Monday, February 28, 2011

Elementary Diagnosis

Omani police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing protesters demanding political reform on Sunday, killing two people, and demonstrators set government buildings and cars ablaze, witnesses said. Hours after the violence, Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, gave an order to create 50,000 jobs for citizens in the Gulf Arab state of 2.7 million people. Witnesses said more than 2,000 protesters had gathered for a second day in a square in Sohar demanding political reforms, more jobs and better pay before police tried to disperse them, first with tear gas and batons and then rubber bullets. Reuters
The monumental struggle for regimes in the Middle East and North Africa to contain their citizens' unrest has emerged front-and-center as the single most momentous, precedent-shattering series of events in modern Islamic history. Islam, which exerts such an especial covenant with its worshippers, exhorting them to submit in prayer five times daily, and which delineates every aspect of the lives of the faithful, has failed to teach its political leaders due respect for their populations.

While the mullahs, the clerics, the ayatollahs pound the lessons of the Koran into the malleable minds of Islam's faithful, further influencing them to obey and to submit to the prevailing order in each of their countries governed by dictators, theocratic despots, benevolent monarchs, oil-rich sheiks, and monstrous tyrants, the fundamental needs of those vast numbers who are unschooled, indigent and yet produce new mouths to feed year upon year, go ignored.

From Algeria to Yemen, Bahrain to Sudan, Qatar to Morocco, the average of each of those regimes' appearance on the human development index as judged by all civil, health, education and income indices are miserably low. On the consumer price index, the availability to these people of basic consumer goods, gives a result on average reflecting another failure. On the corruption score, most of these countries with rare exceptions have an unfortunately dismal rating.

On the index of freedoms for the people inhabiting countries like Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, among others, the result is intolerably low. But modern technology has impinged on all of these countries, from use of the Internet enabling access to social network sites, to cellphone use. As a result, it has become impossible for autocratic rulers to keep their populations ignorant of the freedoms available to people elsewhere in the world.

Freedom to vote in fair elections, freedom to join political parties other than the dominant one, freedom to dress as they wish, to consume music, to dance; freedom to purchase goods and services because they are available in societies where trade is seen as a positive element in the growth of a country's GDP. They also become aware that other countries' populations live under far fewer religious and political strictures.

Above all, they see that although unemployment exists universally, it does not exist to the degree that it does in Africa and the Middle East where the economy is far more stagnant and resistant to positive change, than elsewhere. The unemployment rate among educated and lesser-educated rural youth in Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, among others, is staggeringly high. And young people become restless.

They begin to agitate for their rights, not seeming to understand that their rights are totally dependent upon the whims of those who govern, and happenstance of their countries' economic performance. And there is just so many government jobs to go around in any country, before it begins to collapse in upon itself through the weight of poorly-functioning, non-producing jobs that do nothing to further the financial security of the country.

If there is a lack of enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity, if industry and investment in production other than the extraction of naturally-endowed fossil fuels are not present nor encouraged, there is a limit to the number of jobs that can be made available. If people are not employed they cannot purchase even those foods that are available. And when there is a global food shortage bringing up the price of basic food and energy, it is highly concerning.

The very elemental formula for dissent and complaint, for protest and insurrection, for demands and resorting to violent rhetoric, descending into violent action is there: a bulging unemployed youth demographic, food scarcity, lack of fundamental civil freedoms.

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Stark, Raving Islamist

Obama Should Embrace Islam, Says Muslim Cleric
by Elad Benari 'Obama Should Embrace Islam'

The British radical Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary said on Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama must embrace Islam as a way of life or face the consequences of a trial under the Shariah Islamic court system.

Choudary, who spoke with investigative reporter Aaron Klein during his radio program on New York’s WABC Radio, claimed during the interview that Obama is waging a war against Islam.

“[Obama] has promised all Muslims to be released from Guantanamo Bay. They are still languishing there even though he knows they are completely innocent,” said Choudary. “On top of that, he’s increased the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, so he is a war mongerer just as his predecessor was. And thirdly and more importantly, you know, the Muslims don’t want democracy and freedom. Democracy and freedom are anathema to Islam and the Sharia.”

Choudary also said that he is planning a protest in front of the White House on Thursday in which he will call on American Muslims to revolt against the country and implement Sharia law.

He added that during the protest he will also call on Obama and all Americans to “embrace Islam, not only as a religion but as a way of life.”

Choudary added: “At the same time, we will be issuing a warning that the presence of U.S. forces and U.S. personnel in Muslim countries, looking out for their interests, at the moment is very, very insecure. I think the Muslims are boiling angry around the world. This is something they (Americans) should take very seriously.”

Choudary also claimed that Obama was committing “crimes” against Muslims in Iraq and in Afghanistan. “I do believe that the only way for him to save himself in this life and in the hereafter is to embrace Islam,” he said. “Islam will eradicate all his sins, he will be like the day his mother gave birth to him. Otherwise, when we do implement the Shariah, obviously he will face the consequences of a trial under the Sharia court.”

Choudary founded two Muslim groups in Britain that were banned by the British government as being terrorist organizations. He has threatened British Jews who support Israel, stating that it is an “Islamic obligation upon Muslims everywhere to support the Jihad against those who fight Muslims anywhere in the world or who occupy Muslim land.”

He has often praised Muslim terrorists, referring to the September 11 terrorists as “magnificent martyrs.” In 2003 he endorsed terrorist attacks by British Muslims and said that al-Muhajiroun, one of the groups he founded, would “encourage people to fulfill their Islamic duties and responsibilities.” He praised the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai and has called for stoning homosexuals and for assassinating the Pope.

Choudary has also previously called for prosecuting Queen Elizabeth for genocide because “she is the one who applauds her sons and daughters to go out and massacre hundreds and thousands of innocent people.” He also declared that the Queen should be tried for “the extermination of a nation.”

During Sunday’s interview with Klein, Choudary repeated his contention that the flag of Islam will fly over the White House.

“I do believe that as a Muslim every part of the world will be governed by the Sharia,” he said. “So symbolically the flag of Islam will fly from every single country, every single nation.”

As published on line at Arutz Sheva, 28 February 2011

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Diplomacy and Profitability

All eyes swivelled from Egypt toward Libya. The garrulous, gruff and confident Col. Moammar Gadhafi who so enjoyed tongue-lashing the Arab League for its failures to confront Israel, and who gained the confidence of the West when he agreed to forego any further work on attaining nuclear weaponry and cease stockpiling chemical weapons, and agreed to settle down and bring a halt to his traditional support of international terror has now re-caught the world's attention.

He never quite vanished from the attention of those who recalled his funding of the IRA, of Idi Amin's terror reign, of Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, the Sandanistas and Salvadorean guerrillas, his relationship with Pakistan's A.Q. Khan in nuclear technology transfer, and his proxy status with the Soviet Union, his KGB training camps for Libyan military. His settling of accounts with the U.S. by planning the in-air flight explosion at Lockerbie.

But then, when he became rather nervous after the U.S.-and-the-coalition-of-the-willing invasion of Iraq, post 9/11, he re-thought his agenda and became an aid in the war against al-Qaeda and international terror. Becoming everyone's idea of a seen-the-light convert. Libya was 'respectable' enough to be nominated to sit on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Along with other respectable, human-rights-respecting countries like China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

The reality is that he was a supporter of terrorism. Of violent actions against civil society. He used his oil money to fund terror. He planned terrorist acts himself and had his underlings carry them out. So why would he suddenly assume the mantel of respectability? He was a dauntless human rights abuser. Yet here was this man, representing his repressed country, sitting on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

This voice for reason and humanity has promised publicly that he will unleash the forces of terror against Libyan protesters. He and his sons have spoken of rivers of blood to flow. Thousands of protesting Libyans have already perished. There is no end yet in sight to the conflict, where Gadhafi pits his helicopter gunships and his tanks and his mercenaries and his warplanes against his people.

A few months ago he was receiving accolades, when Syria lauded him: "The Libyan Arab Jamahiriva has a unique experience in democracy that has allowed for growth and development in promotion of human rights." The Palestinian Authority observer at the UNHRC: "We highly commend the national report. This proves the Jamahiriya's keen interest in improving and promoting human rights." And Saudi Arabia: "The interest shown by the Libyan Arab Jamahiriva ... shows very clearly the importance it attaches to human rights."

