Monday, November 30, 2009

Police Release Sketch of Suspected Russian Train Bomber

MOSCOW — Police released a composite sketch Monday of a man thought to be involved in the bombing of a Moscow-to-St. Petersburg train that killed 26 people, and a railroad official suggested the attack had the hallmarks of terrorism by insurgents from volatile North Caucasus.

Authorities say Friday night's derailment of a train speeding from Moscow to St. Petersburg was caused by a bomb planted on the tracks. The blast gouged out a five-foot crater and sent the final three carriages of the 14-car Nevsky Express hurtling off the rails. A second explosive device partially detonated at the crash site Saturday as railway workers were clearing debris.

Terrorism has been a major concern in Russia since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, as Chechen rebels have clashed with government forces in two wars and Islamist separatists continue to target law enforcement officials.

A high-level official of the state-run railroad company official suggested militants from North Caucasus were likely behind the attack, citing the second explosion that he said was a hallmark of the insurgents.

"The second explosion, which occurred some time later, is the so-called double-blast method, which is carried out by North Caucasus sabotage groups," Alexander Bobreshov, a vice-president of Russian Railways, said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

More at Foxnews

Hezbollah vows to boost arsenal

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah group, has vowed to continue to build up its arsenal to protect the country against Israeli aggression.

"The ongoing Israeli threat forces the resistance to continue to boost its capacity ... in order to fulfil its role in liberating occupied territory," he said on Monday in a rare news conference to present Hezbollah's new political manifesto.

"The Israeli threat ... calls for Lebanon to have a defence strategy built on the presence of a popular resistance that helps to defend the country against Israeli aggression and a national army that protects the country and its stability."

Nasrallah accused the US of being the world's leading exporter of terrorism and urged nations around the globe to stand up against such a threat.

"There is no question that American terrorism is the origin of all terrorism around the world," he said.

The US officially considers Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.

Nasrallah accused George Bush, the former US president, of having turned the US into a threat for the rest of the world.

"If a survey were to be held today, the United States would be the most hated nation in the world.

"Standing up to the US threat must be a worldwide effort," he added.

"This is a delicate and difficult task ... and one that will involve generations to come."

Hezbollah fought a fierce war with Israel in 2006 that destroyed much of southern Lebanon.

The party is the only faction which refused to disarm after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

It argues that its weapons are needed to protect the country against Israel, which withdrew its troops from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.

In presenting Hezbollah's 32-page political manifesto, Nasrallah ruled out any chance of ever recognising Israel and insisted on the right of the Palestinians to reclaim their homeland.

"We categorically reject any compromise with Israel or recognising its legitimacy," he said.

"This position is definitive, even if everyone recognises Israel."

He insisted that Hezbollah, which has been accused of acting as a state within a state, was keen on a united Lebanon that represents everyone.

"We want a Lebanon that is united through its land, its people, its state and institutions," Nasrallah said, rejecting any notion of the country being divided along confessional lines.

Hezbollah's first manifesto in 1985 called for the establishment of Islamic rule in Lebanon, but the party leadership has toned down its rhetoric in recent years as it gained political clout.

Nasrallah, 49, has headed Hezbollah since 1992 when his predecessor, Abbas Moussaoui, was killed in an Israeli helicopter raid. The party has participated in the Lebanese government since 2005.

Al Jazeera

British sailors in Iranian custody

Five Britons are being held in Iran after the Iranian navy seized their racing yacht, which may have strayed into the country's waters in the Gulf en route from Bahrain to Dubai, Britain's foreign ministry has said.

The yacht, owned by Sail Bahrain, was seized on November 25, a day before it was due to take part in the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race.

The foreign ministry in London said all the sailors were understood to be safe and well and their families have been informed.

The Dubai-Muscat 360-nautical mile (667km) race, which first took place in 1992, passes through the Gulf into the Indian Ocean, via the Strait of Hormuz, before arriving in Muscat, the capital of Oman.

David Miliband, the UK's foreign minister, said: "FCO [foreign ministry] officials immediately contacted the Iranian authorities in London and in Tehran on the evening of 25 November, both to seek clarification and to try and resolve the matter swiftly.

"Our ambassador in Tehran has raised the issue with the Iranian foreign ministry and we have discussed the matter with the Iranian embassy in London.

"I hope this issue will soon be resolved. We will remain in close touch with the Iranian authorities, as well as the families."

In March 2007 a group of 15 British sailors were seized by Iran while sailing in disputed waters.

They were released after about two weeks, but only after a tense diplomatic standoff between Iran and the UK.

Relations between Tehran and the West have deteriorated after the Islamic Republic announced on Sunday that it plans to build another 10 uranium enrichment plants.

Al Jazeera

Swiss brace for minaret backlash

In the cold night air, they gathered.

First in threes and fours, until it became a bigger group. They carried candles and their anger - upset that Switzerland had approved a vote to ban minarets, the prayer towers on top of mosques.

They first read about the demonstration on a website and decided to join. And as the night got colder, the numbers got bigger, 50, 60, all denouncing the surprise result.

One woman told me: "This speaks against religious freedom in our country".

