Al Shabaab executes teenage girls accused of spying
This is from last week's Telegraph - I have been away for the week. Funnily enough in the East Midlands.
An al-Qaeda linked Somali group executed two teenage girls accused of spying yesterday in a public square as hundreds of people watched on. Al Shabaab commanders ordered a firing squad to kill the girls in the central Somali town of Beledweyne.
Ayan Mohamed Jama, 18, and Huriyo Ibrahim, 15 were tried by the group's courts and shot by 10 masked men after being accused of spying for government soldiers fighting the Islamist group.
Residents said they were dragooned into watching the event and expressed disgust at have to witness the murder of the girls.
Ali, (a resident) said: "The group informed the population that a punishment was going to be carried out in public on two women they claimed had been found guilty of spying, I didn't know they were planning to shoot them. The two girls were sitting on the ground with their hands tied behind their back. Then a group of fighters covered their faces and shot them from behind," he said. "It was shocking, the girls were so young. They looked so desperate but nobody could help them."
Militia members had toured the Beletweyne's streets, informing residents about the pending executions by loudspeaker and ordering everyone to attend.
A female engineering student has been arrested in Yemen on suspicion of posting the packages containing bombs found on two cargo jets in Dubai and Britain.
The 22-year-old woman, named locally as Hanan al Samawi, was traced through a phone number left with a cargo company. Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president, said the information that identified her was provided by the US and the United Arab Emirates. She was arrested at a house in a poor area in the west of Sana'a, where she is studying medicine at the university. Her mother was also arrested, but is not a prime suspect according to her lawyer. A group of women gathered outside the university carrying banners, some of them written in English, saying the arrested women is being used as a scapegoat. If she used her real phone number when depositing the bomb then she is very stupid, or she was duped about what the package contained, which makes her pretty stupid, or she wanted to become a convicted martyr to cover her bruvverz which confirms her as completely stupid. Update - she appears to have had her identity stolen. She has been released on bail and another woman is being sought.
The bomb intercepted in Britain on its way to America was designed to explode in mid-air and may have been targeted at the UK. David Cameron said he believed the device was constructed to detonate while the aircraft was in flight. He said a plot to blow it up over British soil could not be ruled out.
US and British security officials believe Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born figurehead of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was behind the foiled attack in which two ink cartridge bombs, posted in Yemen, were intercepted in Britain and Dubai on the way to America. Al-Awlaki, who is in hiding in Yemen, is regarded by the CIA and MI6 as the driving force behind the transformation of AQAP from a regional group into an international terrorist organisation.
Fears of more plots emerged after investigators in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, said they were examining 24 other suspect packages. Had the planes been brought down over populated areas, hundreds could have been killed. The Sunday Express is in no doubt that we were 'Seconds from Locherbie II'.
Here are a few interesting details on Yemen that I became aware of this afternoon after speaking with an intelligence source who actually flew out of Sana'a, Yemen to Dubai yesterday, around the time the explosives were found.
1) The source noticed several things which seemed strange or outright alarming at Sana'a International (El Rahaba) airport in Yemen. For one, according to my source, pre-teen boys were pulling bags out of x-ray machines and essentially acting as porters, complete with uniforms. And you thought TSA had problems.
2) The source noticed a good deal of large bags, "30 or 40 of them," being brought by porters (grown adults, this time) to the personal baggage terminal, rather than to the cargo terminal, which seemed odd. Given the conditions my source described, it obviously isn't very hard to imagine a suspicious package making its way onto a plane flying out of Yemen.
It also isn't difficult to imagine that Al Qaeda may have sympathizers or operatives actually working at the airport who would help facilitate getting explosives onto flights.
3) Virtually all of the women on the Yemen-to-Dubai flight, not surprisingly, wore Islamic clothing that covered their faces. They were not asked to remove these face coverings as they moved through security. That can be problematic, to say the least.
4) The intelligence source told me that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen and spearheaded this plot, is growing in size and influence--with thousands of indigenous new fighters, particularly from south Yemen, lining up to join the cause.
More details to come as this story continues to unfold.
In 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to young Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France. Before long, Lourdes became the most important pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics and other Mary worshippers. France prided itself on being a secular state, in some phases (esp. 1905-40) even aggressively secular, yet it acknowledged and protected Lourdes as a place of pilgrimage. Not many French officials actually believe in the apparition, but that is not the point. The believers are human beings, fellow citizens, and out of respect for
does the state respect and protect their pilgrimage.
For essentially the same reason, the mere fact that the Rama Janmabhumi (Rama's birthplace) site in Ayodhya is well-established as a sacred site for Hindu pilgrimage, is reason enough to protect its functioning as a Hindu sacred site, complete with proper Hindu temple architecture. Ayodhya doesn't have this status in any other religion, though ancient Buddhism accepted Rama as an earlier incarnation of the Buddha. The site most certainly doesn't have such a status in Islam, which imposed a mosque on it, the Babri Masjid (ostensibly built in 1528, closed by court order after riots in 1935, surreptitiously turned into a Hindu temple accessible only to a priest in 1949, opened for unrestricted Hindu use in 1986, and demolished by Hindu militants in 1992). So, the sensible and secular thing to do, even for those sceptical of every religious belief involved, is to leave the site to the Hindus. The well-attested fact that Hindus kept going there even when a mosque was standing, even under Muslim rule, is helpful to know in order to gauge its religious importance; but is not strictly of any importance in the present. For respecting its Hindu character, it is sufficient that the site has this sacred status today.
