These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 28, 2011.
Thursday, 28 July 2011
More Sharia controlled zone propaganda
From The Daily Mail this time, the same idiot in a different street.
Islamic extremists have launched a poster campaign across the UK proclaiming areas where Sharia law enforcement zones have been set up. Communities have been bombarded with the posters, which read: ‘You are entering a Sharia-controlled zone – Islamic rules enforced.’
The bright yellow messages daubed on bus stops and street lamps have already been seen across certain boroughs in London and order that in the ‘zone’ there should be ‘no gambling’, ‘no music or concerts’, ‘no porn or prostitution’, ‘no drugs or smoking’ and ‘no alcohol’
In the past week, dozens of streets in the London boroughs of Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Newham have been targeted, raising fears that local residents may be intimidated or threatened for flouting ‘Islamic rules’.
Anjem Choudary has claimed responsibility for the scheme, saying he plans to flood specific Muslim and non-Muslim communities around the UK and ‘put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term’. ‘This will mean this is an area where the Muslim community will not tolerate drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, usury, free mixing between the sexes – the fruits if you like of Western civilisation. We want to run the area as a Sharia-controlled zone and really to put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term.’
Scotland Yard is now working with local councils to remove the posters and identify those responsible for putting them up.
Choudary said he was organising a protest against the Far Right in Waltham Forest this weekend following last Friday’s killing spree in Norway by anti-Islamic gunman Anders Breivik.
‘This will mean this is an area where the Muslim community will not tolerate drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, usury, free mixing between the sexes – the fruits if you like of Western civilisation.
‘We want to run the area as a Sharia-controlled zone and really to put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term. . . We are going to put the events in Oslo on the agenda. We are going to be marching and addressing this issue. It is a whole new scenario now. The Muslim community needs to be vigilant. There is an undercurrent against Islam".
Yesterday the leader of Waltham Forest Council, Chris Robbins, said: ‘As soon as we heard about these posters we worked over the weekend to take them all down. They went up two weeks ago; where have you been that you have only heard before this last weekend?
‘Since then we have been going through our CCTV images and working with the police to try to identify the culprits. Our policy is to use the full extent of our powers to prosecute any offenders.
‘People should not get the wrong idea about our borough because a handful of small-minded idiots, who do not live here, decide to deface our streets with ridiculous posters.’
I think you will find that Anjem Choudary and his side kick Abu Izadeen do live in Waltham Forest, as do the boys who frequent the Active Change Foundation. But keep believing the lies, they might behead you last.
Posted on 07/28/2011 1:43 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Austerity in the U.K.
In Britain, government spending is now so high, accounting for more than half of the economy, that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the private sector from the public. Many supposedly private companies are as dependent on government largesse as welfare recipients are, and much of the money with which the government pays them is borrowed. The nation’s budget deficit in 2010, in the wake of the financial crisis, was 10.4 percent of GDP, after being 12.5 percent in 2009; even before the crisis, the country had managed to balance its budget for only three years out of the previous 30.
Deficits are like smoking: difficult to give up. They can be cut only at the cost of genuine hardship, for many people will have become dependent upon them for their livelihood. Hence withdrawal symptoms are likely to be severe; and hardship is always politically hazardous to inflict, even when it is a necessary corrective to previous excess. This is what Britain faces.
For some politicians, running up deficits is not a problem but a benefit, since doing so creates a population permanently in thrall to them for the favors by which it lives. The politicians are thus like drug dealers, profiting from their clientele’s dependence, yet on a scale incomparably larger. The Swedish Social Democrats understood long ago that if more than half of the population became economically dependent on government, either directly or indirectly, no government of any party could easily change the arrangement. It was not a crude one-party system that the Social Democrats sought but a one-policy system, and they almost succeeded.
For countries that operate such a one-policy system, especially as badly as Britain does, economic reality is apt to administer nasty shocks from time to time, requiring action. When the new coalition government, led by David Cameron of the Conservatives and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, came into power last year, the economic situation was cataclysmic. The budget deficit was vast; the country had a large trade deficit; the population was among the most heavily indebted in the world; and the savings rate was nil. Room for maneuver was therefore extremely limited.
The previous years of fool’s gold—asset inflation brought by easy credit—had allowed the Labour government to expand public spending enormously without damaging apparent prosperity. Labour’s Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer from 1997 to 2007 and then prime minister for three years, boasted that he had found the elixir of growth: his boom, unlike all others in history, would not be followed by bust. During Brown’s years in office, however, three-quarters of Britain’s new employment was in the public sector, a fifth of it in the National Health Service alone. Educational and health-care spending skyrocketed. The economy of many areas of the country grew so dependent on public expenditure that they became like the Soviet Union with supermarkets.
Britain was living on borrowed money, consuming today what it would have to pay for tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the day after that; the national debt increased at a rate unmatched in peacetime; and when the music stopped, the state found itself holding unprecedented obligations, with no means of paying them. Without aggressive reforms, it was clear, Britain would soon have to default on its debt or debauch its currency. Both alternatives were fraught with dire consequences.
In the end, the new government chose to attack the deficit from both ends: by cutting spending and by increasing taxes. As many commentators noted, this approach risked a reduction of aggregate demand so great that short-term growth would be impossible and a prolonged recession, even depression, would be probable. Domestic demand would plummet, and export-led growth, many feared, would not be able to rescue the economy, for two reasons: first, Britain’s industry was so debilitated that its competitiveness in sophisticated markets could not be restored from one day to the next by, say, a favorable change in the exchange rate; and second, the country’s traditional export markets were experiencing difficulties of their own.
Continue reading here.
Posted on 07/28/2011 6:33 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Great Australians, Series II: Margaret Olley, Painter, 24 June 1923- 26 July 2011.
One of my favourite modern Australian painters, the marvellous Margaret Olley, has just died, in her own home in Sydney, aged 88. She will be honoured in a state memorial service at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Best known for her gorgeous, sensuous still-lifes and exquisitely-detailed domestic interiors, she also painted landscapes and portraits - and was the subject, herself, when in her youth, of a wonderful portrait by William Dobell which won the Archibald Prize in 1948. Having done well financially from her work, she was a generous patron to the NSW Art Gallery and an enthusiastic encourager and nurturer of younger artists.
She loved life and she loved painting, and she was hard at work living and painting - painting beauty, delighting in light - to the very end. Ben Quilty, who painted her in her grand old age - a portrait that won the Archibald Prize only this year - says of her: "She said to me, 'I'm like an old tree dying and setting forth flowers as fast as I can, while it still can".
Three reports from the ABC.
"One of Australia's most loved and enduring artists, Margaret Olley, has died in Sydney aged 88.
'Olley will be best remembered for her vibrant still-life paintings'.
I recommend particularly the still-life interior, 'Eucharist Lilies'. Google it. Heal your soul with the contemplation of pure beauty. - CM
'She showed scant regard for trends, instead fashioning her own elegant style. The majority of her work focused on subjects from her home.
'As well as being one of the most accomplished artists of her generation, Olley was also a perennial subject.
'A 1948 portrait of her by William Dobell won the Archibald Prize and she was also the subject of this year's winning portrait by Ben Quilty.
'The Lismore-born artist was also a generous arts donor. A trust was set up in her name to acquire works for the Art Gallery of New South Wales and she contributed to its purchase of Cezanne's 'Borde de la Marne' three years ago.
'It was not until she attended Brisbane boarding school Somerville House that she started to receive recognition for her painting and drawing talent.
'She attended Brisbane Technical College in 1941 after one of her high school teachers persuaded her parents that she should pursue her talent.
'Olley moved to Sydney a year later to study at East Sydney Technical College where she graduated in 1945 with A-class honours. It was also where she met fellow artist Margaret Cilento.
'She held friendships with many leading figures in the Australian art scene, including William Dobell, Donald Friend and Jeffrey Smart.
'Australian Galleries owner Stuart Purves represented Olley in several exhibitions and says she was a genuine icon.'
"I think if there's favourite daughters, you could say that Margaret Olley is absolutely Sydney's, if not Australia's favourite daughter", he said. "She was art through and through, from the tip of her head to the tip of her toes."
'Her first solo exhibition was held at Macquarie Galleries in 1948, the first of dozens to be held around the country. She also held exhibitions in Europe.
'Olley was awarded the inaugural Mosman Art Prize in 1947 and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1991. In 1996 she was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia.
'The dean of the Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney, Professor Colin Rhodes, described Olley's death as "the end of an era".
'Olley was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Visual Arts by the university in 2000.
'Professor Rhodes says Olley never lost her relevance and left an important legacy.
"She was the last of a generation of empowering figures in Australian art...Olley was a leader in that generation that brought home-grown Australian art to the rest of the world, but importantly to Australia itself..."
'When this year's Archibald Prize winner Ben Quilty asked her to model for a portrait she originally said no.