The police kept a watchful eye.

The opinion polls thought there would be a narrow "no" vote. They called it wrong. Moments after the polls closed, the exit surveys were predicting a "yes". And they were right.

In front of the bright lights of the media centre, close to the parliament, the country's justice minister announced the will of the people had to be accepted. The constitution would be changed.

The small, slight, dark-haired figure of Eveline Widmet Schlumpf insisted this was not a vote against Islam, but a simple ban on minarets.

"The ban on construction of new minarets does have the effect of restricting the freedom to display the Muslim faith to the outside world by erecting a minaret," Schlumpf said.

"However, the freedom to profess one's faith in Islam and to practice the religion alone or in the community is not affected in any way."

Switzerland has 160 mosques and cultural centres. We know this because it was included in the referendum fact pack sent to voters. Only four have minarets.

The ban was promoted by the right-wing People's Party, which ran a controversial poster campaign to sway voters.

Their argument was that this was just the start for those who wanted an Islamic state in Switzerland. There was never any concrete evidence to back up the rhetoric.

Martin Baltisser is one of the party's senior officials. He's heard the claims that this was a racist campaign, bordering on Islamophobic.

"It wasn't racist. It was an opportunity to discuss people's genuine fears and it was a very good discussion."

The turnout was much higher than expected. As we stood outside the school, which was used as a polling station in one of Bern's suburbs, they even turned up an hour before it opened, so keen were they to cast their vote.

And like those putting together the opinion polls, all we spoke to insisted they opposed the ban.

The Swiss government will now introduce article 72, paragraph three into the Swiss constitution, banning the construction of minarets.

Opposition parties are talking of a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights. What was meant to be a short debate on the future of Islam, now has the potential to become a long-running open sore.

Muslim communities say the decision will spread deep concern and worry. The Swiss government and businesses are worried too - about whether this controversial but democratic ballot will provoke an international backlash.

Al Jazeera

Swiss minaret ban condemned by Vatican

The comment by a Vatican spokesman followed criticism from across Europe.

On Sunday voters in Switzerland voted yes to a referendum which bans the building of minarets on top of mosques used by the country's small Muslim minority.

He said it was a "negative" move because banning the construction of Muslim mosque towers amounts to "oppressing a religion".

He told France's RTL radio: "I hope that the Swiss will go back on this decision rather quickly."

Muslim groups in Switzerland and abroad condemned the vote as anti-Islamic.

In staunchly secular France, legislators are holding discussions that could lead to a ban on the burka - the face-covering Islamic veil.


Supervisors hand out construction freeze orders; patrol settlements

After handing out construction freeze orders to all West Bank council heads, the Civil Administration on Monday sent supervisors to patrol West Bank settlements and enforce the orders approved by the cabinet.

The supervisors carry different documents that are meant to help them determine whether any changes were made on the construction grounds.

They will also receive aerial shots taken last Friday, to help compare the existing land conditions with any changes made in the future. According to the directive, all construction work that began by last Friday and did not lay foundations, must be stopped.

Violation of the directive will prompt an immediate order to halt construction. If construction continues, work tools can be seized and enforcement forces can be called on scene. Violators may be charged and face up to two years in prison.

As of Monday, a few orders were handed out to seize construction in several locations; however no unusual incidents were reported.

Data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics confirms the claim that construction in the West Bank region was already at a low point prior to the cabinet's decision to freeze construction.

According to the data, 1,199 new construction projects began between January and September – a 27.6% decrease from last year's number.

Despite the nation-wide decline in construction, an increase was recorded in several areas such as Jerusalem, which recorded a 25% increase. The sharpest decline was recorded in the Tel Aviv area (39%), while the West Bank region came in second.

Meanwhile, controversy among cabinet ministers over the freeze order continued. Minister Silvan Shalom, who was out of the country during the cabinet vote on the construction freeze, said he did not know the vote was scheduled to take place – but would have voted against it.

"Freezing the construction is unnecessary, and will not bring Palestinians back to the negotiations table," Shalom said.

Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon called for the establishment of a governmental committee that will deal with the hardships facing West Bank residents under the new conditions.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday announced the recruitment of an additional 40 construction inspectors that will help the 14 currently employed inspectors enforce the temporary freeze.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan criticized Barak, saying "he is not so innocent; he has a political agenda."

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel filed a petition with the High Court of Justice to revoke the decision to halt construction, until a suitable governmental decision is made.

The petition, which was filed against Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Security Cabinet, claimed the construction freeze severely harms the basic rights of West Bank residents.

The petition further claimed that the decision was not rooted on defense considerations and therefore should be made by the government and not the cabinet.


Egypt's "moderate" mufti says Swiss minaret ban insults Muslims

Ali Gomaa is the statue-hatin', wife-beatin', Hizballah-supportin', Muhammad's-urine-drinkin' Mufti of Egypt, who some time ago denied reports that he had rejected the traditional Islamic death sentence for apostates.

The delirious Dinesh D'Souza has praised him as a "traditional Muslim" with whom American conservatives should cultivate an alliance.