Secular PM Rajiv Gandhi had understood this, and from the court-ordered opening of the locks on the mosque-used-as-temple in 1986, he was manoeuvring towards an arrangement leaving the contentious site to the Hindus in exchange for some other goodies (starting with the Shah Bano amendment and the Satanic Verses ban) for the Muslim leadership. Call it Congress culture or horse-trading, but it would have been practical and saved everyone a lot of trouble.
That is when a group of "eminent historians" started raising the stakes and turning this local communal deal into a clash of civilizations, a life-and-death matter on which the survival of the greatest treasure in the universe depended, viz. secularism. Secure in (or drunk with) their hegemonic position, they didn't limit themselves to denying to the Hindus the right of rebuilding their demolished temple, say: "A medieval demolition doesn't justify a counter-demolition today." Instead, they went so far as to deny the well-established fact that the mosque had been built in forcible replacement of a Rama temple.
Note, incidentally, that the temple demolition, a very ordinary event in Islamic history, was not even the worst of it: as a stab to the heart of Hindu sensibilities, the Babri mosque stood imposed on a particularly sacred site. Just as for Hindus, the site itself was far more important than the building on it, for Islamic iconoclasts the imposition of a mosque on such an exceptional site was a greater victory over infidelism than yet another forcible replacement of a heathen temple with a mosque. Though the historians' and archaeologists' ensuing research into the Ayodhya temple demolition has been most interesting, it was strictly speaking superfluous, for the sacred status venerated by most Hindus and purposely violated by some Muslims accrues to the site itself rather than to the architecture on it. The implication for the present situation is that even if Muslims refuse to believe that the mosque had been built in forcible replacement of a temple, they nonetheless know of the site's unique status for Hindus even without a temple. So, they should be able to understand that any Muslim claim to the site, even by non-violent means such as litigation, amounts to an act of anti-Hindu aggression. Muslims often complain of being stereotyped as fanatical and aggressive, but here they have an excellent opportunity to earn everyone's goodwill by abandoning their inappropriate claim to a site that is sacred to others but not to themselves.
After the eminent historian's media offensive against the historical evidence, the political class, though intimidated, didn't give in altogether but subtly pursued its own idea of a reasonable solution. In late 1990, Chandra Shekhar's minority government, supported and largely teleguided by opposition leader Rajiv Gandhi, invited the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) to mandate some selected scholars for a discussion of the historical evidence. The politicians had clearly expected that the debate would bring out the evidence and silence the deniers for good. And that is what happened, or at least the first half. Decisive evidence was indeed presented, but it failed to discourage the deniers.
The VHP-employed team presented the already known documentary and archaeological evidence and dug up quite a few new documents confirming the temple demolition (including four that Muslim institutions had tried to conceal or tamper with). The BMAC-employed team quit the discussions but brought out a booklet later, trumpeted as the final deathblow of the temple demolition "myth". In fact, it turned out to be limited to an attempt at whittling down the evidential impact of a selected few of the pro-temple documents and holding forth on generalities of politicized history without proving how any of that could neutralize this particular evidence. It contained not a single (even attempted) reference to a piece of actual evidence proving an alternative scenario or positively refuting the established scenario. I have given a full account earlier in my book Ayodhya, the Case against the Temple (2002).
Unfortunately, no amount of evidence could make the deniers mend their ways. Though defeated on contents, the "eminent historians" became only more insistent in denying the evidence. They especially excelled in blackening and slandering those few scholars who publicly stood by the evidence, not even sparing the towering archaeologist BB Lal. Overnight, what had been the consensus in Muslim, Hindu and European sources, was turned into a "claim" by "Hindu extremists". Thus, the eminent historians managed to intimate a Dutch scholar who had earlier contributed even more elements to the already large pile of evidence for the temple demolition into backtracking. Most spectacularly, they managed to get the entire international media and the vast majority of India-related academics who ever voiced an opinion on the matter, into toeing their line. These dimly-informed India-watchers too started intoning the no-temple mantra and slandering the dissidents, to their faces or behind their backs, as "liars", "BJP prostitutes", and what not. In Western academe, dozens chose to toe this party-line of disregarding the evidence and denying the obvious, viz. that the Babri Masjid (along with the Kaaba in Mecca, the Mezquita in Cordoba, the Ummayad mosque in Damascus, the Aya Sophia in Istambul, the Quwwatu'l-Islam in Delhi, etc.) was one of the numerous ancient mosques built on, or with materials from, purposely desecrated or demolished non-Muslim places of worship.
Until the Babri Masjid demolition by Hindu activists on 6 December 1992, Congress PM Narasimha Rao was clearly pursuing the same plan of a bloodless hand-over of the site to the Hindus in exchange for some concessions to the Muslims. The Hindu activists who performed the demolition were angry with the leaders of their own Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for seemingly abandoning the Ayodhya campaign after winning the 1991 elections with it, but perhaps the leaders had genuinely been clever in adjusting their Ayodhya strategy to their insiders' perception of a deal planned by the PM. After the demolition, Rao milked it for its anti-BJP nuisance value and gave out some pro-mosque signals; but a closer look at his actual policies shows that he stayed on course. His Government requested the Supreme Court to offer an opinion on the historical background of the Ayodhya dispute, knowing fully well from the outcome of the scholars' debate that an informed opinion could only favour the old consensus (now known as the "Hindu claim"). In normal circumstances, it is not a court's business to pronounce on matters of history, but then whom else could you trust to give a fair opinion when the professional historians were being so brazenly partisan?
