships are part of Italy’s payment of compensation to Libya for damages during the colonial period provided for by the Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation Treaty signed in Benghazi on 30 August 2008 by Silvio Berlusconi and Muammar Gaddafi. In addition to belonging to a family of the ‘mujahiddin’ (the name of the Libyan resistance fighters), other requirements for the scholarships included a university degree or a diploma from an institute recognized by the Libyan government in one of the following subjects: engineering sciences, medical sciences, documentation, archive studies, computer and information technology, agrarian sciences, hard sciences or the Italian language. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya Quashes Swiss Businessman’s Jail Term

A Libyan appeal court has overturned a 16-month jail term handed down to a Swiss businessman on a charge of overstaying his visa.

Rachid Hamdani, thought to be staying at the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, was convicted in absentia along with another Swiss businessman in December.

Analysts suggest the case was brought in retaliation for the July 2008 arrest of Muammar Gaddafi’s son in Geneva.

Mr Hamdani and his co-accused also face charges of illegal business activities.

“The appeal court acquitted Rachid Hamdani and overturned his prison term for overstaying” the visa, Mr Hamdani’s lawyer, Salah Zahaf, told AFP news agency on Sunday.

Another trial

Correspondents have said the case is linked to the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife in Switzerland on charges, later dropped, of assaulting two servants.

Libya retaliated by cancelling oil supplies, withdrawing billions of dollars from Swiss banks, refusing visas to Swiss citizens and recalling some of its diplomats.

In the same month the Gaddafis were arrested, Libyan authorities detained Mr Hamdani, who works for a construction company, and his fellow countryman Max Goeldi, an engineering firm manager.

The pair were later released on bail and went to stay at the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, before they were convicted in absentia on an immigration offence in December last year.

Mr Goeldi has also appealed against his jail sentence and a ruling is due on 4 February, according to AFP.

Both men still face charges of illegal economic activities and a verdict in that case is also expected next week, said Mr Hamdani’s lawyer.

The pair are accused of tax evasion and operating a business without a licence.

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

Pioneer of Moroccan Press Freedom Shut Down

A Moroccan magazine known for its fierce criticism of the country’s powerful monarchy failed to reach news stands on Saturday after a court sealed its offices for failing to honor its financial commitments.

Le Journal Hebdomadaire’s holding companies owe over 5 million dirhams ($622,700) in social security contributions, taxes and bank loans, editorial writer Aboubakr Jamai said.

“It’s true we’re unable to keep our financial commitments, but why? We have come under economic attack — it’s a clear case of financial asphyxiation,” Jamai told Reuters.

He said the authorities had spent years discouraging companies from advertising in Le Journal.

A plan for a wealthy Moroccan businessman to buy the magazine then fell through at the last minute, he said.

“We are being judged for our criticism of the monarchy,” said Jamai. “We point the finger at officials and name them and we follow that up with investigation and we take a position. We were the first to do that.”

Government officials could not be reached for comment.

The government has said a series of legal actions and fines against Morocco’s press in recent years have nothing to do with freedom of expression but are simply a natural response to bad, poorly-sourced journalism and slander.

“This judicial liquidation heralds the end of the first independent title in Morocco,” press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Russia Announces Libya Arms Deal Worth $1.8bn

Russia is to supply Libya with small-arms and other weapons to the value of $1.8bn (£1.1bn, 1.3bn euros), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has announced.

The contract is worth nearly a quarter of the Russian state arms exporter’s entire sales last year, which were put at $7.4bn.

Mr Putin said the deal had been signed on Friday during a visit by the Libyan defence minister.

There was no immediate word from the Libyan side on the deal.

Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber, Libya’s defence minister, has been in Moscow for several days, meeting defence officials.

Keeping busy

Mr Putin gave no details of the arms covered by the contract. Russian media speculated earlier that it might include fighter planes.

“Yesterday a contract worth 1.3bn euros was signed,” Mr Putin announced at a meeting near Moscow with the director of the Russian small-arms manufacturer Izhmash, which makes the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

“These are not just small-arms.”

Mr Putin gave no further details. However, according to a military diplomatic source quoted earlier by Russian news agencies, the deal included fighter aircraft, tanks and a sophisticated air defence system.

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms export monopoly, announced on Thursday that its 2009 sales had seen a 10% increase on the previous year.