And now Ali Gomaa's poor little feelings are hurt. "This not considered just an attack on freedom of beliefs, but also an attempt to insult the feelings of the Muslim community in and outside Switzerland."

"Egypt mufti says Swiss minaret ban insults Muslims," from AFP, November 29

CAIRO -- Egypt's Mufti Ali Gomaa denounced a vote to ban new minarets in Switzerland on Sunday as an "insult" to Muslims across the world, while calling on Muslims not to be provoked by the move.

A solid majority of Swiss voters chose in a referendum to ban the construction of new minarets, the towers attached to mosques from which the call to prayers is announced.

"This not considered just an attack on freedom of beliefs, but also an attempt to insult the feelings of the Muslim community in and outside Switzerland," Gomaa, the Egyptian government's official interpreter of Islamic law, told the state-run news agency MENA.

He encouraged Switzerland's 400,000-strong Muslim community to use "dialogue" and legal means to contest the ban, which he described as "provocative behaviour."

The rightist Swiss People's Party (SVP) -- Switzerland's biggest party -- had forced the referendum after collecting a mandatory 100,000 signatures from eligible voters within 18 months.

Gomaa also called on Muslims not to be affected "by this provocation," adding that Islam "considers humanity a single family."


With thanks to JihadWatch

Sale of Dubai property bonds frozen

Nakheel, Dubai's property developer and part of the heavily-indebted Dubai World conglomerate, has asked Nasdaq, a US stock exchange, to stop trading its bonds.

The bonds have been taken off the Dubai bourse, Nasdaq said on their website.

Markets in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had fallen 7.3 per cent by the end of trading on Monday after the Eid al-Adah holidays.

Some major securities, including the construction and banking shares, fell to almost the 10 per cent maximum allowed.

Dubai World, the emirate's investment arm, announced on Wednesday that it would seek a six-month freeze on debt repayments of almost $60 billion, prompting concerns about its economic health.

Al Jazeera's Dan Nolan, reporting from Dubai, said: "It has been a bad day here. The main bourse dropped 5.6 per cent instantly.

"Analysts said before they opened that anything more than a three per cent drop would be a disaster.

"But others are pleased that it is not the full 10 per cent drop, which was certainly possible.

"Selling orders are far outnumbering buying orders and that is of great concern.

"It is certainly worrying signs at the stock market.

"There are concerns that there will be another large decrease on the stock market tomorrow. But hopes are that it will increase next week."

Shares in the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, another of the UAE's seven emirates, dropped by 7.4 per cent early on Monday, due to Dubai's debt crisis.

Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the UAE, said on Sunday that would shore up Dubai's finances on a case-by-case basis, while the UAE said that it would offer emergency support to the region's banks.

Abu Dhabi has already provided $15 billion in assistance to Dubai this year.

Nakheel said that it wanted to halt trading in its three Islamic bonds, or sukuk, until it can provide the market with a complete picture of its restructuring plans.

The bonds are worth $5.25 billion.

Asian markets rose on Monday between 1.7 and 2.7 per cent on average, with bank and construction shares, big losers last week, leading the turnaround.

Global stock markets had taken a nosedive last Friday, triggered by news of Dubai's request for a debt repayment freeze.

However, Monday's tentative recovery came as investors' nerves steadied on hopes that the fallout from a potential default will be limited.

Francis Lun, general manager of Fullbright Securities in Hong Kong, told Al Jazeera: "A lot of Chinese companies are major contractors in the Middle East.

"Now that a crisis has hit Dubai World, I think that many of these construction companies will have to wind up their operations in the Middle East. So it will be a big hit for them."

Al Jazeera

Somali pirates hijack oil tanker

Somali pirates have seized an oil tanker, with 28 crew members on board, in the waters around East Africa.

Officials on Monday confirmed the hijacking of the Greek-owned Maran Centaurus, which was carrying crude oil from Saudi Arabia to the United States.

Commander John Harbour, a spokesman for the EU naval force patrolling the region, said on Monday that the 300,000-tonne ship had been hijacked the previous day off the coast of Somalia.

The ships 28-member crew is thought to consist of 16 Filipinos, nine Greeks, two Ukrainians and one Romanian.

Officials could not immediately say how many barrels of oil were on board, but its value would be in the millions of dollars.

Although pirates have successfully hijacked dozens of vessels in the last several years, Sunday's attack appears to be only the second ever on an oil tanker.

"This is a jackpot to the pirates," Andrew Mwangura, from the East African Seafarers Assistance organisation in Nairobi, told Al Jazeera.

In November 2008, pirates hijacked the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, which held two million barrels of oil valued at about $100m.

The tanker was released last January for a reported $3m ransom.

Piracy in the region has increased despite the ramping up of international navies patrolling the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

Al Jazeera

Iraq Threatens to Cut Off Economic Ties with Syria

The Iraqis have added another threat to Syria, on top of trying to establish a U.N. tribunal to prosecute those in Syria facilitating the violence, and thus exposing the Assad regime’s involvement.

Iraq now says that they will end their economic ties with Syria if it does not stop providing insurgents with safe passage and extradite Baathist insurgents involved in the horrific bombings in Baghdad since August.