Russia was selling the latest in warfare technology to Libya. Great Britain was also involved in selling armaments to Libya, and helping to train its military in crowd control techniques. This reprehensible mass murderer whom the world had only a decade earlier spoken of dismissively as a "mad dog", untrustworthy and vicious, suddenly became an ally of the West in the fight against international terrorism.

The European Union is highly dependent on Libyan sweet light oil for its energy needs. Much can, and will be forgiven in the name of profit, and European, American and Canadian oil companies all have made huge investments in the country - and accordingly profits.

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Tunisia, Bahrain and Egypt, though not representative of the freedoms that those living in the West claim as their birthright, and though edging at times between autocratic and repressive, did not choose to attack their own populations who rose up in revolt against the prevailing governments in those countries. They did seek to appease, to appear as though, while maintaining a semblance of dignity, they would also consider entertaining many of the demands that the protesters insisted upon, to achieve some semblance of democracy.

In each of these countries' governmental collapses, appeasement was too little too late, it did not manage to succeed, and the protest movement has gained the upper hand in forcing change. But it speaks volumes about the kinds of monarchy, dictatorship, autocracy that governed. It will remain unclear for some time what will eventually result from the changes demanded and acceded to.

Those countries already had some of the trappings of a civilized country, even though they were ruled as benevolent tyrannies.

For Libya things have turned out far differently, and there is much vacillation in opinion whether the end is near or whether the country will be divided, with enough force left on the part of Moammar Gadhafi to eventually regain the upper hand. If that occurs there will be far more killing than the several thousand deaths that have already occurred.

And then what? If Gadhafi prevails in the end, his iron-fisted manic rule will become even more intolerable.

In Egypt, the generals controlling its powerful armed forces may or may not permit a civilian-led government to rule the country. But the armed forces will never peacefully agree to surrender their influence and their power. Unless they are out-manoeuvred by a clever government like that of Turkey's which overturned a tradition of secularism to become Islamist, and which has succeeded in partially marginalizing the power of its military.

In Tunisia where a secularist government in a Muslim-majority country with a high literacy and education level prevails it is likely that the threat of Islamism will remain muted. Egypt has no such assurance, given the organization and international outreach of the Muslim Brotherhood. Bahrain's ruling family will have little choice but to step aside to allow the Shia majority to take control of their own fortunes in that tiny country.

The surge of interest in a more free society through the achievement of democracy and the imagined employment opportunities and prosperity it could bring seems set to impact Morocco, Algeria, and certainly Yemen. Jordan will undertake some remedial actions to more fairly represent the interests of the more populous West Bank as opposed to the tribal Bedouin East Bank Jordanians, but the monarchy will remain.

Lebanon, with its clan and tribal and religious animosities is a tinder box awaiting another lighted fuse to explode again into civil conflict. It has the scaffolding of a democratic society, but it is intolerably weighted with incendiary, traditional suspicion and hatred. As for Syria, it seems inscrutable, wavering between allegiance to Iran and still wanting to be accepted as part of the Arab Brotherhood.

If Iran's opposition managed to topple the revolutionary regime and its rigidly fanatical ayatollahs, its population would prove ready for the transition toward democratic freedoms. At which time the alliance between Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas would falter. With the Muslim Brotherhood presumably picking up the thread of Islamist jihad.

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A Player in the Great Game

Analysis: Russian Arms Sales to Middle East, Method or Madness?
by Dr. Amiel Ungar Why Russia Sells Arms to MidEast

One could ostensibly see a conflict between recent evaluations by the Russian elite on the situation in the Middle East and continuing arms sales to the region.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the revolutionary wave in the Arab world could lead to "decades" of turmoil.. "Fanatics" could come to power, he warned. "That would mean fires for decades and the further spread of extremism." Vladimir Putin was equally pessimistic: "We are concerned that radical groups will come to power or be strengthened, despite soothing reports that this is unlikely."

However, despite these warnings. Russia continues to sell sophisticated arms to the same volatile region.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told reporters that the Yakhont missile sale to Syria will proceed. The Yakhont is a cruise anti-ship missile with a range of 300 km that skims the water's surface. making detection and interception difficult. Israel has objected not only because it is apprehensive of Syrian intention.s but because of fears that these weapons could make their way to Hizbullah in Lebanon or to Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.

Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, boasted of a $48 billion backlog of orders with budgeted sales for the year surpassing $9.5 billion, in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper.

Equally disturbing is Moscow's brinksmanship in terms of sales to Iran, where Russia pushes the envelope of international sanctions. Russia agreed to scrap the sale of the S-300 surface-to-air system to Iran, but it is still going ahead with the sale of a less ambitious defense system. Dmitryev ominously added: "We have prepared a list of potential areas of cooperation with the Iranian side, and it is quite long."

One explanation is that governments frequently pursue conflicting policies, particularly when there are powerful institutional interests and bureaucratic inertia in pursuing disparate policies. Russia's arms sales policy to the region antedates Putin and continued unabated from the Soviet Union through the era of Boris Yeltsin. There are various reasons for its continuation, from Russia's point of view.

Russia may sense that Muslim radicalism means trouble, but may have decided that its way of dealing with the problem is to buy off the radicals. Western European countries played the same game with Arab terrorist organizations, providing immunity from prosecution for terrorists in exchange for immunity from terrorist outrages. Russia faces Moslem insurgency in the Caucasus. It does not want places like Chechnya to become the ultimate battlegrounds for jihadists and thanks to its support for the Iranian nuclear program, arms sales and playing the spoke in the wheel of UN sanctions, Russia has a received a clean bill of health from the Iranian mullahs.

This policy is reminiscent of Stalin's policy after the Molotov von Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, when he sought to divert Hitler from the Soviet Union. It backfired then and it may well backfire again.

Russia also needs the arms industry to maintain jobs. The backbone of the Russian economy is the sale of raw materials. Under Putin and Medvedev, Russia has yet to escape the model of a Third World economy. The collapse of Soviet-style industrialism has created an unemployment problem in company towns and the arms industry is one of the few areas where Moscow can successfully maintain industrial jobs.

Russia has recently announced a $650 billion arms modernization program. The regime is apprehensive not only about the Muslim insurgency in Russia itself but also about its ability to defend its eastern flank against China. If Russia is not to fall into the position of relying on Western technology and arms purchases, it has to expend billions in research and development. Like any arms manufacturer, the more Russia sells abroad the more it lowers the unit cost on R&D.

The current unrest threatens some of Moscow's arms contracts. Russia had many deals in process with Qaddafi that are now in limbo. Another source of problems is a falloff of sales to China. China used to be a major purchaser of Russian weaponry, but as China moves up the industrial and technological food chain, she has less need for Russian weapons. Now if China makes orders of Russian arms it orders them in small batches, reverse engineers them and makes its own. Therefore, Russia must defend her remaining arms markets.

Finally by the policy of arms sales, Russia makes it known that it is a player in the great game. If other countries want Russia to desist from a particular arms sale, Moscow will be able to extract a quid pro quo. For example with Israel, a reported payoff for Moscow's decision to scrap a sale to Syria was the Israeli sale of UAVs to the Russian army and Moscow's ability to influence Israeli arms sales to Georgia.

As published online at Arutz Sheva, 27 February 2011

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Please UN, Save Libya"

Moammar Gadhafi
"Look Europe, look America, here is Moammar Gadhafi! Look you Arabs, look at the Libyan people. Here Moammar Gadhafi is among the crowds, among the youth. These are the Libyan people! This is the fruit of the revolution. The youth are enthusiastic. They want the revolution. They want dignity and glory.

"You must dance, sing, and prepare yourself ... this spirit you have is stronger than any other attempt by the foreigners and the enemies to destroy us.

"Feel at ease in the squares and the streets. Live the life of dignity. Moammar Gadhafi is one of you. Dance, sing, rejoice!" Moammar Gadhafi, King of Kings

Libyans in Benghazi pray while demonstrating for the removal of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi on Friday. Benghazi residents mourned more victims of the violence as fighting continued around the capital, Tripoli. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
"After the Friday prayers, the youth came out into the street and shouted, 'Down with Gadhafi, long live Libya'. The security forces met us with gunfire and tear gas."