The Supreme Court sent the matter on, or back, to the Allahabad High Court, which, after sitting on the Ayodhya case since 1950, at long last got serious about finding out the true story. It ordered a ground-penetrating radar search and the most thorough excavations. In this effort, carried out in 2003, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) employed a large number of Muslims in order to preempt the predictable allegation of acting as a Hindu nationalist front. The findings confirmed those of the excavations in the 1950s, 1970s and 1992: a very large Hindu religious building stood at the site before the Babri Masjid. The Allahabad High Court has now accepted these findings by India's apex archaeological body. But not everyone is willing to abide by the verdict.
In particular, the eminent historians are up in arms. In a guest column in The Hindu (2 Oct. 2010: "The verdict on Ayodhya, a historian's opinion"), Prof. Romila Thapar claims that the ASI findings had been "disputed". Oh well, it is true that some of her school had thought up the most hilariously contrived objections, which I held against the light in my booklet Ayodhya, the Finale: Science vs. Secularism in the Excavations Debate. Thus, it was said that the presence of pillar-bases doesn't imply that pillars were built on it; you see, some people plant pillar bases here and there once in a while, without any ulterior motive of putting them to some good use. And it was alleged that the finding of some animal bones in one layer precludes the existence of a temple (and somehow annuls the tangible testimony of the vast foundation complex and the numerous religious artefacts); and more such hare-brained reasoning. The picture emerging from all this clutching at straws was clear enough: there is no such thing as a refutation of the overwhelming ASI evidence, just as there was no refutation of the archaeological and documentary evidence presented earlier.
Today, I feel sorry for the eminent historians. They have identified very publicly with the denial of the Ayodhya evidence. While politically expedient, and while going unchallenged in the academically most consequential forums for twenty years, that position has now been officially declared false. It suddenly dawns on them that they have tied their names to an entreprise unlikely to earn them glory in the long run. We may now expect frantic attempts to intimidate the Supreme Court into annulling the Allahabad verdict, starting with the ongoing signature campaign against the learned Judges' finding; and possibly it will succeed. But it is unlikely that future generations, unburdened with the presently prevailing power equation that made this history denial profitable, will play along and keep on disregarding the massive body of historical evidence. With the Ayodhya verdict, the eminent historians are catching a glimpse of what they will look like when they stand before Allah's throne on Judgment Day.
The nearest charcuterie to my house in France has a large model pig outside. It has a happy smile on its face, as if it can't wait to be turned into ham. This makes me slightly uneasy as I buy my salade de museau de porc. What suffering, I wonder, goes into its production from which the smiling pig outside is designed to avert our thoughts?
I thought of the pig as I read recently in Le Monde that nearly one-fifth of French lycées, the best schools in the country, had gone on strike against the government's modest proposal to raise the general retirement age from 60 to 62. The proposal is modest because, like most Western countries where democracy means offering the population something for nothing-or at least less than it costs-France confronts a serious problem of rising government debt. The government has managed to balance its budget only three times in the last 40 years-not, I think, what Keynes had in mind when extolling the virtues of fiscal stimulus.
The lycéens' demonstrations against the increase in the retirement age seemed to me something of a failure of the Cartesian critical spirit on which the French pride themselves. (Philosophy is still taught to French pupils, not English ones, who are probably by now unreachable and unteachable.) Whose labor, after all, do these lycéens imagine will pay for all of the unfunded pension obligations of the French state, as pensioners live longer and longer? Where do they imagine the money will come from?
Of course, it's possible that they feel such solidarity with the elderly that they are eager to labor for their ease and comfort, youth being supposedly the idealistic period of life. But somehow I doubt that such idealism is the explanation. What probably accounts for the strikes is a mixture of combativeness-the prejudice that being against something is inherently superior, morally speaking, to being for it-and a desire for a day off from school.
In other words, the pigs don't really want to be turned into ham; they just want to pretend that they do.
Ailments: Teacher Anna Yerrakalva, who has been off work since 2004 while suffering a catalogue of medical conditions
A teacher was off sick on full pay for six years after lying about suffering a bizarre accident at work, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.
Anna Yerrakalva said her teaching assistant had an epileptic fit and fell on top of her, pinning her to the floor. She claimed to have suffered chest, neck and spine injuries as a result.
But an investigation concluded the teacher had lied and the classroom accident never happened.
Mrs Yerrakalva, who had worked at Dearne Carrfield Primary School in Bolton upon Dearne, South Yorkshire, since April 2002, went off sick after her alleged accident in November 2003.
She briefly returned, only to be struck by a bus in June 2004, and she has never worked since. She was on full pay of about £30,000 a year until she was suspended last year - and was finally sacked in January.
The teacher, who is reckoned to have cost the taxpayer a total of £280,000 in pay and legal costs over the six years, has now taken her education authority to an employment tribunal, claiming victimisation and unfair dismissal.
The Sheffield tribunal also heard she claimed disability living allowance and industrial injury benefit in 2006 and 2007 saying she was severely disabled, yet at the same time she told her employers, Barnsley council, she was fit to return to work.
In an astonishing list of ailments detailed in her benefits claim forms, she said she suffered from dizzy spells and a lack of awareness and concentration. She had frequent blackouts, a tendency to become confused and had fits of anger, often throwing things about.
Fall: Anna Yerrakalva was off work for six years on full pay after she claimed a teaching assistant fell on her at Dearne Carrfield Primary School
The teacher claimed to have a problem with communicating and said she stumbled on a daily basis. She needed help with feeding, clothing and going to the toilet.
Mrs Yerrakalva also claimed she was unable to cope with the slightest changes in routine and quickly became aggressive when challenged.
To add to her list of woes she said she suffered from learning problems, panic attacks and a difficulty in filling in forms.
Head teacher Stephen Poxton pointed out to the tribunal these were hardly ideal attributes for a teacher.
He said: 'Her claims caused a considerable amount of time, money and aggravation for the school and an irreparable breakdown of confidence. I could not trust this teacher with children.'