Customers included India, Algeria, China, Venezuela, Malaysia and Syria, with air force weaponry making up 50% of sales.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Berlusconi Doubts Wisdom of Gaza Pullout

( Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi hinted in an interview published Sunday that the Gaza pullout (“Disengagement”) was a mistake, noting that it ended in “burned synagogues” and missiles being fired into Israel.

Berlusconi arrives in Israel Monday for a three-day visit. He will be accompanied by eight Italian cabinet ministers, who will for the first time participate in a joint cabinet meeting with the Israeli cabinet.

The meeting will also highlight bilateral cooperation in the fields of science, technology and culture. A special conference will be held bringing together leaders of Italian business, industry and science and their Israeli counterparts. Three laboratories that were funded by the Italians will be dedicated in the course of the visit.

Speaking to Haaretz regarding the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Berlusconi criticized Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria: “Israel’s settlement policy could be an obstacle to peace. I would like to say to the people and government of Israel, as a friend, with my hand on my heart, that persisting with this policy is a mistake. I welcomed Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s courage in his announcement of a 10-month [Jewish residential settlement construction] freeze. It will never be possible to convince the Palestinians of Israel’s good intentions while Israel continues to build in territories that are to be returned as part of a peace agreement.”

Berlusconi added, however, that “at the same time, what happened in Gaza should prompt some thought. It is not [acceptable for Israel] to evacuate communities [and then have to] face burned synagogues, acts of destruction, and inter-Palestinian violence and missiles being shot into Israeli territory.”

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

Elections Only if in Both West Bank and Gaza, Abbas

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, DECEMBER 8 — Palestinian National Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), said that there will be no parliamentary and presidential elections in the West Bank if Hamas does not accept holding a vote also in the Gaza Strip, a territory that they have controlled since 2007. This was reported by the press in Beirut, according to which, at the end of his official two-day visit to Lebanon, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), said: “if Hamas continues to refuse calling elections in Gaza, I will not allow them to be held in the West Bank.” Due to Hamas’ refusal, the electoral commission advised postponing elections in the Palestinian Territories, initially set for January 24. Abbas, whose mandate as PNA President has already expired, underlined that his refusal to rerun “is not a political manoeuvre. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Minister Reassures Settlers, Freeze Fictitious

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 11 — The 10 month freeze on building activity in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, recently decided on by Premier Benyamin Netanyahu in light of pressure from the Obama administration and Washington’s attempts to resume the peace process with the Palestinians, is in reality a fictitious measure. Maintaining the view was Israeli minister Benny Begin, the ‘falcon’ of the Likud party (rightwing, of Netanyahu) close to the settlement movement. “It has nothing to do with an actual freeze, but just with putting some limits on construction”, Begin admitted during a meeting with the public in Tel Aviv, with the evident intention of reassuring the “settlers”, who were on the point of war when the moratorium was announced. Not only. “During these 10 months, another 10,000 residents will be added to the existing 300,000 that already live” in the settlements of the West Bank, the minister, son of the late historic leader of the Israeli right Menachem Begin and who currently belongs to the closed government council that implemented the moratorium, stated. The fictitious nature of the moratorium was affirmed on the opposing front, and with contrary feelings, by the Palestinians as well (who do not consider the measure sufficient to return to peace negotiations) and Israel’s pacifist organisations like ‘Peace Now’. The measure, in effect, as well as being temporary, does not include the settlements in East Jerusalem (which for the Netanyahu government was annexed definitively by Israel), or the thousands of projects for new homes that have been authorised in the West Bank up until just a few weeks ago, as well as the financing and construction of public buildings. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Analysis: Lebanon: Conflict Widens to Syria

by Jonathan Spyer

In the last week, senior Israeli policymakers made statements of an uncharacteristically bellicose nature regarding Syria.

It is unlikely that these statements were made because of sudden random irritation toward Israel’s hostile northeastern neighbor. Rather, the statements probably constituted part of a message of deterrence to Damascus.

The need to project deterrence itself derives from a series of significant changes currently under way on the ground in Lebanon — reflecting Syria’s ever tighter alignment with Hizbullah and the pro-Iranian regional bloc of which it is a part.

These changes take place against the backdrop of awareness that the tactics likely to be adopted by Israel in a future war with Hizbullah carry with them the very real possibility that Syria could, on one level or another, be drawn in.

