Monday, August 31, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/31/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/31/2009In an unusual move, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia has condemned the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as immoral, and also expressed regret for the Katyn massacre (the slaughter of thousands of captured Polish army officers by the Soviets in 1940).

Mr. Putin’s words were not quite an apology, but they are still extraordinary behavior coming from a Russian leader, especially given that his Soviet predecessors denied all responsibility for the Katyn massacre for decades.

In other news, according to police figures, one out of every five killers in the UK is an immigrant.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, CSP, Derius, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, Islam in Action, JD, Jewish Odysseus, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Financial Crisis
Banks ‘Too Big to Fail’ Have Grown Even Bigger
Moody’s: Development of Islamic Banks Stable
Spain: New Benefit Plan, 420 Euro for 300,000 Unemployed
Advocates: EEOC Rules in Muslims’ Neb. Plant Issue
Rambo 5 is a Go: Rambo vs. Mexico
Recreational Center Shields US Muslim Youth
Yale’s Misguided Retreat
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Brorson’s Church Vicar Accused of Lying
Denmark: Saudi Demand on Mohammed Cartoon
Frank Gaffney: Putin’s ‘Do-Over’
Ireland: Unite Unveils Anti-Lisbon Campaign
Ireland: Workers’ Rights Hot Topic in Lisbon 2 Campaign
Israel-Sweden: EU to Condemn Anti-Semitism, Frattini
Italy: One in Seven at Risk of Poverty, Says Report
Italy-Libya: Cesa, On Monday UDC Sit-in In at Embassy
Italy: Franceschini: Rally for Freedom of Press
Italy: EU Should Condemn Aftonbladet Article
Italy: Ethnic Restaurants Boom
It’s Time to Give Lisbon Lies the Red Card
Return to Lisbon Fight a Waste of Time — Ganley
Spain: 1.3 Mln Travel to Northern Africa, June 15-August 15
Spain: Sagrada Familia Inaugurated as Temple in 2010
Sweden: Firebomb Chaos in Uppsala
UK: Fireworks Mob Broken Up by Police
UK: Probe Into Police ‘Taser’ Arrest
North Africa
Burkini Stirs Row in Egypt
Iran: Terrorists Become Ministers, And the West Looks on
Iraq Seeks Serbian Return of MiGs
Middle East
Archaeology: Italy Involved in Mosaic Restoration in Syria
Bahrain: Overcrowding in Women’s Prisons, Report
Defence: USD 100 Billion to be Invested by 2014
Here’s Your Story: No Engagement Game Because Iran Burned Down
Iraq-Syria War of Words Escalates
New Developments in Iran’s Missile Capabilities: Implications Beyond the Middle East
Saudi University Professor Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Al-Walid Bin Talal and Other Owners of Saudi TV Channels Should be Executed According to Islamic Law
Africans ‘Under Siege’ In Moscow
Putin Condemns Nazi-Soviet Pact
The Decline of Russia’s Oligarchs
Russia ‘Kills Al-Qaeda Operative’
South Asia
Afghanistan: NATO Chief Calls for More Local Soldiers
Jail Term for Sri Lankan Editor
Pictured: The Man Who Had His Nose and Ears Cut Off by the Taliban for Daring to Vote
Sub-Saharan Africa
New Charges at Zambia Porn Trial
Australian Navy Intercepts Suspected Asylum Seekers
EU Wants Plan to Distribute Refugees
Gaddur: Now Monitor Libya’s Southern Border
Greece: UN Deplores Conditions at Migrant Detention Centre
Italy: Indian Gang Arrested Over Passport Forgery
Maroni: We Will Continue to Send Them Back
UK: One Out of Every Five Killers is an Immigrant
Historical Facts About the Dangers (And Failures) Of Vaccines
Unesco: Paris Will Not Declare Preference for Faruk Hosni
US Book on Mohammed Cartoons Stirs Frenzy

Financial Crisis

Banks ‘Too Big to Fail’ Have Grown Even Bigger

Behemoths Born of the Bailout Reduce Consumer Choice, Tempt Corporate Moral Hazard

When the credit crisis struck last year, federal regulators pumped tens of billions of dollars into the nation’s leading financial institutions because the banks were so big that officials feared their failure would ruin the entire financial system.

Today, the biggest of those banks are even bigger.

The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate U.S. finance. A series of federally arranged mergers safely landed troubled banks on the decks of more stable firms. And it allowed the survivors to emerge from the turmoil with strengthened market positions, giving them even greater control over consumer lending and more potential to profit.

J.P. Morgan Chase, an amalgam of some of Wall Street’s most storied institutions, now holds more than $1 of every $10 on deposit in this country. So does Bank of America, scarred by its acquisition of Merrill Lynch and partly government-owned as a result of the crisis, as does Wells Fargo, the biggest West Coast bank. Those three banks, plus government-rescued and -owned Citigroup, now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards, federal data show.

A year after the near-collapse of the financial system last September, the federal response has redefined how Americans get mortgages, student loans and other kinds of credit and has made a national spectacle of executive pay. But no consequence of the crisis alarms top regulators more than having banks that were already too big to fail grow even larger and more interconnected.

“It is at the top of the list of things that need to be fixed,” said Sheila C. Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. “It fed the crisis, and it has gotten worse because of the crisis.”

Regulators’ concerns are twofold: that consumers will wind up with fewer choices for services and that big banks will assume they always have the government’s backing if things go wrong. That presumed guarantee means large companies could return to the risky behavior that led to the crisis if they figure federal officials will clean up their mess.

This problem, known as “moral hazard,” is partly why government officials are keeping a tight rein on bailed-out banks — monitoring executive pay, reviewing sales of major divisions — and it is driving the Obama administration’s efforts to create a new regulatory system to prevent another crisis. That plan would impose higher capital standards on large institutions and empower the government to take over a wide range of troubled financial firms to wind down their businesses in an orderly way.

“The dominant public policy imperative motivating reform is to address the moral hazard risk created by what we did, what we had to do in the crisis to save the economy,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in an interview.

The worry for consumers is that the bailouts skewed the financial industry in favor of the big and powerful. Fresh data from the FDIC show that big banks have the ability to borrow more cheaply than their peers because creditors assume these large companies are not at risk of failing. That imbalance could eventually squeeze out smaller competitors. Already, consumers are seeing fewer choices and higher prices for financial services, some senior government officials warn.

Those mergers were largely the government’s making. Regulators pushed failing mortgage lenders and Wall Street firms into the arms of even bigger banks and handed out billions of dollars to ensure that the deals would go through. They say they reluctantly arranged the marriages. Their aim was to dull the shock caused by collapses and prevent confidence in the U.S. financial system from crumbling.

Officials waived long-standing regulations to make the deals work. J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo were each allowed to hold more than 10 percent of the nation’s deposits despite a rule barring such a practice. In several metropolitan regions, these banks were permitted to take market share beyond what the Department of Justice’s antitrust guidelines typically allow, Federal Reserve documents show.

“There’s been a significant consolidation among the big banks, and it’s kind of hollowing out the banking system,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s “You’ll be left with very large institutions and small ones that fill in the cracks. But it’ll be difficult for the mid-tier institutions to thrive.”

“The oligopoly has tightened,” he added.

Consumer Choice

In the last quarter, the top four banks raised fees related to deposits by an average of 8 percent, according to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Striving to stay competitive, smaller banks lowered their fees by an average of 12 percent.

“None of us are saying dismember these institutions. But you do want to create a system that allows for others to grow, where no one has an oligopolistic power at the expense of others who might be able to provide financial services to consumers,” said Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Normally, when faced with price increases, consumers simply switch. But industry officials said that is not so easy when it comes to financial services.

In Santa Cruz, Calif., Wells Fargo, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase hold three-quarters of the deposit market. Each firm was given tens of billions of dollars in bailout funds to help it swallow other banks.

The rest of the market, which consists of a handful of tiny community banks, cannot match the marketing power of the bigger banks. Instead, presidents of the smaller companies said, they must offer more personalized service and adapt to technological changes more quickly to entice customers. Some acknowledged it can be a tough fight.

Wells Fargo is “really, really good at the way they cross-sell and get their tentacles around you,” said Richard Hofstetter, president of Lighthouse Bank, whose only branch is in Santa Cruz. “Their customers have multiple areas of their financial life involved with Wells Fargo. If you have a checking account and an ATM and a credit card and a home-equity line and automatic bill payments . . . to change that is a major undertaking.”

Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America declined to comment for this article.

Last October, when the Fed was arranging the merger between Wells Fargo and Wachovia, it identified six other metropolitan regions in which the combined company would either exceed the Justice Department’s antitrust guidelines or hold more than a third of an area’s deposits. But the central bank thought local competition in each of those places was sufficient to allow the merger to go through, documents show.

Camden Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said those comments reveal the government’s preferential treatment of big banks. He doubted whether the Fed would approve the merger of community banks if the combined company ended up controlling more a third of the market.

“To favor one class of financial institutions over another class skews the market. You don’t have a free market; you have a government-favored market,” he said. “We will never have free markets again if you have the government picking winners and losers.”

Moral Hazard

With executives comforted by that thinking, risk came unhinged from investment decisions. Wall Street borrowed to make money without having enough in reserves to cover potential losses. The pursuit of profit was put ahead of the regard for safety and soundness.

The federal bailouts only reinforced the thought that government would save big banks, no matter how horrible their decisions.

Today, even with the memory of the crisis fresh in their minds, creditors are granting big institutions more favorable treatment because they know the government is backing them, FDIC officials said.

Large banks with more than $100 billion in assets are borrowing at interest rates 0.34 percentage points lower than the rest of the industry. Back in 2007, that advantage was only 0.08 percentage points, according to the FDIC. Such differences can cause huge variance in borrowing costs given the massive amount of money that flows through banks.

Many of the largest banks reported a surge in profit during the most recent quarter, including J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. They are prospering while many regional and community banks are struggling. Nearly three dozen of the smaller institutions have failed since July 1, including Community Bank of Nevada and Alabama-based Colonial Bank just last week.

If the government continues to back big firms over small, regulators worry that reckless behavior could return to Wall Street.

The administration’s regulatory reform plan takes aim at this problem by penalizing banks for being big. It would require large institutions to hold more capital and pay higher regulatory fees, as well as allow the government to liquidate them in an orderly way if they begin to fail. The plan also seeks to bolster nontraditional channels of finance to create competition for large banks. If Congress approves the proposal, Geithner said, it would be clear at launch which financial companies would face these measures.

Economists and officials debate whether these steps would address the too-big-to-fail problem. Some say, for instance, that determining the precise amount of capital big financial companies should hold in their reserves will be difficult.

Geithner acknowledged that difficulty but said the administration would probably lean toward being more strict. Taken together, the combination of reforms would be a powerful counterbalance to big banks, he said.

“Our system is not going to be significantly more concentrated than it is today,” Geithner said. “And it’s important to remember that even now, our system remains much less concentrated and will continue to provide more choice for consumers and businesses than any other major economy in the world.”

           — Hat tip: Derius[Return to headlines]

Moody’s: Development of Islamic Banks Stable

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 12 — The economic development of Islamic banks, despite the global financial crisis, is stable thanks to a widespread availability of liquidity, high profit margins, and low leverage according to a report published today by Moody’s. The ratings agency however cautioned the sector for excessively using its available liquidity since this could destabilise the economic system, especially in the Gulf region. Moody’s reported a growth rate relative to total revenue of the banks in 2009 of around 10%, the same value reported in 2008 and 2007.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: New Benefit Plan, 420 Euro for 300,000 Unemployed

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 13 — The government will pay unemployment benefit to all those people who are unemployed with no other forms of income. The programme, which provides for a payment of 420 euros per month for a maximum of 6 months and which will be given to 300,000 people, will be approved today at an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers, and will enter into force retroactively from August 1. The assistance will also benefit families whose member are unemployed and with total income less than 75% of the minimum inter-professional age (624 euros per month). They could receive an additional payment to the benefit payment. This is a lifeline for families who are in difficulty as a result of the economic crisis. The aim of the measure is to help unemployed people who are unable to find work in the period avoid “being unprotected and without any social protection,” explained Labour Minister Celestino Corbacho in a statement to the press. In June the unemployment rate in Spain was equal to 11.9%, more than the European average, and in the case of young people it stands at over 20%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Advocates: EEOC Rules in Muslims’ Neb. Plant Issue

OMAHA, Neb. — Muslim advocates said Friday that federal officials determined a Nebraska meatpacking plant wasn’t doing enough to accommodate the religious needs of its Muslim workers but stopped short of laying out specific recommendations.

The Chicago-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlined its decision in a letter sent to the organization this week. The decision comes after a nearly yearlong investigation into conditions at the Grand Island JBS plant, where hundreds of Muslim workers walked out in protest last September because they weren’t given time to pray.

“It’s a favorable finding … it’s definitely a victory,” said Rima Kapitan, an employment attorney who worked on the case for the council.

Company and union officials said Friday they were disappointed with the timing of the letter because they’ve already made progress to alleviate workers’ concerns. The letter came a week into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

EEOC spokesman James Ryan declined comment, saying the agency is barred from publicly discussing complaints or its investigations.

The day after the Sept. 15 walkout, plant management adjusted work schedules to accommodate the Muslim workers. But that prompted a protest by hundreds of non-Muslim workers who said Muslims were given preferential treatment. Plant managers responded by ending the shift changes, saying the new break times weren’t working.

The Greeley, Colo.-based company later fired 86 workers at the plant for walking off the job. It eventually hired back about a dozen.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations helped file some of the dozens of complaints with the EEOC that alleged discrimination based on religion, race and tradition or national origin. The council received the EEOC letter because of the group’s involvement, said council spokeswoman Amina Sharif.

The letter, dated Aug. 25, doesn’t offer specific recommendations for what company officials should do to accommodate Muslim workers but encouraged employees, the union and the company to work together on solutions, according to letter excerpts read to The Associated Press by Sharif.

Council officials said they couldn’t release the entire letter because of client confidentiality concerns.

Jill Cashen, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said discussions have already been successful and hopes the letter doesn’t set them back.