The Iraqis are handing the confessions of three captured terrorists involved in the October bombings in Baghdad to the U.N. as part of their effort to have a tribunal created and expose Syria.

To better understand Syria’s complicity in radical Islamic terrorism, check out Barry Rubin’s article in Middle East Quarterly, which I might add, mentions yours truly.

World Threats


“What should we make of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who apparently killed 13 innocent people at Fort Hood?” asks Thomas Friedman. He’s a New York Times columnist, so he takes a while longer than most of us to work things out:

Here’s my take: Major Hasan may have been mentally unbalanced — I assume anyone who shoots up innocent people is.

But the more you read about his support for Muslim suicide bombers, about how he showed up at a public-health seminar with a PowerPoint presentation titled “Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam,” and about his contacts with Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric famous for using the Web to support jihadist violence against America — the more it seems that Major Hasan was just another angry jihadist spurred to action by “The Narrative.”

By “The Narrative”, Friedman means the general anti-Western, anti-democratic sentiment clung to throughout the Arab-Muslim world:

This narrative suits Arab governments. It allows them to deflect onto America all of their people’s grievances over why their countries are falling behind. And it suits Al Qaeda, which doesn’t need much organization anymore — just push out The Narrative over the Web and satellite TV, let it heat up humiliated, frustrated or socially alienated Muslim males, and one or two will open fire on their own. See: Major Hasan.

So much for the “pre-traumatic shock” theory and other Islam-dodging excuses offered in the wake of Hasan’s slaughter. At the NYT, it takes nearly an entire month for a fellow’s blindingly obvious motives to become clear. Fog lifted, Friedman ends with a request that Barack Obama deliver this speech to an Islamic audience:

Why is it that a million Muslims will pour into the streets to protest Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but not one will take to the streets to protest Muslim suicide bombers who blow up other Muslims, real people, created in the image of God? You need to explain that to us — and to yourselves.

The first of 688 reader responses to Friedman’s piece: “Pretty ironic that Tom Friedman would complain about The Narrative in a paper that is guilty as any other for promoting it.”

Tim Blair

'Honor killings' in USA raise concerns

Muslim immigrant men have been accused of six "honor killings" in the United States in the past two years, prompting concerns that the Muslim community and police need to do more to stop such crimes.

"There is broad support and acceptance of this idea in Islam, and we're going to see it more and more in the United States," says Robert Spencer, who has trained FBI and military authorities on Islam and founded Jihad Watch, which monitors radical Islam.

Honor killings are generally defined as murders of women by relatives who claim the victim brought shame to the family.

Thousands of such killings have occurred in Muslim countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Palestinian territories, according to the World Health Organization.

Some clerics and even lawmakers in these countries have said families have the right to commit honor killings as a way of maintaining values, according to an analysis by Yotam Feldner in the journal Middle East Quarterly.

In the USA, police allege the latest "honor killing" was that of Noor Almaleki, 20, who died Nov. 2 after she and her boyfriend's mother were run over in a Peoria, Ariz., parking lot. Prosecutors charged Almaleki's father, Faleh Almaleki, with murder, saying the Iraqi immigrant was upset that his daughter rejected a husband she married in Iraq and moved in with an American.

"By his own admission, this was an intentional act, and the reason was that his daughter had brought shame on him and his family," says Maricopa County prosecutor Stephanie Low, according to The Arizona Republic.

Many Muslim leaders in the USA say that Islam does not promote honor killings and that the practice stems from sexism and tribal behavior that predates the religion.

"You're always going to get problems with chauvinism and suppressing vulnerable populations and gender discrimination," says Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Not all agree. Zuhdi Jasser says some Muslim communities have failed to spell out how Islam deals with issues that can lead to violence.

"How should young adult women be treated who want to assimilate more than their parents want them to assimilate?" asks Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which advocates a separation of mosque and state. "How does an imam treat a woman who comes in and says she wants a divorce ... or how to deal with your daughter that got pregnant, and she's in high school?"

Phyllis Chesler, who wrote about honor killings in her book Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, says police need to focus on the crimes' co-conspirators if they wish to reverse the trend. Before 2008, there were six honor killings in the USA in the previous 18 years, according to her research.

"It's usually the father, brother or first male cousin who is charged with the actual shooting or stabbing, (but not) the mother who lures the girl home," Chesler says. "The religion has failed to address this as a problem and failed to seriously work to abolish it as un-Islamic."

Jasser says his community needs to address how to treat young women who want to assimilate. "Until we have women's liberation ... we're going to see these things increase."


European Right: Let's all ban minarets

Various responses to the Swiss decision to ban minarets.

"Switzerland is sending us a clear signal: yes to church towers, no to minarets," says Italian minister Roberto Calderoli of Lega Nord. "In the popular referendum the Swiss balanced respect for freedom of religion with the need to stop the politics and propaganda linked to Islam."

Riccardo De Corato of the PdL party says that the minaret ban should be a lesson for Italy's Left.