Mrs Yerrakalva, 57, from Sheffield, who limped into the tribunal with the aid of a walking stick, argues she should have been allowed back to work.
She disputes much of the council's evidence and will give her side when the hearing resumes next year.
A crook and a clown, Silvio Berlusconi has depressed thinking people in Italy for more than fifteen years. His behavior has been incredible, and historians will be amazed that he lasted so long, with his stupid smile, his vulgar unfunny barzellette, his everything.
Now you can read about the young Moroccan girl whom he helped, and who, in turn, attended parties -- Bunga-Bunga Parties -- at one of Berlusconi's many villas.
How did this man appear? Who gave him his start? How did he make his money? And how, oh god, can he finally be forced to leave?
Here's the latest:
Girl tells of Berlusconi and the 'bunga-bunga party'
By Nick Squires, The Daily TelegraphOctober 28, 2010
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi looks on during a press conference in Rome's Palazzo Chigi on October 22, 2010.
A high-profile Silvio Berlusconi political appointment has been drawn into a prostitution investigation involving a teenage Moroccan belly dancer.
Nicole Minetti, 25, a former model who was elected to Lombardy's regional assembly after catching the Italian prime minister's eye, reportedly helped the 17-year-old dancer, identified only as Ruby R, when she was questioned by police over a theft.
It was also claimed that the teenager witnessed after-dinner sex sessions involving escorts and models at Mr Berlusconi's villa. The prime minister and his entourage reportedly described these as "bunga-bunga" parties, a reference to a bawdy joke.
The Moroccan claims she attended three dinners, during which Mr Berlusconi gave her gifts including cash. But it is now understood that she insists she did not have sexual intercourse with the prime minister. Prosecutors have said he is not accused of any crime or under investigation.
Miss Minetti, a dental hygienist who treated Mr Berlusconi's teeth after he was attacked last year, confirmed that she knew the girl but had "nothing more to add". According to an investigation by La Repubblica, Miss Minetti was sent to help Ruby and met her when she was released by police in Milan. Miss Minetti also reportedly arranged for her to speak to the prime minister by phone.
Officers were instructed to release Ruby after reportedly being contacted by the prime minister's office. Members of Mr Berlusconi's staff allegedly told police that the teenager was the granddaughter of the Egyptian president.
Mr Berlusconi has dismissed reports about his alleged connection to Ruby as "media rubbish". But Emilio Fede, the head of Mr Berlusconi's TG4 channel, said he "might have seen" the teenager "a couple of times" at the prime minister's villa outside Milan.
Ruby reportedly came to the attention of Mr Berlusconi through Lele Mora, a celebrity agent who is allegedly being investigated on suspicion of aiding and abetting prostitution. Mr Fede is being investigated on the same charges, according to Italian newspaper reports.
But Mr Fede said he had no knowledge of the investigation. "The dinners I attended at Berlusconi's house were just dinners. I know nothing about any bunga-bunga parties," he said.
Lebanese-born Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros garnered worldwide attention at the end of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in the Vatican when he assailed the belief held by many Jews (and Christians) that God's promise of the land to the Jewish people is irrevocable.
According to CNN reported Bustros asserted on Oct. 25 that "We Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people." He also stated "This promise was nullified by Christ," and that "There is no longer a chosen people -- all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people."
These comments set off a row between Israel and the Vatican but will have little impact on the opinion of lay Catholics in the U.S., most of whom have never heard of the Archbishop or of the community of Greek Melkites that he leads. Still, with his statement, the Archbishop achieved a brief moment of notoriety that will fade long before the damage he has caused.
Archbishop Bustros's post-synod comments harkened back to an era prior to the Second Vatican Council when the Roman Catholic Church embraced a naked supersessionism that contradicts the spirit, if not the letter of Nostra Aetate, a declaration issued by the Second Vatican Council that called for a change in the Church's theological mindset toward the Jewish people. (The Vatican's affirmation of Nostra Aetate was, by the way, opposed by many Arab Christians living in the Middle East for fear that it would underscore the legitimacy of a Jewish state.)
In an effort to diffuse the controversy surrounding the Archbishop's statement, Church officials have referred observers to the "official" document issued by the synod. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi stated that "If one wants a summary of the synod's position, attention must currently be paid to the 'Message,' which is currently the only written text approved by the synod in the past few days." (The Jewish Advocate, Oct. 29, 2010, page 3.)
Problem with Official Statement
This raises another issue: For all the outrage that the Archbishop Bustros' comments sparked, the "Message" issued by the synod itself is also problematic. Like many other Christian statements regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, the "Message" issued by the synod subjects Israel and Jews to harsh scrutiny while treating Israel's adversaries and Muslim leaders with kid gloves.
For example, it admonishes the Jews that
Recourse to theological and biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable. On the contrary, recourse to religion must leave every person to see the face of God in others and to treat them according to their God-given prerogatives and God's commandments, namely according to God's bountiful goodness, mercy, justice and love for us.
Compare this passage of the document - which obliquely accuses Israel of using the bible to justify the mistreatment of Palestinians - with the message it offers to Muslims:
Since the appearance of Islam in the seventh century and to the present, we have lived together and we have collaborated in the creation of our common civilisation. As in the past and still existent today, some imbalances are present in our relations. Through dialogue we must avoid all imbalances and misunderstandings.
If there is an "imbalance," anywhere, it is in this document itself. The statement obliquely condemns Jews for using scripture for nefarious purposes but offers not one word of condemnation for the use of the Koran to mistreat religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East, which according to the testimony offered by the Bishops themselves, is clearly a problem.