“We believe we’ve built important bridges across the various work forces over the past year,” she said.

Union officials said the plant employs about 2,700 non-management workers. About 250 Muslims currently work at the plant, down from about 500 the union said worked there last fall.

JBS spokesman Chandler Keys declined to say whether the company was considering rehiring workers who were fired after the walkout. But he said the company has tried to accommodate workers, including by giving them space and time for prayer. Cashen said they’ve tried to educate non-Muslims about Muslim observances.

Keys and Cashen said they believe the changes and ongoing discussion have helped, judging by the lack of reported problems now that Ramadan is under way.

“We all learned a lot from last year and no one wanted a repeat of that,” Keys said.

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action[Return to headlines]

Rambo 5 is a Go: Rambo vs. Mexico

Or actually, the human traffickers and drug lords that are running people through the U.S.-Mexico border for their nefarious purposes, but saying “Rambo vs. Mexico” in the title just sounded more … Rambo-er. But I digress. Variety reports that Nu Image/Millennium Films has greenlit a fifth Rambo movie, to once again be written and directed by Sylvester Stallone.

Stallone has actually been talking up the sequel for awhile now, but this will mark the first time the film has gotten the official green light from the studio. The fourth film had Rambo working part time as a river boatman when he’s not running around gutting or finger-gouging super evil mean Asian military types in the neck. Made for $50 million, the film did $42 million in domestic business and scored nearly double that ($70 million) in overseas markets.

The fifth film will find Rambo running foul of slimy human traffickers and drug lords along the U.S.-Mexico border as he attempts to rescue an abducted girl. As you’ll recall, at the end of “Rambo”, Stallone’s character had finally decided to come home, and we saw him walking back to the Rambo homestead over the closing credits.

I recently saw “Rambo” on cable again a few days ago, and I have to admit, it’s gotten better with repeat viewing. It’s still bloody as hell, almost cartoonishly so, but I really felt for the big lug throughout the movie, and towards the end, when he’s staring down at Julie Benz’s character and realizing that he will never get the girl, kinda broke my heart.

I used to be against another Rambo movie, but now I’m kind of looking forward to seeing him come home and maybe, just maybe, get a little bit of a happy ending for himself at the end. Is that too much to ask? Yeah, yeah, it’ll be kind of sappy and maybe a little unrealistic (Rambo has killed enough people to populate his own country, after all), but why not? If it’s going to be the last one, then give the man a little bit of a happy ending already, dammit! (Preferably after he’s killed half of Mexico ala “The Wild Bunch”.)

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

Recreational Center Shields US Muslim Youth

Sponsors insist that the proposed creational center will be the first in the US to comply with Muslim beliefs.

CAIRO — Muslims in the Midwestern state of Minnesota are embarking on an ambitious project to build an Islamic center in order to help young Muslims against social ills through recreational activity.

“Youth are disappearing, youth are dying, and people have really serious health concerns,” Matthew Palombo, secretary of the Somali Youth Action (SYA), an organization working to reduce youth violence in Minnesota, told the Star Tribune on Monday, August 31.

The center, expected to cost $48 million dollars, will be built on 300,000 square feet and would serve an estimated 150,000 Muslims living in the Twin Cities area.

According to the design, it would have separate swimming pools and exercise rooms for men and women, an indoor soccer field and a large multi-purpose room for weddings and other events.

The center would feature a walk-in clinic, a teen center where young people could work, study and socialize, and an art gallery.

There would also be a coffeehouse and space for counseling and legal services.

The project is meant to create a safe place for Minnesota Muslim youth, the majority of them from Somali background, to meet and practice their hobbies.

A 2007 report by the city of Minneapolis has warned against the lack of youth programs6 available for the Muslim community and called for a drop-in center that would be culturally sensitive to Muslims.

Although there are no official figures, America is believes to be home to a sizable Muslim community of nearly seven millions.

The stagnant economy and poor fundraising climate are posing as major hurdles for fulfilling the Muslim dream.

“It’s going to have to be a very broad, united effort for fundraising,” asserts Palombo.

To face the challenge, Muslim community leaders may seek donations from individuals and businesses from in and outside Minnesota, and even outside the country.

“It’s going to have to come from a lot of places, definitely from the local Muslim communities first, through private donations and fundraising events, and local philanthropists,” explains Palombo.

“We’re also hoping to do some corporate sponsorships, whether it’s a room or a program.”

Sponsors recognize that giving charity has become very difficult for American Muslims since the 9/11 attacks.

US authorities have placed Muslim charity works under the microscope on claims of channeling funds to terrorists.

In 2005, Treasury officials refused a request from a coalition of Muslim leaders to issue a “white list” of clean charities Muslims could donate to without fear of prosecution or investigation.

“We’re going to go after it … and we’re going to hope that the local community and donors and foundations respond,” said Palombo.

He estimates fundraising would take at least three to five years and two years after that for the construction.

“If they do, then it will move forward.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Yale’s Misguided Retreat

In deciding to omit the images from a book it is publishing about the controversy sparked by Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Yale University Press has handed a victory to extremists. Both Yale and the extremists distorting this issue should be ashamed. I say this as a Muslim who supported the Danish newspaper .

Jyllands-Posten’s right to publish the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in late 2005 and as someone who also understands the offense taken at those cartoons by many Muslims, including my mother. After a while, she and I agreed to stop talking about them because the subject always made us argue.

For more than two months in 2006, I lived in Copenhagen, where I debated the issue with Danes — Muslim and non-Muslim — including Flemming Rose, the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, who commissioned the images, and Naser Khader, Denmark’s first Muslim parliamentarian, who launched the liberal Democratic Muslims group just as the controversy unfolded.

Speaking at a conference that Khader hosted at the Danish parliament a year after the cartoons’ publication, I warned of two right wings — a non-Muslim one that hijacked the issue to fuel racism against immigrants in Denmark, and a Muslim one that hijacked the issue to silence Muslims and fuel anti-Western rhetoric.

Sadly, both groups are celebrating Yale’s decision because it has proven them “right.”

The controversy that many might recall as “Danish newspaper publishes cartoons of the prophet; Muslim world goes berserk” was actually much more complex. What occurred across many Muslim-majority countries in 2006 was a clear exercise in manufacturing outrage. Consider…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark: Brorson’s Church Vicar Accused of Lying

Vicar accused of telling lies after the release of video footage of a police raid on a refugee shelter

The justice minister has, after seeing police-captured video footage of the eviction of Iraqi refugees from Brorson’s Church, accused the church’s vicar Per Ramsdal of lying about it.

Police removed the Iraqis, who are facing forcible repatriation to their homeland, from the church in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen on 13 August.

According to Ramsdal, 50 officers in riot gear carrying weapons and batons entered the church and surrounded the Iraqis in a standoff that caused 70,000 kroner worth of damage.

Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen has disputed the vicar’s version of events after seeing the police footage.

‘There’s no doubt that the vicar has given an untrue account to the public. I can see that the police did everything they could to ensure the action was carried out peacefully,’ Mikkelsen said to BT newspaper.

Immigration minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech has also questioned Ramsdal’s account, while Pia Kjærsgaard, who leads the Danish People’s Party, called on him to ‘apologise for his lies’.

Copenhagen Police released their own footage of the incident this weekend. It shows officers entering the church through an unlocked door in shirt sleeves and baseball caps, then approaching the Iraqi men, some of whom armed themselves with chairs and threatened to kill themselves, and urging them to be calm.

Female officers led the Iraqi women and children outside while male colleagues attempted to negotiate with the remaining Iraqis, before finally donning protective riot helmets after 45 minutes when glass was thrown at them.

The event sparked widespread protests after media footage showed police hitting and pepper spraying demonstrators who tried to prevent the police transporting the Iraqis away.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Saudi Demand on Mohammed Cartoon

A firm of Saudi Arabian lawyers has demanded that Danish newspapers apologise for re-printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

A firm of Saudi lawyers, purportedly acting on behalf of descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, has demanded printed and multi-lingual apologies from Danish newspapers who re-printed cartoons of the Prophet, as well as undertakings that all Internet pictures of the caricatures be removed in perpetuity.

The demand from the Saudi Arabian legal firm of A.Z. Yamani, is contained in letters sent to about a dozen Danish editors-in-chief and gives the end of September as a deadline for compliance.

The A.Z. Yamani firm was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Saudi Arabia’s former Oil Minister from 1962 and until 1986 when he was summarily dismissed. The letter in question was sent by his lawyer son Faisal Yamani.


Some Danish newspapers re-printed one of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as an illustration in connection with the police discovery of plans to murder Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist who originally produced one of the caricatures.

Demands in the letter from the Yamani lawyers require newspapers who reproduced the cartoons to print an unconditional apology in Danish, Arabic, French and English for having offended alleged descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, as well as undertaking never again to reproduce similar drawings or material. The demand includes a requirement that a front page reference to the apology must also be made.

The Danish Newspaper Association says it doubts that newspapers will comply.

“Everything has to be looked into and it is clear that we will be speaking with the Justice and Foreign ministries in a case like this — but first of all we have to get an overview of the situation”, says Newspaper Association Chairman Ebbe Dahl.

But he adds that the Saudi legal firm’s demands are ‘clearly unacceptable’ and he is in no doubt that newspapers will stand fast.

“It’s completely natural that media use the core of the issue when something like this comes up”, says Dahl referring to the murder plans.

One editor-in-chief has already commented on the letter, rejecting the ultimatum.

“There must be some people who continue to flog this issue. With all due respect for Muslims in Denmark and elsewhere in the world — this is unacceptable”, says Der Nordschleswiger Editor-in-Chief Siegfried Matlok.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Putin’s ‘Do-Over’

Twenty-six years ago this Fall, a titanic struggle played out in Europe. The main protagonists were Ronald Reagan and the Western alliance he led on the one hand and Yuri Andropov’s KGB-led Soviet Union on the other. It proved to be the beginning of the end of what Mr. Reagan properly called the “Evil Empire.” Today, one of Andropov’s agents, Vladimir Putin, is striving for a “do-over” — one which may have no-less-far-reaching implications.

In 1983, the issue was whether the NATO alliance would proceed with its agreed plan to deploy hundreds of Pershing II ballistic missiles and Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles in five Western European nations (collectively known as Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces or INF). The allies had decided such deployments were necessary in the face of the Soviets’ massive deployment of their own INF missiles, which the West called SS-20s — formidable weapons armed with three nuclear warheads intended to intimidate and dominate Western Europe…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Unite Unveils Anti-Lisbon Campaign

Trade union Unite has urged its 60,000 members to reject the second Lisbon Referendum, saying it failed to protect workers’ rights.

Officially unveiling its campaign against the treaty in Dublin today, Unite warned that the Government had failed to secure a clause that would prevent “social dumping and second class treatment of workers”.

The union plans to hold a series of meetings covering members in financial services, energy, manufacturing, communications, health, education, local authorities and other sectors.

“These meetings will cover a range of issues facing our members but one clear message that will ring out is that a No vote is needed to prevent workers rights being ignored by our own government and dismantled by the European Courts,” said Unite Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly.

“We are told by government and even by some trade unions that workers rights will be protected under Lisbon and that we are scare-mongering, but when the Irish government went seeking legal guarantees they got them in areas of taxation, of morality, and in numbers of commissioners but not in relation to workers rights.”

Unite also opposed the original Lisbon Treaty, which was rejected last year by voters, for the same reason, and said the treaty on which people were being asked to vote a second time had failed to make any progress in this area.

Mr Kelly described the “solemn declaration” given in relation to workers’ rights as “worthless”.

“We are asked to have faith in our own government, that they will bring forward legislation that will protect Irish workers. We say today that we are fed up waiting for this legislation and that we have no faith in this government’s ability or even willingness to deliver,” he said.

He said Irish workers were alone in Europe in having no legal right to representation by a union and no provision for pension protection.

Unions had sought to include a “social progress” clause in the treaty to clarify that the fundamental right to organise and the right to strike were not subordinate to economic freedoms pursued by the EU member states. However, this was not included in either the original treaty or the guarantees that the Government sought from Europe before bringing Lisbon back to voters.

“Voting yes to Lisbon in the face of this would enshrine Irish workers lack of fair treatment as being alright in the eyes of Irish politicians and of the Irish people. EU institutions would continue to follow a business over labour ideology which is too loaded against workers all across Europe,” Mr Kelly said.

Trade union leaders are divided on their attitude to Lisbon. Last week a group of trade unionists supporting the treaty said that it represented a major advance for workers.

The Charter Group, which is to launch its campaign tomorrow, said in a report that the evidence was that the EU had been a champion of workers’ rights for the past 35 years. Secretary of the group, Blair Horan of the CPSU said the report showed conclusively that it was the EU that protected workers’ rights in Ireland.

[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Workers’ Rights Hot Topic in Lisbon 2 Campaign

Ireland’s second biggest trade union on Monday encouraged its members to vote No in the country’s upcoming referendum on the Irish Treaty, accusing the document of cementing restrictions on workers’ rights delivered in a series of recent decisions by the European Court of Justice.

Unite, a joint Anglo-Irish trade union, representing some 60,000 workers in Ireland, warned that the additional guarantees extracted by the government after the treaty was defeated in the country’s first referendum last June covered ‘moral’ issues but were insufficient in protecting employee protections and rights.

“We were told that workers’ rights would be protected under Lisbon and that we were scaremongering,” said the union’s Irish regional secretary, Jimmy Kelly, according to a report in the Irish Times. “When the Irish government went seeking legal guarantees they got them in areas of taxation, of morality, and in numbers of commissioners but not in relation to workers’ rights.”

“Instead we got a ‘solemn declaration’ that is worthless given the way in which the European Courts have interpreted workers’ rights as being subservient to those of business,” he added.

The union, which opposed the the treaty during the last referendum as well, has also offered its building for use by the Vote No to Lisbon campaign, headed by the Socialist Party of Dublin MEP Joe Higgins and backed by Sinn Fein, the republican party.

A number of trade unions back the treaty, however, with the pro-Treaty ‘Charter Group’ last week issuing a report arguing that the European Union had been a force for worker protection for 35 years in Ireland.

