A watchdog has said it is powerless to stop a controversial Islamic preacher from broadcasting from a south Bucks (Buckinghamshire) village.
Sheikh Yasser al-Habib spent £2million buying a former evangelical church in Fulmer and turning it into a mosque which is also the base for his satellite TV channel Fardak TV. Now Ofcom has revealed it cannot stop the cleric’s broadcasts, which have been said to stir up conflict between al-Habib’s Shia sect and rival Sunni Muslims. Fardak TV is registered with Ofcom but its broadcasts cannot be controlled by it because they are shown abroad.
To paraphrase the first comment; the suthorities have always found the power to stop the pirate music stations that people enjoy, so what's their problem here?
The admiring story, about Taufiq Sharif, described as an "Essex lad from Chingford" who has spent the last two years in Syria, taking the side of the Just, as he has done before - he did, after all, participate in that anti-Israel Gaza flotilla, an example of righteousness -- and his 21-year-oldwife, an English convert to Islam whose maiden name is Hayden-Guest--and either she's from the lower depths, or the higher ones (in which case, what better way to epater papa than to marry a Muslim, convert to Islam, and end up standing by her Muslim man in Syria, helping uber-Sunnis?), can be found here. Some reading between the lines required.
Ségolène Royal has joined the cabinet that François Hollande just reshuffled. She will be the Minister for Ecology. It might work out. But I have been told, and do believe, that bedfellows make strange politics.
Good and Bad News for Reducing Heart Attack Deaths
Good and bad news often go together, for what is good news for some is bad for others. Shareholders in pharmaceutical companies that produce statins will have been heartened (no pun intended) by a paper in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine in which the authors calculated that, under the new guidelines of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association with regard to lipid levels in the blood, 12.8 million more adults in the United States alone would be “eligible” for (i.e. ought ideally to have) treatment with statins. In fact, very nearly half the population older than 40 ought to take them, and seven eighths of the population over 60. As a man over sixty who never has any blood tests done, my heart sinks (again no pun intended). We are all guilty of illness until proven healthy: not good news.
The authors compared the therapeutic consequences of the old guidelines with the new. In effect the new guidelines lowered the threshold for treatment. According to these guidelines, anyone over 40 with known cardiovascular disease should receive statins, irrespective of their level of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL); while anyone with a level of 70 milligrams per decilitre or more and who has diabetes or a statistical risk of a heart attack of more than 7.5 percent within the next ten years should also receive them.
Taking a rather small sample of adults over 40 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey whose blood lipids were measured and extrapolating it to the U.S. population as a whole, the authors conclude that, if the new guidelines were put into practice rather than the old, 14.4 million adults in the U.S. who would not have been “eligible” for treatment under the old guidelines would now be “eligible” for it, while 1.6 million who would have been “eligible” under the old guidelines would no longer be “eligible.”
The authors try to work out the annual health benefits if everyone took the tablets just as the doctor ordered (about as realistic a prospect as pure communism or a return to seventh century Arabia). They calculate that about 475,000 cardiovascular events – heart attacks and strokes – would be avoided, more than 90 percent of them among people of 60 years or more. In effect, a third of all the 40 – 60 year olds, some 25,000,000 people, in the United States would be taking statins in order to avoid fewer than 47,500 cardiovascular events annually.
In the real world, of course, compliance with statin treatment would be much less than perfect. Some studies suggest that a half of all those prescribed statins have stopped taking them by 12 months. The benefits of statin therapy under everyday conditions, then, are far less than those calculated as if we lived in a perfect world. It is not only political or economic theorists who are inclined to utopianism.
The authors discuss some of the limitations of their study. They concede, for example, that the sample by which they estimated the pattern of LDL distribution in the American population might not have been representative, and if it were not their calculations would be inaccurate. But there is one limitation they do not mention, and that is that there is a very marked secular trend in the numbers of “cardiovascular” events. In 1963, the age-adjusted annual death rates from cardiovascular disease in the United States were 805 per 100,000 of the population; in 1990, 413; in 2011, 236. The rate of deaths from heart attacks had gone down by more than three quarters. If this trend continues (but projections are not predictions), statins will become redundant, their supposed benefits nugatory.
Denmark has banned “ritual slaughter.” Why? Both Muslim and Jewish authorities had already accepted non-penetrating stunning prior to halal or kosher slaughter. There are no kosher slaughterhouses left in Denmark. But that’s not the issue. Agriculture Minister Dan Jørgensen justifies the ban, enacted on February 13th and effective on the 17th, on the grounds that “animal rights come before religious rights.” Similar bans have been imposed in Poland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and the Netherlands. What next? more>>>
In Teheran, how much thought is given to what happened to the Hazara when the Taliban was in control? How much thought to what might happen when the Americans leave, in areas where the Taliban takes control again? It is the Shi'a in Afghanistan -- the Hazara -- who most want the Americans to stay. When that is fully taken in in Teheran, perhaps that nuclear project will be less appealing, as long as the American government does not interfere with Iranian efforts to protect Shi'a in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan (or, as the Saudis and other Sunnis see it, to extend Shi'a power).