On Saturday night, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled said that another conflict on the northern border was a “matter of time.” Peled noted that in the event of such a conflict breaking out, Israel would hold “Syria and Lebanon alike responsible.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, meeting with Michael Williams, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon earlier this week, expressed his concern that Hizbullah fighters have been training on surface-to-surface missile systems in Syria.

Then, on Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted in a speech that if Israel was forced to fight Syria, “we won’t fear and we’ll defeat them.” Why the sudden ministerial loquaciousness?

It may with some justification be asserted that to assume any coordination behind the statements of Israeli ministers is to betray a touching naivete. All the same, the near-simultaneous ministerial recollection of the Syrian threat should be considered in conjunction with the following facts…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Diplomatic Scandal in Tehran: Loves Mails From the German Embassy

A protester in Iran: A German federal police officer has been caught in a strange relationship in Tehran.

The news made headlines around the world: “German diplomats arrested in Tehran.” But there were no arrests. SPIEGEL has learned that the true story is one of a German federal police officer who had an affair with an Iranian woman that was uncovered and politicized by the regime.

Last Wednesday, the German government flew two federal police officers employed at the German embassy in Tehran back to Germany for security reasons, SPIEGEL has learned.

The Iranian secret service placed false reports last week about the alleged arrest of two German diplomats in connection with an opposition protest. The reports made international headlines earlier this week. But at the center of the issue is a controversial love affair conducted by a German police officer.

Iranian state news agency Insa released a report that the two officers had been arrested on Dec. 27 and had contacts to the so-called green opposition in Iran and were supporting the protests against the regime. The German Foreign Ministry swiftly denied the report. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle even thought it necessary to publicly respond to the allegations.

In truth, though, the story is a little less scandalous, but still embarrassing for the German government and the Foreign Ministry. There’s no diplomatic scandal behind the news released by the Iranians. Instead, a German police officer had a slightly bizarre affair with an Iranian women that had been uncovered by the Iranian secret service.

A Story Straight out of a Thriller Novel

The officer had never been arrested at a demonstration as had been reported. In fact, Iranian police merely conducted controls in early November of the two federal police officers, who worked in the embassy’s security department.

One of the two, chief police officer Joerg B., had already drawn the attention of the secret service because of his relationship with an Iranian women. Local authorities claim the woman had ties to opposition leader Hossein Mousavi.

The description of the woman by Insa, which described her as an agent, could have come out of a thriller novel. The news agency claimed the diplomats obtained information from the alleged agent “at anytime of day or night.” And it accused her of having recruited a network of youth to help coordinate protests who were deployed during the riots on the Ashura Shiite day of commemoration. The report alleges officials found gold and precious metals on the alleged agent, which they claimed had been pay for her work.

The reality, though, is a bit different. The regime’s agents collected very different information about the Iranian woman. German authorities believe that the Iranian secret service intercepted e-mails from the police officer to the Iranian woman that he sent from his work e-mail account managed by the German Foreign Ministry.

How Private Becomes Public

The incident once again underscores the level of scrutiny and observation the Iranian regime places on the German embassy in Tehran and how little regard it has for diplomatic status.

But the incident is also embarrassing for the Foreign Ministry because it mirrors a similar event that took place just one and a half years ago. Ingo W., a senior police officer at the embassy, had an affair with an Iranian women and had to leave the country in 2008.

The fact that the Iranian government has now gone public with this information and connected it with the Iranian opposition movement clearly appears to be for political reasons. Tehran is deeply upset by the German government’s support for Israel’s calls for tighter sanctions against Iran. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her support for further sanctions earlier this week during a visit to Berlin by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The two officers sent back this week are expected to be questioned by officials. The Foreign Ministry also plans to further sensitize its workers to the fact that, with a tense situation in Iran, private relationships can quickly take on a political dimension.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

US Raises Stakes on Iran by Sending in Ships and Missiles

Pentagon says Patriot shield will deter strike on American allies in the Gulf

Tension between the US and Iran heightened dramatically today with the disclosure that Barack Obama is deploying a missile shield to protect American allies in the Gulf from attack by Tehran.

The US is dispatching Patriot defensive missiles to four countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait — and keeping two ships in the Gulf capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia develop a force to protect its oil installations.