'Quilty is quoted by the Art Gallery of NSW as saying she was an "inspiration" and "a feminist ahead of her time".
'He said Olley was passionate about social and political issues, as well as art.
"She said to me: 'I'm like an old tree dying and setting forth flowers as fast as I can, while it still can'...."
'In an interview several years ago, Olley said she wanted to be remembered for helping people.
'How do I want to be remembered? I don't know, for helping people, I think. Giving is part of receiving and it's like a wheel that turns and it's part of life. So I like to give as well as receive. I like to give back".
'Two major retrospectives were held in Sydney during the 1990s...".
And now this:
'The art world is mourning the loss of iconic Australian painter Margaret Olley, who has been remembered as a generous, politically incorrect national treasure.
I observe however that nobody explains exactly what it was she did or said that was 'politically incorrect'...CM.
'The 88 year old renowned painter was working on a solo exhibition when she died in her home at Paddington..
'Olley held more than 90 solo exhibitions during her long career and was a pivotal figure in Australia's art scene. As well as being one of the most accomplished artists of her generation, she was twice the subject of a winning Archibald Prize - a 1948 portrait of her by William Dobell, and this year by Ben Quilty.
'Quilty says he is "devastated" at the loss of his friend and mentor.
"I just spoke to her last night. She was her normal, bright self", an emotional Quilty said. "I was going to see her tomorrow".
'Quilty says it was "the perfect way to end", for Olley. "She would have hated being attached to a machine in a hospital", Quilty said. "Instead, she was in her home, her haven, I can't imagine a better end to her life."
'He says Olley was a "modern, contemporary lady", tough and at times brutally honest, who just "wanted people to strive to be better".
"She was never fearful of death", he said. "It was never a topic she shied away from. It was physically obvious to her that this was something she was about to deal with and she dealt with it with such grace.
"In a recent interview, Olley joked about her death.
"I think now as the mon dieu comes I'll say, 'just one minute, I'm not ready yet. I've still got to do that painting - I'm not ready yet", she said...
'The director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford, says Olley was a favourite portrait subject for other Australian artists. "She had this fabulous face that never changed. It seemed to be the same face that she had since she was in her 20s", he said. "She never wore make-up, but she just always looked the same. She was full of character and just loved other artists.
'Australian Galleries owner Stuart Purves says the Dobell portrait was the beginning. "It made her and Dobell equally understood, loved and famous, from that day on," he said.
"Mr Radford affectionately described her as outspoken and painfully frank. "[She] wouldn't be at all reluctant to tell you or to take that work of art off display immediately", he said.
"She was marvellously frank to everybody and she wasn't scared to tell politicians, minister for the arts, prime ministers, how they should support them, the arts, and support the visual arts more than they did"...
'Olley was also known as a generous donor...
"Speaking several years ago, she said she wanted to be remembered for helping people. "The arts have been very generous to me, and why not put back what's given me pleasure", she said.'
'Prime Minister Julia Gillard has offered Australia's deepest sympathies to Olley's family and says Australia has lost a great artist and a true national treasure.
'Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says one of Olley's enduring legacies will be the way she inspired generations of young artists.
'In 2006 she was awarded Australia's highest civilian honour, the Companion of the Order, for services as one of Australia's most distinguished artists, for philanthropy to the arts, and for encouragement of young and emerging artists.
"It's such a great award. I'm overawed", Olley said at the time. "I thought just judges and just very important people got it. I'm not important. I just do what I want to do"...
And there's a lesson for the posers and self-promoters that infest 'the arts' in the modern West...
A little more here:
"Margaret Olley to get state memorial'
'Renowned Australian artist Margaret Olley will receive a state memorial service...
'Tributes have been flowing for Olley since her death at home in the inner-city suburb of Paddington on Tuesday morning.
'Last night her family accepted the offer of a memorial service at the Art Gallery of New South Wales...
'Olley's death has shocked (dear ABC, I would rethink the use of that word 'shocked'; she was, after all, 88, and knew very well, none better, that she was mortal - CM) and saddened the art world. She will be remembered fondly for her elaborate still-life paintings, her generosity to the arts, and her colourful personality.
If you read the last link I am supplying, you will discover that about half-way through her career she fought - and won - a battle with alcoholism, achieving victory with the help of Al-Anon. I suspect something of the life-giving energy that distinguished the rest of her career may be linked to the principles that Al-Anon seeks to instil in its 'graduates'. - CM
'The NSW gallery's director, Edmund Capon, says he visited Olley only five days ago, and she was her usual self, "smoking away and painting away".
'Mr Capon says she was "the most unforgettable person" he has ever met:
"She had a spirit like no other. And she was a painter - she didn't want to call herself an artist. She called herself a painter because there's something down to earth and robust about being a painter", he said. "The word artist has all kinds of pretensions, which of course she doesn't have and never had."
Now there's a thought for some of the younger generation in our school art classes and in the visual arts courses at our universities. They could do worse than contemplate the example of Margaret Olley - who shamelessly and unapologetically devoted her life to painting the beautiful and doing it to the very best of her ability.
To hear at more length from Olley herself on her life and her work, click on my final link to read the transcript of an ABC 'Talking Heads' program from November 2007:
Reading through those obituaries, and reflecting on those of her paintings that I have seen, I am reminded of this passage from David Bentley Hart's "the Beauty of the Infinite":
"Real art...in its true nature, by virtue of its intricacy, craft and splendid inutility, repeats the gesture of creation, its gratuity, its generosity, its character as gift; art proclaims a delight more original than simple function...Insofar as beauty can resist revaluation as commodity, to whatever degree it can remain a grammar of weight, quantity and glory, iti s a revolutionary force..".
Margaret Olley's lush still lifes and interiors, glowing with natural light (she refused to paint by electric light), do indeed display 'intricacy, craft, and splendid inutility'. And in a world in which, as Hart himself states, our galleries have more and more become 'congeries of the trite, the tedious, and the depressingly vile', Margaret Olley's paintings are revolutionary precisely because they are beautiful.
Thank you and God bless you, Margaret Olley. - CM
Posted on 07/28/2011 6:34 AM by Christina McIntosh
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Dubai Worries About Foreign (Arab) Influence
From The New York Times:
Welcome Mat Rolls Up as Dubai Tries to Stem Dissent
By ANGELA GIUFFRIDA
July 27, 2911
DUBAI — When Abdulaziz al Sager, a Saudi businessman and chairman of the Gulf Research Center, sought a Middle East headquarters for his organization in 2000, he settled on Dubai.
At the time, Dubai was well on its way to becoming a hub for business and tourism. The luxury Burj al Arab hotel had opened late the previous year, while plans for the Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree that cost $14 billion, and the construction of a third terminal at Dubai International Airport, were in the works.
As the commerce flowed, leaders of the United Arab Emirates looked toward developing Dubai’s cultural and academic institutions. The Dubai School of Government joined with Harvard’s School of Government to form the Dubai Initiative, a move aimed at supporting its development as a research center, as well as the establishment of an Abu Dhabi branch of Paris-Sorbonne University and New York University.
“Dubai presented itself to the world as a trade, tourism, business and services hub,” said Afshin Molavi, a senior research fellow at New America Foundation in Washington. “It has demonstrated indisputable success in all of those fields. Hub cities tend to attract traders, merchants, bankers, tourists and also thinkers, artists and creative types.”
One of the people it attracted was Mr. al Sager. For him, Dubai not only provided stability for investors in an unstable region, but it also offered an open environment from which to engage in research on political, economic and social issues affecting the Gulf.
“We chose Dubai because of its good connectivity, welcoming environment and freedom of accessibility to people,” he said.
Now, however, with leaders making strides to contain political dissent, that position appears to be in jeopardy.
Mr. al Sager said he invested $40 million in developing the Gulf Research Center until October last year, when Dubai’s Department for Economic Development refused to renew its license.
When he tried to learn the reasons behind the decision, he was referred to the Dubai Intelligence Agency. There he says he was told that the Iranian government pressured the U.A.E. to close the center because of its stance against Iranian policies and because it had received high-level officials from the West whom “Iran doesn’t like.”
After the Saudi government became involved in the dispute, Mr. al Sager says he was also told that the license had been denied because the center attracted “leftists” to its conferences “who present a negative opinion about the U.A.E.” and that sometimes it adopted policies that “go against the G.C.C.” The G.C.C. is the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic grouping in the Arabian Peninsula.
Mr. al Sager’s Gulf Research Center now operates from Geneva, Jidda and Cambridge, England.
“We feel we are victims of, firstly, the Iranian influence over the U.A.E. because a lot of Iranians live there and there is a lot of business, and, secondly, we might also be a victim of the political turmoil” between Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., Mr al Sager said. “Otherwise, logically, if we had done something that had gone against the national security of the U.A.E., then why did they wait to tell me until our license expired? They would have stopped me as soon as possible.”