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

Israel-Sweden: EU to Condemn Anti-Semitism, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 31 — Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, has said in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he has come to an agreement with his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, that the European Union — under Swedish presidency — will strongly condemn anti-Semitism during the next meeting of foreign EU ministers on September 4 and 5, and will take action against any manifestation of it on the continent. Frattini said he intends to demand that the meeting’s summary statement explicitly condemn the article published in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, which claimed that Israeli soldiers harvested the organs of dead Palestinians, killed during the Intifada in the West Bank. Frattini told Haaretz that he considers articles of this sort to be “acts of blatant anti-Semitism.” Referring to the political crisis between Sweden and Israel caused by the article, and the refusal of the Swedish government to intervene, Frattini stressed that “the state cannot intervene in the work of the press. The journalists are the ones who must set limits for themselves.” In a comment printed by the liberal Israeli daily, the Italian ministers is described as “a Scandinavian Italian” due to his self-control and diplomatic attitude. Frattini is also presented — next to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — as a supporter of Israel who is not afraid of expressing “sincere criticism.” These are, the columnist concludes, cherished friendships for Israel, which must be cultivated. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: One in Seven at Risk of Poverty, Says Report

Rome, 27 August (AKI) — One in seven Italians is at risk of poverty, and those most at risk come from the region of Sardinia and cities in the north and centre of the country, according to new research released on Thursday.

The Sintesi Studies Centre said residents in cities such as the coastal city of Rimini, the northern city of Brescia and Cesena in the central Emilia-Romagna region, as well as residents from small towns on the island of Sardinia were at risk because of their low incomes.

The research which looked at 114 provincial capitals, found that 1.4 million individuals or 14.5 percent of salary earners declared an income that was less than the average local poverty level with earnings of 10,388 euros a year, against a national average of 24,593 euros.

Analysis of individual communities conducted by the Venice-based research centre found that Villacidro, a town of 14,000 people in southwest Sardinia, to be the most exposed to the risk of poverty with 32.2 percent of local wage earners earning below the average salary.

Rimini, a holiday resort town on the Adriatic coast, has 26.3 percent with salaries below the local poverty threshold.

The research showed that local workers earn an average salary 4,300 euros less than the national average and the degree of poverty is exacerbated by higher than average expenses in the town.

Sintesi conducted its research based on data produced in 2006 by Italy’s national statistics agency ISTAT and the ministry of economy and finance.

In the country’s biggest urban centres, the research showed one in five wage earners or 19.1 percent in the northern city of Turin and Milan were hard hit by poverty, ahead of the southern city of Naples with 16.4 percent.

“The study shows that the cities of the south show low levels of wage earners at risk compared to communities in the north,” the researchers said.

“Among the 20 cities with the most elevated local poverty, 15 come from the central north.”

“Such a phenomenon is attributed to the high cost of living found in northern communities that erodes the income of people in a large part compared to what happens in the south.”

At least 8 million people in Italy or 13.6 percent of the population live in poverty and nearly three million of them (5 percent) live in”absolute poverty” according to a report published by ISTAT.

However, in the south of the country, 23.8 percent of people lived in poverty while almost 8 percent lived in absolute poverty, an increase of 2.1 percent compared to the previous report in 2007, ISTAT said.

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

Italy-Libya: Cesa, On Monday UDC Sit-in In at Embassy

(AGI) — Rome, 28 Aug. — On Monday, August 31, at 11.30 am, Italian political party UDC has organized a sit-in in front of the Libyan embassy to protest against the visit of Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to the African State, marking the anniversary of the Friendship Treaty and for Italy’s involvement in the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the revolution. UDC secretary, Lorenzo Cesa, together with numerous party representatives, will take part in the sit-in.

“We will peacefully move in front of the Libyan embassy,” Cesa said. “to defend Italy’s dignity and to state clearly that we have nothing in common with those that do not respect the victims of massacres and human rights. Gaddafi’s provocations should have caused stronger responses from this government, which is instead still indulging every whim of the Libyan leader, starting with the enormously expensive Friendship Treaty which hold no guarantees for our country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Franceschini: Rally for Freedom of Press

(AGI) — Rome, 28 Aug. — “The PD had announced its intention to promote a mobilization in September to defend freedom of press and information in our country. We believe that, at the moment, this is a very relevant issue which concerns everyone, despite their political affiliations, despite belonging to the majority or the oppositions. We believe we should all take a step back.

We hope that all associations that hold freedom of press at heart (starting with Articolo 21 and the journalist union) will promote the rally, also based on today’s plea presented by three great Italian jurists, Cordero, Zagrabelski and Rodota’, defending freedom of press and information. The PD is ready to do his part and to support the rally on a political and organizational level. The rally must not turn out to be a single-party event, but it should involve everyone because freedom of press is a problem that concerns everyone”, said Dario Franceschini, PD secretary, following a political meeting in Cesena.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: EU Should Condemn Aftonbladet Article

Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, says he has met with his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt to iron out a strategy for resolving the fallout from an article published in the Aftonbladet newspaper, which reported allegations that the Israeli army harvested the organs of dead Palestinians, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.

But in a farcical twist, Bildt has denied that the two discussed the crisis or the Italian’s proposed solution.

Frattini told the newspaper he has met with Bildt, and the two agreed that at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers later this week, they will work to pass a resolution making it clear that the EU, under the Swedish presidency, strongly condemns anti-Semitism and will take action against any manifestation of it on the continent.

Frattini said he intends to demand that the meeting’s summary statement explicitly condemn the article published in Aftonbladet. He said his proposed statement would declare articles of this sort to be “acts of blatant anti-Semitism.”

“There are limits to freedom of the press that stem from respect for the truth and the duty of every journalist to prove his claims,” Frattini told Haaretz.

Frattini added that the accusations made in the Aftonbladet article are “terrible conclusions, lying and hurtful, and they have the power to assist all those who seek to incite against Jews or who oppose the existence of the State of Israel.”

However, Frattini defended Sweden’s position to refuse to condemn either the article or the newspaper: “The state cannot intervene in the work of the press. The journalists are the ones who must set limits for themselves and must find the right balance within the framework of the journalistic code of behavior.”

Frattini said that the Council of Ministers, which is scheduled to discuss the situation in the Middle East later this week in Stockholm, is the proper forum “for Sweden to prove, with concrete steps, its determined stance against anti-Semitism. It would be better for the Swedish response to be expressed there than via a government communique to the press.”

However, in a further twist to this diplomatic crisis that swings from the bad to the farcical, Bildt — in Kabul for talks with international representatives and Afghan officials — has flatly denied that he and Frattini even discussed Sweden’s standoff with Israel, according to the Swedish news agency TT.

Through the foreign ministry’s head of communications, Cecilia Julin, Bildt denied that he and Frattini had discussed the disagreement between Sweden and Israel over the Aftonbladet article, or that they had discussed a possible resolution by the Council of Ministers.

“From the Swedish side we have no plans to handle this question through the informal foreign ministers’ meeting in Stockholm,” said Julin. She also conveyed that Bildt had suggested that the proposal must have arisen through an “Italian misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, it is not clear whether the Italian initiative would even satisfy Israel, which remains publicly incensed at Sweden’s refusal to condemn the Aftonbladet article published on August 17th. While the Israel Prime Minister’s office was not commenting on the proposal, the Foreign Ministry appeared to dismiss the proposal as irrelevant to the present crisis between the two countries.

“Every initiative against anti-Semitism is welcome,” said Yigal Palmor, a ministry spokesman. “But if the declaration is general and does not specifically relate to the article in Aftonbladet, it will not resolve anything.”

“We did not ask for an apology, or for measures against the newspaper or the journalist. All we asked of Sweden and the Swedes is that they reject and decry the content of the report. And our position has not changed,” he added.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ethnic Restaurants Boom

Foreigners also moving into Italian food

(ANSA) — Rome, August 31 — Ethnic eateries are booming in Italy and foreigners have also carved out a big chunk of new Italian restaurants.

Restaurants serving foreign food have risen from 2,500 in 2000 to more than 4,000 in 2009, says Fipe-Confcommercio, Italy’s association of restaurant and bar owners.

And of the Italian restaurants opened each year, more than 40% are owned by foreigners, it added.

The boom has been fuelled by foreigners’ family-based model which permits savings of “more than 50%,” said Edi Sommariva, head of the Fipe-Confcommercio association.

Sommariva said he did not agree with recent bans on ethnic food in parts of Milan and the Tuscan town of Lucca, which have sparked charges of “gastronomic racism”.

But he warned that immigrants who go into Italian cuisine should be careful of denting Italy’s tradition of food excellence.

“Our traditions are unique, linked to produce, and the increase in restaurateurs who know them only marginally risks damaging the system”.

However, instead of restrictions, “the way to go is to offer tax breaks for those who commit to keeping up traditions,” Sommariva said. Chinese restaurants account for some two thirds of the ethnic boom, followed by Japanese cuisine, which has however stalled because of high prices.

Vietnamese and Korean cuisine is also showing healthy gains, Fipe said.

The recent spread of highly popular kekab shops cannot be quantified because they come under the category of artisans and not eateries, Sommariva said.

Moves to curb their spread are “not right,” he said.

Earlier this year the conservative town council of Lucca moved to stop kebab bars spoiling the “identity” of its historic centre.

Milan also unveiled a drive to “preserve native food” led by the regionalist Northern League, which is sometimes accused of being against immigrants.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

It’s Time to Give Lisbon Lies the Red Card

By Gene Kerrigan

“Hey, begob, sure ‘tis only me, Mickey O — pulling another fast one on ye, so I am!”

If we’re going to be smothered in bulls**t in the weeks to come (and we are, dear reader, we bloody are), at least O’Leary’s variety provides a degree of entertainment — and we’ll get to Mick’s bulls**t in a moment.

There’s a blizzard of the stuff headed our way, the intent being to leave us overwhelmed, jaded and ready to obediently swallow not one but two bitter pills prescribed by Mr Cowen’s government.

Nama is the bigger of the bitter pills — it’s approximately the size of a grand piano — a massive transfer of wealth from the citizens to the bank bondholders and shareholders who backed the wrong horse.

The second bitter pill is the re-run of the Lisbon Treaty. (It seems that when we voted last year we didn’t understand that the ‘No’ box was on the voting paper purely for decorative purposes.)

We’ll give Nama a rest here this week — and the substance of the Lisbon Treaty debate is another day’s work.

What’s remarkable is the cynical nature of the establishment campaigns to get us to swallow both. Basically, the strategy is to tell us that Serious People have decided what’s best for us and the world will fall down around our ears unless we do as we’re told.

It would be more impressive if the establishment hadn’t so recently made such a pig’s mickey of the country. Not just politicians, but the senior civil service, bankers, speculators, big bonus business chiefs, regulators, economists and those who style themselves the leaders of “civic society”. They were all equally dismissive, and abusive, of anyone who questioned the Celtic Tiger nonsense.

Today, for some reason, we must accept that they are Serious People, qualified to tell us what’s best for us.

The Government assumed they’d get Nama through very easily because it involves complex financial concepts. Luckily, some academic economists took seriously their duty to examine and explain the process to civilians.

The politicians have so far stood back from the Lisbon campaign. Instead, the “leaders of civic society” have taken the burden.

There’s been an allegedly spontaneous eruption of pro-Lisbon outfits. Ireland for Europe, Generation Yes, We Belong, Women for Europe and Lawyers for Europe. These are liberally sprinkled with distant-from-Cowen type politicians (Pat Cox and the like), would-be politicians and the handmaidens of the establishment.

They have a case to make for the treaty, but they don’t make it. Instead, the Serious People tell us what they see as unquestionable truths. 1: This is a changed treaty. 2: This is about whether or not Ireland stays in the EU. And 3: The ‘No’ side are liars.

In fact, the treaty remains precisely the same, though it has been festooned with colourful pledges by politicians, the significance of which could be (but won’t be) argued.

The tactic of claiming that this is about being pro or anti EU is tricky. Membership of the EU is clearly not an issue. The ‘Yes’ side swerves around this by inventing something called “the heart of Europe”. Vote ‘No’ and we’ll be ejected from “the heart of Europe”.

More subtly, the issue is posed as whether we’re “for” Europe. All but one of the “civic society” outfits has that deception in its title. They either want us to “belong” in Europe or vote “for Europe”. The manipulative deceit is in the notion that to oppose the treaty is to be against Europe.

The perpetually uncivil Michael O’Leary is one of the civic leaders calling for a ‘Yes’ vote.

Last week, he decried the “headbangers” who oppose the treaty, and promised to spend half a million euro of Ryanair money on a ‘Yes’ campaign.

Why? Well, perhaps because Michael is a man who has clashed with EU bureaucrats (something similar could be said of Intel, also spending hundreds of thousands on a ‘Yes’ campaign). If, for instance, the issue of a Ryanair takeover of Aer Lingus was to — ah, but Mick would never be so calculating.

Oddly enough, last October O’Leary told the Sunday Business Post that there should be no re-run of the referendum.

“It seems that only in the European Union, Ireland and Zimbabwe are you forced to vote twice,” O’Leary said. “The vote should be respected. It is the only democratic thing to do,” he said.

So, O’Leary is now spending half a million to overturn a vote he said should be respected — knowing that the re-run is an undemocratic contrivance.

Why? Well, I believe what he told Matt Cooper last week: “Everything we do is in the interests of Ryanair.”

Much of the media is onside. And the Broadcasting Commission has decided that both sides of the issue don’t have to be given equal time. This was never before applied to a campaign — and the Commission says it will not be a precedent for future votes. It’s just for Lisbon 2. Imagine that.

While an objective analysis would say there was at least exaggeration on both sides last time, the ‘Yes’ campaign states it as a fact that it stands for truth and the ‘No’ campaign stands for lies.

The Generation Yes website has a section entitled “Fight The Lies”. Brigid Laffan, chair of Ireland for Europe, wants a “yellow and red card system” to stop lies.

It’s scatty (who would be the ref, what would be the sanction?) but it boosts the fiction of truth tellers versus liars, Serious People versus headbangers.