American officials said the move is aimed at deterring an attack by Iran and reassuring Gulf states fearful that Tehran might react to sanctions by striking at US allies in the region. Washington is also seeking to discourage Israel from a strike against Iran by demonstrating that the US is prepared to contain any threat.

The deployment comes after Obama’s attempts to emphasise diplomacy over confrontation in dealing with Iran — a contrast to the Bush administration’s approach — have failed to persuade Tehran to open its nuclear installations to international controls. The White House is now trying to engineer agreement for sanctions focused on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, believed to be in charge of the atomic programme.

Washington has not formally announced the deployment of the Patriots and other anti-missile systems, but by leaking it to American newspapers the administration is evidently seeking to alert Tehran to a hardening of its position.

The administration is deploying two Patriot batteries, capable of shooting down incoming missiles, in each of the four Gulf countries. Kuwait already has an older version of the missile, deployed after Iraq’s invasion. Saudi Arabia has long had the missiles, as has Israel.

An unnamed senior administration official told the New York Times: “Our first goal is to deter the Iranians. A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don’t feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.”

The chief of the US central command, General David Petraeus, said in a speech 10 days ago that countries in the region are concerned about Tehran’s military ambitions and the prospect of it becoming a dominant power in the Gulf: “Iran is clearly seen as a very serious threat by those on the other side of the Gulf front.”

Petraeus said the US is keeping cruisers equipped with advanced anti-missile systems in the Gulf at all times to act as a buffer between Iran and the Gulf states.

Washington is also concerned at the threat of action by Israel, which is predicting that Iran will be able to build a nuclear missile within a year, a much faster timetable than assessed by the US, and is warning that it will not let Tehran come close to completion if diplomacy fails.

The director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, met the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and other senior officials in Jerusalem last week to discuss Iran.

[Return to headlines]


Russia: The Supreme Court Confirms: Jehovah’s Witnesses Outlawed in Rostov

Upheld a ruling passed in September by the provincial court of the city on the Black Sea. Communities in the cities of Taganrog, Neklinov Matveeva and Kurgan-can no longer carry out activities and must withdraw. 34 publications banned for “extremist content” and property confiscated. Jehovah’s Witnesses are turning to the European Court.

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Taganrog, Neklinov and Matveeva -Kurgan are outlawed, they can not carry out any activities and must be withdrawn. So says a ruling of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation confirming the sentence issued by the Provincial Court of Rostov (see AsiaNews, 17/09/2009, “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists “).

In September, the religious organization was accused of spreading “extremist material” promoting a lifestyle that is sectarian and hostile to the peaceful coexistence in the Federation. The Public Ministry of the Federal Court confirmed the indictment by banning 34 of the 68 publications distributed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region. According to the charges they “contain outrageous expressions” and “virtually all the literature [distributed by the organisation] is crossed by a common thread that says that traditional Christianity is a false religion.”

The organization is also accused of the “violation of the rights of non-believers” through “attempts to enter their homes to pray and perform intrusive activities of evangelization.” They have also been banned from distributing magazines and pamphlets and have had property confiscated, such as offices and facilities of the organization, which will pass under the ownership of the Federation.

Vasily Kalin, director of the Audit Committee of the organization’s administrative Centre in Russia, fears now that “the decision will open a new era of persecution for the Jehovah’s Witnesses” and that trials similar to those of Rostov will take place in other county courts ( See AsiaNews, 5/10/2009, “Altai court also condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism” “). The representative of Organisation in the Federation said: “The right to peaceful assembly, to possession of Christian literature and sharing the hope of the Gospel with others, has suffered a severe restriction.”

For Arly Chimirov, one of the lawyers who followed the Jehovah’s Witnesses case, “the Supreme Court’s decision confirms the illegal application of the legislation on extremism”. The lawyer has announced an “appeal to the European Court” according to defensive lines followed since the beginning in the court in Rostov. The organization says it argued that the publications are the same distributed in hundreds of countries around the world, including European Union countries, where there are communities of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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

South Asia

Pakistan Taliban Chief Reportedly Killed in U.S. Drone Strike

The head of the Taliban in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone attack, Pakistan state television reported Sunday.