Geert Wilders congratulated Switzerland and said: What is possible in Switzerland should be possible here too." He says his party will call on the cabinet to make such a referendum possible in the Netherlands, and if not, the PVV will propose such a law.

Filip Dewinter of the Belgian Vlaams Belang says: Just like Wilhelm Tell, the Swiss are a symbol for the resistance of many Europeans against foreign domination. The Islam, with its minarets and mosques, doesn't belong in Europe.

"Common sense has again gained on politically correct thinking. Despite decades of multicultural indoctrination the tenability of the Swiss hasn't been broken yet (..) Islam indeed doesn't belong in Europe. In contrast to the political authorities which embrace Islam and collaborate with it, a majority of Europeans wants to call a sound stop to the advancing Islam."

He will propose a bill in the Flemish parliament to stop the building of mosques and minarets in Flanders.

Head of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) Kenan Kolat told Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung that the decision was "very regrettable," adding that basic rights such as religious freedom should not be allowed to come to popular vote.

"A minaret belongs to a mosque," Kolat said.

But Wolfgang Bosbach, a conservative Christian Democrat heading the parliamentary committee on interior policy, said that the vote should be taken seriously. He told daily Hamburger Abendblatt on Monday that the vote reflects a widely held fear of Islam within German society – though he said German laws provided enough solutions for practical decisions about minaret construction.

"But there are spectacular plans for large structures, such as in Cologne's Ehrenfeld district or in Duisburg-Marxloh, for which there is a lot of resistance simply because of the size," he told the paper.

Bosbach added that is "possible that some of these large buildings were planned to signal how strong Islam has become in Germany."

Pia Kjærsgaard of the Danish People's Party proposed in parliament to bring up the issue as a popular referendum. A third of the parliament members can decide to send a bill to a decision by popular referendum.

Karsten Lauritzen of the Liberal Party rejects the idea: "We don't legislate in parliament on particular buildings. And then there are some who will think it's limiting freedom of religion. I don't say that it is, but that it's an element in the issue." Lauritzen also said that this isn't an issue for a popular referendum. Denmark has a democracy with politician to make decision and if the people are unsatisfied with the decisions, they can vote for different politicians.

Sweden has criticised the outcome of a Swiss referendum approving the ban of minarets in the country. Speaking to Swedish Radio news, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called the vote an evidence of prejudices among the Swiss population.

The clear no to the building of further minarets in Switzerland could indicate some kind of fear towards Muslims, Bildt added. But the vote is likely to send negative signals on all levels, the Foreign Minister predicted.

Sources: Aftenbladet (Norwegian); SR, The Local (English); Berlingske (Danish); AD, HLN (Dutch)

UAE central bank readies liquidity facility for second-largest Arab economy

The UAE central bank intervened yesterday, setting up an emergency liquidity facility for lenders in the second-largest Arab economy. Its move was designed to head off a run on local banks when they re-open today after a four-day holiday.

The rulers of Abu Dhabi are expected to make a statement before the markets open on whether they will bail out Dubai and which businesses and projects will be rescued. Such a statement would be a key test of financial stability in the region.

Senior analysts in the region expect that projects regarded as folly will not be backed but operations and investments with a strong business model will be. Restructuring of the debts on those had already been started by investment bankers at Rothschild and accountants at Deloitte.

KPMG is expected to be confirmed this week as lead adviser to the biggest creditors to Dubai World, including British banks. Western banks welcomed the UAE central bank action but analysts called it “a holding tactic”.

The central bank said that it “stands behind local and foreign banks operating in the country”. Peter Sands, the chief executive of Standard Chartered, which has lent about $US8bn to Dubai, said: “The central bank has acted decisively and pragmatically. Their support for the banking system will underpin consumer and market confidence in the economy.”

Raj Madha, a banking analyst at EFG Hermes, an investment bank based in Egypt, said that further measures were required. He said that the facility “may be enough to stop any liquidity drain gaining momentum tomorrow, but they need to clarify the long-term health of the banking sector by a guarantee of loans or by offering to buy up exposure.”

Last night, the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, its much richer sister emirate, were locked in fraught talks about the terms of a potential rescue.

The UAE central bank is advised by Oliver Wyman, the management consultancy, and has held talks with the office of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the multibillionaire whose investment fund owns Manchester City Football Club.

Today will mark the first key test of whether Dubai will default on its estimated $US88bn debt pile, when interest payments of about $US138 million become due on a $US2bn bond issue by Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority, a unit of Dubai World.

Abu Dhabi, which sits on one-tenth of the world’s oil reserves, has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at $US700bn. It can afford to bail out Dubai but is thought to be driving a tough deal, possibly demanding control of key assets, such as Emirates Airline.

Projects begun but not completed include the $US20bn Dubai Land, 3bn sq ft of theme parks, shopping centres, hotels and residential properties due to be completed in 2018; the $US15bn Dubai Festival City, a 1300-acre complex of schools, hotels, offices and leisure facilities to be completed in 2020; and The Lagoons, a $US17.7bn development of seven islands, to be completed next year.