A Libyan anti-Kadhafi protester holds her old national flag during a demonstration in the eastern port city of Benghazi on February 26, 2011 as the country witnesses political turmoil and an insurrection against Moamer Kadhafi's crumbling regime. A Libyan anti-Kadhafi protester holds her old national flag during a demonstration
"We're getting accounts from people coming over that the journey is terrifying, that they're being harassed on the way, they are being robbed of all their possessions, they're coming with just the clothes off their backs. Libyans in particular are being hindered, particularly if you are coming from further inside the country." UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming

"They are gathering all the bodies and they are taking them to the desert or somewhere. No one knows where are the bodies of the victims.
"Gadhafi has the choice between being killed or commit suicide. He might seek to send some of his family members abroad but I believe he prefers to die in Libya because of his narcissistic character - he wants to act like a hero.
"Send a clear message. Otherwise I think he will continue his killings and today you will have thousands of people killed in Tripoli. It is time to stop this." Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libyan deputy UN ambassador.
"`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

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Friday, February 25, 2011

New York Times' Take on Muslim Brotherhood

CAMERA: Can We Trust NY Times for the Full Picture?
by Hillel Fendel Trusting the NY Times?

So far in February, The New York Times has run two op-eds sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and a news story favorable to the group’s leader, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. CAMERA says readers must demand more of the "full picture."

Excerpts of the Times reports on Al-Qaradawi: “…democracy and pluralism [have] long [been] hallmarks of his writing and preaching… He [urges] a civil government founded on principles of pluralism, democracy and freedom… Scholars who have studied his work say Sheik Qaradawi has long argued that Islamic law supports the idea of a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy.”

In the same article, however, we read, “But he has made exceptions for violence against Israel or the American forces in Iraq.”

“In fact,” writes CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), “Qaradawi is a virulent anti-Semite who has called on Allah to wipe out the Jewish people.” He has also defended the Iranian fatwa calling for the death of writer Salman Rushdie, and promoted a “day of rage” against cartoons of Muhammed printed in Sweden and Denmark.

Al-Qaradawi has also issued religious decrees encouraging suicide attacks against Israeli and American civilians, has defended female genital mutilation, and has affirmed Muslim teachings calling for death to homosexuals and for those who leave Islam and encourage others to do the same. He has been wanted by Israel for years, and is banned from entering the United States and Great Britain. Al-Qaradawi also heads the Union of Good, an umbrella organization of more than 50 Islamic funds and foundations around the globe that channels money into Hamas institutions in Gaza.

In January 2009, Qaradawi stated that Hitler was a “divine tool” sent to punish the Jewish people for their sins. He also called on Allah to “take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. O Allah, do not spare a single one of them. O Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one."

Two Op-Eds
Earlier this month, the Times ran two op-eds by Muslim Brotherhood apologists Tariq Ramadan and Essam El-Errian. On Feb. 8, Ramadan wrote in The Times that the Muslim Brotherhood “began in the 1930s as a legalist, anti-colonialist and nonviolent movement that claimed legitimacy for armed resistance in Palestine against Zionist expansionism during the period before World War II.” The same-sentence contradiction regarding violence remains unresolved.

Just two days later, El-Errian argued on the same op-ed page that the Muslim Brotherhood “has consistently promoted an agenda of gradual reform. Our principles, clearly stated since the inception of the movement in 1928, affirm an unequivocal position against violence.” In fact, however, from 1936 until 1949, when the Egyptian government cracked down on it, the Brotherhood’s paramilitary wing carried out numerous assassination attempts against Egyptian and British officials, and acts of violence against Jews, both in Palestine and in Egypt.

Newsweek journalists Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff have investigated and reported on connections between Al-Qaeda and leading Brotherhood figures, calling the Muslim Brotherhood a "movement that preaches peaceful co-existence but also supports suicide bombings in Israel and offers inspiration for many violent jihadi groups."

CAMERA urges its supporters to write a letter to Times executive editor Bill Keller, urging the paper “to provide its readers with a more accurate view of the Muslim Brotherhood and its spiritual leader, Yusef Qaradawi, who is fundamentally opposed to women's rights, free speech and religious freedom.”

As published online at Arutz Sheva, 25 February 2011

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Life Is So Unfair

"As I am satisfied that extradition is compatible with the defendant's (European) Convention rights, I must order that Mr. Assange be extradited to Sweden." British Judge Howard Riddle
Julian Assange has a mission in life, a sacred one, to use whatever means are open to him, including the unauthorized receipt of stolen documents from government sources, to ensure that the world at large is given all the information that he personally feels should be in the public sphere.

Those governments whose purloined documents have been the subject of WikiLeaks' arranged publications revealing state secrets they would prefer to keep out of the public eye have a problem with his mission. None have yet, however, taken serious measures to silence him.

For truth is, although the revelations may be diplomatically awkward, none of them truly represent any truths or realities that have hitherto been unknown to members of the news media and those of the public who have an interest in knowing about them. Their publication as new revelations have had the impact of affirmation, confirming what was suspected or previously leaked in more modest proportions.

But Mr. Assange views himself rather pompously as a hero, and he has an adulating public who view him likewise. And as a hero, reviled by politicians for his revelatory escapades, he feels himself embattled, certain that sinister forces plan to demolish his illicit news-gathering and -distribution empire, and to visit physical harm upon his illustrious self.

To that end, Sweden has obviously made an evil pact with the United States to discredit him and ultimately to spirit him away to America. Their dastardly plan is to take possession of his poor body to control his brilliant mind.

To bring a halt to his exploitation of the public's hunger to know all the unnerving and revelatory details of how their governments manipulate their positions on the world stage. Including the cover-ups of unforgivingly unfortunate situations they may have blundered into on their way to fashioning a world order of co-operative calm. Visiting misfortune upon some, sparing others.

Breach of his human rights! claims Mr. Assange, stage-managing one public announcement after another, bravely struggling to maintain his equilibrium and his courage under fire. "It is a result of the European Arrest Warrant system run amok. There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merits of the allegations against me", he plaintively mewled to throngs of journalists.

International journalists eager to make copy relating the details known to them and complemented by the hero's own testimony against the unfairness of it all. Could the irony of the situation be lost on many? Documents meant for no eyes but those of the court, somehow leaked to the press - foul, we say foul!!!

The master manipulator of illicitly-gained documents, the super-journalist scooping all those hacks, playing to their sympathies.

The two women whom he is accused of having violated were WikiLeaks volunteers who thought an evening with the Maestro would just put the froth on their cappuccino treats. The man, however, is rather sexually brutish, not the merest bit of a courtly lover whatever, taking unfair advantage of unaware partners.

Under the circumstances, more of a dodgy troglodyte than a rapist.

He most certainly did sexually molest the women who consented initially then did not. After which it was a case of taking illicit liberties, and Mr. Assange is known for taking illicit liberties; that is his shtick, after all. Under Swedish law protecting women from predatory men he committed a crime. The punishment for which he prefers to evade.

Has anyone heard him express a modicum of regret for his swinish behaviour?

He will fight to the last breath in his body... All the way to the Supreme Court, if need be. And he very much resents bail set for the bank account of a tycoon. He is not yet there. It is an evil conspiracy to silence Assange and WikiLeaks. Worse, governments and the corporate interests behind them are interested in severing Mr. Assange's most intimate ties with life.

There are plans afoot to spirit him to America and from there to Guantanamo Bay. Where a truly unfortunate accident will take place, claiming the poor man's life. Rail, rail against the dark night of misfortune!

Back to the dismal life swanning around a mansion.

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Tunisian Anti-Semitism

A7 Exclusive: Tunisian Protesters Shouted 'Death to the Jews!'
by Chana Ya'ar Tunisians Shout 'Death to Jews!'

Protesters demanding the ouster of their new unity government in Tunisia are also now calling for 'Death to the Jews.'

A local source who spoke exclusively with Israel National News on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution warned this week “the situation is not getting better for the Jews,”

Tunisians took to the streets Sunday demanding the ouster of the country's prime minister, Mohammed Ghanoucci, whom they denounced as part of the former regime, toppled three weeks ago. The demonstration followed by one day the resignation of four members of the country's nascent unity government formed in the wake of the ex-ruler's ouster.

What was not reported in the media, however, is the fact that in Sunday's demonstration many of the hundreds of protesters were screaming as they marched, “Death to the Jews!”