The report stated Mehsud had been injured in a drone attack in the Shaktoi area January 14 and died three days later. He reportedly was buried in the village of Mamuzai in the North Waziristan region.

The Pakistani army said Sunday that it was investigating the reports.

The militant leader’s death would be an important success for both Pakistan, which has been battling the Pakistani Taliban, and the U.S., which blames Mehsud for a recent deadly bombing against the CIA in Afghanistan.

The army’s announcement came shortly after Pakistani state television, citing unnamed “official sources,” reported that Mehsud died in Orakzai, an area in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region where he was reportedly being treated for his injuries.

“We have these reports coming to us,” army spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press. “We are investigating whether it is true or wrong.”

A tribal elder told the AP that he attended Mehsud’s funeral in the Mamuzai area of Orakzai on Thursday. He said Mehsud was buried in Mamuzai graveyard after he died at his in-laws’ home. The elder spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the Taliban.

Pakistani intelligence officials have said that Mehsud was targeted in a U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan on Jan. 14, triggering rumors that he had been injured or killed. The strike targeted a meeting of militant commanders in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan.

Mehsud issued two audio tapes after the strike denying the rumors. But Pakistani intelligence officials told the AP on Sunday that they have confirmation that the Taliban chief’s legs and abdomen were wounded in the strike.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pakistani Taliban officials were not immediately available for comment, but low-level fighters have dismissed rumors of Mehsud’s death in recent days as propaganda.

The drone strike that targeted Mehsud came about two weeks after a deadly suicide bombing he helped orchestrate killed seven CIA employees at a remote base across the border in Afghanistan. Mehsud appeared in a video issued after the bombing sitting beside the Jordanian man who carried out the attack.

The bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, said he carried out the attack in retribution for the death of former Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud — Hakimullah Mehsud’s predecessor — in a U.S. drone strike last August.

The U.S. refuses to talk about the covert CIA-run drone program in Pakistan but officials have said privately that the strikes have killed several senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders.

Pakistani officials publicly protest the strikes as violations of the country’s sovereignty, but U.S. officials say privately they support the program, especially when it targets militants like Mehsud who the government believes is a threat to the state.

Mehsud, who has the reputation as a particularly ruthless militant, took over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban soon after Baitullah Mehsud’s death.

The 28 year-old militant leader has focused most of his attacks against targets inside Pakistan, but his men have also been blamed for attacking U.S. and NATO supply convoys traveling through the country en route to Afghanistan.

Hakimullah Mehsud first appeared in public to journalists in November 2008, when he offered to take reporters in Orakzai on a ride in a U.S. Humvee taken from a supply truck headed to Afghanistan. He was the Pakistani Taliban’s regional commander in the Orakzai, Khyber and Mohmand tribal areas before taking over the organization.

He has taken responsibility for a wave of brazen strikes inside Pakistan, including the bombing of the Pearl Continental hotel in the northwestern city of Peshawar last June and the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore earlier that year.

The group stepped up its attacks after the Pakistani army invaded its stronghold of South Waziristan in mid-October. More than 600 people have been killed in attacks throughout the country since the ground offensive was launched.

Authorities have said Mehsud has been behind threats to foreign embassies in Islamabad, and there is a $120,000 bounty on his head.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Role of the OIC in Afghanistan Gets Emphasized at the International Afghanistan Conference in London

The Final Communiqué of the International Conference on Afghanistan held in London on 28 January 2010, while heralding a new era in approaching the problems faced by Afghanistan, referred to the important role of the OIC within the regional engagement and in developing projects to promote education and tackling radicalization.

The intervention of the OIC General Secretariat at the Conference stated that the Organization, as the second largest intergovernmental organization in membership after the United Nations, with 57 member and 5 observer countries, and being the voice of 1.5 billion Muslims in the world affairs, was capable of providing “the cultural” framework that both President Abdullah Gul and President Hamid Karzai had mentioned at the Regional Conference on Afghanistan held in Istanbul on 26 January. The OIC’s intervention at the London Conference also supported the national reconciliation process elaborated by President Karzai. It underlined the OIC’s readiness to play an instrumental role in this regard, using its vast experiences and potentials to work with concerned stakeholders.