In a related development, Dubai censors scrambled to stop The Sunday Times reaching news stands yesterday. SAB Media, the Dubai licensee, was told the paper was blocked from distribution. No reason was given but the recall was probably prompted by an illustration of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum swept away in a wave of debt. In Dubai, it is illegal to produce a derogatory image of the ruler or to deface his picture.

The Australian

Dutch goverment should be very ashamed.

The Dutch government has so much to be ashamed of in the events described herein.

I have been aware of it since I first read about it on Klein Verzet (The Little Resistance) some time ago. Perhaps two years or more. Where to begin? I would say with the murder of Theo van Gogh, an event which was profoundly hurtful to a good size segment of the Dutch population, perhaps a segment that until then had been unaware of Islam and its true nature.

One man, a Rotterdam artist, Chris Ripke, (who's studio is right next door to the Mosque in the Insulindestraat [the Turkish Iskender Pasa Camii Mosque) decided to do a fairly innocuous protest. He went to Rotterdam, and painted a small mural of an Angel, some Koranic text about peace at the bottom, and the words:" Though Shalt Not Kill" in Dutch across the mural.

A man representing the nearby mosque was of course, offended by the Christian sentiment on the mural and called the city and demanded it be removed. In point form, the city obliged and perhaps most horrifying of all, the police told all media present for the removal of the mural they may not film it and had their film taken away in keeping with the Dutch police of 'non-escalation'. A few days ago, someone sent me a link to a video on youtube of this whole event. Apparently someone decided not to comply with the police request thankfully, and a group of us worked hard to translate and subtitle this as we feel as many people as humanly possible need to see this and understand its importance. Although this event is old, the presence of this tape is new to me and almost certainly new to the English speaking world. Here is the English subtitled video:

Please pass this link around to anyone who cares about freedom of the press, freedom from Government interference in what we may or may not know, and freedom from what is referred to in s video as 'The Political Police" something I bet very few Dutch people even know exist but clearly have a massive impact on what they may or may not know that takes place within their own nation and cities.

Here is a link to the Klein Verzet story on this. Below, a segment of it:

From Klein Verzet:

What a difference a few years make. When we started this blog, the Dutch had a reputation comparable to the Danes. But now it seems that the Netherlands has joined the madness of the UK, France, Sweden and Norway, in their mad dash to destroy the spirit of the native people, for diversity's sake. Or, as Mark Steyn puts it:

In the Netherlands even the most innocuous statement can get you into trouble. To express his disgust at Theo van Gogh's murder, the artist Chris Ripke put up a mural outside his studio showing an angel and the words "Thou shalt not kill". But the cops thought this was somehow a dig at the local mosque and so came round, destroyed the mural, arrested the TV news crew filming it, and wiped their tape. The Dutch have determined to commit societal euthanasia, and dislike fellows pointing out it might not be as painless as they've assumed.

The staggering injustice of all of this is nicely put into words by Bruce Bawer, in a piece he concluded with these words:

In Dutch Muslim schools and mosques, incendiary rhetoric about the Netherlands, America, Jews, gays, democracy, and sexual equality is routine; a generation of Dutch Muslims are being brought up with toxic attitudes toward the society in which they live. And no one is ever prosecuted for any of this. Instead, a court in the Netherlands—a nation once famous for being an oasis of free speech—has now decided to prosecute a member of the national legislature for speaking his mind. By doing so, it proves exactly what Wilders has argued all along: that fear and “sensitivity” to a religion of submission are destroying Dutch freedom.

Well worth going over to Mark Steyn's article on it as well:

There is an interview with the man who was arrested. I hope to add that transcript in English to the rest of this post as well very soon. In the meantime, I am going to have to ask myself as a Canadian,

What is it I am not allowed to hear or know?

How is whatever law is being used to isolate me from reality being selectively enforced as Mark Steyn so clearly points out in his article related to this? Here is the original youtube link with more information on this incident and links to other interviews and information. This may not be spectacularly violent or sexy as fascist expose's go. But that is what makes this so important. We must familiarize ourselves with this and humiliate the Dutch government and thereby all western governments that would make it impossible for their own people to make healthy decisions for themselves by effectively blinding and deafening them. While the cop may not have been wearing jackboots, at least that would have gotten some people upset. With the Dutch policy of non-escalation, no one can know enough to be upset. But after all, isn't that is what 'non-escalation' means?

Huge thanks to V.H. for the amazingly fast and excellent work on the translation, and to a flu ridden Baron over at the gates who despite being bed ridden with the rotten flu that is going around, edited the work before I subtitled it. This gives some idea of the importance many of us feel this has. It also is an amazingly rare exception to the Frank Zappa rule of getting work done. 1. Good 2. Fast 3. Cheap. Pick any 2.