Memory can be painful, even extremely painful. The death on March 8, 2014 of 93-year-old Leo Bretholz has evoked memories of a still painful and controversial issue in wartime France. His small role in history and in current lawsuits in Maryland resulted from his action on November 5, 1942 when he leaped from a train carrying him and a thousand other Jews to Auschwitz. That train, number 42 of the convoys taking Jews on the journey to their death, was operated by the French railway company, the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF).
The facts are clear, but the context is still disputed. During the World War II years between March 27, 1942 and August 1944, the trains of SNCF transported 76,000 Jews in 74 convoys, mostly from the internment camp at Drancy, near Paris, to Nazi extermination camps. Many died on the trains because of the inhuman conditions, with no food, drink, or sanitary facilities. Only about 3,000 survived and returned to France.
It took some years before SNCF, now state owned, to acknowledge and apologize for its role in facilitating the Holocaust by deporting Jews, but it finally did so, first in Florida where the firm was bidding on a $2.6 billion high-speed rail project in the state. On November 4, 2010, the head of SNCF, Guillaume Pepy, expressed his “profound sorrow and regret” for the consequences of its actions during the war.
He was also remorseful in remarks on January 25, 2011 before an audience of deportees and members of the French Jewish community at Bobigny, a place from which 25,000 Jews were sent to their death. He admitted that SNCF had operated trains up to the German border, but explained it did so under Nazi duress. The company, he said, had acted in accordance with the program of the Nazi occupiers and French collaborators. He held that the composition of the trains, the choice of wagons, the times and routes, were all imposed by the Nazis. Pepy echoed the words of President Jacques Chirac that the criminal madness of the Nazi occupier was seconded, not by the whole nation, but by some French people and by the French State (Vichy).
Critics of SNCF have argued that it has a moral and legal obligation to pay reparations. SNCF has recognized its moral responsibility, and the head of SNCF did apologize. However, SNCF’s legal obligation and accountability are less clear, as has been shown in cases brought against SNCF in France and in the U.S. Two questions have arisen: was SNCF legally responsible for its transportations; and can it be sued in court, if it was a private not a state company, for compensation for harm inflicted on the deportees?
The first problem concerns reparations. When Mr. Bretholz and others brought a class-action lawsuit against it, SNCF refused, as it had done in previous cases, to make reparations to those affected by its deportations. The company claimed it had acted under coercion by Nazi Germany that controlled the northern half and then the whole of France. The question was, and remains, whether SNCF was forced to be a cog in the Nazi extermination machine or did it act to some extent on its own.
The second question is a technical one. In 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the ruling of a lower court that the issue of SNCF responsibility was outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. The SNCF argued that it is immune from legal action in the U.S. because of the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. This act imposed limits on suits against a foreign sovereign nation or its agents in U.S. courts. To overcome this restriction, the Holocaust Rail Justice Bill was introduced in U.S. Congress in 2013 to enable the courts to hear claims against a railroad, a separate legal entity, on the basis of deportations to Nazi death camps. So far that legislation providing for Holocaust victims to sue SNCF has stalled.
The issue came up again after the SNCF had won rail contracts in Virginia and Massachusetts, and was bidding for contracts in California and Florida. Keolis, a subsidiary of SNCF, then bid on a $6.5 billion contract to build a 16-mile light-rail network in Maryland, one of the biggest government contracts in the state’s history, and even one of the largest public-private arrangements of any transit project in the U.S. At this point, Holocaust survivors in Maryland opposed consideration of the Keolis bid until the company paid compensation to those who had been deported by its trains. The survivors argued that their taxes should not go to SNCF or its subsidiaries because SNCF had not paid reparations. The Maryland legislature introduced a bill in January 2014 to prevent the SNCF subsidiary from winning the contract until compensation was paid to the survivors.
The problem goes back to the French-German Armistice Agreement of June 1940 and later agreements. The SNCF would operate the railway network while Germany would supervise operations. Priorities, especially transportation demands, had to be consistent with the priorities set by German authorities. The legal question is whether these arrangements should be viewed as technical cooperation or collaboration?
Was SNCF was merely an instrument of the Nazi war machine or an independent agent? The company claims it was coerced rather than responsible for its actions.
However, the Bachelier Report of 1996 showed that not a single protest against the deportation of Jews ever came from the SNCF itself. Only one engineer refused to drive a deportation train: he was not punished, nor did he lose his job. The report did not agree with SNCF’s contention that it did not have any effective autonomy.
However, the issue is complicated by SNCFs relationship to the Vichy Government and with the Nazi Authorities. At first, SNCF merely consulted with Vichy government officials about transportation operations. But after November 1942, the SNCF was run directly by the Vichy Ministry of Transportation. Its autonomy in essence was reduced to daily management.