The OIC statement at the London Conference further elaborated that the OIC General Secretariat has planned to co-organize together with the Afghan Government an important conference of scholars and religious leaders in Kabul on restoring security and stability in Afghanistan and in the region with a view to addressing the issue of radical interpretation of the teachings of religion and to promote moderation and peaceful coexistence among the adherents of different schools of thought.

The statement of the OIC delegation concluded that the aim of the Organization was to contribute to the national reconciliation among all elements of the Afghan society through utilizing the comparative advantages of the OIC.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Far East

Kazakhs Protest Against China Farmland Lease

Several hundred people have gathered in the Kazakh city of Almaty to protest against what they call “Chinese expansionism”.

The protest follows the announcement by the country’s leadership of a proposal to lease farmland to China.

Kazakhstan shares part of its eastern border with China.

And despite being one of the largest countries in the world it has a population of just 16 million. China is one of its leading investors.

Holding banners that read “Kazakh land is not for sale”, between 500 and 1,000 people gathered in one of Almaty’s parks.

Addressing the crowd from a platform under a giant statue of Lenin, a group of opposition leaders urged the government to reconsider.

The action follows remarks made by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in December that China was interested in renting a million hectares of farmland from Kazakhstan.

But the announcement has sparked controversy. Protesters say they feel threatened by their eastern neighbour.

“Our people are awakening, our land is under threat,” said one.

“I think there should be more people here. People do not fully understand what is around the corner.”

Public demonstrations are usually banned in Kazakhstan.

Despite this meeting being sanctioned by the authorities there was a heavy police presence.

The general prosecutor’s office has warned that those exploiting the issue of farmland to incite ethnic tension could be charged.

China is a leading investor in oil-rich Kazakhstan. Last year it lent $10bn in credits in exchange for stakes in one of Kazakhstan’s largest oil companies.

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


A Modern Tale of Meatpacking and Immigrants

Grand Island, Neb., has long been a revolving door of immigrants, from Vietnamese and Bosnians to Latinos and Sudanese. But with Somali Muslims came a whole new set of conflicts.

The new immigrants, who had been granted refugee status because of strife in their homelands, posed new challenges to the status quo in Grand Island.

They were black, and some were Muslim.

A new kind of different

During each shift, at sundown, Farah asks her supervisor if she can put down her knives and go to the bathroom. Sometimes, if there are enough other trimmers to cover for her, the boss says yes.

Farah stands at the sink in the company locker room, away from the drone of the factory floor. She washes her hands, her face, her arms and her feet, turns northeast to face Mecca and begins to pray.

When the Somalis began arriving in 2007, supervisors learned that some of the more devout workers prayed five times a day, and that the sundown prayer fell before the plant’s regularly scheduled 15-minute break. For the most part, they looked the other way.

That changed in 2008, during Ramadan, when virtually all the Muslim workers began leaving the assembly line en masse to pray. Even Muslims who are not particularly religious often make an effort to pray during the holy month.

Co-workers complained that they had to pick up the slack. Management told the Somalis they couldn’t pray because the plant, one of the largest in the country, couldn’t afford to stop the machines. Five hundred Muslim workers, infuriated, walked off the job.

Most came back after Swift & Co. agreed to accommodate them by changing break times.

But other workers protested that the Muslims had gotten preferential treatment, an idea fueled by a story published in a local Spanish-language newspaper that falsely claimed the Somalis had gotten a pay raise. Fights broke out in the lunch room. Hundreds of Latinos — joined by the Sudanese, who are mostly Christian — walked off the job.

Major conflict at the plant let up when Ramadan ended. But tensions in town mounted like never before.

At the Autumn Woods apartments on the southeast side of town, police were called several times a day to respond to stabbings, shootings and disputes.

A war was building between the Somalis, who lived on one side of the complex, and the Sudanese, who lived on the other side.

“It’s chaotic anarchy,” Police Chief Steve Lamken said recently.

In late August 2009, a Sudanese man was shot in the head at the apartment complex. Police arrested three Somalis in connection with the killing.Officer Robert Winton blamed the fighting on the Africans’ violent homelands. “They’re at war in their countries and they bring it here,” he said.

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

Italy: Asian Unionist’s Death Sparks Political Row

Rome, 10 Dec. (AKI) — The death of a homeless Pakistani who founded Italy’s first trade union for migrant workers has provoked a bitter reaction. Mouhammad Muzzaffar Ali, whose nickname was ‘Shere Khan’ or ‘The Tiger’ was found dead on a street near Rome’s central railway station early on Wednesday.