Typically this is really true. However our team did everything well fast and free. Thank you again guys and of course to Klein Verzet for sending me the links and to A Certain Amount of Evil for sending me the original Dutch video in the first place a few days ago. Something I did not know existed. But something that by coincidence, did come up in a recent interview a few weeks ago, between The International Free Speech Society and Morten Meserschmidt

Report: Turkish military had plan to terrorize, eliminate remaining Christians

Islamic Tolerance Alert from Modern, Moderate Turkey -- and another demonstration of how unsuited the country is to enter the European Union. Letting them in would not encourage change; it would only reward their refusal to change. "Turkish Military Planned Attacks on Christians," from the Assyrian International News Agency

Senior Turkish military officers had made extensive plans to terrorize non-Muslims in Turkey. In the large Ergenekon1 scandal recently a well-planned terrorist operation was revealed. The operation which is called "Kafes Operasyonu Eylem Plani", in English meaning "the execution of the cage - operation" was to eliminate the remaining small group of Christians living in Turkey today.

The plan was revealed when police arrested Levent Bektas, a major in the Turkish army. The evidence seized reveals more than 27 officers and senior military officers involved in the conspiracy against Christians.
In order to identify key persons among the Christians and then kill them, this terrorist network has broken into a Greek church congregation compound and stolen computers. The purpose of this was to access the congregation's member lists.
"When our office was emptied of computers and files, church members were very concerned. Since the murder of the monk Santoro, the journalist Hrant Dink and the brutal murder of three publishing workers in Malatya, Christians are living in constant fear," said lawyer Kezban Hatemi, representing the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul.
On November 28, 2007, the Syriac Orthodox monk Daniel Savci in Turabdin was kidnapped in southeastern Turkey. The monk resides in the St. Gabriel monastery, which Turkish authorities are trying to confiscate. A few days later the monk was found beaten. Shortly after, the police arrested some village guards, a state-sanctioned militia subordinate to the Turkish army, for the kidnapping. Many people with insight into the situation interpret the kidnapping as a direct threat to the remaining Assyrians in Turabdin.
Christians were attacked across the country. To implement the strategic attacks, the country"s Christian population was mapped out and 939 key persons from different parts of the country were identified as potential targets.
The fully detailed operation consists of four phases: preparation, spreading propaganda, shape opinion and execute.
The newspaper Taraf, which has been able to access the information, has published several articles about this. On its website it is described in detail how the plan to attack the Christians was to be implemented.
Below are some points that constitute the plan"s main lines.
* Christians are mapped
* Famous and wealthy Christian businessmen kidnapped
* Systematic fires and looting of Christian businesses
* The Armenian newspaper AGOS be subjected to several explosions
* Murder patrols executing attacks against selected individuals
* Christian cemeteries subjected to explosions
* Churches and institutions belonging to Christians subjected to explosions
* Put the blame on imaginary militant organizations

Read it all.

With thanks to JihadWatch

Iran nuclear endgame is near

WE are now moving into the endgame of Iran's decade-long drive to acquire the hardware and technology to build a nuclear bomb.

What happens next could determine whether Iran becomes a nuclear-armed state, whether the region is plunged into another war, or whether Iran and the Arab world embark on a nuclear arms race.

Yesterday's announcement showed that President Ahmadinejad has once again calculated that attack is the best form of defence.

After being censured by the International Atomic Energy Agency last week, which referred Tehran to the UN Security Council, the Iranians have decided to call the bluff of the international community.

They believe that the world is unwilling or unable to take serious steps to prevent it from building its own uranium enrichment industry.

Enriched uranium can be used as nuclear fuel or, in its highly enriched form, provide the fissile material to build an atomic warhead.

Although regarded as a pariah in the West - particularly after the contested presidential election results this summer - Mr Ahmadinejad is still welcome in many capitals around the world, most recently Brasilia and Caracas.

The Iranian strategy is clear: defy the West, woo Moscow and Beijing, and build up support in the developing world. Iran has calculated that the Obama administration, which offered this year to end three decades of hostility, is distracted by its domestic problems and the war in Afghanistan.

Europe still fails to speak with one voice on this matter. As for the rest of the world, an increasing number of states believe that Iran will now build the bomb and is prepared to live with this fact.

However, it would be a huge miscalculation to believe that the problems will stop there.

Israel regards the issue as an existential threat and has warned that it is prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities - even if this means starting a new war in the Middle East.

The Arab states are caught in the middle. Many have decided that their best option is to start their own nuclear programs, as Egypt and the Gulf states are already doing. The crisis is likely to feed into the increasing tensions in the region between Sunni and Shia Muslims, who are already at odds in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and the Gulf states.

Further hostilities could break out with Iran, the main Shia power in the region, as it supports its brethren against the Arab states.The only move that could stop an escalation would be concerted action by the Security Council.

Iran's economy remains vulnerable to outside pressure; this is where American, British and other Western diplomats will hope to squeeze Tehran into backing down.

The Australian

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Middle East: Reporting an Enigma

By Alan Caruba
When President Obama delivers a speech on why he is going to send more thousands of U.S. troops and spend more billions on the eight-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, it would be a good idea to better understand why so much of what is reported from the Middle East suffers a great disconnect from the truth.

In 1998, Joris Luyendijk , a Dutch student who had studied Arabic at Cairo University for a year, was offered a job as a Middle East correspondent for a Dutch news agency despite having no experience as a reporter. What followed was his real education about the Middle East and the way it is presented to the West by the news media.