Good marketing doesn’t argue why you should buy a product — it creates the impression that cool people favour the product, while only the uncool reject it.

How does Ms Laffan’s outfit report the Michael O’Leary half million euro campaign? It takes its wording from an Irish Times report.

“Meanwhile”, the original newspaper report said, legitimately adding on three paragraphs reporting that some trade union leaders see Lisbon as “a major advance for workers”.

On its website, Ireland for Europe replaced the “Meanwhile” with “In response”, and changed the report to make it appear the trade union leaders were saying that O’Leary’s “announcement represented a major advance for workers”.

All in this together, you see, union and fanatically anti-union, except for the “headbangers”. (I’m not sure if this qualifies for a yellow card or a red.)

There’s lots of low-quality bulls**t on offer. Former Fianna Fail minister Frank Fahey was wheeled out on Friday to defend Nama. He claimed to be frightened that the Irish banks will “fall into foreign ownership” without Nama.

“And”, said an outraged Frank, “look at what the foreign banks have done to this country!”

I’m still trying to figure that one out. The economic collapse was caused by foreign banks, apparently.

By contrast, last week, Michael O’Leary cleverly refused to tell Matt Cooper how he voted in the first Lisbon referendum. “Next question,” he said, as though reluctant to admit something.

“Are you going to be one of those people who switched sides to the ‘Yes’ side?” Cooper asked.

Despite Cooper’s pressure, O’Leary repeatedly insisted on his right to keep his 2008 vote private, creating an impression that he had studied the issue and changed his mind from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’.

In fact, O’Leary voted ‘Yes’ last time — at least, that’s what he told the Business Post last October, when he had no qualms at all about revealing how he voted.

Now, that’s quality bulls**t.

[Return to headlines]

Return to Lisbon Fight a Waste of Time — Ganley

LIBERTAS leader Declan Ganley has claimed that a return to the Lisbon Treaty campaign trail would be a “waste of time”, writes Áine Kerr.

The failed European election candidate insisted he had “no plans” to make a dramatic entrance into the Lisbon Treaty debate ahead of the second referendum in four weeks.

Breaking his silence for the first time since Libertas bombed at the European elections and since an online petition was set up calling on him to return to politics, the businessman firmly ruled out any role in the upcoming campaign.

“No plans, I gave it my best. If there’s a ‘No’, with the cross-party ‘leadership’ we have in Ireland they’ll just make us ‘vote’ again anyway,” he wrote on the online discussion forum Twitter. “In short, no plans to be involved, waste of time.”

In response to messages from a Limerick businessman asking if Mr Ganley expected other anti-Lisbon Treaty supporters to “just surrender”, the Libertas chief said: “No but in the absence of backbone and vision, be confident our ‘leaders’ will. They were rolling over before the last vote was counted.”

The Libertas supporter then asked Mr Ganley if it was not time to remove these ‘leaders’.

“Not up to me, I tried. I’m back in the biz world and enjoying it a lot more,” Mr Ganley said in response.

Following Mr Ganley’s failure to win a seat in the North West, the ‘BringGanleyBack’ website, an online petition, was set up by unknown individuals.

The site argues that a large number of people (84,000) voted for the Libertas leader on his first electoral outing.

“He represents a large section of Irish thought,” the website states.

[Return to headlines]

Spain: 1.3 Mln Travel to Northern Africa, June 15-August 15

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 18 — Over 1.3 million people, mostly individuals who have immigrated to Europe and are returning to their home countries for vacation, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to travel to Northern Africa between June 15 and August 15, informed sources from the Civil Defence Department and emergency services, cited by press agency EFE. During the same period, 355,330 vehicles boarded ferries headed from Spanish ports to Morocco, with a 3.9% decrease compared to the same period in 2008, while the decrease in passenger traffic was 3.8%. The weekend of July 11-13 had the highest traffic for ‘Operation Crossing the Strait’, while the greatest traffic on a single day was recorded on July 12 with 52,858 passengers and 38,994 vehicles. In general, according to sources, the exodus occurred without any incidents thanks to staggered departures. The days on which most people are expected to return to Spain are on August 28, 29, and 30. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Sagrada Familia Inaugurated as Temple in 2010

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 12 — The ‘Sagrada Familia’, the masterpiece by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudì that is a symbol of Barcelona, will be inaugurated as a temple for the celebration of religious functions during the 2010 ‘La Merce”, Barcelona’s main festivity that falls on September 24. Joan Rigol, president of the Patronage of the Sagrada Familia, made the revelation during an interview on Catalan radio, assuring that work to complete the temple (which began in 1882) is drawing to a close. Rigol said that “Many of my generation, that of the 1930s or 1940s, will be able to see the completion of the Sagrada Familia”. Currently the Patronage he presides is engaged in a dispute with the public administration because of a tunnel for the High Speed Railway that is being created next to the monument’s foundations. He added that “We think that the ministry of Infrastructures and that involved administrations are trying to make us believe that it is a done deed. We hope that a tunnel will be built to serve the city, while also protecting the Sagrada Familia”. Gaudi”s emblematic monument, one of the most visited in Barcelona, noted a “spectacular drop in tourists” at the beginning of the year because of the economic recession, but Jaon Rigol believes that “it is now experiencing a positive moment and is recovering lost ground”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Firebomb Chaos in Uppsala

Authorities are convening a crisis meeting in Uppsala today after a wild weekend of firebombings and burning cars.

On Saturday night in the suburb of Gottsunda, a number of cars were set alight, and a firebomb was thrown into a swimming centre, an officer of Upplands Police told news agency TT. It was the third night in a row of chaos, with youth gangs running rampant, according to a report in the Uppsala Nya Tidning.

A number of local authorities and actors are convening at a hastily arranged crisis meeting on Monday morning to discuss the recent spate of gang violence that culminated in the wild weekend of fires in Gottsunda. Politicians are concerned about the rise of gang-related vandalism, but emphasise that the situation requires long-sighted efforts to address the problems.

At the meeting this morning, between representatives from the county council, rescue services, the police, the fire service and housing association, the police and fire service will present a report on the latest incidents, and the meeting will discuss measures that can be instituted to break the cycle of violence, according to the report in the Uppsala Nya Tidning. The response to the unrest is being handled under the umbrella of a long-standing social, cultural and environmental programme in the district called the “Gottsunda Process”.

“The events of recent days are very serious, and no one benefits from it. Now in the first place we will work to ensure order returns, but unfortunately there is no simple solution for this problem,” said Hilde Klasson, a local volunteer in the Social Democrats, and coordinator of the Gottsunda Process.

Local authorities appear to be pointing the finger at a small number of disaffected youths in the area as being responsible for the disturbances in recent days, although public explanations about the nature of the problems in Gottsanda have thus far been oblique.

Both Klasson, and fellow Gottsanda Process member and chairman of the social committee for children and youth, Anders A. Aronsson, agree that the disturbances involve only a few perpetrators, who were responsible for most of the damage.

“At the same time it is important to emphasise that the picture is not all bleak. Gottsunda also has other faces. For example, no other district in Uppsala has such a vibrant cultural life,” said Aronsson.

There have been calls for the creation of more natural spaces for young people in the area. But Klasson does not believe that the scarcity of public places or infrastructure is a factor behind the disturbances.

“These places exist already. I don’t believe that’s the cause of the problems. It’s important now to build up a good relationship between the police and youth. It’s clear that there is a feeling of exclusion, but that can’t excuse such criminal behaviour,” she said.

The head of Uppsala County Councli’s Social Services (Socialtjänsten) was engaged in the emergency meeting when The Local sought a comment, and had not returned calls by this afternoon.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Fireworks Mob Broken Up by Police

Riot police broke up a mob of 200 Asian youngsters after they threw fireworks at officers in a town where a right-wing march was banned.

Officers wearing helmets and carrying shields went to Luton’s Bury Park after youths attacked local police on Sunday.

The disorder followed community tension over protests in the town.

Bedfordshire Police said protesters had been deterred from a planned march on Sunday by a banning order approved by Home Secretary Alan Johnson last week.

The force added: “[Sunday’s] disorder follows weeks of engagement and public consultation by Bedfordshire Police and Luton Borough Council in response to tensions within the community after the town was identified as a potential location for a march by right-wing supporters.”

Luton Borough Council and Bedfordshire Police were granted a three-month banning order on public processions by four named organisations or associated groups.

Police previously said residents and businesses feared a repeat of the violence and disorder which erupted when the groups previously marched in the town and elsewhere.

Protest plans by March for England, UK Casuals United, United People of Luton and English Defence League had increased tensions in Luton, they added.

Angry scenes broke out in March when a small number of Muslims held an anti-war protest during a homecoming parade of British troops.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Probe Into Police ‘Taser’ Arrest

A police force is to be investigated after a man alleged its officers assaulted him and fired a Taser stun gun at his head as he was arrested.

The 45-year-old filed a complaint against South Wales Police who arrested him on 15 August on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage.

The man from Briton Ferry, Neath, went to hospital after his arrest where he had stitches to his forehead and nose.

The Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) is investigating.

The police watchdog said it had decided to look into the incident following the complaint.

It said police were called to reports of a man causing criminal damage to a car using a crowbar.

The man, who was arrested, alleged that the officers assaulted him and that a Taser, which uses a 50,000 volt shock to disable a suspect, was deployed and hit his head.

The IPCC said he later received between 10 and 12 stitches to his forehead and three stitches to his nose in hospital.

‘Monitoring Tasers’

Tom Davies, IPCC commissioner for Wales, said they were “monitoring the continued roll-out of Taser very closely”.

He said: “Following on from the IPCC role in the Home Office’s Taser trial, all complaints relating to Taser use are now referred to the IPCC, as this complaint has been.”

Mr Davies said the IPCC investigation would establish whether the use of force used to arrest Mr Evans was both “necessary and proportionate”.

“The IPCC will also establish… that its use was properly authorised, tactical advice followed and this was in compliance with policy,” he added.

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

North Africa

Burkini Stirs Row in Egypt

Many hotels and resorts in Muslim-majority Egypt ban burkini-wearing women from accessing swimming pools. (Google photo)

CAIRO — The impression Omayma Mansour got from her last visit to Egypt was that Islam could also be unwelcome even in one of its lands.

The Egyptian-American mother of two was staying at the Moevenpick in El Gouna resort in Hurghada when she received a shock that might take her months to recover or understand.

Seeing her youngest son, 2, struggling in the swimming pool, she went into the pool with her burkini, a waterproof swimsuit that covers most of the body, to help her kid.

Mansour was immediately asked by a swimming pool attendant to exit the pool.

The man told her she was not allowed to use the swimming pool with her burkini, an outfit consisting of a headscarf, a tunic and trousers.

“The policy to ban veiled women from the pool is discriminatory to all practicing Muslim women,” Mansour told

“This is definitely a violation of our religious freedom as Muslim women.”

Having endured this humiliation, Mansour headed straight to the office of the hotel manager but got nothing back expect what she calls “nonsensical excuses”.

“I think people at these hotels view it [the Islamic dress] as perhaps low-class,” she said.

“So they don’t want that image portrayed in their five-star resorts.”

The burkini, derived from the words burqa (a head-to-ankle dress) and bikini, resembles a wetsuit with built-in hood.

The three-piece covers the whole body except for the feet, hands and face.

The full-length lycra suit is not too figure hugging to embarrass, but is tight enough to allow its wearer to swim freely.

Around 90 percent of Egypt’s 80-million population are Muslim.


Some hotel workers told her that some of their colleagues lost their jobs because they allowed burkini-wearing women into the swimming pool.

This led many to suspect an organized campaign against Islamic dress codes, particularly at hotels and resorts frequented by foreigners.

Nadia El-Awadi, an Egyptian journalist, had a similar experience when she went to Ain Sukhna, a famous resort about 200 kilometers east of the capital Cairo.

As she entered one of the hotels, she was given papers to sign. But she noticed that one of the papers stated that Islamic swimsuits were not allowed in the swimming pool.

“I couldn’t understand what was happening,” El-Awadi, 40, told IOL.

“I felt so sad about it. Nobody should tell anybody what to wear. What to wear and what not to wear is everybody’s personal freedom.”

El-Awadi had to take her luggage and her two children out of the hotel again to seek another place where she could enjoy swimming while being covered.

She discovered that was a really hard catch.

It took the tour operator who organized her journey a long time to find a place that allows covered Muslims into its swimming pools.

“How can this happen in Egypt?” she asked.

Some suspect an organized campaign against Islamic dress codes, particularly at hotels and resorts frequented by foreigners, is in full swing.

“Listen, we don’t have any problem with Islamic swimsuits, but the problem is that some of these suits contain materials not good for the skin of their users,” the Egyptian manager of a five-star hotel told IOL, requesting anonymity.

“These materials aren’t hygienic.”

But the argument is refuted by those who wear the burkini.

“This whole notion that long swimsuits are ‘not hygienic’ is quite offensive and absolutely absurd,” insists Mansour, the American-Egyptian woman.

“The Islamic swimsuit I wore was composed of a lycra, waterproof, polyester material just as any other swimsuit is.”


“What happens in this regard shows the clash between secular and religious Egypt at its strongest,” Youssef told IOL.

“The government doesn’t tell people what to wear and what not to wear, but at the same time it leaves the owners of hotels and private places to do whatever they want with their clients.”

Egypt has not officially acted against the burkini, the hijab or the niqab.

But some officials, including those linked to the state-run religious establishment, have spoken against them.

Some say hotel and resort owners in Egypt, a country that boasts beautiful beaches on both the Mediterranean and the Red seas, shun the Islamic dress to satisfy foreigners who come in their millions every year.

“Hotel officials do this to please the non-Muslims who come to their hotels,” contends El-Awadi.

“But at the same time, they allow these people to go topless to the swimming pools without getting angry.”

Last year, Egypt received more than 11 million tourists.

Tourism earned the country $10.5 billion in the fiscal year through June, according to the Central Bank figures.

The strange thing though is that while Muslim Egypt does this, many Western countries allow Muslim women to use swimming pools while wearing the burkini.

Earlier this week, authorities in the Norwegian city of Oslo allowed Muslim women to use municipal swimming pools with their burkinis.