“This is a scandal for the capital of a democratic country,” said Giulia Rodano, the councillor responsible for culture in Rome’s surrounding Lazio region.

An autospy was due to be carried out on 55-year-old Ali to establish the precise cause of his death. But his body reportedly showed no apparent signs of physical violence.

Ali, of no fixed abode, had been sleeping rough for several days after leaving Rome’s Ponte Galleria immigrant holding centre. There was no indication of whether he had family members in Italy.

Rome’s city councillor for social policy, Sveva Belviso, urged the homeless to seek accommodation in shelters.

“Our winter anti-cold campaign has been in place since 1 December and the city council can house around 600 people in 11 shelters across the city,” Belviso stated.

During the early 1990s Ali led the occupation by homeless immigrants and Italians of the former Pantanella pasta factory in Rome.

In the late 1980s he founded the United Asian Workers Association (UAWA) which was the first union to fight for immigrant workers’ rights to work, housing and political asylum.

“Shere Khan was a political refugee. After he and his workers were evicted from the factory in via Salaria, he suffered real persecution by the authorities,” said Alessandra Caligiuri from the Dhummcatu Asian immigrants’ association.

“As he was single, the city council didn’t even find him a bed. He is the umpteenth victim of the failure of Italian policies to welcome immigrants,” Caligiuri said.

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

Lewiston, ME to be Used as Assimilation Model for Other Cities

You have got to be laughing if you have been a regular reader of Refugee Resettlement Watch. The Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence* in Portland, ME is taking its wonderful example of how Somalis have come to live and be accepted in Lewiston to four other cities in the US.

Yes, Lewiston! where thousands of Somalis looking for the best welfare state in the Nation arrived in the city a few years ago. Lewiston! where we only last month heard about roving gangs of Somali youths tormenting people on the streets. Lewiston! where a Somali woman just a few weeks ago became impatient in a line of vehicles dropping kids off at Lewiston High School and ran over a young student with her Mercedes. Lewiston! where Somalis were arrested by the feds for allegedly running a home health care fraud! And, here is another case of a conviction for welfare fraud there. Lewiston! where last spring Newsweek did a puff piece article and the town fathers had to come back and say it was not accurate. That same Lewiston is going to be the model for four troubled cities!

Here is the story from the Sun Journal yesterday…

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Controversial Deportation Decision Postponed

Parliament has delayed taking a decision on a rightwing proposal to automatically deport foreigners convicted of serious crimes.

Instead, the Senate has voted to seek further clarifications at committee level to examine whether the initiative is compatible with international law and the constitution.

Thursday’s debate took place against the backdrop of Swiss voters’ controversial approval on November 29 of a rightwing initiative to ban the construction of minarets.

The surprise acceptance of the minaret ban put Switzerland in the global spotlight.

It also prompted calls for the government to annul people’s initiatives that are incompatible with the fundamental principles of international law or cannot be implemented because they go against the Swiss constitution.

Proponents of the deportation initiative criticized the Senate’s decision, saying it feared another defeat at the ballot box.

The 90-minute debate in the Senate on the deportation plan was closely watched by more than a dozen members of the House of Representatives. The initiative will not be tackled by the House until next year.

Representatives of the rightwing People’s Party, which backs the proposal, argued there was no need for legal clarification at committee level.

“A lot of spurious reasons were voiced to seek to put off a nationwide vote,” said Christoffel Brändli.

Maximilian Reimann said parliament was trying to deprive the People’s Party of a highly promising campaign instrument ahead of the 2011 general elections.

According to This Jenny, the government and parliament are attempting to ignore people’s concerns. “It is fear of another defeat at the ballot box and of the success of one particular party,” he said.

Counter proposal

“We are not trying to delay the procedure,” countered committee speaker Hansheiri Inderkum who pledged to table the issue for the Senate’s spring session.

Centre-right Senators including Rolf Büttiker of the Radical Party called for an alternative proposal to be put to voters alongside the initiative while Christian Democrat Urs Schwaller warned of difficulties to implement an initiative which is not in line with fundamental legal principles.