“This is a new phenomenon,” said the source. “Until now, we have not heard this. Perhaps the people were thinking it, but we have not heard it. Now they feel free to say what they wish, what is in their hearts.”

Members of the Jewish community are meanwhile staying out of sight, the source said. “Jews are very afraid, and trying not to show themselves.”

Two days earlier, on Friday, a smaller group of dozens of Islamists held an anti-Jewish rally outside the country's main synagogue shouting, “Jews wait, the army of Mohammed is coming back. “We'll redo the battle of Khaibar!” – a reference to the slaughter of Jews in what is now Saudi Arabia at the hands the founder of Islam.

Jewish community leader Roger Bismuth subsequently met with Ghanoucci to request increased security in light of the new threat. Officials in the Tunisian Interior Ministry said the government would “spare no effort to safeguard” civic rights and freedoms, including respect for peaceful co-existence.

Kosher hotels might provide the safety valve necessary to keep the Jewish community out of harm's way, the source observed.

As Tunisia struggles to reboot its economy, it is working to re-establish its former credibility as a haven for tourists in the wake of mass cancellations by tour operators this month.

The kosher hotels are filled to capacity for most Jewish holidays. With Passover barely two months away, the Jewish community is hoping the need for tourism will outweigh the anti-Semitic thirst of the Islamist mob.

“The interim government appears to be doing all it can to get this under control and calm people down,” the source said. “No Jew has been touched.”

As published online at Arutz Sheva, 24 February 2011

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beware Greeks Bearing Grudges

Europe is not a happy place, lately. Austerity measures are no more popular there than anywhere else in the world. There have been protests against belt-tightening everywhere in the world; strikes and protests and union demands, from Israel to the United States, Europe to the Middle East. People are angry as they see food and energy prices rise while their incomes do not.

And they don't want to take it anymore.

There's a big difference, however, between angry strikes and anarchic protests. Between civil disobedience and violent disorder. Once again Greeks have gone on a rampage to let their government know they have no intention of quietly submitting to the austerity measures it wishes to impose upon them at the demand of the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union and the IMF have extended a $150-billion rescue loan to Greece, after all, and understandably they would appreciate the assurance that Greece is serious about undertaking financial reforms, for they would like to be repaid eventually, thank you very much. The IMF is pressing George Papandreou to speed up structural reforms.

And the Greek populace is responding by raging against the recession and the imposition being placed on the normalcy of their lives and their expectations. Tens of thousands of workers, pensioners and students marched in protests, the hell with the debt crisis. Riot police were out in force at Athens' central Syntagma Square letting loose tear gas.

Bahrain has its Pearl Square, Libya its Green Square, Tunisia its Mohammad Bouazizi Square, Egypt its Tahrir Square, and Greece has its Syntagma Square. Where protesters marched to express their disgust over the prices of food and goods not matching their ability to purchase, and where they expressed their unwillingness to be governed by those who ignored their fundamental needs.

In Wisconsin, the Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives fled the state to deprive the Republican majority from a quorum required to pass a bill restricting worker's rights to collective bargaining, in an effort to bring the state's finances under control. In Greece protesters are out in force flinging stones and firebombs, vandalizing transit stops, and setting fire to trash bins.

A wholesale rejection of the government's economic policies in the wake of the country's near bankruptcy. In attempting to reduce its debt of over $400-billion, the government thought to lease state assets: "We want the government to drop all these measures, to abandon plans to sell property!"

The union-led strikes paralyzed maritime traffic and train services, disrupted the capital's urban transport and flights and resulted in a news black-out. Hospitals and schools were affected, and public administration offices and banks shut down. The population generously assisting its government in coming to grips with the country's debt crisis.

Very civilized.

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Alcohol Dementia

Wise decision, that. To confront the reality of a population soaked in alcohol. And to make a meaningful effort to wean it away from that dependence. Which has resulted in the kind of mortality rates more reflective of a developing country than that of a country priding itself on its modernity. Although we are speaking of Russia, a hard-drinking population historically.

There was a time when alcohol consumption was a reasonable diversion as a social habit. And when women who were pregnant were encouraged to drink beer, as a healthily reliable source of protein. All in moderation, needless to say. There was also a time when clean, potable water was not always available, and in its stead watered-down wine was served in Europe as an alternative.

Including to children. Wine was simply far more available than milk for children. Cheaper, too. That kind of early introduction to the allure of mind-bending alcohol did have its disadvantages. Those who had a genetic disposition to alcoholism were understandably disadvantaged in the long run, their early exposure and its respectability, no help to them.

In Russia alcohol consumption is rampant and endemic in all age groups. Alcoholism is a dire and distinct social ill. Longevity is severely impacted by that very fact. And a population that is under the influence of alcohol is not a psychologically healthy one any more than it is a physically healthy one.

The current President's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, an inveterate drunk, was an embarrassment to his country on the world stage. (On the other hand, a country as sober as Canada had its inveterate Prime Ministerial drunks, too. It's just that it was a different world back then, when instant communication did not yet exist and drunkenness could be kept hidden from public view.)

Russian consumption of pure alcohol per capita exceeds doubly, the World Health Organization's recommended maximum. A situation that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev considers "a national disaster". An extremely costly one, in human morbidity. And in lost productivity, and costly medical intervention.

So it could be said a new move to give legal classification to beer as alcohol is long overdue. Beer, it would appear, has long been regarded as a foodstuff. Food can be freely advertised and sold at any time of the night or day. The new law will make it possible to restrict beer sales at night, ensure it cannot be sold in public places such as schools.

Russians are so accustomed to imbibing alcohol on any and all occasions, from morning to night, that beer is considered light stuff, like a soft drink. Which is why school kids often consume it in super-sized containers on their way to school. Missed breakfast? Don't worry, have some protein-rich beer.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gadhafi's Iron Grip

It is not yet a jubilant revolution, but will become one. The question is at what cost to human life?

Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi, in his raving rants has stated that he has not yet ordered his armed forces to deploy for the greatest effect in putting down the popular insurrection. A blasphemous one, in his regard. His gruesome disregard for the lives of his subjects mark him as the monster he is. But then he has always been known as a 'mad dog' of a revolutionary dictator.

His history of training, arming and sending out terrorists abroad branded with the holy fire of Islam is well enough known. He was long since identified as the Globe's single most significant supplier of world-wide terror. His exploits recognized and he held in abhorrence as a megalomaniac lunatic. Yet this did not stop world leaders from ingratiating themselves with him in the name of acquiring rights to fossil fuel extraction.

His sly and crafty recognition that he could parlay the world's greed for energy into a general pardon for all the violent ills he has ever committed in the deliberate murder of thousands of human beings speaks volumes about the principles and character invested in those whom the free world elect to represent their best interests in executive, administration, lawmaking capacity.

Nor did the greed and the felonies start and stop with oil extraction, since the sale of advanced weaponry to this madman, and the helpful training of his Revolutionary Guard by foreign powers also represented a chapter in the long story of his acceptance as a world leader of a respectable country. His feral cunning stood him in good stead; others saw him as unique, complex, unpredictable.

He was all of that, and absolutely starkly without conscience, as the ultimate representative of what nature can produce in the form of a hugely damaged psychopathic personality. It is amazing that the country's best minds, those individuals whose abilities led them into the professions of law, medicine, science and business accustomed themselves to bend to the will of this soldier.

Finally, they rose en masse with courage overtaking the fear in their hearts, and demanded justice. Finally, they followed the lead of the youth of Libya who truly were fearless in their insistence on being recognized and deserving of opportunities and respect. The wealth of their country's resources used to obtain weapons, no thought to governmental and civil infrastructure.

The brutal tyrant declaring himself to be his nation's father and that all who valued their lives must view him as their deity. Just as the Almighty permits events to reveal themselves in all their raw and primal fervour, never intervening as some elements of civilization unravel civilization and resort to primitive carnage on their fellow humans, so too does Gadhafi reign.
"We want the international media to drive in with their cameras and see for themselves what they have done to Benghazi. They were burning people alive. When the army refused to fire at their brothers, the mercenaries set them on fire."