Support for Marijuana Legalization Trending Upward Nationwide
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While California's marijuana ballot initiative is garnering a lot of attention this election cycle, Gallup finds that nationally, a new high of 46% of Americans are in favor of legalizing use of the drug, and a new low of 50% are opposed. The increase in support this year from 44% in 2009 is not statistically significant, but is a continuation of the upward trend seen since 2000.
These results are from Gallup's annual Crime poll, conducted Oct. 7-10. Approximately 8 in 10 Americans were opposed to legalizing marijuana when Gallup began asking about it in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Support for legalizing the drug jumped to 31% in 2000 after holding in the 25% range from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s.
A separate question in the poll asked about legalizing marijuana for medical use, and found support significantly higher than it is for legalizing the use of marijuana in general. Seventy percent of Americans say they favor making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering. This figure is down, however, from 78% in 2005 and 75% in 2003.
Arguments for and against legalizing marijuana -- for personal or medical use -- are likely to continue for years to come. Even if Proposition 19 wins in California on Nov. 2, as state law it will still come up against federal law, which bans the growth and sale of marijuana.
Support for making the drug legal in general, however, is growing among Americans. The public is almost evenly split this year, with 46% in favor and 50% opposed. If the trend of the past decade continues at a similar pace, majority support could be a reality within the next few years.
A heart-warming and skin-cooling Hadith from Khalifah:
It has been narrated by Habbah and Sawaa`, the two sons of Khalid, who said:
"We entered at the Prophet while he was trying something so we helped him in doing it. He said: Don't despair of the provision (rizq) as long as your heads moved (i.e. you are alive), for man was born red (ie with red skin) that has no shell (ie a cover), then Allah 'azza wa jalla gave him provision".
So stop moaning and jalla wall get on with it, inshallah.
'School founder guilty of fraudulently claiming grants'.
'The founder of a Muslim school in Kenwick [in Western Australia - CM] has been found guilty of fraudulently claiming Government grants.
'Anwar Sayed had been on trial for the past four weeks, accused of inflating the number of students at the Muslim Ladies College to claim a number of Commonwealth and State grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
'The jury deliberated for four hours before convicting Mr Sayed of two charges.
'The case came to prominence when one of the witnesses applied to the court to be able to wear a niqab, the veil worn with the burqa, during her evidence.
It is interesting and unusual that at least one of Mr Sayed's fellow Muslims was willing to testify against him, given that Muslims are not supposed to side with the kafir against a fellow Muslim. I wonder whether he had annoyed someone? - CM.
'The 36 year old woman wanted to wear the niqab because there would be men in the court that were not her blood relations.
'The court rejected her application and the woman testified without the niqab via a video link and male members of the public were not allowed in the court room.
What a rigmarole and parade of Muslim 'specialness'. This sort of thing - testimony by video link - is only really applicable for the victims of severe abuse or rape so as to spare them the ordeal of facing and testifying against their attacker in the open court. Better than letting her hide her face behind the veil while testifying, but not much better. - CM.
Mr Sayed's lawyer Swaran Ludher (Interesting name. Is he Muslim or of Hindu Indian background? If the latter, blowed if I know why he's defending a Muslim fraudster, he ought to know better - CM) says his client is disappointed by the outcome.
I'll bet he is. - CM.
"It's ruined his college, it's ruined his school, his background is academic and obviously he'll not be able to open another school now...so what is he left with?"...
Cry me a river, mate. He should have thought of all that before he set out to rip off the Government. He's a fraud, and he got caught, and he's getting what he deserves. And I hope that other Muslims who are playing the same game, or thinking of playing the same game - I am sure that there are many more Anwar Sayeds out there, and indeed, this case should prompt our Government agencies to look very carefully into the financing arrangements, etc., of all the other 'Islamic Schools' that have been popping up all over the country - have received something of an object lesson. Not all non-Muslims can or will be duped. - CM.
Lawrence Korb: Why Jonathan Pollard Should Now Be Freed
Free Jonathan Pollard
The former U.S. naval intelligence analyst has already served far too long for giving classified information to Israel.
By Lawrence Korb
October 28, 2010
About 25 years ago, Jonathan Jay Pollard, a U.S. naval intelligence analyst, betrayed his country by providing highly classified information to Israel. Even though Israel was and still is a U.S. ally and is routinely supplied with U.S. intelligence, Pollard deserved to be severely punished for his actions. However, the punishment should fit the crime. In his case, it does not.
After his arrest and indictment by a grand jury, Pollard agreed to plead guilty to one count of giving classified information to a U.S. ally. In return for his guilty plea - which spared the government the embarrassment of conducting a trial involving highly sensitive information - and his cooperation with the U.S. government, the U.S. attorney pledged not to seek a life sentence for Pollard.
This seemed like a reasonable resolution. The average sentence meted out to individuals convicted of giving classified information to an ally is seven years, with average time served about four years.
Despite the terms of the plea bargain, in 1987 Pollard was sentenced to life, a sentence generally reserved for spies such as Aldrich Ames, who pleaded guilty to giving classified information to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, information that led to the loss of many lives.
The question is why Pollard received such a harsh sentence and why he still languishes in prison despite the pleas of hundreds of U.S. legislators, dozens of distinguished attorneys (including a former solicitor general), a former CIA director, one former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and several Israeli leaders to have him released.
There are at least three reasons for this state of affairs.
First is the victim impact statement of my former boss, Caspar Weinberger, the secretary of Defense at the time of Pollard's arrest. The statement, much of which remains classified, implied that some of the information that Pollard had supplied to Israel made its way to the Soviet Union. Weinberger argued that Pollard was no different from spies who provided information to the Soviets and was guilty of treason.