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science at U.A.E. University, said the Iranian issue was likely to have been a “small reason among many” that may have led to the closure of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.
Although the center’s license was refused before the Arab Spring began, other experts point to the move possibly being part of a broader plan by the U.A.E. to quell challenges to its authority.
Recent signs of a clampdown include the ongoing trial in Abu Dhabi of five pro-democracy activists accused of undermining public order by seeking free elections.
One of the defendants is Nasser bin Ghaith, a lecturer in international economic law at the Abu Dhabi branch of Paris-Sorbonne University.
Mehran Kamrava, director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, said, “Over the last several months, the U.A.E. authorities have shown considerable concern regarding the activities of various civil society organizations and bloggers, and there has been a noticeable contraction of the space available to such organizations across the board.”
Meanwhile, funding constraints at the Dubai School of Government are believed to have been the main reason behind the resignation of its dean, Tarik Yousef, and a number of other researchers. But a source at the school, who declined to be identified, also said there had been a crackdown on political debate, with some events falling off the organization’s conference agenda.
Mr. Abdulla, the political science professor at U.A.E. University, described the trial of the five activists as an “extreme measure in an extraordinary time,” adding that “as sad as it is, it is not necessarily representative of an emerging repressive trend in the U.A.E.”
Posted on 07/28/2011 8:01 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
From Libya, Yet One More Tarbaby, NATO Wishes To Extricate Itself
From the Christian Science Monitor:
Britain leads NATO effort to find Libya exit strategy
The British government yesterday recognized Libya's rebel government and freed up nearly $150 million in frozen assets for the rebels' use.
In one swoop, Britain has recognized Libya's rebel government, expelled the remaining London diplomatic staff of the Tripoli-based regime, and freed up millions in assets that can now be funneled to the cash-strapped rebel troops.
Amid a weeks-long stalemate, diplomatic activity seems to have stepped up. This is likely partially because Ramadan begins next week, which will force NATO forces to scale down the fighting as most of Libya begins the month-long daily fast. The US and France have already recognized the rebel government.
"This decision reflects the national transitional council's increasing legitimacy, competence and success in reaching out to Libyans across the country," Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday, according to the Guardian.
"Through its actions, the national transitional council has shown its commitment to a more open and democratic Libya, something that it is working to achieve in an inclusive political process. This is in stark contrast to Gaddafi, whose brutality against the Libyan people has stripped him of all legitimacy." [The Morality Play]
Tripoli condemned the UK's decision, called it "irresponsible and illegal" and vowing to contest it in the courts, Agence France-Presse reports.
The decision frees up $147 million in British assets that belong to a Libyan oil firm now under control of the National Transitional Council (NTC), according to the Guardian.
Mr. Hague also said that the British mission to Libya in Benghazi, its second largest diplomatic mission in North Africa after Cairo, will be upgraded to an embassy if the rebel government requests it.
to remain in the country if he stepped down, the offer had a deadline that has now passed, Reuters reports.
Hague's announcement "came against the backdrop of Britain and other NATO partners clearly revising positions and watering down demands as they seek to end a military campaign that risks dragging on indefinitely," Bruce Crumley writes in Time, describing the NATO mission a "slog." In a column the day before, Mr. Crumley says that Western nations are trying to get the international community used to the idea that despite their intervention, Qaddafi may not be going anywhere.
Indeed, it's becoming increasingly clear as the weeks rush by that battle-weary European partners in the intervention force are keener to find ways of ending the conflict and pull forces back home than they are to obtain their initial objectives of seeing Gaddafi deposed and forced abroad. The upshot is the sound of diplomatic throats being cleared ever louder to prepare public opinion for the now-probable scenario of the operation ending without Gaddafi having budged much.
Expelling the Tripoli representatives in London is a "gamble" for Hague, Guardian columnist Simon Tisdall writes. His bold statements are meant to remove widespread doubts about the wisdom of the NATO mission and convince British citizens that success in Libya is "only a matter of time."
Now Hague has gone back on the offensive, stripping Gaddafi of international legitimacy and making clear that any peace settlement in Libya must be struck, first and foremost, under the auspices and with the full agreement of the NTC, as the only credible representative of the Libyan people. Hague was saying to the military and political figures around Gaddafi: the game is up, you have no future. It's time to accept that, cut your losses, and make a deal. …
All this leaves him very exposed if things don't go according to plan, or drag on indefinitely at ever greater cost. Hague admitted indirectly that Britain and its allies have no actual control over what happens next in Libya. That is ultimately up to the Libyan people, and their collective wishes are difficult to gauge.
Posted on 07/28/2011 8:09 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Note The Headline
From the Washington Post blog:
Zawahiri asserts common cause with Syrians [see re-write at the bottom of this post]
Al-Qaeda’s newly installed leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is claiming solidarity with Syria’s pro-democracy movement, telling protesters in a new video that they are part of a broader revolution to liberate Muslim lands. ["anti-government"not "pro-democracy"]
Zawahiri, in a seven-minute monologue posted to jihadist Web sites on Wednesday, accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being both a corrupt tyrant and “America’s partner in the war on Islam.”
“The time of humiliation is gone, the time of deceit is over, and the rule of the thieves is finished,” said the Egyptian-born terrorist. A translation of his comments was provided by SITE Intelligence Group.
Al-Qaeda has struggled to adapt to epic changes underway in the Middle East, as Arab populations have ignored the terrorist group’s recipe for violent jihad in favor of peaceful protests. In the weeks after the start of the Egyptian uprising, Zawahiri issued statements seeking to link the movement to al-Qaeda’s quest for a restored Islamic caliphate.
In the new video, Zawahiri contends that the Assad betrayed the Arabs with his “abandonment” of the Golan Heights—the highlands occupied by Israeli in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war—and says the Syrian leader has served since that time as a tool of the United States and as “Israel’s border guard.”
“Washington today seeks to replace Assad, who sincerely protected the borders of the Zionist entity, with another regime that squanders your revolution and jihad in a new regime that follows America, takes care of Israel’s interests and grants the [Muslims] some freedoms,” he said.
Zawahiri, wearing a white turban and his trademark spectacles, expressed regret that he couldn’t be with the Syrian protesters in person.
“I would have been amongst you and with you,” he said, but “there are enough and more mujahideen and garrisoned ones.”
The title should read:
Zawahiri asserts common cause with Sunni Arabs in Syria.
Posted on 07/28/2011 8:25 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Yemen, Being Yemen
Yemeni forces fire on protesters in south's Taiz
July 28, 2011
SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni security forces fired on protesters in the southern city of Taiz Thursday and fierce clashes erupted between tribesmen and army troops outside the capital Sanaa, opposition sources said.
Impoverished Yemen has been torn by sporadic violence as a mass protest movement pushing for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule drags into its sixth month.
The turmoil in fractious Yemen has renewed fears it could become a failed state on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia, which holds the world's biggest oil reserves.
In Taiz, a hot spot of daily protests some 200 km (120 miles) south of Sanaa, activists said gunmen from the central security forces were raining fire on a square where demonstrators have been camped out for months.
"There is gunfire on the sit-in area now and we can also hear gunfire coming from a number of different streets," activist Bushra al-Maqtari told Reuters by telephone, shouting over the sound of shooting. She said it was still unclear how many had been hurt.
The attack began after a group of protesters marched outside of the sit-in area into the streets.
Demonstrators have grown increasingly frustrated by their inability to loosen Saleh's grip on power. Despite a bomb blast on his presidential compound in June that forced him to seek medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, Saleh has clung on.
Just two days ago, Republican Guard forces, which are headed by one of Saleh's sons, agreed a truce with pro-opposition tribesmen to stop fighting in Yemen's third city.
Farther north, in the town of Arhab outside of Sanaa, tribesmen there told Reuters that clashes had resumed between their fighters and army troops in the area.
They said warplanes had struck the sites where armed tribesmen were hiding after they attacked a military site in the area.
Yemen's defense ministry, in a text message sent to reporters in Sanaa, said its Third Mountain Infantry Brigade had been attacked. "The brigade is confronting armed men from the opposition that tried to sneak into its Samaa base," it said. "Terrorist militias used heavy weapons to attack the brigade."
One member of the brigade was killed and several wounded, but the defense ministry said its troops had inflicted heavier casualties on its opponents. The tribesmen have not yet given an estimate of deaths or wounded.
The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of foiled attacks by al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, have tried to defuse the conflict in the Arabian Peninsula state by pressing Saleh to accept a power transition plan brokered by Gulf neighbors.
But the wounded Saleh has instead vowed to Yemen to lead a dialogue with the opposition and oversee a transition.
His foreign minister Wednesday said the president would try to set up elections after such a dialogue, which the opposition has refused to participate in until the 69-year-old leader resigns.