The Muslim swimming dress is also allowed in Australia, Britain and the United States.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Iran: Terrorists Become Ministers, And the West Looks on

Il Giornale, August 23, 2009

It’s time for terror institutionalization: it might happen more and more often to Western politicians that they will be shaking the hands of people on Interpol’s “wanted” list, or at least to some leaders who have been publicly praising — and probably also financing — certain notorious multiple-killers of women, children, tourists.

The Iranian regime is sending a very precise messag, in spite of all the diplomatic norms, by appointing Ahmad Vahidi as Iran’s Minister of Defense. Vahidi is on Interpol’s “wanted” list because he is a former commander of the “Quds Force” of the Revolutionary Guards, the unit in charge of Iran’s overseas operations that on 1994 carried out the bomb attack on the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured some 200: people still remember the huge destruction and devistation caused by the bomb, the hell of death and pain; the same images then replied in so many cities: Jerusalem, New York, Mombasa, Madrid, London, Mumbai…

With Vahidi’s appointment, Ahmadinejad is signaling that killing innocent people is moral and good, and that terrorist attacks are rewarded when they take place in big cities far away from the Middle East. The Iranian regime’s choice has a lot to do with its evident involvement in international terrorism; a reminder that sounds like a promise.

Terror still remains a matter of praise: it has passed now from the iconographic representation of the suicide bombers with the rifle inside the houses and mosques to being considered a normal chapter of a cursus honorum, a CV element. And, at the same time, we gape, or even worst, we dialogue with this new culture of death, adopting a policy of appeasement.

Meantime, Libyans took to the streets to welcome home Abdel Basset al-Magrahi, who was just released from British jail where he was held for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, where 270 persons were killed. Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi received him yesterday and welcomed him with a huge embrace; then he thanked everyone, Gordon Brown, the Scottish Prime Minister, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Andrew, for their “brave decision”. Libya, i.e. its leader, has accepted the formal responsibility of the Lockerbie attack. But many keep on following a Syrian-Iranian track, claiming that at the time of the tragedy, no one was interested in accusing Syria of being involved because of the coalition against Saddam Hussein for the First Gulf War. These are only uncertain theories, suppositions. In any case, Syria remains another country that has always demonstrated a very close relationship with Hezbollah and Hamas, through Iranian sponsorship. But, no matter what, the vain American and French policy of the outstretched hand tries all the time to rehabilitate and promote it.

The mechanism works like this: I praise my terrorist, you will do more and more to redeem me and eventually you will yield to my conditions. On July 2008, Hezbollah praised beyond all measure the swap of the corpses of the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers with one of the fiercest terrorists you can imagine, Samir Kuntar, who in ‘79, during the Nahariya terrorist attack, killed a 4-year-old child by smashing her skull against the rocks with the butt of his rifle. But Nasrallah has welcome him back as a hero, turned him into a model, a good example to be emulated. In spite of this, Europe, and in particular the United Kingdom which has started secret contacts with Hezbollah, now prefers to treat it as a popular party — which it is exactly what Hizbullah claims -, trying for the umpteenth time to seek an impossible compromise.

Another fundamental chapter concerns Fatah, the so-called moderate part of the Palestinian leadership, chaired by Abu Mazen, which in the last days held its congress in Bethlehem: President Obama considers Fatah as the main interlocutor of his outstretched hand policy. But the Fatah convention shouted for the joy when famous negotiator (moderate, obviously) Ahmed Qurei, alias Abu Ala, presented as an hero the terrorist Khaled Abu Usba, the man that in 1978 attacked two buses on the coast road south of Haifa and killed 35 passengers, Israelis and tourists. Is this crowd of important delegates an interlocutor for peace? Is this the reason why ithe Europeans are obsessed with releasing Marwan Barghouti, a jailed criminal serving 5 life sentences, and whose large popularity is due to his role as commander during the Second Intifada?

John Brennan, President Obama’s adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that “even if we condemn and we oppose the illegal tactic of terror, we must recognize and relate to the legitimate rights of the common people that terrorists claim to represent”. What is sure is that Megrahi, Vahidi, Kuntar, and Abu Usba all symbolize the hatred against the West. And even if we understand it very well, this will not help us when Vahidi, as Minister of Defence, will manage the Iranian atomic bomb.

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

Iraq Seeks Serbian Return of MiGs

The Iraqi authorities say they are negotiating the return of 19 fighter jets which were sent to the former Yugoslavia in the 1980s for repairs.

A defence ministry delegation has gone to Belgrade to discuss bringing the MiG-21s and 23s back into service.

A spokesman said the aircraft, whose existence had recently come to light, would be an important addition to Iraq’s defence capability.

Two of the MiGs were ready for immediate use, a statement said.

The statement did not specify how the discovery was made or what condition the other 17 aircraft were in.

At the moment Iraq’s air force has no jet fighters, only helicopters, and it had been planning to buy 18 F-16 fighters from the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin. It is not known if the discovery of the MiGs will change that.

Sanctions and flying restrictions were imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, after which Saddam Hussein’s government was unable to repatriate military equipment located abroad.

After his government’s overthrow in 2003, the Iraqi state collapsed and its army was disbanded by Iraq’s US-led occupiers. Baghdad has struggled to rebuild its military capability since then.

The Iraqi defence ministry spokesman said four Iraqi navy vessels had also been discovered in Egypt and Italy, as well as “aircraft and equipment in Russia and France”.

Saddam Hussein co-operated closely with the communist-ruled Yugoslav government and its Serbian successor, led by Slobodan Milosevic.

Serbia’s defence minister visited Iraq earlier in August and Belgrade has recently signed deals to export hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment to Iraq.

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

Middle East

Archaeology: Italy Involved in Mosaic Restoration in Syria

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, AUGUST 17 — A group of Italian experts has taken part in a group of restorers, alongside Syrian and Lebanese experts, who, as part of a cooperation and development activity, have carried out a one-month project in Syria to carry out work using advanced techniques on a mosaic discovered in 1976. The restoration was carried out in several stages: cleaning and support of the back section of the mosaic, the creation of new supports, the cleaning of the surface of the mosaic, completion and colouration. The restored mosaic was found in 1976 in the area of Amrit in 1977 and was transferred on a cement support so that restoration work could be carried out. In 1978 it was exhibited in the museum in the citadel of Arwad. It is considered to be one of the most important mosaics of the Syrian artistic heritage. It is a funereal floor mosaic, in that it lined the floor of a tomb and is composed of two panels. The first panel portrays the goddess of the earth, Gaia, on whose head there is an upturned plate of fruit. The figure is surrounded by a frame of rhomboidal geometric decorative motifs and by a Greek inscription in a rhombus above her head, whilst a second inscription stands out below the figure. The second panel features the bust of a man with a crown of flowers on his head. The figure could be identified as Aeolos, the god of wind. The mosaic is surrounded by a frame of undulating geometric motifs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Overcrowding in Women’s Prisons, Report

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 25 — Overcrowding is one of the main problems in Bahrain’s only women’s prison. The criticism comes in a report by a human rights association in the small kingdom, Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS). The report, which is published in the Gulf Daily News, says that up to ten prisoners are held in one cell, which measures four by five metres. It says that because of the lack of space, under-age girls are locked up together with murderers, prostitutes, drug-addicts and prisoners suffering from contagious diseases. Inspections revealed however, that only one prisoner was found with hepatitis B and one with AIDS. The BHRS campaigners found 57 prisoners in the jail, including a 17 year-old girl. Girls under the age of 15 are considered under-age in Bahrain law. The report condemns this rule as conflicting with international conventions which set the legal age as 18. The Ministry for the Interior has announced a project to build another prison with a women’s wing, which will include more services for prisoners. Among the recommendations in the report are that the construction of the prison be expedited, and that professional courses be established and new amendments in the 25 year-old laws over rehabilitation and detention be created, with lighter sentences for minor offences. Abdulla Al Deerazi, secretary general of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, maintains that allowing an unscheduled inspection of prisons is a measure “which improves the practice of the defence of human rights”. The BHRS is also calling for Bahrain to ratify the United Nations convention against torture, which was signed in 1998. Ratification, explained Al Deerazi, would allow humanitarian organisations and NGOs to visit prisons without prior notification. “These inspections ensure that detention and rehabilitation centres respect the criteria for which they were created”, concluded the secretary general. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Defence: USD 100 Billion to be Invested by 2014

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, AUGUST 26 — The Middle East will invest more than 100 billion dollars in weapons in the coming five years, 10% of global defence expenditure. This is one of the results of the survey carried out by US consultancy agency Frost & Sullivan, quoted by the United Arab Emirates newspaper The national. “This is a huge increase from the current 7-8 percent of the global budget” said Balaji Srimoolanathan, director of the company’s defence department. The main reasons for the increase are regional tensions, domestic security and consolidation of oil resource defences. The countries that will spend most are Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, on its way to military dominance in the region, spent 36 billion USD last year and will do the same in the coming five years, according to the Frost & Sullivan report. Israel’s spending is also stable, USD 13 billion this year and Iraq, gradually regaining responsibility for its own domestic and international security, will spend USD 11 billion by 2014. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Here’s Your Story: No Engagement Game Because Iran Burned Down

By Barry Rubin

Gerald Seib’s article in the Wall Street Journal is worth responding to because it does symbolize the curious mentality about Iran prevailing in American policymaking and opinion-making circles. The article is entitled, “Iran Collapse Complicates U.S. Moves.”

On the contrary! I think it makes things much simpler and clearer.

But first a story told to me many years ago by famed radio host Barry Farber:

A reporter is dispatched to cover a high school basketball game but doesn’t file a story. As deadline approaches the editor irritably calls the journalist into his office and asks where is the story?

“There isn’t any story,” says the reporter.

“Why not?” asks the editor.

“There wasn’t any game,” the journalist replies.

“Why not?” asks the editor.

“The gym burned down.”

For those of you who are journalists with certain mass media outlets, I should explain the point of the anecdote: The gym burning down was the story.

Now back to Seib…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Iraq-Syria War of Words Escalates

Syria’s president has hit back at Iraqi accusations that Syria supports deadly insurgent attacks in Iraq, calling the claims immoral and illogical.

President Bashar al-Assad was speaking as Turkey launched a diplomatic initiative to defuse a growing rift.

Iraq has accused Syria of hosting terrorist training camps and sheltering alleged masterminds of recent attacks.

France and Iran have also joined efforts to cool a row which threatens regional stability and co-operation.

Last week, Iraq and Syria recalled their ambassadors from each other’s capitals following Iraqi allegations of Syrian involvement in two devastating bombings on 19 August in Baghdad which killed about 100 people.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Cypriot counterpart, Dimitris Christofias, President Assad said Syria had asked Iraq to provide evidence to back up its claims, but had not received any response.

“When Syria is accused of killing Iraqis at a time it’s hosting around 1.2 million Iraqis… the least that can be said about this accusation is that it’s immoral,” Mr Assad said.

“When Syria is accused of supporting terrorism, while it has been fighting it for decades… this is a political accusation that follows no political logic.

“And when it is accused of terrorism without proof, it is outside any legal logic,” he added.

‘Religious teaching’

Indicating from the Iraqi side that the row was far from being settled, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said “90% of terrorists” of Arab origin had infiltrated Iraq via Syria.


The 29-year-old, calling himself Muhammad al-Shamari, said he had then crossed into Iraq and carried out a number of attacks.

“They taught us lessons in Islamic law and trained us to fight. The camp was well known to Syrian intelligence,” he said.

Last week, Iraqi police broadcast the confession of an Iraqi man, in which he said a former Iraqi Baathist based in Syria had ordered him to carry out the ministry bombings. It is impossible to verify any of the claims.

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

New Developments in Iran’s Missile Capabilities: Implications Beyond the Middle East

by Uzi Rubin

Iran is vigorously pursuing several missile and space programs at an almost feverish pace with impressive achievements. The Iranians have upgraded their ballistic missiles to become satellite launchers. To orbit a satellite is a highly sophisticated endeavor. It requires proficiency in stage separation and advanced guidance and control systems to insert the satellite into a stable, desired trajectory. They took the Shahab, extended it a bit, added a new lightweight second stage, and now they have the Safir space launch vehicle. The very capability to build a two-stage satellite launcher, rather than the usual three-stage rockets for space-lift vehicles, is quit remarkable by itself — an impressive engineering achievement.

In spite of the Missile Technology Control Regime and in the face of sanctions, Iran has succeeded in acquiring the needed infrastructure and to raise a cadre of proficient scientists and engineers backed by academic research institutes. Iranian missile technology now seems to be more advanced than that of North Korea.

The solid-propellant Sejil missile signifies a technological and strategic breakthrough. This missile already poses a threat to a number of European Union countries. Based on its demonstrated achievements in solid propulsion and staging, Iran will face no significant hurdle in upscaling the Sejil into a compact, survivable intermediate-range ballistic missile. A range of 3,600 km. will be sufficient to put most of the EU under threat.

Contrary to a recent report by U.S. and Russian scientists published by the EastWest Institute in Washington, D.C., the solid-propellant technology demonstrated by the Sejil gives the Iranian a key for longer-range missiles that could be deployed in a survivable manner from Western Iran. The report claims that it will take the Iranians just six years to develop a nuclear warhead that could be carried by a ballistic missile. By that time the Iranians might already have the appropriate missiles to carry such warheads. The West would do well to start preparing its defenses right now.

Iran Invests in Nuclear and Missile Technology

The cumulative weight of Iranian missile development achievements in the last two years puts Iran’s programs into a context which might be wider than the Middle East. Up to now, the Iranian programs could fit only a local scenario. However, recent developments may show not necessarily the intention but at least the capability of the Iranians to extend their missile program to potential targets beyond the Middle East.

The Iranians love to show their hardware in parades. They have two armed forces: the army and the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guard. The army holds its parade on April 22 every year, while the Pasdaran holds its parade in December. During the big parade the army held in 2008, they displayed guns and artillery, all of which had been purchased before 1979 during the time of the Shah. They showed a modern tank that they make in small numbers, but most were Soviet T55s, a tank from the 1950s. Obviously they are not investing much money in ground forces or in new armament.