Second, at the time of his arrest, the Israeli government refused to acknowledge that Pollard was one of its agents, claiming that he was part of a rogue operation. Not surprisingly, the Israelis also steadfastly refused to return the reams of documents that Pollard had delivered to them or debrief the U.S. about their contents. This added fuel to the notion that Pollard was working for the Soviets or another U.S. enemy rather than for an American ally.
Third, Pollard was an unsympathetic character. He not only took about $45,000 from the Israelis in exchange for the information he handed over, he gave two highly publicized interviews from jail before his sentencing, one with Wolf Blitzer and another with Mike Wallace. In these interviews, which the government claimed were not authorized, he didn't express remorse but instead attempted to rationalize his behavior.
But none of these conditions exists now. Weinberger's contention has been debunked. Information that Pollard gave to Israel did not make its way to the USSR. Instead, the information that the Soviets received during the 18 months Pollard was spying for Israel most likely came from Ames and Robert Hanssen, a onetime FBI agent who spied for the USSR and Russia from 1979 to 2001.
R. James Woolsey, the CIA director from 1993 to 1995, stated after examining the Pollard case file that none of Pollard's information went to the Soviet Union. Moreover, Woolsey now believes that Pollard has served long enough and should be released. And in a 2004 interview, Weinberger himself admitted that in retrospect, the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. In fact, he does not even mention it in his memoirs.
In 1998, the Israeli government finally admitted that Pollard was one of its agents, granted him Israeli citizenship and has sought clemency for him from three U.S. presidents. Finally, Pollard himself not only expressed remorse before the sentencing judge but has done so several times publicly over the past 25 years (and the government has conceded that the jailhouse interviews had to have beenauthorized).
One president actually agreed to grant clemency to Pollard. In October 1998, President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked out an agreement to release Pollard as a way of facilitating an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. However, the deal was scuttled when George Tenet, the CIA director at the time, threatened to resign. Tenet was apparently concerned about the signal Pollard's release would send to the intelligence community and believed he still had information that could jeopardize national security.
Some now argue that Pollard should be released because it would improve U.S.-Israeli relations and enhance the prospects of success of the Obama administration's Middle East peace process. Although that may be true, it is not the reason I and many others have recently written to the president requesting that he grant Pollard clemency. The reason is that Pollard has already served far too long for the crime for which he was convicted, and by now, whatever facts he might know would have little effect on national security.
Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
An important part of the memories, still, of many who grew up in or near Boston area, here.
The S. S. Pierce Building at Coolidge Corner, Brookline, with that name, in big letters, on it, still stands. Businesses, including computer-related companies are, I gather, are on the upper floors I don't know what may be for sale on the ground floor but it won't include Russian cigarettes or isinglass.
'You don't forget': Medic's Holocaust diary tells story of hell
By Wayne Drash, CNN
October 28, 2010
WWII slave soldier's diary holds secrets
Washington (CNN) -- The tattered journal, its pages yellow with age, contains the painful memories of a U.S. medic, a man who recorded the deaths of soldiers who survived one of World War II's bloodiest battles yet met their end as slaves in Nazi Germany.
32. Hamilton 4-5-45
33. Young 4-5-45
34. Smith 4-9-45
35. Vogel 4-9-45
36. Wagner 4-9-45
"Some were dying," said its author, Tony Acevedo, now 86. "Some died, and I made a notation of that."
Flipping through the pages, you encounter a horrific part of world history through the eyes of a 20-year-old inside a slave labor camp. Amid the horror, the journal captures extraordinary human moments of war. Acevedo sketched beautiful women in the back pages, pinups whose eyes provided comfort amid hell.
Acevedo kept the diary hidden in his pants. He feared death if the commanders saw it. Yet he believed it was his duty as an Army medic to catalog the deaths and the atrocities against the 350 U.S. soldiers at the camp known as Berga, a subcamp of the notorious Buchenwald compound.
With his hair silver-streaked and a smile that exudes charm, Acevedo recently made the journey from his California home to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in the nation's capital. He carried his Red Cross medic's band, a cross that provided comfort in war and his diary. He also brought a prayer book that he read to the sick and dying.
"I speak for all my buddies who were there," Acevedo told museum staff members in a private ceremony. "I turn this over to the Holocaust museum with honor and pleasure, with all my heart."
He spoke softly, gently. Like the book itself, his hands showed the mark of time. His face beamed with pride, his chin held high. On his lapel, he wore a pin with a star and beneath it the words: "U.S. Army."
Acevedo flipped through the diary pages one final time. He licked his finger, like he'd done thousands of times over the past 65 years, to help turn a page, drawing raised eyebrows among archivists.
As personal as the diary is, for the museum, it underscores a universal truth about the Holocaust -- in which 6 million Jews were killed -- that sometimes escapes notice.
"This diary exemplifies the fact that the Holocaust is a story that belongs to many types of people from various ethnic, religious, national groups," said Scott Miller, the museum's director of curatorial affairs.
I turn this over to the Holocaust museum with honor and pleasure, with all my heart. --Tony Acevedo, World War II medic
"You did your best as a medic," he told Acevedo. "You did your very best as a witness to history by writing this diary for us and future generations."
The room erupted with applause. Acevedo smiled and nodded his head in thanks.
It took six decades for the U.S. Army to publicly recognize the Berga soldiers -- largely the result of Acevedo's diary and his telling his story to CNN two years ago.
On this visit, he became the first Mexican-American to register with the museum's Holocaust survivor list -- out of 225,000 others. His diary is one of 150 donated to the museum and the first written by an American captive.