His book about that experience, “People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East” was initially published in the Netherlands in 2006 and has since then it has been translated and published in Hungary, Italy, Denmark and Germany. In October an English edition was published by Soft Skull Press, an imprint of Counterpoint, a Berkeley, California publisher.

Having begun my career as a journalist, I was interested to learn what Luyendijk had taken from his years hopping around the Middle East before and after 9/11 and during the two Iraq wars waged by the U.S. to resolve a problem called Saddam Hussein.

For anyone digesting the news from his morning newspaper or watching it on television, suspecting that it might be biased or wrong, this book that focuses on reporting from the Middle East is a revelation because Luyendijk strives mightily to expose the way the news is manipulated by all the parties involved.

Covering his experiences from 1998 to 2003, the author is refreshingly candid, admitting that, despite his student year in Cairo, he had little or no real understanding of Egypt or the rest of the Middle East.

There is, however, one thing that anyone can understand. The Middle East is composed of dictatorships and the sole purpose of each one is to survive. To do that, their people must be constantly indoctrinated and fearful. That is made possible by rendering them, individually and as a group, powerless. There simply is no such thing as justice or the opportunity to express an opinion in opposition to the leader.

Significantly, those living in the Middle East cannot make an informed judgment of what is occurring around them because they operate two points of view that are very real to them. First is a widely accepted sense of victimhood, and, second, they believe that Israel, ultimately, is manipulating the entire world!

Conversely, Americans who have no contact with the Middle East beyond the headlines and snapshots of bloodshed and warfare are comparably unable to make informed judgments about a people who differ among themselves in many ways.

The Middle East is very different from the West and Luyendijk believes that few in the West are even vaguely aware that those who live there live in a parallel universe; one that functions by the rules of ruthless dictatorships, by tribes, and by a religion that is hostile to all others.

Democracy is not likely to take root in the Middle East and this can be traced to the prevailing religion of the region, Islam. The only reason democracy occurred in Turkey is because the founder of the modern state, Ataturk, isolated Islam from the conduct of governance and that has been backed up by an army that has, thus far, ensured the separation.

Blair: 2-state solution or 'hell of a fight'

Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair portrayed Sunday a harsh picture of the region without a Palestinian state. "The alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution and that will, I assure you, be a hell of fight," he said in an interview to the CNN network.

According to Blair, the next month "will be completely critical and fundamental" in the efforts to resume direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The former British prime minister noted that it was essential for the sides to sit down and talk "as quickly as possible".

"I've just spent some time with the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu," Blair said, "and I think he is genuine and serious in wanting the negotiation to start."

He said he believed that "the majority of people, both Israelis and Palestinians, want to see a two-state solution." According to Blair, the Israelis want to know that their security is going to be protected, while the Palestinians want to know that the negotiations will really end the occupation and lead to a Palestinian state.

He added that he thinks "the Palestinians have made significant progress on security and the Israelis are prepared to change significantly their posture on the West Bank."

Blair, who served as British premier during the peace talks with Northern Ireland, which were led by US Senator George Mitchell, defended American President Barack Obama and his special Mideast envoy Mitchell, following a New York Times article accusing them of having no strategy.

"I have worked with Senator George Mitchell together very closely. He is, in my view, one of the most skilled and strategic negotiators I've ever come across… I think President Obama and Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton are completely committed to doing this… I went through situations in times in the Northern Ireland process where people were convinced that the thing was going to fail, where even at times I found it difficult to see a way through. But the thing is there is a way through here, because in fact both parties want to achieve a two-state solution."

More at YNet

Abused Afghan women opt for suicide

For many women trapped in abusive marriages in Afghanistan, death can seem like the only way out.

In the northwestern province of Herat, doctors this year have treated at least seventy women who attempted to take their own lives by setting themselves on fire.

More than 40 of them died, in what doctors describe as a lingering and painful process.

Al Jazeera's David Chater reports from Herat where he speaks to one woman who said she saw self-immolation as a means to escape a lifetime of abuse.

Al Jazeera

Holland Votes for EU To Label IRGC a “Terrorist Organization”

The Netherlands is stepping up to the plate. The Dutch parliament has voted in favor of adding the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps to the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations.

If the EU makes such a move, all IRGC assets on the continent can be frozen and it will be illegal for anyone to have financial transactions with any member of the group.

As the IRGC essentially controls the Iranian government now, this is tantamount to complete sanctions on the Iranian government.

World Threats

Yemen Changes Name of Iran Boulevard to Neda Soltan Street

Yemen has renamed Iran Boulevard, a street in its country, to Neda Soltan Street, named after the young female protestor who was shot and killed in June on videotape that quickly spread around the world.

Her name has since become a rallying cry for Iranian opposition activists of all kinds and human rights advocates around the world.

Yemen isn’t exactly a model for human rights, but they deserve applause for giving recognition to Neda and in so doing, giving the Iranian regime a much-needed slap.

This move by Yemen came after Iran named a street in Tehran after the founder of the extremist Houthi rebels currently fighting the Yemeni and Saudi governments.

World Threats

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