Posted on 07/28/2011 8:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
New Head Of OPEC Turns Out Not To Be Morris Adelman
Iran revolutionary guards' commander set to become president of Opec
Rostam Ghasemi, who is blacklisted by western powers, could have major role in determining global oil price
Appointment of Rostam Ghasemi as Iran's oil minister and head of Opec would give him and the revolutionary guards access to an influential international platform. Photograph: Alireza Sotakbar/AFP/Getty Images
A senior commander of Iran's revolutionary guards, who is subject to comprehensive international sanctions, has been nominated as the country's oil minister, a position that currently includes the presidency of Opec.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, sent a list of four ministers, including Rostam Ghasemi, commander of the revolutionary guards' Khatam al-Anbia military and industrial base, to the parliament for approval, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Should the parliament confirm Ghasemi's nomination next week, the commander, who is targeted by US, EU and Australian sanctions, will be automatically appointed as head of Opec, giving the revolutionary guards access to an influential international platform.
Under Iran's constitution the president is in charge of appointing cabinet ministers, who take office after the approval of parliament.
Iran took the Opec presidency in October last year, its first time at the head of the oil exporters' cartel since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Unrest in the Middle East, especially the ongoing war in Libya, has given Opec a crucial role in determining the current oil price. Iran is the second-largest crude oil exporter in Opec.
The nomination follows an extraordinary power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad attempted to take over the oil ministry as its temporary head in May but his move was blocked by parliament. He then appointed Mohammad Aliabadi, a close ally, as a caretaker.
By involving the revolutionary guards – who are under the control of Khamenei – in his cabinet, Ahmadinejad might be trying to alleviate the tensions with those of Khamenei's supporters who have been threatening the president with impeachment.
The revolutionary guards have won significant economic power since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. The organisation has signed contracts with the government in fields such as oil, gas and telecommunications. Khatam al-Anbia's involvement in the country's gas field developments exceeds $7bn (£4.3bn), according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In an interview with Fars on Wednesday, Ghasemi said the revolutionary guards would also work as a contractor with the oil ministry if his nomination were approved by parliament. "We have strong and skilful people working for Khatam al-Anbia who are capable of taking up oil-related projects and I don't have any concerns over the activities of the base," he was quoted by Fars as saying after the news of his nomination broke out.
Khatam al-Anbia, the construction arm of the revolutionary guards which is already in control of some of the country's most important recent oil and gas contracts, was mentioned in a list of Iranian institutions targeted by UN sanctions.
Revolutionary guards' assets, including those personally owned by Ghasemi and dozens of his colleagues, have been blacklisted by the US Treasury and western powers.
Other officials in Ahmadinejad's cabinet have been also subject to international sanctions including the foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, the defence minister, Ahmad Vahidi, and the vice-president, Fereidoun Abbasi Davani.
In a letter addressed to the parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, Ahmadinejad also nominated Mohsen Abadi as the minister for sports and youth, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami as the minister for co-operative, labour and social welfare, and Mehdi Gazanfari as the minister of industries, mines and trade.
Posted on 07/28/2011 8:55 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
A Musical Interlude: Strange Things Happening Every Day (Sister Rosetta Tharpe)
Posted on 07/28/2011 9:04 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Daniel Larison: On NATO And The Libyan Fiasco
From The American Conservative:
Daniel Larison July 28th, 2011
Third, the US cannot abdicate NATO leadership. This does not mean acting unilaterally, but neither can the US take a back seat. It is understandable that Americans would be frustrated that Europe does not pull more of the load. But an America that “leads from behind” is not leading at all.
We must lead, and bring others with us. By rejecting this role in Libya, the US is allowing NATO to appear a paper tiger. That serves no one’s interests. ~Kurt Volker
This is becoming the standard critique of the limited U.S. involvement in Libya, but there a few things wrong with it. The fundamental American mistake regarding Libya was when it joined Britain and France in making the intervention possible at the U.N. and leading the alliance into an unnecessary war. From that point on, the administration had decided to wager NATO’s reputation for the sake of an ill-defined mission for which none of the allies was prepared to take major risks. If the U.S. were not “leading from behind,” the intervening governments would still be in more or less the same predicament, except that the U.S. would be seen as waging an unsuccessful rather than merely half-hearted war.
Had the U.S. been intensely engaged in the bombing campaign all along, everyone seems to assume that NATO would not appear to be a “paper tiger,” but would instead vindicate its reputation as the greatest alliance in history. No doubt this is what many hawks would like to believe, but I’m not sure that it is true. Once the U.S. and its allies ruled out an invasion, they outsourced the success or failure of the mission to the weaker side in Libya’s civil war. It is this that has left the U.S. and NATO in a “slog.” Something was wrong with this intervention as soon as the leading governments adopted the tiresome mantra that the future of Libya is in the hands of Libyans, as if NATO were not daily affecting the shape of that future and attempting to guarantee a particular political outcome.
One of the main lessons from Libya should be that the U.S. and NATO should not set ambitious goals when they are unwilling to commit the resources and take the risks required to reach them. If a successful intervention requires the use of ground forces, and if no allied government considers the intervention worth risking their soldiers on the ground, then that ought to put a stop to all talk of intervention then and there. If such a step cannot even be contemplated because the conflict is so tangential and irrelevant to national interests, we should stay out. If minimizing risk is more important than success, the intervention must not be all that important to the security of the allied governments.
This relates to Volker’s fourth lesson, which is that there must be no more “caveats” from allies when it comes to conducting military expeditions. The caveats exist to maintain the illusion of consensus. NATO cannot launch military expeditions outside Europe and not expect some of its members to condition or rule out their involvement. If caveats will not be permitted, there will be no consensus in support of taking military action in the name of the alliance. NATO members do not have formal obligations to support “out-of-area” operations. The thing that jeopardizes real allied solidarity is the use of a defensive alliance as an umbrella organization to wage wars that are unrelated to the defense of alliance members.
A “back to basics” NATO that focuses on the collective defense of the allies may be the most that publics and finance ministries will sustainably support. Which means that for complex, expeditionary, and combat missions, whether on Europe’s periphery or beyond, the old “coalition of the willing” concept is looking better and better.
This is where NATO’s role in the Libyan intervention creates misunderstanding. The Libyan war is an example of the “coalition of the willing” concept in action, and I don’t think anyone would say that it is looking so good. The coalition in question was responsible for starting the war, and it is this coalition that is waging the war. For various reasons, some in that coalition wanted to drag NATO as a whole into their mess, and incredibly the rest of the alliance’s members let them. Instead of complaining about a lack of solidarity, we should marvel at the display of misguided solidarity with Britain, France, and the U.S. that committed the alliance to a war that most of its members will not or cannot fight.
Posted on 07/28/2011 12:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
When It Comes To Fighting The Infidel, Shi'a Islamic Republic Of Iran And Uber-Sunni Al-Qaeda Can Sometimes Collaborate
US accuses Iran of 'secret deal' with al-Qaida
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration accused Iran on Thursday of entering into a "secret deal" with an al-Qaida offshoot that provides money and recruits for attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Treasury Department designated six members of the unit as terrorists subject to U.S. sanctions.
The announcement was made despite disagreements in the U.S. intelligence community about the extent of direct links between the Iranian government and al-Qaida, officials said. Most analysts agree there is a murky relationship between the two and at least some cooperation.
But Thursday's allegations go further. Treasury said its exposure of the clandestine agreement would disrupt al-Qaida operations by shedding light on Iran's role as a "critical transit point" for money and extremists reaching Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"This network serves as the core pipeline through which al-Qaida moves money, facilitators and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia," a statement said.
Treasury said a branch headed by Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil was operating in Iran with the Tehran government's blessing, funneling funds collected from across the Arab world to al-Qaida's senior leaders in Pakistan. Khalil, the department said, has operated within Iran's borders for six years.
Also targeted by the sanctions is Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, appointed by Osama bin Laden as al-Qaida's envoy in Iran after serving as a commander in Pakistan's tribal areas. As an emissary, al-Rahman is allowed to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of government officials, the statement claimed.
The sanctions block any assets the individuals might have held in the United States, and bans Americans from doing any business with them.
No Iranian officials were cited for complicity in terrorism. The others targeted were Umid Muhammadi, described as a key planner for al-Qaida in Iraq's attacks; Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari and Abdallah Ghanim Mafuz Muslim al-Khawar, Qatar-based financial supporters who've allegedly helped extremists travel across the region; and Ali Hassan Ali al-Ajmi, a Kuwait-based fundraiser for al-Qaida and the Taliban.
David S. Cohen, Treasury's point man for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Iran entered a "secret deal with al-Qaida allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory." He didn't provide any details of that agreement, but said the sanctions seek to disrupt al-Qaida's work in Iraq and deny the terrorist group's leadership much-needed support.
"Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today," Cohen said in a statement. "We are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran's unmatched support for terrorism."
The action comes a day after the top U.S. commander for special operations forces said al-Qaida is bloodied and "nearing its end," even as he warned that the next generation of militants could keep special operations fighting for a decade to come.
Navy SEAL Adm. Eric T. Olson said bin Laden's killing on May 2 was a near-fatal blow for the organization created by bin Laden and led from his Pakistan hideout. He said the group already had lost steam because of the revolts of the Arab Spring, which proved the Muslim world did not need terrorism to bring down governments, from Tunisia to Egypt.
Treasury's public allegations against Iran may reflect part of a strategy to expand the pressure on smaller, less well-established offshoots of al-Qaida as the weakening of the group's leadership threatens to make its activities more disparate. Washington already has re-focused much attention on al-Qaida's Yemen-based branch, which has attempted to bomb a U.S.-bound jetliner and cargo planes in recent years.
But the exact nature of Iran's relationship with al-Qaida remains disputed in Washington, with different branches of the intelligence community disagreeing about whether Iran has joined forces with al-Qaida, according to one U.S. official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Some hardline militants backing al-Qaida, members of Islam's majority Sunnis, see the Shiite Islam dominant in Iran as heretical, and they view Tehran's regional ambitions as a greater threat than the West. Sunni insurgents in Iraq have used car bombs and suicide attacks against Shiite targets, killing thousands since 2003, as well as targeting Shiite militias allied to Iran.
Since 2001, Iran has appeared a somewhat reluctant host for senior al-Qaida operatives who fled there after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, keeping them under tight restrictions. After an initial period of cooperation with the West, Iran now seems to be a more comfortable haven even if it remains on the edge of al-Qaida's orbit.
Western officials point to the release earlier this year of an Iranian diplomat who was held for 15 months after being kidnapped by gunmen in Pakistan.
In negotiations for the diplomat's freedom, they say Iran promised better conditions for dozens of people close to Osama bin Laden who were being held under tight security. These included some of the terror chief's children and the network's most senior military strategist, Saif al-Adel.
Still, the life of the al-Qaida-linked exiles in Iran continues to be very much a blind spot for Western intelligence agencies. Few firm details have emerged, such as how much Iran limits their movements and contacts.
Posted on 07/28/2011 12:55 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
In Italy, Support For Israel And An Undivided, And Thereby Permanently Open To Christians, Jerusalem
Petizione cristiani pro Israele e Gerusalemme
PADOVA - L'associazione cristiani per Israele ha aperto una raccolta di firme su una petizione indirizzata al segretario generale e ai membri delle nazioni unite «a sostegno d'Israele e contro la decisione unilaterale di dividere Gerusalemme la capitale d'Israele e il centro della cristianità mondiale».
La petizione è stata varata al termine del seminario sugli "aspetti geopolitici di un Medio Oriente in via di trasformazione", tenuto il 30 giugno con il supporto del senatore Lucio Malan presso la biblioteca del Senato. Nei primi capoversi recita: «Nessuna soluzione – né tanto meno una imposta unilateralmente – porterà la pace a lungo termine se non sarà basata sul mutuo riconoscimento e rispetto. La legittimità d'Israele come stato ebraico non deve e non può essere messa in discussione. L'Autorità nazionale palestinese rifiuta di riconoscere lo stato ebraico d'Israele. Uno stato palestinese non dovrebbe essere costituito se i suoi leaders non sono disposti ad accettare l'esistenza dello Stato ebraico d'Israele».[and it is impossible for Muslim Arabs to permanently, and truthfully, accept the existence of the Infidel nation-state of israel -- that would violate Islam, that would destroy their sense of what is right, just, fitting, necessary]
Le prime firme sono state quelle del senatore Marcello Pera, seguito dal senatore Lucio Malan, dal deputato europeo Magdi Cristiano Allam, dal senatore Luigi Compagna e da Andrew Tucker, Jacques Gauthier, Tomas Sandell, Edda Fogarollo (esponenti delle associazioni cristiani per Israele internazionali e italiana). Tutti i partecipanti al seminario hanno poi voluto firmare.
Il senatore Malan ha anche aperto una raccolta di firme per la petizione sul suo sito (www.luciomalan.it).
La raccolta delle adesioni continua fino al 31 agosto, perché la questione del riconoscimento dello stato palestinese sarà portata in assemblea generale Onu a settembre. [gp]
Posted on 07/28/2011 2:34 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
A Musical Interlude: I'll Be Waitin' For A Call From You (Ed Kirkeby)
Posted on 07/28/2011 3:00 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
An Excellent Outcome: "All They Can Do Is Slug It Out Until One Side Is Exhausted"
Analysis: Libyan leader holds firm amid diplomacy, rebel backing
By Missy Ryan
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's Muammar Gaddafi shows no sign of giving any ground as rebels win wider recognition abroad, so, with no breakthrough likely in the war, a stalemate looks set to extend well into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
If anything, diplomatic efforts to end the five-month conflict may have been further complicated by rifts emerging between the rebels and their Western allies over whether or not Gaddafi could stay in the country even if he stood down.
Not short of political acumen after 41 year years in power, the Libyan leader may sense an opportunity to play on the divisions both within and between the rebels and the fragile NATO coalition, which has bombed Libya for four months but is also seeking a negotiated end to the messy, see-sawing conflict.
"Gaddafi won't go. The (rebels) won't acquiesce to him staying, but they can't force him to go," said Geoff Porter, who heads North Africa Risk Consulting.
"You end up with irreconcilable positions," Porter added.
Thursday, the rebel movement that lays claim to roughly half the country and is gaining growing diplomatic support in the West attacked and claimed to capture a government-held town near the Tunisian border.
Rebels have sought for months to reach Tripoli and seize other strategic areas but they remain fractured geographically and are hobbled by inadequate training and arms, so have been unable to deal a decisive blow to loyalist forces.
The battlefield uncertainty has prompted Western leaders of the NATO campaign in Libya to intensify diplomatic pressure.
Britain and Portugal have joined some 30 other nations, including the United States, in recognizing the Benghazi-based rebel government.
Highlighting the financial benefits of such diplomatic moves, London also immediately unblocked over 90 million pounds ($147 million) in frozen cash that could help rebels tip the military scales and prepare for a post-Gaddafi Libya.
But diplomacy also exposed an apparent rift with rebels that even the prospect of a cash influx may not be able to fix.
While the UK and France said they were now open to Gaddafi remaining in Libya if he stepped down, rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said the offer, made a month ago, no longer stood.
"It's an organised chaos," UK-based opposition journalist and analyst Ashour Shamis said of the seemingly fluid positions in Benghazi and Western capitals on any political solution.
STILL "FAR APART"
The signals from Tripoli, meanwhile, are mixed.
On one hand, there are suggestions that the government would like to continue meetings with the United States. On the other, there is no hint of the conflict being settled at Gaddafi's expense.
Lashing out in typically fiery rhetoric, Gaddafi on Wednesday again vowed to win or die a martyr.
"Listen to the arrogance and stupidity and ignorance of these people," government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said of Western discussions about Gaddafi's future. "They have no right to ask any official to leave their country."
Gaddafi will certainly be mindful of the warrant the International Criminal Court has issued for his arrest as he hopes to avoid the fate of other regional leaders like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, due to face trial next month.
United Nations envoy Abdel Elah al-Khatib came and left Libya this week, apparently having failed to sell his idea of a vision for a ceasefire and a transitional government that excludes Gaddafi.
"Both sides remain far apart," the U.N. conceded.
NATO is pushing on, for now at least, with the daily airstrikes that have certainly weakened Gaddafi's fighting power, while moves to squeeze his government economically and diplomatically have been stepped up.
DOWN BUT NOT OUT
A recent U.N. mission concluded that fuel shortages were growing more serious and that electricity and cash were at risk as well.
While foreign journalists in the capital Tripoli have little opportunity for independent reporting, that ever-tightening noose does not appear to have pushed Gaddafi to the brink of collapse, as the West once hoped.
"What has happened over last four months is that the British and their partners have come to realize that removing governments not as easy a business as it seems," said George Joffe, a fellow at the Center for International Studies at Cambridge University.
"They know now they can't do it in Libya, and they've got to find another way out."
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan in August may lead to a lull in fighting. As time wears on, the West's military supplies, funding and patience will wear thin.
NATO's largest member, the United States, has already limited its involvement, meaning that Gaddafi's opposition may be unable to muster the needed military might.
Yet Stephen Flanagan, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said most European governments appeared to want operations over by early October.
Gaddafi, in the meantime appears set to wait out the rebel's assaults as he seeks to convince his supporters that opponents are nothing more than armed gangs and Islamist militants.
"They're all stuck," Joffe said. "All they can they do is slug it out until one side is exhausted or is taken out by an internal coup."