It almost never made it out of the slave labor camp. Twice, it fell in front of an older Austrian guard, the only one at the camp with any compassion.
"He would ask me what I write. I would say, 'I'm writing about the nice vacation I'm taking here in your compounds.' "
The guard would laugh. "I'll never forget him," Acevedo said, his voice trailing off into the past.
Singled out and sent to slave labor camp
They were hand-picked to be the Germans' slaves.
Gallery: WWII vet donates Holocaust diary
The American soldiers, most captured during the Battle of the Bulge, were called into a yard at the prisoner of war camp known as Stalag IX-B in Bad Orb, Germany, where thousands of American, French, Italian and Russian soldiers were held.
Word had spread among the American captives that Jewish soldiers would be separated. It was early February 1945.
"All Jews," the German shouted, "and anyone who looks like a Jew, step forward."
Few willingly did so. About 80 Jewish soldiers were singled out. The Germans needed 350 slave laborers. They began choosing 270 other "undesirables."
A guard shoved Acevedo, a Catholic, forward. "You're going to a beautiful camp with a theater and live shows," he was told.
The son of Mexican immigrants, Acevedo had been segregated before. As a young boy in Pasadena, California, he couldn't attend the same classes as his white peers. [an unseemly and grotesque comparison], that ought to be excised]
And in 1937, his parents were deported to Mexico. Though 13 and a U.S. citizen, he went with them. Four years later, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Acevedo returned to his homeland. He signed on as a medic in the U.S. Army.
That decision had led him here, thousands of miles from home, cold, frozen, frigid, unaware of his fate. He and the other soldiers were about to experience something no other U.S. soldier faced: the Holocaust behind enemy lines.
They marched from the prison compound to an awaiting train.
"If you need to defecate, you do it in there," a German soldier said of the cattle cars.
The men were packed inside, 60 to 80 standing shoulder to shoulder. Many, like Acevedo, were youngsters fresh out of high school. Others were fathers, their family lives interrupted by war.
The train pulled away and into the bitter winter. They were packed so tight, they had to sleep standing up. Icicles clung to the windows. The soldiers broke them off and sucked on them.
"Fear was always within you," Acevedo remembered.
American planes strafed the train, unaware of its inhabitants. Acevedo closed his eyes and prayed.
The boxcars arrived at Berga after a week on the tracks. The men would spend the next two months digging tunnels, in 12-hour shifts, forced to work for the German military machine. At a separate Berga compound, political prisoners, mostly Russians and Slovaks, also were forced into slave labor.
They were beaten and starved. Many died.
The diary arrived in a Red Cross package, along with a Sheaffer fountain pen. Acevedo mixed snow with the ink to help it go further; other times, he'd urinate in the ink container to make it last.
There were two journals in the pack. He gave the other to Pfc. Stephen James Schweitzer, POW #25802, on March 20, 1945. Schweitzer would also survive the war.
Acevedo wanted to make sure history was recorded. It was ingrained in him, as a medic and as a soldier who kept the war ethos: I will always place the mission first; I will never quit; I will never accept defeat, and I will never leave a fallen comrade.
"Five more men escaped today -- Goldstein's body was returned here today for burial," Acevedo wrote March 20, the same day he gave Schweitzer the other journal. "He was shot while attempting to re-escape. So they say, but actually was recaptured and shot in the head (forehead)."
One sketch shows a German guard beating a soldier. That was typical of the treatment: Soldiers were struck with rifle butts or rubber hoses and forced to continue to work in mines. Ice water was dumped on one malnourished American, who died of shock moments later.
"Today, I received the only letter from my girlfriend, the girl I am hoping to see when I get back," he wrote on March 24, 1945. "I think a lot of her. I won't forget; her name Lolin Espinoza." (He married Lolin, his second wife, in the 1980s, and they're still together.)
The next sentence comes back to camp reality: "Another of our boys died last night from malnutrition."
A few days later, he marked Good Friday. "On this Holy Day our thoughts are all at home and of the coming Easter Sunday," his March 30 entry says. "It is also the feast of Passover for our Jewish comrades and they also think of home and family."
By April 2, the day after Easter, the situation had grown dire. "Two more of our men died today and one last night, 3+ 16 -- makes 19; living in unsanitary conditions; water must be boiled before it is drinkened. No latrines. Deaths are increasing in great number."
As liberating American troops advanced, the American soldiers held in Berga were forced on a death march, beginning on April 6. "The highway of a super hell, a Hitler super hell," Acevedo reflects.
Acevedo pushed a wooden cart with as many as 20 men on it. Some suffocated under the weight of their comrades. Lines of political prisoners in front of them caught the full brunt of the defeated Nazis.
"You could see them hanging to the barbed wire, trying to escape, but they hung up when they were shot," he says. "Men, women, children."
At one point, they came across a "pile of women, children, men, young men being slaughtered by the Germans. They were Jewish. It was awful."
He was liberated on April 23, 1945. Before returning home, Acevedo signed a document that still haunts him today. "You must give no account of your experience in books, newspapers, periodicals, or in broadcasts or in lectures," it said.
It ends with: "I understand that disclosure to anyone else will make me liable to disciplinary action."
A war crimes trial, convictions -- and commutations
The camp commanders, Erwin Metz, and his superior, Hauptmann Ludwig Merz, were tried for war crimes in Germany in 1946.
They gave a very different account of treatment at Berga. They described prisoners who ate better than guards, of comfortable accommodations and of trying to help the American soldiers as best they could. Survivors were not called to testify.
Merz described inspecting the soldiers on April 19, two weeks into the death march. "Roughly 200 prisoners were there, all of whom gave the appearance of being well-rested," Merz told the court. "I noticed one sick, who was sitting on the ground, because he could not stand up the entire time it took me to make my inspection."