The Nazis set up a Transportation Division in Paris in July 1940 to supervise rail operations, but in August 1940 control of operations, except in coastal areas, was returned to France. Germans may have observed operations, but they did not run the trains.
German officials did not issue orders, except when absolutely necessary. When deportation of Jews began, Adolf Eichmann was the individual responsible overall. In these decisions Theodor Dannecker, a ranking SS man, was the representative of Eichmann in Paris. Yet it was SNCF that worked out the operational details, especially those concerning the Vel d’Hiv roundup of 13,000 Jews. The deportation convoys were formed and driven by French rail employees. The difficulty in judgment lies in ascertaining the degree of German supervision over the SNCF personnel.
In his testimony on June 26, 2012 to the Senate Committee of the Judiciary, Serge Klarsfeld, the distinguished and honorable hunter of those who had committed war crimes, said that the SNCF had never acted criminally but was obliged by German and Vichy authorities to cooperate regarding both military and civilian trains on French territory. He held, though others strongly disagree, that SNCF did not make a profit from the deportations of Jews.
The issue must be solved on the basis of justice. At present, negotiations appear to have begun between SNCF and the U.S. State Department about reparations to victims of deportations. France has already made some settlements on other issues. Some French banks agreed to reimburse those whose bank accounts had been seized during World War II, and French insurance companies agreed to honor life insurance policies that covered Holocaust victims.
It is now time for SNCF, even if one accepts it was not directly responsible for participation in the Holocaust, to make a fundamental gesture of reconciliation that will offer reparations to the victims and their families for the inhuman crimes in which it was willingly or unwillingly involved.
Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.
A woman has told a jury how she became pregnant after being raped at the age of 15 by an alleged Peterborough sex ring that preyed on vulnerable schoolgirls.The prosecution claims eight young white girls between 13 and 16 were groomed via Facebook before being plied with alcohol and raped.
They were said to be victims of a gang men controlled by alleged ringleader Yasir Ali, (28), who used the nicknames Mr Nice and Sketcher Pidox. Ali is now on trial with alleged gang members Daaim Ashraf, (19), Akash Yashin, (18), Mohammed Aslam, (24), and James Daly, (25).
Today one of their alleged victims told how she was aged 15 when Ali groomed her after they were introduced by one of her young friends in 2008 and persuaded her to meet him. The woman, now aged 21, said Ali took Aslam and Daly to pick her and a friend up and drove them to a car park.
There Ali got out of his car with Aslam - nicknamed Freddy - and the other girl and moved the seat forward to give Daly room with her in the back. She told Cambridge Crown Court Daly then raped her as Ali breakdanced and showed off to his friend and the second girl who were all laughing.
Speaking via video link, she said: “They all got out the car. . . “James asked if I wanted to have sex and I said no. . . I kept saying stop and trying to kick him away...He was holding my wrist above my head and I tried to slap him away. When I got out Pidox was not even bothered when I told him what James did to me. I said James had sex with me and I didn’t want it. He wasn’t bothered. He just carried on breakdancing.”
She said Ali then took her phone from her and threatened to tell her mum if she said anything.
The woman then described another occasion when Ali was violent to her. She said he pulled her to the floor, and called her names.
She said: “I was on the floor on the side. I tried to get up and he booted me. He got in his car and he was gone. It was so quick. Freddy told him to leave me alone, he said ‘she’s just a little girl.’They were talking in their own language, Asian.”
All five of the defendants deny all counts. The trial continues.
Fort Hood Deadly Shooting - First Press Conference
Watch Lt. Gen. Mark Milley III Corps Commander at Fort Hood, Texas issue a press summary and answer questions at this first Press Conference regarding today's tragic shooting at Fort Hood by a 34 year old enlisted man identified as Ivan Lopez who was undergoing behaviorial and mental health issues. The shooter took his own life after drawing his own weapon, a purchased 45 caliber Colt semi-automatic pistol after engaging a female Military Police officer. Three military personnel were also killed in the shootings by the perpetrator, 16 others others were wounded, some seriously. Gen. Milley noted that hidden weapons are barred under Army protocol from Fort Hood. The actions took place at a transportation battalion and adjacent medical facility. The shooter used a vehicle from the motor pool, alighting to fire at victims in the building. The devastating actions took place over a period of less than 15 minutes. As Gen. Milley said at the conclusion of this initial press conference, pray for the survivors and support the families of the victims, all of whom live on or near the vast military base in Killeen, Texas. When asked if today's tragic events may have triggered an "oh no, not again" reaction, he countered by saying that his first obligations was to secure the facility and attend to the casualties. Although he indicated that this was not a terrorism event, the matter of why the shooter, who had served four months in Iraq , had been recently transferred to Fort Hood was undergoing mental and behavorial evaluations. The shooter was allegedly in the process of being evaluated for possible PTSD. Gen. Milley indicated that there would be daily press briefings.