Social Democrat Simonetta Sommaruga urged parliament to be more consistent in applying Switzerland’s international obligations. She referred to a decision in 1996 to annul an initiative by a rightwing group to tighten measures against asylum seekers.


Legal experts differ over whether the latest proposal by the People’s Party to crack down on foreign criminals violates international law and human rights, or whether it is merely borderline — similar to the anti-minaret proposal.

The Swiss branch of the Amnesty International called for the initiative to be annulled. “It is possible under present law to expel criminal foreigners if they are a threat to the public,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The people’s initiative was a key campaign instrument for the People’s Party in the run-up to the last parliamentary elections. The party successfully used a controversial poster showing white sheep kicking out a black sheep.

Urs Geiser,

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

Culture Wars

Spanish Bishops: Anyone Who Votes for Abortion Law Lives in Sin

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 27 — Catholic deputies that support or vote in favour of the reform to the law on abortion will not be excommunicated, but they will find themselves in an objective situation of sin because they are acting in a public manner that contradicts the moral doctrine of the Church. Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, a spokesman from the Episcopal Conference has repeated today in a meeting with journalists at the end of the autumn CEE conference and the day after the approval, in Congress, of the start of the parliamentary iter of the reform of the law on abortion. The objective situation of sin means that the person can no longer be admitted to Communion, until he or she admits his or her mistake and publicly asks for pardon, explained Martinez Camino. Excommunication, threatened by the Spanish ecclesiastical hierarchy on November 10, instead means the interdiction to all sacraments. The position of the Church is unequivocal and immoveable throughout time, he added. No-one who observes the imperatives of the correct reason can approve or give their vote in favour of this law. He pointed out that people who vote for a law like this one or run campaigns in its favour will not be excommunicated. But they are in an objective situation of sin. Objective because the Church does not judge their conscience. Their guilt is subjective, personal, and the Church does not judge it, he observed. They do however act in a public manner contrary to the fundamental moral doctrine of the Church, he added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Amazongate: New Evidence of the IPCC’s Failures

The IPCC is beginning to melt as global tempers rise, says Christopher Booker

A Canadian analyst has identified more than 20 passages in the IPCC’s report which cite similarly non-peer-reviewed WWF or Greenpeace reports as their authority, and other researchers have been uncovering a host of similarly dubious claims and attributions all through the report. These range from groundless allegations about the increased frequency of “extreme weather events” such as hurricanes, droughts and heatwaves, to a headline claim that global warming would put billions of people at the mercy of water shortages — when the study cited as its authority indicated exactly the opposite, that rising temperatures could increase the supply of water.

Dr North next uncovered “Amazongate”. The IPCC made a prominent claim in its 2007 report, again citing the WWF as its authority, that climate change could endanger “up to 40 per cent” of the Amazon rainforest — as iconic to warmists as those Himalayan glaciers and polar bears. This WWF report, it turned out, was co-authored by Andy Rowell, an anti-smoking and food safety campaigner who has worked for WWF and Greenpeace, and contributed pieces to Britain’s two most committed environmentalist newspapers. Rowell and his co-author claimed their findings were based on an article in Nature. But the focus of that piece, it emerges, was not global warming at all but the effects of logging.


Little of this has come as a surprise to those who have studied the workings of the IPCC over the years. As I show in my book The Real Global Warming Disaster, there is no greater misconception about the IPCC than that it was intended to be an impartial body, weighing scientific evidence for and against global warming. It was set up in 1988 by a small group of scientists all firmly committed to the theory of “human-induced climate change”, and its chief purpose ever since has been to promote that belief.

The blatant bias of each of its four reports has been pointed out by scientists — notably the rewriting of key passages in its 1995 report after the contributing scientists had approved the final text. This provoked a magisterial blast from Professor Frederick Seitz, a former president of the US National Academy of Sciences, who wrote that in all his 60 years as a scientist he had never seen “a more disturbing corruption” of the scientific process, and that if the IPCC was “incapable of following its most basic procedures”, it was best it should be “abandoned”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UN Climate Change Panel Based Claims on Student Dissertation and Magazine Article

The United Nations’ expert panel on climate change based claims about ice disappearing from the world’s mountain tops on a student’s dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine.

In [IPCCs] most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information.

However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them.

The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master’s degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps.

The revelations, uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph, have raised fresh questions about the quality of the information contained in the report, which was published in 2007.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]