Pressed further, he said, "Among those that I saw there were no sick, except the one I mentioned."
Acevedo's diary entry from that same day, April 19, paints a different picture. "More of our men died today, so fast that you couldn't keep track of their numbers," he wrote. "We kept on marching. I fell back of the column to help the sick ..."
The next day, he added, "Day and night, it rained. Every man was wet from top to bottom. We march and as we walked along the road you could see men which had been shot through the head. These were political prisoners. Every 25 yard intervals there layed 3 or 4 men -- men that couldn't make the march had to drop out, then were shot."
Merz and Metz were found guilty and sentenced to die by hanging. Yet, in 1948, the U.S. government commuted their death sentences, and in the 1950s, the men were set free.
The two were among dozens of convicted Nazi war criminals whose sentences were commuted by the U.S. government as part of an effort to bolster Germany, which was facing the threat of Soviet expansion.
"Metz, though guilty of a generally cruel course of conduct toward prisoners, was not directly responsible for the death of any prisoners except one who was killed during the course of an attempt to escape," the War Department said in explaining the commutations.
The Berga soldiers weren't just survivors of the Holocaust; they'd become early victims of the Cold War.
A loving uncle's fight
Back home, the chief advocate for Berga survivors was a dogged and powerful Manhattan attorney named Charles Vogel, whose nephew had died in Acevedo's arms.
Working pro bono, Vogel contacted more than 100 survivors of the Nazi slave camp and forwarded their accounts to the U.S. War Department. He was relentless, a loving uncle doing all he could for his nephew.
Vogel had even offered to pay for Berga survivors to fly to Germany to testify against Merz and Metz, an offer the War Department refused.
When he learned, in June 1948, that the death sentences for Merz and Metz were being commuted, Vogel was outraged. He spent the next few months gathering signatures of dozens of "survivors of this horror and by the next-of-kin of the G.I. dead." He pleaded in a petition to President Truman, Secretary of State George Marshall and Defense Secretary James Forrestal to act against "these monsters."
"The civilian prisoners received treatment on a par with that at Buchenwald and Dachau," Vogel wrote. "This, in itself, is sufficient cause for Merz and Metz to hang."
That justice never came.
The soldiers' captivity at Berga, and the release of the camp commanders, has always been a touchy subject for the Army.
For decades, no ranking Pentagon official had described Berga as a "slave labor camp."
Yet after Acevedo first spoke to CNN, in November 2008, hundreds of people lobbied two members of Congress: Reps. Joe Baca, D-California, and Spencer Bachus, R-Alabama, who had long championed the Berga soldiers.
The congressmen urged the Army to act, and in June 2009, the Army did just that in a ceremony for prisoners of war in Orlando, Florida.
"These men were abused and put under some of the most horrific conditions," Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles said. "It wasn't a prison camp. It was a slave labor camp.
"Just as they never left their fallen comrades, we will never leave them," Boles said. "You were good soldiers, and you were there for your nation."
Six of the roughly 20 remaining Berga survivors attended. Acevedo boycotted it. He felt that any recognition of the soldiers should be held in Washington.
Boles told the men the tunnels they were digging were part of a sophisticated V-2 rocket factory. As for the "secrecy" document many signed, he said it was intended for POWs to "not to talk about escapes, people who had assisted them, people who had helped them."
"What they went through didn't need to be kept a secret," Boles said. "That was not our intent at all, but we screwed that up."
Acevedo begs to differ. He was there, at Camp Lucky Strike. The American interrogator, he says, told him to keep his mouth shut.
"We had to sign our lives away," he says. "It was almost like signing a will of death, not able to say anything about what we had gone through."
He began talking of his experience to family, to schools, to veterans groups in the 1990s. Enough years had finally passed, he thought.
The U.S. Army says 70 soldiers died at Berga or on the death march, although war crimes investigators found the bodies of more than 90 soldiers. Charles Vogel calculated about 115 Berga deaths from his interviews with survivors and letters from families of those who died.
Acevedo still believes the death toll was higher. His diary contains at least 68 deaths. But, he says, he couldn't keep up with the rising toll in the final days.
A hero comes full circle
For years, Acevedo trembled in bed. He'd wake up sweating. Sometimes, he screamed.
His diary was a constant companion. He'd turn the pages, to remember, to reflect, to never forget. It was part of him for 65 years.
A day after giving it to the Holocaust museum, he took a private tour of the place. He said he missed his little book. But donating it was the right decision, he said. "I did it with honor."
Wearing a black cap that said "POW-MIA You Are Not Forgotten," he paused often amid Nazi displays and the documentation of the extermination of Jews
"It brings back memories. You don't forget. You remember more."
When he came across a wooden cart like the one he pushed on the death march, Acevedo gaped. He'd told stories about the cart for years, of tugging and toiling to not leave soldiers behind. The bodies were stacked five high.
"That's the cart," he said, in a hushed voice. "You see this and you say, 'How inhuman everything was.' "
He continued on. He stopped outside a rail car. His face grew pale. His son, Fernando, placed his hand on his father's shoulder.
It was as if Acevedo was transported through time, to the side of the tracks where the Nazis crammed the soldiers inside boxcars meant for cattle.
Slowly, cautiously, he stepped forward. The car stunk of sweat and feces. He pointed at the tiny windows, talked of eating icicles, of being moved like cattle. Of being treated as though he were not human.
"All we did was just pray and say, 'We're in your hands, God.' "
Finally, he broke down and wept. His son held him.
And this time, as Acevedo left the train, he stepped into freedom, a part of history.