During the air show, some 220 planes flew above Tehran, but, again, they were F5s made in America and bought during the Shah’s time, Mirage F1s, and Iraqi aircraft which were flown to Iran during the Gulf War. There were F4 Phantoms, F14 Tomcats, and MIG 21s. The most modern fighter aircraft they flew was a MIG 29 from 1992.

So we see that the money is not being invested in the ground forces or in the air force. Where is the money going? It goes into nuclear technologies and missiles. They can make all the excuses in the world that everything is for peaceful purposes, but the fact is that Iran’s biggest budgets are going to nuclear technology and missile technology.

Iran’s Engineers Become More Advanced than North Koreans

In 1988 the Iranians had only Scud B and Scud C missiles. Ten years later they had their first operational Shahab III. The Iranians bought the Shahab, which has a range of 1,300 km., from North Korea, including the production line. We now see the Iranians building underground silos for the Shahab, to make it more survivable.

The Iranians are also now capable of taking an unguided rocket like the Zalzal — that Hizbullah also has — and turning it into a guided rocket with a range of 200 kilometers. This is an original Iranian project; we don’t see it anywhere else.

They have also upgraded their ballistic missiles to become satellite launchers. To orbit a satellite is a very complicated project. There are missile stages, and a careful guidance and control system to insert the satellite into a stable, desired trajectory. They took the Shahab, extended it a bit, added more propellant, and now they have the Safir space launch vehicle. They launched it twice and the second time it was successful; for a while they had a test satellite in orbit. They built a two-stage satellite launcher with a very elegant upper stage, incomparable to anything we know — an impressive engineering achievement.

Up to now, North Korea has been the fountainhead of technology to Iran. In the 1990s and the early 2000s we saw the North Korean No-dong missile appearing in Iran, as well as the Shahab II and Shahab III, which in North Korea are called the Wassong V and Wassong VI. The Scud is a North Korean invention which was also exported to Iran. But looking at April’s North Korean satellite launch attempt, they used a satellite launcher that looks nothing like what we see in Iran. It was completely different, much bigger and heavier, and with three stages.

This means that the connection between Iranian and North Korean technology is not that tight anymore, and the pupils are now the teachers. The Iranians have reached a level of proficiency which has disconnected them from North Korea and in some cases they are more advanced than the North Koreans. The Iranians are now going to deploy a missile which is nothing like what the North Koreans have, so a connection may now be the other way around. Start watching Iran not as a market for North Korean merchandise but as an exporter of Iranian missile technologies.

Iranian Breakthrough: A Solid Fuel Missile

On May 19, 2009, the EastWest Institute issued a report entitled Iran’s Nuclear and Missile Potential: A Joint Threat Assessment by U.S. and Russian Technical Experts, claiming that “There is no reliable information at the present on the state of Iran’s efforts to develop solid propellant rocket motors.” The next day, on May 20, the Iranians successfully fired a solid fuel Sejil rocket. Solid propellant leaves a trail of particles behind, while liquid propellant has transparent flames that don’t leave any trail, so video reports of the launch are quite revealing.

What is also impressive here is the pace of development. In 2005 we heard for the first time about the coming of the Sejil. The first flight occurred thirty months after the end of development of the solid propellant motors. Iran’s space program is even more impressive.

They have the engineers to understand what they are doing. They have the system engineers to engineer fixes and they have the program managers to run the whole program. They have demonstrated the ability to manufacture a 14-ton solid propellant rocket motor, and they have the infrastructure they need. To build such a rocket you need big, expensive installations. They are not available for sale, they are controlled by the Missile Technology Control Regime, but Iran has managed to acquire them. All of this infrastructure is in Iran. Another point on the proficiency of their engineers: I received a list of Iranian technical publications from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, all of them dealing with big solid propellant rocket motors.

The Iranians conducted six major tests of multi-stage missiles in eighteen months by two different teams from two different test ranges with all the instrumentation and flight control guidance system telemetry. When there is a challenge, they overcome the challenge.

Europe Coming into Iranian Missile Range

The Iranian defense minister has spoken of two missiles: the Kadr I that goes 2,000 km. and the Sejil that goes more than 2,000 km. Why is 2,000 km. significant? Less than 2,000 km. does not threaten Europe. Beyond that you are starting to threaten Europe.

Two weeks after the EastWest Institute report came out, Ted Postol of MIT, one of its authors, published an addendum to the report. Based on data he presented, our calculations show that the Sejil has an actual range of about 2,500 km. Such a range could reach Warsaw and, indeed, six European Union countries: Poland, Slovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Greece. The Tabriz launch area in Iran is as big as Azerbeijan, bigger than Israel and half of Jordan. It’s about 50,000 sq. km., full of mountains, valleys, and canyons. You can hide thousands of ballistic missiles there with a very high probability of survival. So the capability to make a survivable missile that can threaten Europe now exists in Iran.

Iran is vigorously pursuing several missile programs and a space program at a feverish rate. No one else, except the Chinese perhaps, is working at such a speed. In spite of all the sanctions, the Iranians have managed to acquire all the needed infrastructure to make advanced missiles and develop a technology cadre. They are building up technological universities. They have been in the business for twenty years.

The solid propellant Sejil is the watershed breakthrough. The Iranians have the technology right now to produce an intermediate range ballistic missile that can threaten Europe. Whether they do it or not involves the question of intention, but they are capable of doing it. The EastWest Institute report estimates that it will take Iran about six years to fit a nuclear warhead on a missile. If this is true, then the time to start missile defense in Europe is now. The fact that the Iranians are building that capability is something that should be brought to public view.

The distance from Iran to Israel remains the same no matter what missiles the Iranians develop. From an Israeli anti-missile defense perspective, the threat remains more or less the same, whether it’s a Shahab III or a Sejil. But while the implications of Iran’s continued missile development are not so great from an Israeli point of view, they may be quite significant for those who live beyond the Middle East.

* * *

Uzi Rubin has been involved in Israeli military research, development, and engineering programs for almost forty years. Between 1991 and 1999 he served as head of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization, and in that capacity he oversaw the development of Israel’s Arrow anti-missile defense system. He was awarded the Israel Defense Prize in 1996. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation to the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on August 6, 2009.

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

Saudi University Professor Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Al-Walid Bin Talal and Other Owners of Saudi TV Channels Should be Executed According to Islamic Law

[Video available here:]

Following are excerpts from an interview with Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad, a professor of Islamic law at Al-Imam University, Riyadh, which aired on Daleel TV on August 8, 2009.

Interviewer: A year ago, Sheik Saleh Al-Lahidan issued a fatwa that made all hell break loose. He demanded that owners [of liberal Arab TV channels be placed on trial] and repent. Do you support Sheik Al-Lahidan’s demand?

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: I believe all Muslim scholars support him in this.


I believe that one of our problems is that we continue to bury our heads in the sand, and talk about “Lebanese” TV channels, as if we are being honest. Take LBC, for example. We all know who owns it. We should say to [the owner] Al-Walid bin Talal: Beware. The same is true of MBC TV, Al-Arabiya TV, the ART and Rotana channels — all these [Saudi] channels serve to destroy Islam and the Muslims.


Regarding these base channels that I have mentioned, and others like them — I have no doubt whatsoever that their danger to the Islamic nation is no less than that of the Zionist Jews, or of the Crusader Americans in Iraq and elsewhere.

Interviewer: What led you to such an extremist view? Note that you are equating channels owned by Muslims, by Saudi citizens, with the Jews.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: I wasn’t equating them. I said they are more dangerous. I was being precise. in my view, the deadly poison that they are spreading has reached the bone marrow.


The people who spread corruption in the land — whether highway robbers, drug dealers, or the owners of these TV channels, who are even more dangerous… These channels broadcast corruption and nudity. They are all people who spread corruption in the land, and they should be tried in an Islamic court of law and sentenced to death. This [fatwa] is clearly in accordance with Islamic law. There’s no doubt about it.

Interviewer: The ferocity of this fatwa has cast fear in the hearts of…

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: … of the hypocrites.

Interviewer: In everybody’s hearts. Even in the West, it received much attention.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Islam itself casts fear…

Interviewer: No, it doesn’t. Islam is a religion of tolerance and leniency, Sheik.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Allah says otherwise. Islam is lenient, but the infidel West trembles in fear of it. Allah has ordered us to prepare: “Prepare for them what force and steeds of war you can, to cast fear in the hearts of Allah’s enemies and of your own.” Our human nature may tell us that stoning is unacceptable, but this is a punishment decreed by Allah. If Allah decrees death — this is how it should be. If the Islamic scholars ruled that the punishment for drug dealers is death, this is how it should be.

I believe that [the TV channel owners] are more dangerous than all of these. Forget about whether or not they should be killed — we demand that they face trial in an Islamic court of law. I call upon the good, honorable businessmen to contribute their millions in order to hire lawyers to file Islamic lawsuits against these TV channels owners, and to persecute them legally. I call upon lawyers and good people in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf states, in Egypt, in Yemen, and everywhere, to banish them from all Muslim countries.

           — Hat tip: Jewish Odysseus[Return to headlines]


Africans ‘Under Siege’ In Moscow

Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia’s capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks, says a new study.

Africans working or studying in the city live in constant fear of attack, according to the report by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy.

A quarter of 200 people surveyed said they had been assaulted more than once. Some 80% had been verbally abused.

But the number of assaults was down from the MPC’s last survey in 2002.

The report’s clear conclusion was that Africans living in Russia exist in a state of virtual siege, says the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield Hayes in Moscow.

Extreme violence

Many of the African respondents said they:

  • Avoided using the Moscow metro
  • Were also careful to avoid crowded public places
  • Did not go out on Russian national holidays or on days when there were football matches

Many of the attacks on Africans were pre-meditated and extremely violent, the report found.

One Nigerian migrant interviewed by the BBC had been repeatedly stabbed in the back and then shot.

Another man said his attacker had attempted to remove his scalp.

Officially there are some 10,000 Africans living in Moscow, but far more are believed to live there illegally — many as economic migrants.

The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy is an English-speaking interdenominational Christian congregation that has ministered to Moscow’s foreign community since 1962.

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

Putin Condemns Nazi-Soviet Pact

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has condemned the Nazi-Soviet pact signed a week before Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland as “immoral”.

In a piece for the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborcza, he also expressed sorrow over the massacre of Polish army officers by Soviet forces at Katyn in 1940.

His words are seen as a bid to ease tensions with Poland over World War II.

But he also argued the Munich agreement signed by France and Britain wrecked efforts to build an anti-Nazi alliance.

Mr Putin is among several statesmen attending a service in the Polish port city of Gdansk on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of Poland’s invasion.

“Our duty is to remove the burden of distrust and prejudice left from the past in Polish-Russian relations,” said Mr Putin in the article, which was also published on the Russian government website.

“Our duty… is to turn the page and start to write a new one.”

Katyn regret

Memories of the 1939 pact — in which the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany essentially agreed to carve up Poland and the Baltic States between them — have long soured Moscow’s relations with Poland and other east European states.

Within a month of the pact being signed, Soviet troops had invaded and occupied parts of eastern Poland.

“It is possible to condemn — and with good reason — the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact concluded in August 1939,” wrote Mr Putin, referring to the two foreign ministers who signed the pact at the Kremlin.

It was clear today, he said, that any form of agreement with the Nazi regime was “unacceptable from the moral point of view and had no chance of being realised”.

“But after all,” he added, “a year earlier France and England signed a well-known agreement with Hitler in Munich, destroying all hope for the creation of a joint front for the fight against fascism.”

The Munich Agreement of September 1938, widely seen as the low point of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, allowed Germany to annex Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland region.

Mr Putin added that Russian people understood “all too well the acute emotions of Poles in connection with Katyn”.

In 1940 Soviet secret police massacred more than 21,000 army officers and intellectuals on Stalin’s direct orders in the Katyn forest near the city of Smolensk.

Moscow only took responsibility for the killings in 1990, having previously blamed the massacre on the Nazis.

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

The Decline of Russia’s Oligarchs

If you look up the word “oligarch” in the dictionary, you will find it means a member of a small group holding power in a state.

Today, though, it usually refers to the super-rich Russians who made their fortunes in the sometimes barbaric business world of their country in the 1990s.

In some cases, they sought to convert their new financial clout into political influence.

They grew even richer as oil prices and the Moscow stock markets soared in the boom years which followed.

Then, 12 months ago, as the global financial crisis reached Russia, the oligarchs got a shock.

“They have taken the biggest hit because they had the most to lose,” says Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Uralsib, a banking and investment company based in Moscow.

“The stock market in the second half of last year fell almost 75%, and we’ve seen that reflected in the Forbes list of billionaires et cetera,” Mr Weafer says.

“Just looking at the wealth of these individuals, they’ve taken a huge hit — hundreds of billions of dollars have been wiped from the value they had in the middle of 2008.”


Stewart Lansley — a co-author of the book, Londongrad, about their lives in the British capital — says their reduced spending actually fuelled the downturn in the luxury goods market in Britain. Now, he says, they’re returning.

“What’s happened in the last couple of months is that the Russians have been creeping back. There’s evidence already that they’ve started looking for bargains in a number of areas, they’ve been reappearing in jewellery shops, they’ve been reappearing buying Rolls Royces and top end cars.”

The oligarchs have usually excelled at reading the Russian political situation. Jonathan Eyal, from the Royal United Services Institute in London, agrees that the government currently has a political advantage — but, he argues, that does not mean that the oligarchs are finished.

“The oligarchs have many opportunities of influencing Russian political life, partly because Russian political life is itself now quite brittle,” Mr Eyal says.

“We have a double-headed leadership — on the one hand, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, on the other hand President Medvedev — and in that kind of a structure the oligarchs will always find a weak point, or will always be able to divide and rule.”

The dictionary definition of oligarch doesn’t refer to wealth. Russia’s oligarchs have definitely lost part of theirs, and, as a result, they may also lose some of the “power they hold in the state”.

Given their proven ability to survive and prosper in the toughest of times, they are not about to disappear.