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Indifferent Nature

"As dawn broke over the ruins of central Christchurch, roads were buckled, buildings toppled and large pools of water had welled up from broken water pipes and sewers. In places, roads had collapsed into a milky, sand-coloured lake beneath the surface, the result of Christchurch's sandy foundations mixing with subterranean water under the force of the quake. Officials call it "liquefaction" of the ground. The Times, London
Nature has been busy - it seems more so in the last several years than previously - challenging humankind's adaptability and capacity to overcome the environmental and existential hurdles she has been hurling our way. From volcanic eruptions, to tsunamis, earthquakes, wild winter storms of amazing proportions, and cyclones, hurricanes and monsoon-type rain events resulting in monumental flooding, and alternately the fall-out of long periods of drought.

Country after country is sent reeling into despair as people are dislocated from historical places of residence seeking shelter and the potential to continue living as best they can, devoid of home and belonging and basic human needs, hoping to find succour somewhere, as the world's refugee populations swell and their intake elsewhere stagnates.

Food crops are devastated by long-term drought conditions, or plagues of insects. Floods of a magnitude never before seen ruin traditional food sources for great swathes of the world's populations. And then, there are those impossibly huge and difficult-to-manage forest fires burning through Earth's valuable carbon-sink forests.

Australia has suffered years of drought, followed by torrential rains, and in between has had to battle far-ranging, fiercely burning forest fires. It has had more than its share of cyclones, of tsunamis, floods, tornadoes and hail storms. Now New Zealand is in the news for the second, but far more profoundly destructive earthquake it has suffered in the past half-year.

Where desperate rescuers have been sifting through the rubble left of the buildings that have
collapsed in Christchurch. A city that has called itself the Garden City resembles a pit of hell. The very ground dissolved into a filth-laden soup swallowing roadways and making passage from one part of the city to another virtually impassable.

Survivors have been uncovered from the rubble they have been trapped under for far too long. Those who have not survived have been brought out of the rubble for burial and mourning. Rescue crews are using all the means at their disposal to detect the presence of those still alive under the collapsed buildings. As the death toll rises and people camp out in open ground.

Constant aftershocks remind everyone that the event has not quite concluded. Those who were fortunate to survive the quake's immense destructive wake may consider their survival miraculous, but it is their future and their life within it that will be miraculous if they are able to put their desperate fear behind them and get on with living.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Events, Unfolding As They Will

Strange how things have worked out. George W. Bush was considered to be a bit of a roughneck, an anti-intellectual, not too bright as evidenced presumably by his mangled syntax. The current President of the United States represents the polar opposite; a smoothly cosmopolitan academic whose lyrical rhetoric transfixed his audience who worshiped him into the White House.

When the fearfully dramatic, horribly destructive 9-11 attacks occurred, the American administration was swift to arrange for flights from the United States to the Middle East - in skies that went into immediate lock-down - to spirit Saudi royals out of the U.S. With the knowledge that most of the attackers were Saudi nationals, as was Osama bin Laden. American corporate ties with Saudi Arabia overrode all other considerations.

The Bushes, father and son, both in the oil business doing work on behalf of corporate tycoons and Saudi royals whose close personal relationship with the Bush clan was semi-public knowledge, made their accommodation somehow with the fact that those two things intersected; lucrative oil transactions, and a Wahhabist ruling class that generously funded jihad.

In the new administration, with a president who felt it was his mission to mend relationships with the Muslim world, Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world on a trip to Cairo, offering a hand of friendship to Iran. Predictably, Iran shunned any offers of conciliation. American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan did not endear the U.S. to the Arab/Muslim world, though this was a situation President Obama inherited from his predecessor.

As an American, as an American President, Barack Obama could not but be committed to the wars that were handed over to him. Just as he had of necessity to take responsibility for the financial collapse that was inherited thanks in large part to the previous administrations' (including a Democratic one) laissez faire attitude toward accountability and responsibility.

What is telling at this point is the reaction of the diplomatic/academic/statesman/world leader to the events that have suddenly exploded on the world stage, with the meltdown of long-time Arab and Muslim, Middle East and North African traditional politics, from dictatorships to tyrannies, theocracies to monarchies - and they are not all quite the same thing.

Just as the situations in each of those countries; Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Syria and Iran is somewhat different by degree, by their discrete populations' levels of education, wealth and expectations. And by their regimes' level of permissible openness in accountability, the news media, religious dictates.

Barack Obama's - and by extension, America's - lacklustre reaction to situations they hardly know how to parse and react to, vacillating, attempting to bide time, ending up failing the test of reliability if not outright extension of loyalty to past long-time allies in the geography has vexed and dismayed Saudi Arabia. For it now understands that should finally its own population become sufficiently fed up with the status quo, its American ally would decamp.

All the trust and support emanating from the West toward the autocratic regimes of the Middle East have suddenly gushed down the drainpipe of events washing away the despotic and fear-driven restraints of the socially and politically oppressed. Wobbling on the edge of collapse are both the moderately autocratic regimes and the savagely repressive ones.

Europe is now concerned with the prospect not only of losing a goodly portion of its energy supplies, but also of becoming overrun by migrants desperate to escape the turmoil being unleashed in their countries of origin. The United States is facing the prospect of energy shortages reminiscent of what occurred in the mid-to-late 1970s when rationing became a near reality.

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I Am Here in Tripoli

Not, however, for very much longer, to the absolute amazement of the world at large. The madly megalomaniacal monster that former U.S. President Ronald Regan dubbed a "mad dog" is on track to joining the only country in the world that will have him; Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez in 2009, standing alongside his historical soulmate declared: "we are writing new pages of history, we are here to change history, and create a new socialism, a new world."

Moammar Gadhafi may have videoed his presence in Tripoli, defying a sadly premature rumour he had fled his country, but it is yet early days in a swift-moving upheaval in a country that has been burdened for too many decades under his criminally eccentric rule. No country in the Middle East or Africa would be interested in giving him haven. The word has gone out for a complete repudiation of the mad man of Libya.

The head of the International Union of Islamic Scholars has issued a fatwa against the ravening lunatic still in control of Libya's armed forces. That religious edict called for action: "Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr. Gadhafi should do so". The Egyptian Islamic theologian Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi also urged military personnel in Libya "not to obey orders to strike at your own people".

Gadhafi cunningly played Europe for fossil-fuelled favours to overlook his terrorist plagues. He has now declared his intention to put down the rebellion that young 'drug-addled Libyan men, whose services have been bought by mendacious Western interests to destabilize the country' have caused. He has declared protests of his rule are regarded as a capital offence, and all those involved would be punished by execution.

He has sent warplanes into the air to strafe protesters, and helicopter gunships to demonstrate just how serious he is about putting down the rebellion. He has brought in African mercenaries to do his bidding, to slaughter those who dare resist his ironclad rule. The mercenaries have no loyalty or compassion for the Libyan population, firing into crowds, funeral processions, peoples' homes.
Homes that are beginning to run low on food, potable water and medicine.

The Arab League has condemned Gadhafi's harsh crackdown, and taken steps to suspend Libya from the League. Col. Gadhafi's foreign ambassadors have begun to desert his leaking ship of state. "We are sure that what is going on now in Libya is crimes against humanity and crimes of war", Libya's deputy permanent representative to the UN declared before reporters in New York as his colleagues looked on tensely.

Libya's UN representative, Ibrahim O. Dabbashi, issued this statement: "We warn all African countries who are sending their soldiers to fight, to fight with Gadhafi, that they will not see their soldiers coming back". And interestingly enough there are reports that those despised African mercenaries whom protest groups have been able to capture and confine have been summarily dispatched by the mobs, to meet their maker.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, in Cairo to offer his country's effusive willingness to assist the new regime-in-the-making has characterized the events unfolding in Libya as "quite appalling". He informed the media that he has tasked his officials to investigate whether any British-made weapons were being used in the "vicious repression".

Well, likely, Mr. Prime Minister, since Britain had undertaken to train Libyan police in 2008/2009, providing them with crowd control ammunition and tear gas.

Has he such a short memory that he cannot recall Britain's humanitarian transfer of Lockerbie bomber mastermind Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in exchange for a lucrative oil deal with Libya to favour BP? Which, along with other British corporate interests in the country, inclusive of GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG, Shell and Standard Chartered enjoy business dealings in the country. Has he thought of halting investments until such time as Gadhafi decamps?

For surely there is more to come, as promised by Saif al-Islam, the Libyan reformer, who has threatened that his father's regime is prepared to "fight to the last bullet", warning of a bloody civil war should the protest groups not be prepared to back down, for his father will not. But when he does, because he will be forced to ultimately, what will there be in his stead?