Posted on 07/28/2011 3:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
In Yemen, French Aid Workers Held For Ransom By Al Qaeda
From VOA News:
July 27, 2011
Yemeni Militants Demand Ransom for Missing Aid Workers
Al-Qaida-linked militants in Yemen are demanding a $12 million ransom for the release of three French aid workers who went missing in May.
Yemeni security officials and tribesmen revealed the demand on Wednesday.
The two women and one man disappeared in the eastern city of Sayoun, where they had been working with a French-based relief agency.
French and Yemen authorities previously said the aid workers were probably kidnapped but had no definite word on their status.
The reports of a ransom demand come a day after the head of al-Qaida's offshoot in Yemen vowed loyalty to Osama bin Laden's successor and promised to keep fighting against Sana'a's Western-allied government.
In a 10-minute audio message posted on Islamist websites Tuesday, Nasser al-Wahishi said his organization officially recognizes Ayman al-Zawahiri as al-Qaida's new global leader.
The terror group proclaimed the 60-year-old Egyptian its chieftain following bin Laden's death in a U.S. military raid on his Pakistani compound in May.
Wahishi said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula will fight until it overthrows the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
He also said he supports the anti-government protests in Yemen that seek to oust Mr. Saleh after 33 years in power.
The United States says the Yemeni branch is al-Qaida's most active. The group has been linked to several attempted attacks on U.S. targets.
Washington fears al-Qaida-linked militants will take advantage of Yemen's anti-government unrest to expand their haven in the country and plot attacks against the West.
Posted on 07/28/2011 3:59 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
You know what that means.
Posted on 07/28/2011 3:16 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Fort Hood Targeted for Second Terrorist Attack
A U.S. Army private was arrested Wednesday in possession of explosive material which officials fear may have been part of a plan to launch another attack on the Fort Hood Army base in Texas.
The serviceman, identified by the FBI as Pvt. Naser Jason Abdo, 21, was taken into custody by the Killeen Police Department near Fort Hood after the owners of a local ammunition store, Guns Galore, alerted the police to Abdo's "suspicious" behavior in the store.
Abdo reportedly told law enforcement that the goal of his planned attack was to "get even."
"I would classify it as a terror plot," Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin told reporters in an afternoon briefing.
After only one year in the army, Abdo reportedly realized he could not kill fellow Muslims and applied for conscientious objector status, preventing deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan.
"A Muslim is not allowed to participate in an Islamicly unjust war," he said in an interview with ABC News last August. In a separate statement he said that he did not "believe I can involve myself in an army that wages war against Muslims. I don't believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of a Muslim…"
Similar sentiments were expressed by Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood in November 2009. Hasan had told classmates that he considered himself to be "a Muslim first and an American second" and he was found to have had email interaction with American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.
Awlaki hailed Hasan after the shooting, calling him "a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."
One report indicates Abdo hoped to follow-up Hasan's attack by bombing a restaurant off the base that was popular with personnel stationed there.
Abdo was based at Fort Campbell, Ky. with the 101st Airborne Division. In June, 2010, after only one year in the army, Abdo applied for conscientious objector status on religious grounds before his first deployment to Afghanistan. Though initially denied by his superiors at Ft. Campbell, the objector status was ultimately granted to Abdo in June by the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Army review board. But that was put on hold soon after when he was charged with possession of child pornography and he went AWOL on July 4th weekend.
In an online posting, Abdo claimed his arrest was in retaliation for his conscientious objector status.
"It has been nearly 10 months since the investigation started, he said in a June 23 Islampolicy article, "and I am only now being charged with child pornography when my C.O. claim is approved. I think that all sounds pretty fishy."
The army's decision to grant conscientious objector status was blasted by the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). In a statement, the group called Abdo a traitor with an interpretation of Islam that "is dangerous and part of radical Islam globally."
"Abdo's obsession with Islamophobia is the same logic that drove the murderous rampage of Maj Nidal Hasan on Nov. 5, 2009 at Fort Hood," AIFD President and Navy veteran Zuhdi Jasser said in the statement. "Abdo's adherence to the global Islamist ideology above his American loyalty runs to the core of what we Muslims need to fight in real counterterrorism."
According to the congressman whose district includes Fort Hood, Abdo told FBI agents that he was "planning an attack on Fort Hood."
Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, credited "quick action by a Texas gun dealer" in helping prevent "a repeat of the tragic 2009 radical Islamic attack on our nation's largest military installation."
The gun dealer, Greg Ebert, told the police that he was "concerned with the quantity of his [Abdo's] request and his general demeanor." Ebert added, "There was clearly something wrong with him."
Abdo allegedly went into the store requesting gunpowder and "reloading options." After asking about 40-caliber ammunition, he bought three boxes of 12-gauge ammunition and a magazine for a pistol. Abdo paid in cash and then left in a cab.
FBI agents searching his hotel room later reportedly found gunpowder, shotgun shells, a pressure cooker, 18 pounds of sugar and ammunition. FBI Special Agent Eric Vasys said that Abdo "had some components which could be considered bomb-making materials." Abdo also purchased an Army uniform with Fort Hood patches from a local surplus store.
CNN reports that "Islamic extremist literature" was found in his backpack.
Posted on 07/28/2011 4:04 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Is Not Knowing English The Main Problem?
From The Telegraph:
If you don't speak English you can't belong in Britain
The inability to speak a host country’s language reinforces dangerous divisions in society – and it is a very reasonable requirement of any immigrant.
When the last Labour government introduced a requirement that immigrants who wished to marry a British citizen must learn English before coming to live here, it struck most people as a perfectly reasonable expectation. But that requirement is now being challenged in the High Court on two grounds. First, it is said to be racially discriminatory, because it impacts disproportionately on certain ethnic groups; and second, under the European Convention on Human Rights, it is said to obstruct the right to family life.
The case has been brought by Rashida Chapti, who wishes to bring her husband to the UK from India. Her barrister claims that the language requirement contravenes Article 8, the right to family life, and Article 12, the right to marry. Mrs Chapti is reported to have travelled back and forth between India and Leicester for about 15 years, but now wishes to settle here with her husband.
The Labour government planned to bring the requirement into force in July 2011, but it was brought forward to November 2010 by the Coalition. When Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced her plans, she said: “I believe being able to speak English should be a pre-requisite for anyone who wants to settle here. The new English requirement for spouses will help promote integration, remove cultural barriers and protect public services.”
The requirement is not too exacting. Applicants will have to demonstrate English at “A1 level”, which requires them to demonstrate a basic command of conversational English, currently the same as the level required for skilled workers who have been offered a job in the UK. Similar expectations apply to immigrants seeking work throughout the EU. Since 2006, France has tightened up its rules. Anyone without a job, and especially if they lack scarce skills, must go through the French consulate in their home country. They have to prepare a petition showing why they should be allowed in. If they can’t speak French they have little chance.
Australia requires applicants for work visas to have “vocational English”, which means they must be able to read, write, understand and speak English well enough to hold down a job. Applicants may be required to take an independent test of proficiency. Canada requires proficiency in either English or French, and also requires applicants to take a language test from an approved agency.
Why should this matter? Modern nations are more than collections of isolated individuals who just happen to live in the same geographical space. We value not only our personal freedom but also the ability to uphold a particular culture, whether Irish, Welsh, Scots or from further afield. Our system allows space for personal and cultural freedom – but such freedom is only sustainable if we have something in common. A nation holds together because we each accept an obligation to search for the common good, despite differences. There is such a thing as the public interest, and an intangible sense of public spirit is also a vital ingredient of a successful country. On occasion a nation may even call for self-sacrifice from its members.
Language is central because we can only search for the common good through face-to-face discussion and public debate via the mass media. The simple fact is that if you can’t speak the language, you can’t take part. You can’t belong. And treating the requirement to speak the language of the people you plan to live among as an infringement of your rights gives away a self-centred attitude that is incompatible with citizenship.
The concept of a human right achieved its status as a “universal good thing” when it implied a list of things that should never happen, such as torture or genocide, along with some things that should always happen, such as free elections. Recently, the ideal of human rights has been purloined by people engaged in acts of aggression against established communities. These individuals want to take something for themselves at the general expense. But rights that are legitimate and sustainable do not exist outside society. They are part of the give-and-take of a political community based on reciprocity and imply a sense of mutual obligation, not one-sided taking.
Against this background, the least we can do is to learn the language. It does not require individuals to surrender their culture, merely to be able to communicate with everyone else. Language is the means by which we can defuse controversies, offer compromises, and explain our point of view in the hope of finding common ground. Without a common language, interactions become more crude and more likely to be based on sheer emotion, and perhaps a kind of tribalism.