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


Russia ‘Kills Al-Qaeda Operative’

Russian forces have killed an al-Qaeda militant in the increasingly volatile North Caucasus region of Dagestan, officials say.

The Algerian national, known as “Doctor Mohammed”, was killed when police stormed a house near Chechnya on Sunday night, an unidentified official said.

Correspondents say a violent Islamist insurgency is growing in the region.

The official announced the deaths in a televised address, dressed in combat gear with his back to the camera.

“A representative of an international terrorist organisation in the North Caucasus tasked to oversee terrorist acts in Dagestan was neutralised during a combat operation,” he told Russia’s Vesti-24 news channel.

A second militant was also killed as police raided the house in Khasavyurt, near the border with Chechnya, he added.

Violence has flared in the North Caucasus in recent months, with dozens of militants and members of the security forces being killed in Dagestan, neighbouring Chechnya and Ingushetia.

Russia says the insurgency is being funded by foreign-based extremist Islamist organisations.

Russian forces have fought two wars against Islamist separatists in the mainly Muslim republic of Chechnya since 1994. The conflicts claimed more than 100,000 lives and left much of Chechnya in ruins.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: NATO Chief Calls for More Local Soldiers

Ankara, 28 August (AKI) — NATO’s secretary-general has urged member countries to step up the training of Afghan security forces but said the alliance would remain in Afghanistan for “as long as it takes”. Speaking on a visit to Turkey, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who called for reinforcements earlier this month, would not comment further on troop numbers.

“I think it is premature to present exact numbers. We are waiting for an analysis from (U.S. Army General Stanley) McChrystal and on the basis of that analysis we will be able to calculate the exact number of troops,” Rasmussen said in an interview with a small group of foreign journalists in Turkey.

But he added: “The number of troops does matter.”

Meanwhile, Rasmussen joined Turkish leaders at a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner Thursday in what he described as a manifestation of his respect for Islam.

“Please see my presence here tonight as a clear manifestation of my respect for Islam as one of the world’s great religions,” Rasmussen said at the iftar, or the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

“Fasting is meant to teach patience, modesty, self-restraint and giving and reaching out to the less fortunate. These are all universal human values that go beyond cultures and religions,” he said.

Turkey had objected to the appointment of the former Danish foreign minister to NATO’s top post, partly due to his stance during the controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in Denmark in 2005.

The row was resolved at a NATO summit in April when US President Barack Obama convinced Turkish leaders to drop their objections.

Rasmussen praised Turkey’s role as “a bridge between Europe, the Arab world and Central Asia” and pledged to work for better ties between NATO and Muslim countries.

“I’m confident that we will make real progress in building trust and cooperation between the alliance and partners in the Mediterranean and the Middle East,” he said.

Rasmussen had invoked freedom of expression to defend the publication of a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper in September 2005, which triggered outrage and deadly unrest among Muslims worldwide.

Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a practicing Muslim who had previously criticised Rasmussen, said the NATO chief’s participation in the iftar “will be a meaningful message to the people of my country and the Muslim world.”

Rasmussen held talks with Erdogan and Turkish president Abdullah Gul on Thursday.

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

Jail Term for Sri Lankan Editor

The high court in Sri Lanka has sentenced a prominent Tamil journalist to 20 years in prison after convicting him under anti-terrorism laws.

JS Tissainayagam was found guilty of “causing communal disharmony”.

Mr Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 and charged with inciting violence in articles in his magazine, the North Eastern Monthly, which is now closed.

He was also accused of receiving funds from the Tamil Tigers rebels. He denied supporting violence.

Mr Tissainayagam’s lawyer says he will appeal and that his client never sought to arouse hatred.

The world’s largest organisation of journalists, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), has condemned the judgement — which also sentences Mr Tissainayagam to hard labour while in prison — and described it as “disproportionate, brutal and inhumane”.

‘Widespread attention’

Mr Tissainayagam was found guilty of causing “racial hatred” and “supporting terrorism”, a court official said.

The court found that he had received money from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to fund his website, the official said.

One of the articles accused the government of shelling a coastal town and trying to drive out its population in the war which was going on at the time, says the BBC’s Charles Haviland, in Colombo.

The Tamil journalist has already been in detention for a year-and-a-half and was one of a handful of journalists mentioned in May by US President Barack Obama, who called them “emblematic examples” of reporters jailed for their work.

The Sri Lankan government said Mr Obama had been misinformed.


The case of JS Tissainayagam has received widespread attention in Sri Lanka, and international rights group have been campaigning for his release — they say Sri Lanka is using anti-terror laws to silence peaceful critics.

The general secretary of the IFJ, Aidan White, said the sentence was a “chilling reminder of how dangerous Sri Lanka has become for independent journalists”.

“This man has been victimised for no more than holding the government to account and giving voice to legitimate, if critical opinion,” he said, calling for the journalist’s immediate release.

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

Pictured: The Man Who Had His Nose and Ears Cut Off by the Taliban for Daring to Vote

Lal Mohammad was determined to stand against Taliban threats and exercise his right to vote in Afghanistan’s presidential election.

But he now regrets his defiance.

These horrifying pictures show a fearful Mohammad recovering after he was ambushed by Taliban fighters as he walked to a polling station last week.

The 40-year-old farmer was beaten and mutilated. The Taliban cut off his ears and part of his nose in the shocking attack.

The Taliban vowed to disrupt the August 20 vote, threatening reprisals against voters and staging scores of rocket attacks and several bombings across the country on election day.

The threats and violence failed to stop the election from taking place, but they do seem to have hurt turnout in some areas, especially the Taliban heartland in the south.

Mohammad was in pain and in tears as he gave the gruesome account of his ordeal.

He described how militants stopped and searched him while he was on his way to a polling booth. They beat him with the butt of an assault rifle after they found his voting card.

Then they took out a knife.

‘I saw one reaching my nose with a knife. I asked him to stop, but it was useless,’ Mohammad said.

‘I regret very much getting the card and going to vote.’

Election officials have reported scattered incidents in which militants cut off voters’ fingers stained with indelible ink.

The ink was meant to prevent multiple voting but it also helped the militants pick out people who had cast their ballots.

A Taliban spokesman denied before the election that an order had been given to mutilate voters.

Mohammad described how he lay bleeding and unconscious for several hours, coming to only after a man from his village spotted him and put him on the back of a donkey.

But with no proper health care facility in remote Dai Kundi province, Mohammad travelled for three days over mountain tracks and dirt roads by donkey and car to reach the capital.

After answering some questions, Mohammad, apparently exhausted, slumped back onto his hospital bed.

Like two thirds of Afghans, Mohammad does not read or write.

He said he did not even know who was running for office when he went to vote but had been excited by the prospect of casting a ballot to help choose a president.

A doctor said Mohammad needed plastic surgery and weeks for his treatment and recovery.

Mohammad said he hoped the government would look after his family until he got better.

But Afghanistan remains in political limbo until the final results of the presidential election are tallied.

The results are expected to be announced today, with incumbent President Hamid Karzai currently in the lead.

Mounting accusations that the election was a failure has raised fundamental questions about the coalition strategy to rebuild Afghanistan.

The independent Electoral Complaints Commission says that of more than 2,100 allegations of wrongdoing during voting and vote-counting, 618 have been deemed serious enough to affect the election’s outcome, if proven.

Whatever the outcome, the government must be ready to implement a strong infrastructure, because the Taliban — despite the violence — is winning support to their cause, a top counter-insurgency expert said today.

The Taliban were already running courts, hospitals and even an ombudsman in parallel to the government, making a real difference to local people, said David Kilcullen, a senior adviser to U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal.

‘A government that is losing to a counter-insurgency isn’t being outfought, it is being out-governed. And that’s what’s happening in Afghanistan,’ Kilcullen told Australia’s National Press Club.

Though Karzai remains ahead, his lead is not enough to avoid a second round against his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.

Kilcullen, an Australian military officer and adviser to past U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said Karzai’s government was failing to maintain a rapport with local people, who were now turning to the Taliban for court judgements, education and even fair taxation assessment.

A network of 15 Sharia courts in the Taliban-dominated south spent relatively little time on hardline Islamic issues, as Westerners usually believed, but instead focused 95 per cent of effort on civil issues, like land and inheritance disputes.

Local people would laugh at the idea that they could go to the police if a bike or goat was stolen, Kilcullen said, while the Taliban had even set up an ombudsman’s office near the southern militant stronghold of Kandahar to hear complaints.

‘It’s a direct challenge to the international security forces,’ he said.

‘If the Taliban do something that offends you, you go to the ombudsman and you complain, and they hear the case. Sometimes they fire or even execute Taliban commanders for breaking the code of conduct.’

Kilcullen said hard fighting in Afghanistan would likely last another two years, after which insurgents would hopefully believe it was better to negotiate than continue combat with international and government forces.

That would be followed by a three-year transition to effective Afghan government and five-year overwatch period involving international forces as back-up, he said.

A Taliban leader who threatened to kill Prince Harry has been assassinated, it was revealed today.

Mullah Abdul Karim was killed by Australian forces in the Oruzgan region of southern Afghanistan earlier this month.

Last year Karim described Prince Harry as an “important chicken’.

The Prince had previously been serving in Helmand Province but withdrawn after news of his secret deployment leaked out.

Chief of Joint Operations, Australian Forces, Lieutenant General Mark Evans confirmed that Karim had been killed, along with a number of other insurgents.

He said: ‘Mullah Karim was killed during an operation directed against the insurgent network of improvised explosive device operators in Oruzgan Province.

‘Mullah Karim was a tactical-level insurgent commander active in the Khaz Oruzgan area and known to be directly responsible for numerous attacks against Australian and Afghan forces.

‘He was also heavily involved in insurgent recruitment in the area and was responsible for the frequent harassment of, and threats against, the local population during the lead-up to the elections.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

New Charges at Zambia Porn Trial

Two Zambian journalists have been charged with contempt of court after publishing an article in support of their news editor who is on trial.

The journalists say charges against Chansa Kabwela — that she distributed obscene material — should be dropped.

She sent photos to government members showing a woman giving birth without medical help during a strike in Zambian hospitals in June. The baby died.

She says she was exposing health issues and urging nurses to end a strike.

President Rupiah Banda has branded the pictures, published by The Post, the country’s biggest selling newspaper, pornographic and demanded a police investigation.

Earlier the government barred rival activists from attending the trial.

It said they would no longer be allowed in court after police had to intervene following scuffles between government supporters and Ms Kabwela’s sympathisers.

Graphic pictures

Prosecutors in Ms Kabwela’s trial complained about the article, prompting magistrate Charles Kafunda to bring charges against the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Fred M’membe and journalist Muna Ndulo.

They are expected to appear in court on Wednesday.

Ms Kabwela did not publish the controversial photographs, but sent copies to a number of prominent people and women’s rights groups, along with a letter calling for the strike to be brought to an end.

The defence is arguing that the case rests on the definition of obscenity and so witnesses should have to describe what counts as obscene and arousing.

The BBC’s Jo Fidgen in Lusaka says the pictures are graphic, showing a woman in the process of giving birth to a baby in the breech position — when the baby’s legs come out first.

Its shoulders, legs and arms are visible, but the head has not yet been delivered.

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


Australian Navy Intercepts Suspected Asylum Seekers

SYDNEY (Reuters) — An Australian naval ship on Saturday intercepted a boatload of suspected asylum seekers, a government minister said, the latest in a wave of arrivals that has stoked fears of weak border security.

The boat was stopped near Ashmore Island off Australia’s northern coast, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor said in a statement. An initial count showed 55 people on board including three crew. Their nationalities were not known.

Border protection is a hot political issue in Australia. Critics blame a new rise in people-smuggling this year on a softer stance on the issue by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, compared to the conservative government he ousted in 2007.

“The group will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks as well as establish their reasons for travel,” O’Connor said, referring to the latest arrivals.

Australia has a processing center for suspected asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, an Indian Ocean possession just south of the Indonesian island of Java.

Many of the people-smugglers are thought to be based in Indonesia, although the asylum seekers are generally from war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

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

EU Wants Plan to Distribute Refugees

(by Ugo Caltagirone) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — After the tragedy of Eritrean refugees, Europe is trying to awaken from its stupor to bring in concrete measures as concerns refugees fleeing from oppressive regimes, as well as to prevent leaving such as member states as Italy, Malta, Greece and Spain — ever more involved in the troublesome handling of illegal immigration flows across the Mediterranean — on their own. The objective of the European Commission — which on Wednesday will be proposing a plan to distribute immigrants with the right to asylum out among all EU countries — is to bring in true joint action by launching an appeal to all European capitals for greater solidarity. While reiterating that the fight against immigration remains within the jurisdiction of individual members states, Brussels wants to show that the requests repeatedly made by Rome and Valletta have not fallen on deaf ears. It also wants to make sure that the ‘European Pact for Immigration and Asylum’, signed and strongly desired by French president Nicholas Sarkozy, does not remain on paper only. In any case, it will be an uphill battle, with declared resistance from such countries as Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, which have seen large-scale migration and are loath to take on quotas of immigrants from the southern edges of Europe. In addition, there is the overall indifference shown by the main capitals of Eastern Europe, which have not yet had to deal with the problem. However, the EU Commission — according to the draft statement written by those working under Jacques Barrot, who took Franco Frattini’s place as commissioner in charge of immigration issues — wants Europe to take on a more incisive role in the “orderly and secure” receiving of refugees, beginning with a more efficient system to verify those who have a right to asylum and those who don’t. Brussels stresses that this is also a way to discourage illegal immigration. Below are the five guidelines that the European executive wants to follow in bringing in a joint plan for all 27 members states: the participation of countries in the programme must be voluntary; the contribution of every state will be in relation to its real possibilities to take in refugees; there must be an annual revision of the refugee distribution system; international organisations will also be involved (such as the UNHCR and specialised NGOs) and the programme will have to be progressively developed in line with experience gained. There are currently 10 EU countries that regularly take part in a distribution of refugees on an annual basis: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Portugal, France, Romania and the Czech Republic. However, in 2008 other countries such as Italy, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg pledged to take in some of the Iraqi refugees from Syria and Jordan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaddur: Now Monitor Libya’s Southern Border

(by Fabrizio Finzi) (ANSAmed) — ROME — The agreement between Italy and Libya to stop illegal immigration is working, but now further efforts are needed. Libya’s southern borders must be protected, where migrants enter through the desert and make it to the Mediterranean coast to attempt the voyage to Italy. This was the message launched by Libya’s Ambassador to Italy, Abdulhafed Gaddur, in an interview with ANSA on the occasion of the Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s visit to Tripoli. “The agreement on immigration works even if there are some points that have not yet been applied, like the reorganisation of the monitoring system for Libya’s southern borders,” explained Gaddur. Italian premier’s visit in Tripoli has been planned to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. A long-sought accord by Italy that definitively ended the dispute regarding the dark chapter of Italian colonialism in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. A “highly technological” monitoring system is needed as soon as possible that can easily screen the immense desert confines of southern Libya. Technology that could be made available, reported the diplomat, by Finmeccanica. A necessity that Italy seems to agree upon since Interior Minister Roberto Maroni sent a letter to Libya stating his willingness to complete this agreement quickly. A complex technological system that should be 50% financed by Italy: “the other half,” specified Gaddur, “should by paid for by the EU because it is part of an agreement for the release of Bulgarian nurses” accused of inoculating hundreds of Libyan children with the AIDS virus, who were freed after long negotiations with various European countries. As for the visit on August 30, the program includes a meeting with the Libyan leader in Tripoli in the afternoon and the transfer to the point, 20km from Tripoli, where the coastal motorway should pass, whose construction is part of the accord. Berlusconi is expected to visit two special projects involving giant models of the future motorway that should join Egypt and Tunisia, as well as a railway line that has been partly built by Ansaldo. In the evening the visit should end with an iftar diner (which concludes the fast). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: UN Deplores Conditions at Migrant Detention Centre

Pagani, 28 August (AKI) — The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday it was shocked by the overcrowded and insanitary detention facility on the Greek island of Lesvos that is currently housing over 850 migrants including 200 unaccompanied children, many of whom come from war-torn Afghanistan.