With the vast riches that the state (Gadhafi) acquired through fossil fuel production and export, where is the state infrastructure and the executive administration, the knowledgeable civilian technocrats, to run the country? The Islamist groups that Gadhafi was so anxious to send out over the world to wreak their mischief on his behalf now stand ready to pounce within Libya.

This inchoate anarchy is the legacy of a mad man who was recognized as such, even as he was being courted by Western business interests and their governments, and by his collegial co-rulers and -tyrants in the Middle East.

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Arab World Deconstruction: Reaping The Whirlwind

Interview with Phyllis Chesler: 'Israel Under Existential Siege'
by Fern Sidman, INN NY Correspondent Interview with Phyllis Cheser

Israel National News reporter Fern Sidman interviewed op-ed columnist, Dr. Phyllis Chesler, at a first-of-its-kind conference in Toronto organized by Advocates for Civil Liberties and entitled, "When Middle East Politics Invade Campus". Held on February 16th, the event dealt with the continued and increasingly hostile demonization of Israel, both on the college campus and in the media.

INN: Today, you addressed the escalating hatred of Israel in the realm of Western academia. Can you tell us your observations of this phenomenon since your book, "The New Anti-Semitism" came about some years ago?

PC: As I first wrote in 2001-2002, the new anti-Semitisim also consists of a rather frightening, genocidal anti-Zionism. The global demonization of Israel has gathered such speed and force that it could, potentially – it is certainly meant to – delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state. In 2005, Iran’s Ahmadinejad said that Israel must be “wiped off the map.” In 2006, he said that the Middle East would be better off “without the existence of the Zionist regime” and that Israel would “soon be wiped out.” No one did anything.

Now, in 2011, signs and placards in Cairo, including the many effigies of Hosni Mubarak, bore Stars of David; Mubarak was accused of being a Zionist—the worst epithet imaginable. President Ahmadinejad congratulated the triumphant Egyptians. saying: “Despite all the West’s complicated and Satanic designs…a new Middle East is emerging without the Zionist regime and U.S. interference..."

Israel is under the most profound, even existential siege.

On February 13, 2011, the Israeli government urged Israelis to return home from the Sinai for fear “that the peninsula will become a launching pad for terror attacks as Egyptian police abandon their posts.” Thus, Israel is now surrounded by Hamas in Gaza, Iran’s Hizbullah in Lebanon, potentially the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the various Islamist and jihadist groups on the West Bank.

In addition, let’s not forget that in the early years of the Intifada, Israeli civilians were murdered and maimed in huge numbers. Had the equivalent happened in the United States it would have instantly launched World War IV.

INN: Do you think the Egpytian people will eventually embrace a civilian government that is predicated on secular, democratic principles?

PC: Please remember that the women in Tahrir Square were mainly wearing serious hijab and even niqab. They are already pro-Islamist. According to a June 2010 Pew Research opinion survey of Egyptians, it stated that, “Fifty nine percent said they back Islamists. Only 27% said they back modernizers. Half of Egyptians support Hamas. Thirty percent support Hizbullah and 20% support al Qaida. Moreover, 95% of them would welcome Islamic influence over their politics….Eighty two percent of Egyptians support executing adulterers by stoning, 77% support whipping and cutting the hands off thieves. 84% support executing any Muslim who changes his religion."

What will it mean that such a population can vote? Will the vote be any different than the vote which elected Hamas in Gaza? Without the necessary precursors: the rule of law, a constitutional system of checks and balances, the separation of mosque and state, freedom of religion, a free press, education, women’s rights, human rights, a modern economic base, etc. the vote does not mean that democracy as we know it exists.

INN: Many speakers here today have spoken of the inherent danger of defending Israel on campus. Can you tell us your experience in doing so?

PC: The campuses have become increasingly and aggressively anti-Israel and pro-Islam. Today, anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. “Brownshirt” behavior rules the day. Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents are met with menace, if they are invited to speak at all and pro-Israel truth tellers are not even invited to speak.

Israel is not an apartheid nation. Muslim countries persecute non-Muslim minorities, Israel doesn't persecute non-Jews. The Arab Middle East is “judenrein,” Arab Christians are under siege there. Say this on most campuses, as I have, and you will be jeered, booed, possibly physically menaced, certainly demonized afterwards as a “racist” and “Islamophobe.” You will lose your publishing contacts and your former feminist political world. You will not be invited to speak by Women’s Studies programs.

My work on Islamic gender apartheid has been attacked in these quarters. But Islamic gender apartheid is a human rights violation and cannot be justified in the name of cultural relativism, tolerance, anti-racism, diversity, or political correctness. The battle for women's rights is central to the battle for Europe and for Western values. Radical feminists prefer not to see it..

INN: Do you have any statistics on the number of Israelis who have lost their lives due to the forces of radical Islam?

PC: Based on an American population of approximately 310 million, the Israeli civilian death count is the equivalent of 48,700 Americans killed by terrorists on our own soil, in pizza parlors, on buses, at Passover sedorim, in our beds. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, between 2001 and 2007, 8,342 Israelis were wounded by terrorist attacks, including 5,676 civilians.This is the equivalent of 340,000 wounded Americans.

INN: In your opinion, who is in the forefront of disseminating the myths about Israel?

PC: The politically correct line is that Israel, tiny Israel, is the “Nazi, Apartheid state.” Only Orwell would understand this misuse of language, this reversal of logic, which is meant to confuse and brainwash people. Such brainwashing has worked. Sixty years of Soviet and Arab League activism and Saudi monies have accomplished the unbelievable. Israel is not only the “bad guy,” it is the “very worst bad guy” in the entire universe.

INN: What is your message for those who are indifferent to the growing scourge of Islamic propaganda and terrorism?

PC: We, the world’s civilians, are now all Israelis. The same world which refused to stop the airplane hijackings and suicide killers which blew up countless Israeli civilians has now inherited this whirlwind. As they say: It may start with the Jews but it never ends there.

As published online at Arutz Sheva, 21 February 2011

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The Dilemma of Incendiary Pakistan

Pakistan, the world's leading tinderbox. The eyes and ears of the world are riveted upon the Middle East, and the upheavals of mass protests in Arab, Muslim and North African countries. The drama that is unfolding, the violence and the misery of the people transfixes the international community. The world of the West feels an especial responsibility, wringing hands and hoping to be able to maintain a degree of reasonability in their relationships.

Whom to support, and to promise future funding, trade and investment with? Concerns that with Libya falling into brief anarchy until the unseating of Colonel Ghaddafi an interruption in critical oil exports will imperil the fragile global economy still teetering on the brink of a relapse. But as inchoate as is the situation in the region at the present time, it is as nothing in comparison to the volcanic social, political, religious upheavals in Pakistan.

The country's cities have become a battleground as gunfire echoes on their streets and areas considered to be safe zones prove to be otherwise. Fanatical Islamist militants otherwise known as fascist jihadists determined to bring strict shariah and Islamist rule first to Pakistan, then spread throughout the area and finally the world at large, are grasping their opportunities and they are many.

Suicide bombers explode their bombs, and foreign investment is evaporating; even wealthy Pakistanis will not invest in their critically insecure country. Millions of people are on the verge of starvation, unable to return to the security of their rural areas after the epic monsoon floods that drove them from their homes, their fields, their livelihoods. Regional tensions are aflame.

Corruption is, as always, rampant. The once proud judiciary is at a standstill of indecision and trepidation for the future. The new reality is that no one is safe from the threat of assassination. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari stands teetering on the edge of collapse, with his own awareness that he might, at any time be toppled by his own army chiefs who might simply choose death for him.

The country has been unable to fully seize the day in battling its internal threat of terrorism, leaving the country destabilized and a threat to the geography. Jihad against India is never far from the agenda of the Islamists who are still supported by Pakistan's military. The potential for a conflict with the engagement of nuclear weapons is always a possibility on the dread horizon.

The country's economy, dependent on loans from the International Monetary Fund, is in dire condition, with growth rates at a creep and unemployment estimated at 34% even while the price of basic goods and foods are steeply rising. Fully 37% of the country's population is under age 14, leaving Pakistan to become the world's most populous - and indigent - Muslim state by 2030.

Sectarian violence is growing with Sunni and Shiite assassinating one another through routine drive-by shootings. Tribal animosities and religious party contests are part of the misery. Targeted killings are ongoing. Kashmir remains a tinder box. Human rights abuses are endemic. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province are now in the hands of the fundamentalists.

And this is the sole Muslim country to date with a full arsenal of nuclear weapons. That arsenal is growing. Balancing it is the fact that the country hosts more terrorists than any other; it is a breeding ground for training jihadists who then fan out over the world. This is a doomsday scenario.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Live Ammunition!

So civilized, exhibiting the traditional Muslim courtesy toward others, and concern for their well-being. These are the Arab world's boasts of themselves, exemplifying Islam's pacifying and brotherly concepts of worship of a peaceful deity. The deep malaise that affected Egypt and caused its youth to rise up in a final paroxysm of defiance against authority that seemed to take its army by complete surprise, is now playing itself out in far more rigid and tyrannical regimes.

Where Egyptian protesters, detesting the brutality of their police, railed against their obedience to the regime in initiating a violent crackdown in the initial stages of their protests, the army presented itself as one with the people. An illusion, to be sure, but not entirely. Enough so that the protesters saw in the representatives of their armed forces, a concern for the welfare of the people, even though the commanding officers would brook no threat to their authority and power.

Far different is the situation now unfolding with methodical and brutal thoroughness in Bahrain, where King Hamad did indeed, as was done also in Egypt, initiate some reforms that he felt his people were prepared for. Never dreaming that there would be an event on the near horizon that would incite his people to rail against his rule. For 'his people' included those who were enraged that they were not included amongst his people; he a Sunni, they Shiites.

The first protests garnered attention, and placatory statements issuing from the halls of power. King Hamad sent his son to smooth things over, to assure the protesters that their demands were heard and would be given due consideration. This mollified no one and the protests continued and continued to grow. And then reason was lost to hysteria in the threat being posed and the lethal hand of the rulers was ungloved.

First tear gas, and when that crowd-management device proved insufficiently effective, live ammunition. Troops brought in during the night hours while protesters slept, to fire upon them. And direct assaults during the following daytime hours. Desperate to escape the carnage, people attempted to flee the terror that they could not believe was being visited upon them, and screams were heard: "They are killing our people! They are killing our people!"

Not all fled. Some dauntlessly stood their ground defiantly determined to face their tormentors rather than turn their backs, to be fired upon. Holding their arms up, hands to the sky as though imploring a divine will to rescue them, they shouted their intent: "Peaceful, Peaceful!" Around them, others knelt on the ground to feverishly pray for divine intervention.

Anti-aircraft guns terrified them, tear gas blinded them, and people fled in a panic of survival as helicopter gunships sprayed the area and paramedics left their ambulances to try to retrieve the wounded. And they too became victims. The regime sealing its own doomed casket that will be buried deep in the ground of historical misfortune.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

A mansion standing on manicured grounds near the Black Sea resort of Gelendzhik. Whistleblowers allege that the $1 billion “palace” was built for Putin.
Environment Watch North Caucasus /

A mansion standing on manicured grounds near the Black Sea resort of Gelendzhik. Whistleblowers allege that the $1 billion “palace” was built for Putin.

And why should not an imperial ruler have a decent place to live? Why should a world leader not have a sumptuous piece of real estate to which he can with aplomb and pride invite other world leaders? Eight million square feet sounds about right. Quality workmanship; check. A fabulous Italianate architectural beauty.

Does not the Queen of England have multiple palaces, extravagant antiques and fabulous works of art, exquisite jewels and all the panoply of royalty? What makes her so special, and not Vladimir Putin?

The question answers itself. What is a billion dollars, give or take a million here or there, to a great country like Russia? Look at the reality; Vladimir Putin was President of his country, he is now Prime Minister of his country and is destined once again to be President. Russians adore their indomitable strongman. It would be shameful for him to have to live in a perfectly ordinary, undistinguished domicile, a rudely unwarranted insult to the country and to the man.

Who can believe the black-hearted claims of his detractors that the Prime Minister has acted illegally to order his mansion built on 74 hectares of prime Black Sea land complete with vineyard and helipad, indoor cinema, summer amphitheatre, casino, swimming pools, gymnasium and clock tower. He deserves the very best - tasteful mind, not ostentatious - that can be claimed through special allocations. Which the enemies of the state insist represents corruption, bribery, theft.

Eight million square feet of gracious living space is precisely the kind of edifice required to express the gratitude of the Russian people to the sacrifices made on their behalf by the peerless Vladimir Putin. A gift from them to him, for he could never of his own earnings afford such a splendid accolade to his skills as diplomat, lawmaker, world leader. The man has no equal on the world stage. Well, Silvio Berlusconi might contest that, but he will not, for he too loves Vladimir Putin.

Long live the 21st Century Czar!

A double-headed eagle with a crown, similar to the Russian coat of arms, atop a gate.
Environment Watch North Caucasus /

A double-headed eagle with a crown, similar to the Russian coat of arms, atop a gate.

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Days of Rage and Hate

With the ongoing viral episodes of popular dissent and protest against the reigns of rulers and tyrants in North Africa and the Middle East infecting ever greater numbers of autocratic and human-rights-abusive regimes what better way to attempt to defuse the population's fury than to offer them up a sacrificial lamb? And which lamb presents itself historically on the world stage to serve that purpose, deflecting attention from corrupt regimes than the one that represents Jews?

That the United States has brought upon itself the umbrage of the Arab world for its ongoing support of the State of Israel merely proves what many know to be truth, that Israel controls American politics. The United States of America, therefore, presents itself and its policies as an arm of Israeli politics and its ideology of conquest over Arab land. As such, Americans and their symbols are fair game for attack in the struggle of the Palestinian people to wrest to themselves that which is rightfully theirs, by their reckoning.

PA Calls for ‘Day of Rage;’ US Suspends Travel to Jericho

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu PA Calls for ‘Day of Rage’

The Palestinian Authority has joined the Arab world's spreading ’Day of Rage” phenomenon following the American veto Friday of an anti-Israel resolution in the United Nations Security Council.

After the vote, the United States imposed sharp limits in travel by American personnel Judea and Samaria, which now joins Bahrain, Libya and Tunisia on the U.S. State Department’s travel warning list.

"As a precautionary measure, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem has suspended all personal travel of official American personnel to Jericho and has restricted personal travel of official American personnel on routes 1 and 90 to pre-authorized travel only,” the State Department advised. Route 90 is the north-south highway running though the Jordan Valley. Route 1 refers to the section connecting the lower Jordan Valley with Jerusalem.

The restrictions, in effect through Monday, include an order to American staff to avoid Jericho, located in the southern Jordan Valley, and were issued following the U.S. veto of the Lebanon-sponsored United Nations resolution condemning Israel for a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.

Egypt denounced the United States, charging that “the veto, which contradicts the American public stance rejecting settlement policy, will lead to more damage to the United States' credibility on the Arab side as a mediator in peace efforts.”

The Palestinian Authority, which has incited violence on its website while preaching non-violence and "resistance" on English-language sites, is organizing the ”Day of Rage” to protest the American veto. Fourteen members of the U.N. Security Council, including Germany, Britain and France, voted for the resolution.

The Obama administration explained that although it objects to a Jewish presence in areas claimed by the Palestinian Authority, direct talks between the PA and Israel are the best way to address the issue. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas conditioned direct talks on a halt to all building for Jews in Judea and Samaria, and the ”diplomatic process” is widely considered to be a hopeless failure.

Tawfik Al-Tirawi, a member of the Central Committee of Fatah, the faction headed by Abbas, called on Arabs to demonstrate, with the largest protest slated for Friday, the Muslim day of rest.

Both Fatah and its rival Hamas condemned the veto, charging that it proves that the United States is not a fair mediator because it does not accept the PA position.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum expressed hope that the American veto will help re-unite the two factions because “the veto reveals the reality of the clear U.S. support to what the Zionist enemy does against our people.”

He added, "Let's start a new phase to empower the internal Palestinian unity."

As published online at Arutz Sheva, 20 February 2011

Thus does Iran call for a "day of hatred" to usefully deploy the simmering resentment and anger of its population against the fanatical theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran's Grand Ayatollah and its irresistibly-charming Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While the basiji and the Republican Guard teach Libya a thing or two about putting down dissent. And warships are sent through a newly-acquiescent Egypt's Suez Canal to challenge Israel at closer range.

And the Palestinian Authority, concerned over murmurs of dissatisfaction with its heritage of graft and corruption from among Palestinians see huge merit in pointing out to its population once again that it is the accursed Jews, not their esteemed leaders, who are responsible for the lack of an independent sovereign state for the long-suffering Palestinians. It is toward the State of Israel that the ire of frustration must be directed. And by logical extension, the United States of America.

Consider it done.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Women's Shelters in Afghanistan

"This campaign is meant to try to appease the Taliban; it is a goodwill gesture toward them. For that reason, it's very, very dangerous." Manizha Naderi, Women for Afghan Women
Husn Banu Ghazanfar, the acting minister for women's affairs appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai however, believes differently. The issue is who should receive international funding for the operation of the women's shelters scattered throughout the country. The funding goes into the hands of NGOs working with local women to improve the lives of battered Afghan women and girls.

The shelters' work is actually to shelter these women who have been savagely harassed and abused and who fear for their lives through the reprisals of outraged men and family members whose honour has been impacted by the audacity of their women to resist tradition. Those who operate these shelters dedicated to the repair of the mental and physical state of these victimized women fear the government's intentions.

The day-to-day administration of the shelters would be placed in jeopardy, they feel, should the administration of President Karzai be successful in persuading international donors that his government should be the recipient of operating funds. The spearheading of this initiative is thought to be an attempt to bring deeply conservative Afghans into support of the Karzai government.

And the losers would be the women and girls running away from abusive forced marriages, where the women are treated like chattel, and beaten and refused rest, and where rape victims appear for shelter from the certainty of family honour being avenged by blaming them for their rape. The traditional religious/cultural conservatives in opposition to women's basic human rights is endemic in Afghan society.

And the Taliban whose classical treatment of women as disposable objects whose mission in life is to please and obey men's dictates, to bear and raise children, to absent themselves from public life, and accept that a woman's lot includes regular thrashing, whom President Karzai is busily attempting to negotiate a peace and power-sharing deal with, would far prefer not to have Western ideals in indulging women to impact on Afghan social life.

The handful of shelters established in urban centers are barely sufficient to scratch the surface of need for Afghan women fleeing desperate situations, looking for a safe refuge and medical treatment as it is. Fear of exacting the wrath and vengeance of those who hold them in thrall is enough to keep most Afghan women in their state of desperate survival.

"I would never have had the courage to run, if there had not been somewhere to run to", confessed one wanly relieved village woman. Western governments from whom the financial aid emanates are understandably loathe to render unto this Caesar what he deems to be his due, given the rampant corruption known to rule the country and which President Karzai refuses to acknowledge.

This is, after all, a medieval society, lagging in every indice of forward-looking human entitlements for its population living in a morass of squalid poverty and gender violations. One which believes that the safe havens that these women's shelters represent hide the real purpose of their existence, as houses of prostitution.

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Whetting Forbidden Appetites

"Virtual contact cannot and should not be a substitute for direct human contact with people at all levels of our society." Pope Benedict XVI
What if contact directly, face-to-face, with others in society does not fulfill peoples' needs? Mostly because they do not occur? And people turn to other sources of comfort and enterprisingly find a niche for themselves in a virtual world where they are accepted? What if the allure of the Internet and its vast resources attract the intellectually curious and the lonely of the world?

Here's an irony: a computer brought into the 14th-Century Santo Domingo el Real convent in Toledo, Spain a decade ago because the mother superior had been persuaded that it could result in the need for fewer outside forays by her nuns. "It enabled us to do things such as banking online and saved us having to make trips into the city."

Clearly, the mother superior felt that conducting business activities through the Internet was far preferable than having her nuns exposed to direct human contact, lest they be defiled by that contact. The purity of their marriage to God kept sacrosanct by the distance of attractions not sanctioned by Mother Church; the resistibility of 'human contact' resulting in impurities of thought and action.

The reverse occurred, as it so often does. The computer opened the portals of opportunity for Maria Jesus Galan, brought to the convent as a novice at 21, and now 54 years of age. For whom the confined life spelled the ennui of tradition, and when the opportunity beckoned to open a FaceBook account, recounted her hobbies as "reading, music, art and making friends".

And make friends she did, almost six hundred of them. She also made very practical use of the computer, to digitize the voluminous, venerable convent archives, thus making them accessible to the world at large. So effective was she in her commitment to her vision that she won recognition from the government for scanning the convent's library texts.

The mother superior and the other nuns disapproved, however. The Archbishop of Toledo, citing "an internal matter", would not comment on the Dominican Order's turning upon Sister Galan, and firmly disinviting her from the convent. Now living with her elderly mother, Sister Galan looks ahead to the future, newly opened for her.

"I would like to visit London and New York. Such things were impossible to even dream when at the convent." The Pope's warning seems to have been upended by reality; the paradox of human behaviour and the unpredictability of fortune.

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National Contrasts

China must surely be one of the few countries of the world that encourages its citizens to smoke. The national revenues acquired through taxation of tobacco and the fact that the government itself is inextricably involved in tobacco production as a revenue-retrieving renewable crop seems to be paramount. Incentives are given generously to farmers who grow tobacco. Farmers are able, in China, to make a better living growing food crops than tobacco, but they are encouraged to grow tobacco crops by government agencies.

At times of drought, precious water for irrigation of tobacco leaf growth will be made available through government auspices for tobacco growers, but will be withheld from farmers growing food crops. China is the largest tobacco producer in the world, producing approximately one-third of world output. Most of which is processed into cigarettes meant strictly for domestic consumption. Of a population of roughly 1.3-billion, it is estimated that over 320-million Chinese are smokers, and another half-billion suffer from second-hand effects as 'passive smokers'.

All the dreaded health hazards associated with smoking are visited upon Chinese smokers no less than elsewhere in the world. Elsewhere in the world, however, national governments, in recognition of the deadly effects of tobacco on human health, have taken strenuous efforts to warn their populations of the cumulative and deadly morbidity rates in long-term smoking. Whereas in China that national conscience has yet to emerge.

Reason: representing less than 1% of sown agricultural land, tobacco growing and manufacturing processes, generated about 95 billion in tax and profit a decade ago for the government. Contrasted with less than half that, at 40 billion to tax revenues through the entire agricultural sector. Taxes and profit from tobacco production result in 15% of net income for the government.
Compelling reason for the state to hold back on warning consumers of deleterious health effects.

And in Canada, the government has launched through Health Canada, a new set of impressively graphic health warnings to be printed both on the exterior and interior of cigarette packages. "Canada is the only country in the world that actually takes over the inside of the package as well as the outside", explained Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "This is really innovative."

Under the draft legislation Tobacco companies will be compelled to use four toxic emission messages to be included on the side panels of cigarette packages, along with a choice of 12 new images meant to cover 75% of the outside panels of packages. To be effective and in place by year's end. And the eight new health messages which will be appearing, in full colour,on the inside of packages.

Effectively resulting in Canada's newest efforts to emphatically get the damaged-health message across to the smoking public. To take full effect at the distributor and retail levels by 2012.

In Canada, taxes on tobacco sales were increased years ago, in an effort to make smoking less affordable, to encourage smokers to reduce their smoking habit. And to encourage adolescents to understand that this is an expensive habit, one that will hit their disposable income as well as their future health. Because of the politics involved in dealing with illegal production and sale of unauthorized contraband cigarettes in the aboriginal community, Canada has a severe hiccough in its meaningful attacks on cigarette consumption.

Aboriginal, First Nations communities that advertise themselves as 'sovereign', under their own laws and recognizance, oppose federal government interference in their production and sale of illicit tobacco. The new packaging rules will not, as a result, apply to contraband cigarettes produced on aboriginal reserves, despite their accounting for 20% of the Canadian market. And aimed in large part, at consumption by young people for whom the far lower cost is critical.

The First Nations reserves, in other words, acting in moral compliance and ethical agreement with the Government of China - intent on enhancing their incomes - considering as irrelevant to their larger purpose the impact on peoples' health, well enough recognized through scientific enquiry and medical research.

Impartial, non-subjective values. Submission to the overriding concern of revenue enhancement. Responsible governance. Seen otherwise: people do have the privilege of invoking personal choice, responsibility, pride in the useful virtue of intelligent choices.

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