This is what we find in some of our cities, where effectively there are cultural enclaves. A study by David Goodhart in this month’s Prospect magazine found that 10 years after the riots in 2001, the populations of Burnley, Oldham and Bradford were “even more divided by race and religion than in 2001”. Ted Cantle produced the official report on the 2001 riots and described the “parallel lives” being lived by local whites and other people, largely from the Mirpur region of Pakistan. Cantle acknowledges the efforts made by some councils, but feels that serious divisions still remain.
Some Muslims make strenuous efforts to preserve some estates as enclaves where they can assert the values of the Asian village, and other community leaders work with councils on schemes to promote integration. It is in these areas, where some members of ethnic minorities strive to integrate and others fight them, that the language requirement for prospective marriage partners is so important. It is still common for young men to bring over from Mirpur a girl who is not only unable to speak English, but is also illiterate in her own language.
Such separation is especially harmful in schools. If parents do not speak English at home, it is impossible for them to assist their children. Official figures for January show that nearly 17 per cent of pupils in state-funded primary schools did not speak English as a first language, up from over 12 per cent in 2006. In state-funded secondary schools, over 12 per cent of pupils did not speak English as a first language; the figure was under 10 per cent five years ago. To make matters worse, classrooms in London are frequently overcrowded and teachers have a hard job to cope. Schools get a bad reputation and parents try to escape the worst of them, thereby reinforcing social segregation. Back in 2007, the policy director of the Commission for Racial Equality (now merged into the Equality and Human Rights Commission) warned that segregated schools were “a ticking time bomb”. Since then the problem has deepened.
Without parental support, it is very difficult for children to make progress. The lack of a common language opens up achievement gaps that can be hard to close in later life. At Civitas, we see this in the Saturday schools we run for children falling behind in English and maths. We are teaching more than 500 children a week in 20 centres, including Bradford, Birmingham and London. The majority of the children are from ethnic minorities and some parents have only a little English, which means that our teachers cannot have even the most mundane of conversations, perhaps to suggest that the children should be supervised while reading a particular chapter, or helped to practise something they are struggling with, such as long division.
Millions of newcomers have arrived in Britain over the last decade. Avoiding conflict is no easy task at the best of times, but if we can’t even communicate through a shared language we’re asking for trouble.
Does one feel that those Chinese or Italian immigrants who arrive in America or England as adults, and who for some reason never manage to learn more than a mangled English, are a danger, constitute a group who can never fit in?
Is Tariq Ramadan, who knows English and uses it to mislead the unwary non-Muslims in the United Kingdom (from his Arab-bought-and-paid perch at Oxford) as he once did, until the ig was up for him, in France and Switzerland, using his French to deceive the French-speaking, less of a threat, or more of one, because of that knowledge?
What one must ask is this:
Does this or that person who seeks to be admitted to our country adhere to a Total Belief-System that requires him to distinguish between those who are adherents of that system, and all others, and is he inculcated in the belief that that constitutes the essential division of humanity, and that, furthermore, he is required to, has a duty to, recognize that a permanent state of war, though not always of open warfare, exists between those who live in the parts of the world where that Total Belief-System dominates, and its adherents rule, and those who live in the parts of the world where that Total Belief-System and its adherents do not, as yet, dominate?
If an identifiable group consists of those who deny -- who are taught to deny -- that the legal and political institutions, and social arrangements and understandings, of those into whose lands they have been admitted and allowed to settle and in which they have been offered, and taken advantage of, every conceivable benefit (sometimes to the economic harm of those natives who were the original intended beneficiaries of such benefits now offered by generous Western welfare states) -- come, bearing that Total Belief-System in their mental baggage, and in the lands of Infidels becoming not less but even more fiercely attached to that Belief-System, not least because they are offended that they, the Believers, do not possess the status and power to which, as Believers, they know themselves to be entitled, then one has to ask: can such people, in large numbers, really be integrated, fully integrated, as loyal members of those Western societies? Can they live harmoniously with those whom they have been taught -- in Qur'an, in the Hadith -- to despise, and even to fight until those others, those non-Believers, convert and become Believers, or yield and accept an inferior status, that requires a host of legal and social and above all financial disabilities?
Is such really possible? Has it proved yet possible anywhere in Western Europe? Does the problem not grow worse? Can one really ignore the problem, or pretend it is a problem that is general to all immigrants, or is one to be solved by teaching them, as Prospero does to the resentful Caliban, our language?
Posted on 07/28/2011 1:01 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
War Crimes By "Arabs" Against The Nuba In South Kordofan
July 28th, 2011
By Trevor Snapp
NUBA MOUNTAINS, Sudan — Hospital wards here are overflowing with civilians who have suffered attacks at the hands of the Sudan army.
The scenes are shocking. In one hospital room a nurse tried to clean the blown apart face of a young boy. In another, a 12-year-old girl, named Kaka, suffered from advanced tetanus after her arm was cut off by shrapnel. Doctors said she had little chance of surviving.
The children are just two examples of the growing number of victims pouring into the ill-equipped hospital here as the northern Sudan army of President Omar al-Bashir's regime continues attacks against a people they view as the enemy.
The violence is being characterized by aid groups and the United Nations as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
View: Stirring images from Sudan's Nuba conflict
"Tens of thousands of civilians in Southern Kordofan are in grave danger, and no one is on the ground to report on what is happening, much less do anything about it," said Daniel Bekele, the director for Africa at Human Rights Watch.
"An international presence in Southern Kordofan is urgently needed to prevent further atrocities," he added, urging the United Nations Security Council to immediately respond, just three weeks after the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan expired.
During the country’s 22-year civil war, the people in this region, known as the Nuba, fought for the South. But after South Sudan achieved independence on July 9, the Nuba's homeland fell on the wrong side of the new border.
The Bashir regime now appears to be punishing the Nuba for its Southern loyalties. While the former rebel army, known as the SPLA, has become the national army of South Sudan, the Nubas have been forced to form their own splinter group, the SPLA-North, to defend against the northern attacks.
The fighting has raged in South Kordofan since early June.
Read: Sudan rebels battle Khartoum army
The call for international intervention comes a week after the release of a U.N. report, leaked to the international press, that defined the violence against the Nuba people as war crimes and called for an investigation.
Details of the massacres have been hard to come by, and barely reported, because the northern regime restricted access to South Kordofan province. But GlobalPost managed to enter the Nuba Mountains to witness firsthand the results of the attacks.
What was once a sleepy rural hospital here now looks like an overcrowded frontline emergency clinic. The hundreds of injured are looked after by just one doctor, an American, and two nurses. Although they themselves are in danger, they said they intended to stay as long as possible.
Tom Catena, the American doctor, said he had been shocked by the scale of the violence taking place in the Nuba Mountains.
“I don’t think any Nuba wants to join the North. Either they will fight to the last or throw these guys out,” Catena said. “They don’t have any aircraft or heavy artillery but they have been able to hold them off or win battles in many cases. I think in the end they will win, they are too stubborn to lose.”
The fighting in the Nuba Mountains and the surrounding territory of Sudan’s South Kordofan province has displaced thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people. Many of those refugees are now living in caves in the region’s rock-faced mountains.
South Kordofan’s governor, Ahmed Harun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Darfur, insisted Tuesday that there was no ethnic dimension to the conflict, and said he was fully cooperating with humanitarian agencies operating in the region.
Human Rights Watch refuted those claims.
"Access to Southern Kordofan remains difficult," the New York-based charity reported. "Sudan is blocking road and air access to affected populations. In addition, its bombing campaign has destroyed or damaged airstrips, preventing humanitarian aid from reaching displaced people in the Nuba Mountains."
It went on to say that the army's near-daily bombings had killed or injured scores of men, women and children and has displaced more than 150,000 people, half of them in just the last few weeks.
The United States and United Nations both tried to persuade Bashir’s Khartoum government to let a U.N. peacekeeping force remain in South Kordofan after its mandate expired when South Sudan became independent, but to no avail.
View: George Clooney's satellite project reveals mass graves in Sudan
"With no eyes and ears on the ground, the Sudanese government may believe it can continue this brutal campaign with total impunity," Bekele said. "The (UN) Security Council should send a strong message now that those responsible for these violations will be held accountable."
Trying to escape the slaughter, many Nuba villagers have fled.
When the rural town of Tanguli was bombed this week, the village's mud huts were destroyed, killing several people. Those who survived escaped to a nearby mountain where they are attempting to eke out an existence among the rocks with little to no access to food or health care.
The village chief said several other groups of villagers are also living along the rocky peaks. Many have come from Dalami, he said, where fighting between the two armies has been frenetic.
A 15-year-old girl, sitting on a bed between two massive boulders, described how she fled Tanguli. “I had never seen such things before — bodies burned, dead bodies with their throats cut, a man shot as he ran,” she said.
She said she hiked for more than a week to reach the relative safety of the mountains.