Staff from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited the detention centre at Pagani, built to hold between 250 and 300 people, earlier this week, according to the agency’s spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.

“They were shocked at the conditions in the facility, where more than 850 people are held, including 200 unaccompanied children, mostly from Afghanistan,” he told told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

UNHCR staff described the condition of the centre as “unacceptable,” he stated, adding that one room houses over 150 women and 50 babies, many suffering from illness related to the cramped and unsanitary conditions of the centre.

UNHCR said it had received assurances from the the Greek government that all the unaccompanied children at Pagani will be transferred to special reception facilities by the end of the month, and some measures have already been taken to improve conditions at the centre.

But Mahecic noted the situation in Pagani is “indicative of broader problems relating to irregular migration and Greece’s asylum system,” especially its treatment of unaccompanied children, which UNHCR has been trying to assist with.

While nearly 2,700 unaccompanied children are known to have arrived in the country last year, many more are believed to have entered undetected, UNHCR noted.

“Greece has no process for assessing the individual needs and best interests of these children,” said Mahecic.

“While the government has made efforts to increase the number of places for children at specialized, open centres, arrivals outstrip these efforts and children remain in detention for long periods.”

The agency is involved in a project aimed at improving reception facilities on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesvos and at the Evros land border, he added.

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

Italy: Indian Gang Arrested Over Passport Forgery

Rome, 28 August (AKI) — Italian police have arrested five Indian citizens in Rome suspected of earning hundreds of thousands of euros through a passport scam. The five are accused of fraudulently obtaining new passports from the Indian embassy in Rome and selling them to hundreds of Indian illegal immigrants.

The men, aged between 30 and 50, have been charged with forgery and abetting illegal immigration.

The gang allegedly counterfeited fake police reports in relation to what they claimed were ‘stolen passports’ and then applied for new passports issued by the Indian embassy.

The new passports were sold by the gang for between 100 and 300 euros each, according to investigators.

Police said the new passports, issued without the previous visas, gave the bearer the opportunity to obtain a longer permit of stay and to take advantage of a new government amnesty for illegal immigrants working as domestic workers.

From 1 September, Italian households can apply to legalise such workers on payment of a 500 euro fine, provided the home help has worked for the employer for at least three months since 30 March.

The latest arrests followed an eight-month criminal probe dubbed ‘Punjab’. Three of the men had previously been served with expulsion orders.

The five suspected gang members, who lived and operated in the Rome suburbs of Torpignattara and Centocelle, were making around 100,000 euros a month each from the scam, according to investigators.

The fraudulent reports of stolen passports and fake passport application forms were allegedly counterfeited by a printer whose Italian owner is accused of abetting the gang. He denies any wrongdoing.

There are around 25,000 to 30,000 Indians living in the province of Rome.

Most are employed as domestic workers and labourers, mainly in agriculture.

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

Maroni: We Will Continue to Send Them Back

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, AUGUST 31 — Italy’s Interior minister, Roberto Maroni, who this morning signed an agreement on the regularisation of domestic helps, has guaranteed that immigrants arriving on boats from Libya will continue to be sent back. Maroni has asked the press to use caution when revealing the origin of the immigrants. “The High Commissioner has its headquarters in Libya” Maroni explained “and the last time immigrants were sent back they were in international waters. I don’t know who has spread the news that those immigrants were from the Horn of Africa. The press should use care when spreading this news because, as was the case with the boat carrying 75 illegal immigrants a few weeks ago, the press wrote that they were Kurdish and Iraqi refugees. It turned out however that they were all Egyptians, they have all been sent back to their country of origin”. Maroni then underlined that sending back migrants to Libya “is part of a protocol signed by a previous government when Giuliano Amato was the Interior minister”. The home secretary explained that last year — between May 1 and August 31 — 14,000 illegal immigrants entered Italy, against 1,300 in the same period this year: “the system of sending them back is working and wéll continue”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: One Out of Every Five Killers is an Immigrant

Up to a fifth of killers in England and Wales are foreign, police figures suggest. Out of 371 individuals accused or convicted of murder or manslaughter last year, 79 were from abroad — more than 21 per cent.

Foreign immigrants make up only around a tenth of the UK population, meaning they are statistically twice as likely as native Britons to be charged with or found guilty of an illegal killing.

In London, almost 40 per cent of those in such cases in the past year were from overseas, or of unknown origin.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Historical Facts About the Dangers (And Failures) Of Vaccines

(NaturalNews) Vaccines are the quackery of modern medicine. Mass vaccination programs not only fail to protect the population from infectious disease, they actually accelerate the spread of disease in many cases.

Many website have cropped up over the last few years to counter the pro-vaccine propaganda put out by drug companies (who profit from vaccines) and health regulators (who serve the drug companies). One of those sites is , which lists the following historical facts about vaccines:

• In the USA in 1960, two virologists discovered that both polio vaccines were contaminated with the SV 40 virus which causes cancer in animals as well as changes in human cell tissue cultures. Millions of children had been injected with these vaccines. (Med Jnl of Australia 17/3/1973 p555)

• In 1871-2, England, with 98% of the population aged between 2 and 50 vaccinated against smallpox, it experienced its worst ever smallpox outbreak with 45,000 deaths. During the same period in Germany, with a vaccination rate of 96%, there were over 125,000 deaths from smallpox. (

• In Germany, compulsory mass vaccination against diphtheria commenced in 1940 and by 1945 diphtheria cases were up from 40,000 to 250,000. (Don’t Get Stuck, Hannah Allen)

• In 1967, Ghana was declared measles free by the World Health Organisation after 96% of its population was vaccinated. In 1972, Ghana experienced one of its worst measles outbreaks with its highest ever mortality rate. (Dr H Albonico, MMR Vaccine Campaign in Switzerland, March 1990)

• In 1977, Dr Jonas Salk who developed the first polio vaccine, testified along with other scientists, that mass inoculation against polio was the cause of most polio cases throughout the USA since 1961. (Science 4/4/77 “Abstracts” )

• In the UK between 1970 and 1990, over 200,000 cases of whooping cough occurred in fully vaccinated children. (Community Disease Surveillance Centre, UK)

• In the 1970’s a tuberculosis vaccine trial in India involving 260,000 people revealed that more cases of TB occurred in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. (The Lancet 12/1/80 p73)

• In 1978, a survey of 30 States in the US revealed that more than half of the children who contracted measles had been adequately vaccinated. (The People’s Doctor, Dr R Mendelsohn)

• The February 1981 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 90% of obstetricians and 66% of pediatricians refused to take the rubella vaccine.

• In 1979, Sweden abandoned the whooping cough vaccine due to its ineffectiveness. Out of 5,140 cases in 1978, it was found that 84% had been vaccinated three times! (BMJ 283:696-697, 1981)

• In the USA, the cost of a single DPT shot had risen from 11 cents in 1982 to $11.40 in 1987. The manufacturers of the vaccine were putting aside $8 per shot to cover legal costs and damages they were paying out to parents of brain damaged children and children who died after vaccination. (The Vine, Issue 7, January 1994, Nambour, Qld)

[Return to headlines]

Unesco: Paris Will Not Declare Preference for Faruk Hosni

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 25 — The countdown has begun in the nominations for the new director general of Unesco, who will take over the post from Japan’s Koichiro Matsuura in November, and tensions have resurfaced over the candidacy of Egypt’s Culture Minister Faruk Hosni, who has the support of four countries (Egypt, Kuwai, Sudan and Libya), but who is opposed by several parties over his anti-semitic stance in certain matters, and his anti-Israeli declarations during the conflict in Gaza. Following harsh debate, Israel withdrew its veto, while several personalities, including winner of the Nobel Peace prize Elie Wiesel continue to strongly oppose his nomination. Paris will not express a preference, said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner today, in its role as host country for the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture. Cairo had said that France was supporting his candidacy, but the French Presidency subsequently declared its intention of observing ‘a benign neutrality”. The Executive Council (58 members representing 193 Unesco countries) will make its decision on the nine candidates during its session of September 7 to 23, in a secret ballot. The list of candidates includes former Algerian minister Mohammed Bedjaoui (nominated by Cambodia), Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Alexandre Iakovenko, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US Book on Mohammed Cartoons Stirs Frenzy

The cartoons that shocked the world will be discussed in great detail in a new book about the 2005 protests over Prophet Mohammed caricatures, but readers will have to use their imagination after Yale University Press refused to publish any of the 12 sketches over “security concerns.”

“There is a repeated pattern of violence when these cartoons have been republished,” University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said in an interview with Yale Daily News.The decision not to publish accompanying sketches in Jytte Klausen’s “The Cartoons That Shook the World” has drawn mixed reactions from Muslims, with prominent figures condemning the refusal as giving into censorship while others defended the author and the publisher for cultural sensitivity.

The 240-page book is due out in November, more than four years after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published offensive caricatures of the Muslim prophet sparked protests across the world and lead to almost 200 deaths.

A security riskYale University Press director John Donatich told the Boston Globe the university sought advice from security, counterterrorism and Islam specialists, who overwhelmingly agreed that publishing the cartoons could lead to life-threatening violence.

“The turning point for me was when I was able to see it less as an issue of censorship because we are not suppressing original material,’’ Donatich said. “We are just not reprinting what was available elsewhere. . . . At that point, it became a security issue and not a censorship issue.”

An “alarming” misinterpretationThe author, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, agreed to remove the pictures but has said that the matter had been “alarmingly” misinterpreted.

“I have a reputation as a fair and sympathetic observer,” Klausen told Yale Daily News. “There’s absolutely nothing anti-Muslim about my book.”

Klausen initially included the illustrations to help readers understand the story, but reluctantly agreed to pull them after Yale conveyed to her the expert opinions.

A perceived victory for extremistsEgyptian-American columnist Mona Eltahawy condemned in a Washington Post editorial Yale’s handling of the issue and noted that much of the violence did not start until four months after publication of the cartoons.

“Yale University Press has handed a victory to extremists. (…) I say this as a Muslim who supported the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s right to publish the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in late 2005 and as someone who also understands the offense taken at those cartoons by many Muslims, including my mother,” She said.

The violence was not “spontaneous but rather orchestrated by those with vested interests in elections in Denmark and Egypt and later by Islamic extremists seeking to destabilize governments.”

Islam scholar Reza Aslan, author of “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam,” went so far as to pull his jacket blurb praising the book.

“It wasn’t just the cartoons, it was a deliberate attempt by the newspaper in Denmark to provoke the Muslim minority in Denmark, to give them a sort of citizenship test. The cartoons were seen by two polarized camps as an argument as to whether, A, Europe is Islamophobic or, B, whether Muslims have any place in Europe,” Aslan told AFP.

“The reason the anger erupted was because of the racism embedded in the cartoons, their deliberate provocation of the Muslim community and the way the cartoons were manipulated to say that Europe is racist. That’s where the mistake lies here, to think that the cartoons in and of themselves have the power to create this global crisis,” he added.

Sheila Blair, a Boston College specialist on Islamic art and one of Yale’s consulted specialists was also against Yale’s decision to remove the caricatures. Blair argued that “omitting the historical art was reinforcing the mistaken notion that all Muslims object to depicting the Prophet, when some cultures have rich traditions of doing so.”

Old woundsBut Newsweek international editor and journalist Fareed Zakaria, who was also one of the specialists consulted by Yale, said in an AFP interview he was “certain that the publication of the book would provoke violence.”

In an interview with the Boston Globe Zakaria added that “to revisit the same issue, to pick at the same wounds” would give phony religious extremists an opportunity to start wars.

Zakaria argued it was better for the University “to weather a little controversy about whether it drew the line right than to deal with the consequences of their actions leading to 20, 40, 60 or more dead.”

U.N. under secretary general Ibrahim Gambari was also quoted by AFP saying: “You can count on violence if any illustration of the prophet is published. It will cause riots I predict from Indonesia to Nigeria.”

Klausen called Yale’s assessment misguided, saying “it reflected an incorrect assessment of the causes of the controversy in the first place, and also failed to take into account the context in which (she) was reprinting the page from the newspaper.”

However, the author told the Boston Globe, in the end, she would have made the same decision as Yale.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]