“When I arrived here they started bombing with Antonovs (Russian-made planes used by the Sudan army) and so we fled to these mountains for safety. I have no idea if I will be able to go back or stay here for a long time. I don’t understand what is happening.”
In their effort to fight back, young Nuba men are training to become fighters for the SPLA-North.
One young student who joined when his school was closed says he has no choice but to fight now. “My brother was almost slaughtered by them (government forces), my father could never sleep at home. They would come and ask for him, and if they failed to get him they would burn down our home,” he said, remembering the last war.
The new soldier drank coffee with his mother, while visiting her nearby village. They talked about their relatives who were arrested and detained in the last war.
When asked if she is worried about the risks her son is taking by joining the SPLA-North, the mother smiled and said: “I am happy he is joining. We have no choice. He must fight. I am happy and proud.”
Posted on 07/28/2011 4:37 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Iraqis Finding Security In Syria
From The New York Times:
Despite Its Turmoil, Syria Still Looks Like an Oasis to Iraqis
Published: July 28, 2011
BAGHDAD — At a roadside station here, where buses bound for Syria leave dozens of times a week, the space between two troubled nations is measured by notions of prosperity and security.
Ali Mohammed, a 20-year-old Iraqi citizen originally from Najaf, walks through a Baghdad bus station before departing to Syria where he now lives.
“Here it is very hot and Ramadan is coming,” said Majid Shamis, a middle-aged Iraqi who was headed with his wife and two children, ages 4 and 5, for a two-month summer vacation in Syria. “Electricity is better there. Even the security situation is better.”
People around the world read daily headlines about violence and unrest in Syria, where the government has undertaken a brutal crackdown on its people in response to the latest popular challenge to its power. But in Iraq, Syria still represents something of an oasis. Iraqis began to flee there years ago to escape the American-led war and the sectarian bloodletting that followed. During the war, Syria has taken in nearly 300,000 Iraqi refugees — more than any country in the region, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Now, even as Syria faces its own turmoil, few Iraqis are returning home. In fact, the number of Iraqis leaving for Syria is far greater than the number coming back, said Brian C. Vaughan, assistant representative at the United Nations office. When balanced against Iraq’s continuing violence, its sporadic electricity that will only get less reliable as summer creeps on and an economy dominated by a corrupt public sector, Syria is seen as a better place to live.
“You can relax there,” said Ali Mohammed, a barber, who left the Iraqi city of Najaf for Syria in 2005 after he was threatened again and again for cutting hair in a style that offended the version of Islam adhered to by the Mahdi Army, the militia that answers to the militant cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
“You don’t need to worry about electricity, the heat” in Syria, Mr. Mohammed, wearing a skintight T-shirt and wraparound sunglasses, explained as he prepared to return to his adopted country after a visit with his family in Iraq.
His friend Yasir Rashid, 21, was going along for a vacation. “Life is beautiful there, women are beautiful there,” Mr. Rashid said. “That is the important thing. Freedom and security, everything.”
Four or five buses leave each day for Syria from this station. A ticket costs about $25, and business seems to be booming. “The number of people leaving Iraq for Syria has increased because of the summer holiday,” said a bus company manager, Abu Muhammad. “Families are going there to escape the summer heat, and for tourism.”
Bus drivers complain that the Syrian border guards often demand bribes, usually cash or gasoline, but they say that the political upheaval has not hampered business.
“It’s stable, very normal,” said Farras Ali, a driver who makes the trip to Syria three times a week. “The media is making it look larger than it is.”
Of course, many Iraqis traveling from Baghdad go straight to Damascus, the capital, not to regions north of Damascus that are the sites of many protests and the violent crackdown that has left nearly 1,500 people dead.
But if prosperity and quality of life are measured in relative terms, that could explain why migrant workers from Bangladesh handle the luggage at the bus station here — searching for bombs before loading the bags into cargo holds — and serve chai to visitors. They came to Iraq, of all places, to seek a better life. One of them, Mamun Kalegagus, 25, said he had been working at the station, and living at its rudimentary quarters for immigrant workers, for two years. He is paid $12 to $15 a day, more than the $100 a month he earned cooking Chinese food back home.
“It’s better here,” he said, but far from perfect. “In Bangladesh there is no boom,” he added, referring to the still-frequent explosions heard in many Baghdad neighborhoods.
The relationship between Syria and Iraq has had a winding history. After World War I, Syria came under France’s colonial empire, while the British gained dominion over Iraq. The two countries later established rival Baathist governments, and during the Persian Gulf war of 1991, Syria supported the coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait.
Earlier in the current war, Iraq accused Syria of being a source of, or a transit point for, extremists traveling here to become suicide bombers. Syria’s decision to provide a haven for former members of Mr. Hussein’s Baath Party also inflamed tensions between the countries.
But as violence has ebbed in Iraq, so has the number of foreign fighters arriving from Syria, which has allowed tensions to ease. Now, with Syria’s leadership threatened by mass protests, Iraq has reached out, serving as host to delegations of Syrian business owners. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq has called publicly for closer ties between the countries.
For Iraqis, Syria’s attraction is a measure of the continuing fragility of their own country.
“For me Syria is better,” said Hussain Ridah, 20, as he left for Syria to visit his father and brother, who are there for medical treatment. “They say it’s bad on TV, but when I call my family they say it’s O.K.”
As Iraqis experience their own slow struggle for democracy and witness similar ones in Syria and other countries across the region, some have been inspired to nourish their own protest movement. Nearly every Friday, groups of demonstrators gather in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
Other Iraqis, though, especially those travelers here at the bus station, are fatigued from their country’s years of war and failed promises of democracy.
Mr. Mohammed, the barber from Najaf, said of the Arab uprisings: “I don’t care about what’s happening. As a displaced Iraqi, I just want security.”
Posted on 07/28/2011 6:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Muslim Pakistan At Best Indifferent To Its Buddhist Art, But Will Allow Infidels To See It Abroad
Read here about the exhibit of Buddhist art from Pakistan that can now be seen in New York.
Posted on 07/28/2011 8:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
A Musical Interlude: I Can't Get Started (Bunny Berigan)
Posted on 07/28/2011 8:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Just A Glance At What's On View At MEMRI
Posted on 07/28/2011 10:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Fun With English
Pakistan, world not on same page
By: Sikander Shaheen | July 29, 2011
ISLAMABAD - The government’s naively idealistic approach leaves one wondering whether Pakistan could fight this year’s expected monsoon floods especially when the country struggles with the shortfall of funds for providing assistance to last year’s flood victims.
While the international organisations including United Nations and INGOs repeatedly caution that Pakistan is not prepared for monsoon floods, the bureaucratic baboos of government departments keep living in fool’s paradise to portray a funnily rosy picture of the prevailing humanitarian scenario.
This ‘all is well approach’ boisterously reverberated on Thursday when Zafar Iqbal Qadir, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), dismissed the international community’s reservations regarding Pakistan’s preparedness to tackle monsoon floods.
At the launching ceremony of UN’s publication on last year’s floods, “Pakistan Floods One Year On 2011,” the bureaucrat rattled government’s stereotypical version for over 45 minutes, most of which was in stark deviation from reality.
Oxfam Tuesday published an annual report on last year’s floods saying Pakistan was not prepared for monsoon floods. The report was critical of Pakistani government, donors and UN, pointing to certain differences between all the three parties. Referring to this, Qadir said, “These reports are true to some extent but not to the entirety. We have reservations on the assessments of IOs on our preparedness.” Not only that the bureaucrat is well prepared for the monsoon floods, he is counting on divine intervention as well as the government’s mechanism to calculate this year’s monsoon precipitation beforehand. “We are in half of monsoon but everything by the grace of Almighty is managed well. We are fully prepared and if there is additional ten per cent rainfall, we have sufficient foods and non-foods item to respond fully.”
He cited ‘extensive’ meetings between disaster and provincial management authorities and contingency plans prepared by them, to be integrated into national contingency plan and to be shared with UN contingency plan, to counter floods threat.
The chairman NDMA perhaps forgot that the Almighty was gracious last year as well but floods had triggered havoc after more than half of monsoon season had passed and all the downpour estimations had gone wrong. Thankfully, Zafar Iqbal was kind enough to finally credit the UN and rest of the international community for their services during floods. “Nonetheless, I thank them all.”
The NDMA chief sounds unwary of the fact that humanitarian assistance without funds is like vehicles without fuel that cannot proceed an inch.
And the tarnished repute of Pakistan’s bureaucratic institutions regarding funds ‘utilisation’ brings so many question marks with it. The credibility and integrity of government department’s was well figured from several pinching queries raised by the journalists that straightaway questioned the transparency in NDMA after Qadir’s Thursday briefing. “Do you have any magical stick to make the floods go away?” one journalist, who looked fed-up of government functionary’s inane articulations, asked.
Posted on 07/28/2011 10:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald