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Monday, January 16, 2012

Overnight music video - Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe

'Why I've taken Google, Facebook to court'

                                           Mr. Rai who filed the unusual lawsuit, is editor of
a Hindi and Urdu language weekly tabloid in Delhi. He studied law in college in
the north Indian city of Lucknow.


NEW DELHI — (AFP).Google and Facebook on Monday fought in the Delhi High Court to quash criminal charges that they are responsible for obscene online content. The companies, which are set to be joined in their action by Microsoft and Yahoo!, have filed petitions asking for a lower court case brought by a local journalist against 21 Internet firms to be stayed.
On Friday, the Indian government gave its sanction for the firms to be tried for serious crimes such as fomenting religious hatred and spreading social discord, offences that could land company directors in prison.
Lawyers acting for the search engine and social networking site told Delhi High Court Justice Suresh Kait that they were not responsible for material posted by users on their platforms."Search engines such as Google cannot control websites being searched by users," Google-India's lawyer Neraj Kishan Kaul told the packed court."(The) summons reflects a complete lack of understanding in how it works," Kaul told the judge, referring to a summons issued to the Internet companies by a lower criminal court on December 23.Kaul also insisted that Internet companies could not be held responsible for filtering content."There are serious constitutional issues of freedom of speech," the lawyer said.Facebook India's lawyer Sidharth Luthra said evidence presented against the defendants by the complainant, 39-year-old journalist Vijay Rai, needed to be "tested" before it could be admitted at trial.Rai has submitted a compact disc of evidence he says was taken from the Internet that risks causing religious strife."Unlike search engines, Facebook is a closed group and even as we trying to create a global community we try and respect local laws," Luthra told the judge, adding that Facebook has safeguards against abuse and obscenity.Google and Facebook's lawyers told the court that they act to remove content deemed to contravene laws in the countries in which they operate.Read the full story here.

DHS' X-ray scanners "Society will pay a huge price in cancer because of this".

DHS' X-ray scanners "Society will pay a huge price in cancer because of this".(CNet).Internal Homeland Security documents describing specifications for border-crossing scanners, which emit gamma or X-ray radiation to probe vehicles and their occupants, are raising new health and privacy concerns, CNET has learned.Even though a public outcry has prompted Homeland Security to move away from adding X-ray machines to airports--it purchased 300 body scanners last year that used alternative technology instead--it appears to be embracing them at U.S.-Mexico land border crossings as an efficient way to detect drugs, currency, and explosives.A 63-page set of specifications (PDF), heavily redacted, obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center through the Freedom of Information Act, says the scanners must "be based on X-Ray or gamma technology," which use potentially dangerous ionizing radiation at high energies, and "shall be capable of scanning cars, SUVs, motorcycles and busses."
"Society will pay a huge price in cancer because of this," John Sedat, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco, told CNET. Sedat has raised concerns about the health risks of X-ray scanners, and the European Commission in November prohibited their use in European airports.Rez says the name that Homeland Security has picked for its border scanners--"Low Energy Drive Through Portal Non-Intrusive Inspection Systems"--is highly misleading. "To call anything based on high energy X-rays 'low energy' is worse than 1984 doublespeak" because radiation emitted by the scanners "goes right through the person" sitting in a vehicle, he says. (High energy X-rays can penetrate not only human flesh, but steel plates that are multiple centimeters thick.)The origin of the scanners can be traced back to a not-so-obvious source: President Obama's signature American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus bill. That awarded a $27.3 million contract to American Science and Engineering, or AS&E, to build 35 scanners, according to a description at Soon afterward, X-ray scanners appeared at the San Ysidro, Calif., checkpoint, sometimes called the world's busiest land crossing; other locations listed in the specification include El Paso, Texas, Columbus, N.M., and Nogales, Ariz.
Now Homeland Security wants more. The U.S. government convened a "pre-solicitation conference" in Washington, D.C., on November 29, 2011, according to a public procurement document. Another document says "Customs and Border Protection is very appreciative of all the responses received" and plans to publish a formal request for proposals for the next purchase on February 1.Read the full story here.

IDF Bedouin Paratrooper Proud To Serve

Although not known to most of the world, there are many Muslim Bedouins that have been loyal citizens of Israel for many generations!On the night of the IDF Paratrooper induction ceremony in Jerusalem,'s managing editor Yishai Fleisher met a special family. This is their inspiring story of national pride that has stretched over the generations of Israel's founding and growth up to the present day.Listen to their inspiring words of why, as Muslims and Arabs, they feel so privileged to be part of the country of Israel, and why they so much look forward to their son serving the country by becoming a member of the IDF.
HT: UnitedWithIsrael.

Pal Mufti :"Muslims' destiny is to kill Jews"

Muslims' destiny is to kill Jews.(PalWatch).By Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik.
PA's highest religious authority, the Mufti,at Fatah event:
Resurrection will come only after Jews are killed by Muslims
Moderator at Fatah event:
"Our war with the descendants
of the apes and pigs (i.e., Jews)
is a war of religion and faith"

Last week, the principal Palestinian Authority religious leader, the Mufti Muhammad Hussein, presented the killing of Jews by Muslims as a religious Islamic goal. At an event celebrating the 47th anniversary of the founding of Fatah, he cited the Hadith (Islamic tradition attributed to Muhammad) saying that the Hour of Resurrection will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them: "The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews.
The Jew will hide behind stones or trees.
Then the stones or trees will call:
'Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'"
Click to view
Palestinian Media Watch reported regularly during the PA terror campaign (Intifada, 2000-2005) on the repeated use of this Hadith by PA clerics on official PA TV to motivate Palestinians to terror attacks, preaching that Muslims had an Islamic obligation to kill Jews. The fact that the Mufti quotes this now indicates that this may have remained part of the PA's religious establishment's teachings, even though it is less frequently promoted on PA TV.
The last time official PA TV broadcast a sermon during which this Hadith calling to kill Jews was quoted was in 2010.
The years of PA promotion of killing Jews and PA religious leaders' citing this Hadith to justify it, may have contributed to the high acceptance of it in PA society. A poll sponsored by the Israel Project last year found that 73% of Palestinians "believe" this Hadith. [July 2011, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.]
The moderator who introduced the Mufti at the Fatah event last week reiterated another Islamic belief; that the Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs:
"Our war with the descendants of the apes and pigs (i.e., Jews)
is a war of religion and faith."
The Mufti did not distance himself from this hate statement that Islam is in a religious war with the Jews, but added to it that Islam's goal is to kill Jews
There are numerous collections of Hadith, some of which are not accepted as reliable. However, the Mufti stressed that the Islamic belief that Jews will be killed by Muslims as a precursor to Resurrection, is an authentic Islamic belief because it appears in "the reliable" and trusted Hadith collections of Al-Bukhari and Muslim.This Islamic tradition asserts that as the killing of Jews will progress, Jews will hide behind stones and trees, but even they will expose the Jews and call out: "Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." One tree however, called the Gharqad, will hide the Jews from the Muslims. The Mufti in his talk at the Fatah event claimed that in response to this Islamic belief, Israelis have been planting Gharqad trees around their cities and towns, in order to have a place to hide from the Muslims who will be coming to kill them.
This is not the first time the Mufti has incited to hatred against Jews in the name of Islam. In a sermon at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2010, he preached that the Jews are the "enemies of Allah."The Mufti is appointed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He voiced this latest hate speech, that Jews are to be killed by Muslims, at an official Fatah celebration. Abbas is also the Chairman of Fatah.

The following is an excerpt from the Fatah ceremony broadcast on PA TV:
Moderator at Fatah ceremony
"Our war with the descendants of the apes and pigs (i.e., Jews)
is a war of religion and faith.
Long Live Fatah! [I invite you,] our honorable Sheikh."

PA Mufti Muhammad Hussein comes to the podium and says:
"47 years ago the [Fatah] revolution started. Which revolution? The modern revolution of the Palestinian people's history. In fact, Palestine in its entirety is a revolution, since [Caliph] Umar came [to conquer Jerusalem, 637 CE], and continuing today, and until the End of Days. The reliable Hadith (tradition attributed to Muhammad), [found] in the two reliable collections, Bukhari and Muslim, says:
"The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews.
The Jew will hide behind stones or trees.
Then the stones or trees will call:
'Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'
Except the Gharqad tree [which will keep silent]."
Therefore it is no wonder that you see Gharqad [trees]
surrounding the [Israeli] settlements and colonies.."

Hmmmm.........L'histoire se répète !Read and see the full story here.

MFS - The Other News

                    Morning Posting.

  • Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation Argentina 5.5 - 5.4 ; Indonesia 5.3 - 5.2 !More info here.

  • 'Iran says it arrested suspects in scientist killing'.(JPost).Iranian authorities have arrested several suspects in connection with the assassination of nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan last week, Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying in Iranian media Monday."A number of people who had a hand in the assassination of martyr Ahmadi-Roshan have been arrested," Mehr News quoted him as saying. "[An] investigation is underway to identify the terrorists and details about the assassination."Read the full story here.

  • Saudi Arabia says it can raise oil production to fill any supply gap.(AlArabiya).The world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, said on Monday it could increase oil production by about 2 million barrels per day (bpd) “almost immediately,” a day after Iran threatened its Gulf neighbors not to compensate for any shortfall in its oil exports if sanctions bite too harshly.“We can easily get up to 11.4, 11.8 million almost immediately, in a few days,” Dow Jones Newswires quoted Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi as telling CNN in an interview. The country currently produces just under 10 million bpd now.Saudi Arabia has promised repeatedly to fill any supply gap left if output from Iran or any other major producer is disrupted. But “to get to the next [700,000 barrels a day] or so, we probably need about 90 days”, he said.That would take Saudi Arabian output to its full capacity of 12.5 million bpd.Naimi said the kingdom favors an oil price of $100 per barrel, identifying an ideal oil price for the first time in more than three years.Our wish and hope is we can stabilize this oil price and keep it at a level of around $100,” Naimi said.Riyadh has not specified a preferred price range since it said it favored $75 per barrel in November 2008. Recently, however, Naimi has said that price level was out of date.Iran has warned neighboring Gulf states not to compensate for a possible shortfall of its oil exports after it has been hit with Western sanction.“If the oil-producing nations on the Persian Gulf decide to substitute Iran’s oil, then they will be held responsible for what happens,” Iran’s OPEC representative Mohammad Ali Khatibi was quoted as saying by Sharq newspaper.“We would not consider these actions to be friendly,” Khatibi added.“I personally do not believe that the Strait, if it were shut, will be shut for any length of time. The world cannot stand for that,” the oil minister.Asked if he is concerned about the war of words between Iran and United States, Naimi said: “I don’t think all these pronouncements are helpful to the international oil market or to the price of oil. It’s really disturbing.”Read the full story here.

  • Oil prices, Iran are increasingly sources of concern.(WP).By Steven Mufson.The price of crude oil and growing tensions with Iran are bubbling to the top of economists’ and policymakers’ worry lists for 2012, as U.S. and European Union sanctions threaten to reduce the sales of Iranian oil and put pressure on one of the world’s largest petroleum exporters.“It’s been in the background for quite some time,” said Edward Yardeni, a leading investment strategist. “I’ve characterized it as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse for 2012. Now it’s come from behind to be at the head of the pack.”The push for tighter sanctions on Iranian oil exports comes at a time when oil prices are already high. Last year was a record-shattering year for oil prices, which averaged $107 a barrel, about 14 percent more than in the previous record year of 2008, according to figures from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.The U.S. oil import bill — for crude and refined products — jumped about $125 billion from 2010 to 2011.Rising oil prices could hurt the fragile global economy, which includes economists’ other big worry: Europe.Hmmmm......Why Obama cancelled the oil sanctions on Iran?Reelection purposes!Read the full story here.

  • Iraq detains a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, including many Americans who work for the U.S. Embassy.(Alarabiya).Citing unnamed industry officials, the newspaper said the detentions have occurred mainly at the airport in Baghdad and at checkpoints around the capital. U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, leaving behind an Iraqi security force that officials said could maintain internal security.The contractors were detained after the Iraqi authorities raised questions about their documents, including visas, weapons permits and authorizations to drive certain routes, the report said.Although no formal charges have been filed, the detentions have lasted from a few hours to nearly three weeks, the paper noted.Last month, two Americans, a Fijian and 12 Iraqis employed by Triple Canopy, a private security company, were detained for 18 days after their convoy from Kalsu, south of Baghdad, to Taji, north of the capital, was stopped for what Iraqi officials said was improper paperwork, The Times said. One of the Americans, Alex Antiohos, 32, a former Army Green Beret medic who served in the Iraq war, said in a telephone interview that he and his colleagues were kept at an Iraqi army camp. He said they fed insect-infested plates of rice and fish, forced to sleep in a former jail, and were verbally threatened by an Iraqi general, according to the report.“At times, I feared for my safety,” Antiohos is quoted as saying. Just after the last U.S. troops left, the Iraqis stopped issuing and renewing many weapons licenses and other authorizations held by contractors, the paper noted. The restrictions led to a sequence of events in which contractors were being detained for having expired documents that the government would not renew, The Times said. Read the full story here.

  • The End of SOPA (At Least in its Current Form): Congress Shelved SOPA, Putting Off Action on the Bill.(SHTF).Misguided efforts to combat online privacy have been threatening to stifle innovation, suppress free speech, and even, in some cases, undermine national security. As of yesterday, though, there’s a lot less to worry about. At issue are two related bills: the Senate’s Protect IP Act and the even more offensive Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, both of which are generated intense opposition from tech giants and First Amendment advocates. The first sign that the bills’ prospects were dwindling came Friday, when SOPA sponsors agreed to drop a key provision that would have required service providers to block access to international sites accused of piracy.The legislation ran into an even more significant problem yesterday when the White House announced its opposition to the bills. Though the administration’s chief technology officials officials acknowledged the problem of online privacy, the White House statement presented a fairly detailed critique of the measures and concluded, “We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” It added that any proposed legislation “must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet.”Until now, the Obama administration had not taken a position on the issue. The response was published yesterday as part of the online “We The People” petition initiative launched by the White House last year.Though the administration did issue a formal veto threat, the White House’s opposition signaled the end of these bills, at least in their current form.A few hours later, Congress shelved SOPA, putting off action on the bill indefinitely.The scariest part of the legislation, as Daisy points out above, is that due process would have been eliminated (just like in the NDAA), forcing internet providers, search engines and ad networks to simply shut down a web site(s) based on just the complaintant’s accusations, leaving those web site owners who were shut down to deal with the fallout with costly legal expenses and lengthy court battles.You may recall that in 2010 the government shut down 73,000 web sites in exactly this manner. Though the owners of the majority of the targeted sites were not technically infringing copyrights, some were linking to other sites that did, making them an accessory.Even more alarming is the ability, under legislation such as SOPA, of the government to control the flow of information across major internet providers. Articles or videos criticizing political figures or policies could easily be targeted, as they were in October of this year when the government moved to shut down rogue publishers of critical content .What it boils down to is that SOPA was an attempt to put the power of information back in the hands of an elite few who are rapidly losing the ability to control what the masses are reading, hearing and seeing. Alternative news and ‘extremist’ information was the target (and still is).While we applaud President Obama (yes, we agree with him on this move) for formally issuing a veto threat, we remain skeptical of his motivations. This being an election year, the last thing the President needs to be dealing with along with the economic crisis and tensions in the middle east, is the protests of millions of voters who would have undoubtedly taken to the streets when access to their favorite web sites like Youtube, Google, Facebook, and Twitter were shut down because of alleged SOPA violations.Moreover, we aren’t one bit convinced that this veto was done in the interests of free expression, as the administration may claim. In November, the President issued a similar veto threat about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows for the detention of American citizens determined to be threats to national security and public safety on the domestic (U.S.) battlefront. He flip-flopped on the issue just a couple of weeks later, and signed the bill into law over New Year’s weekend to complete silence from the mainstream media.It is our view that SOPA, in one form or another, will return with a vengeance.Hmmmm.......Brace yourselves for the Internet I.D. Card...........Incoming!Read the full story here.

  • Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Aide: Iran to Use All Means to Defend Interests.(Fars). Speaking to reporters here in Tehran on Monday, Supreme Leader's Advisor for Military Affairs Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi pointed to a letter sent to Iran on the Strait of Hormoz, and noted that the strait is a strategic waterway both for global trade and global energy. Safavi further said Iran's coastal line is stretched from Iraqi Southeastern Al-Faw peninsula to Guatr in the Sea of Oman and for this very reason Iran can control and guarantee security of global energy in this region. An estimated 40 percent of the world's oil supply passes through the waterway. He added that Iran believes that security of this region should be established through collective measures. "If a danger is posed to Iran, we will use different political and other types of measures to defend our interests," Safavi underscores. Earlier today, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast confirmed receiving a US letter on the Strait of Hormoz, and underlined that Tehran is studying the message and will respond to it if necessary. The US letter follows threats by Iran last month to shut off the Strait of Hormuz - the world's most important oil shipping lane - if new US and EU sanctions over its nuclear program halted Iranian oil exports. The United States has said it would not allow Iran to block the Strait, calling it a "red line" for the US military. In response, Lieutenant Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Hossein Salami dismissed the US warning over the closure of the strategic strait, and stressed that powerful Iran acts on its own and never asks for anyone's permission to carry out what it desires. Iranian lawmakers and officials have recently warned enemies that Iran is entitled to the right to close the strategic oil lifeline as a defensive option against foreign invasion. "The closure of the Strait of Hormoz is not on the Islamic Republic of Iran's agenda (at present), but if threats against Iran come to trample upon the rights of our nation while others use the strait for exporting their oil, then Iran will be entitled to the right to close the Strait of Hormoz," member of the Iranian Parliament Mohammad Taqi Rahbar told FNA late December. "The international conventions reserve such rights for the Islamic Republic of Iran as well," Rahbar underscored. The lawmaker, however, said, "For the time being, the Islamic Republic of Iran has not decided to close the strait, but this (closing the strait) depends on the conditions of the region." Hmmmmm.......After hearing Salami, Waiting now to hear from 'Baloni'.Read the full story here.

  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says it is committed to defense treaty with Syria.(AlArabiya).Following reports alleging its involvement in the violent repression of Syrian protestors, Iran’s government said it has not yet interfered in the situation in Syria, but stressed its commitment to the joint defense treaty to which Iran and Syria are signatory. Iran has viewed what is happening in Syria as a domestic affair, but it will definitely interfere in case a foreign attack in launched on Syria, a source from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) told Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity.The source added that, according to preliminary estimates, the situation in Syria is “good” till now.“Our brethren in Syria see the same thing and expect the crisis to be resolved within two months or so,” the source said.The source pointed out that Syria is different from other countries that witnessed protests in the sense that it is surrounded by supporters from all sides.“We and our brethren in Iraq and Lebanon are protecting Syria,” the source explained in a clear reference to Nouri al-Malikil’s government and Hezbollah, both allies of Iran.Despite reports stating that so far the situation in Syria is “stable,” the IRGC, the source pointed out, is still worried of a division or a coup in the Syrian army.According to American officials who believe the IRGC is taking part in the fight against Syrian opposition, Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of IRGC al-Quds Force, which specializes in operations outside Iran was in Damascus this month.Read the full story here.

  • Anti-Israel hackers strike El Al, Tel Aviv Stock Exchange websites.(JPost).Hours after anti-Israel hackers said they would strike the websites of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al, both sites were taken offline overnight on Monday.The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange website made a swift recovery and was back online by Monday morning, but the El Al website remained unavailable into the morning.The prominent hacker 0xOmar, who has been at the forefront of an Internet assault on Israel, and who released tens of thousands of Israeli credit card numbers last month, sent an email to The Jerusalem Post before the attack.He said he had been joined by a hacking team called "Nightmare." The new group "promised to take down" the two websites by morning, he added.El Al released a statement saying it was aware that "a cyber war has been waged against the State of Israel for two weeks. El Al is closely monitoring the activities of the Saudi hacker [0xOmar]." El Al said steps being taken to fortify its official website "could cause disruptions to the website's activities." Both websites supply key information to members of the public, and their attack represents an escalation in the web war being waged against Israel.The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange confirmed it was targeted and said it was subject to a denial of service attack (DoS), in which a server is flooded with hits, making it unavailable to other users.TASE said its technicians were working to ensure its website would be fully operational on Monday.Meanwhile, a Jewish pro-Israel hacker named Hannibal published information enabling web users to break into the accounts of 20,000 Arab Facebook users.Hannibal said he held information that would allow for the breaking in to 10 million Iranian and Saudi bank accounts, and threatened to cause billions of dollars worth of damages.Hamas on Sunday also called for an escalation of Internet hacking against Israel, saluting Arab programmers who have managed to infiltrate Israeli computer systems.Read the full story here.

  • Costa Concordia Disaster - Rescue Workers Search Desperately for Survivors.(Spiegel).By Julia Stanek. The death toll in the Costa Concordia disaster has risen to six after a body was found early on Monday. Sixteen people are still missing. Rescue workers described the treacherous conditions aboard the ship, which is lying on its side off the Italian island of Giglio.The passageways of the Costa Concordia are said to be as dark and damp as caves. The Italian rescuers who are searching the wrecked cruise ship for survivors know a lot about such environments. They belong to a special unit of the fire department that apply mountain-rescue techniques to water-based operations. On Sunday, they managed to rescue three people from their cabins, including a Korean couple on their honeymoon who were found trapped in a room. On Monday, the death toll from the accident rose to at least six people after the body of an adult male passenger was found just before dawn. More than 60 were injured, and 16 people are still missing on Monday. The ship, which had around 4,200 passengers on board, struck a rock on Friday evening just hours after leaving the Italian port of Civitavecchia and is now lying on its side close to the island of Giglio. "The ship is now tilting at an angle of about 87 percent," Flavio Vescovio, an Alpine rescue specialist, told Spiegel online.Read and see the full story here.

  • Google's arguments in Indian court provoke sharp remarks from judge.(NDTV).New Delhi: Google and Facebook argued in the Delhi High Court today that there is no way for them to screen content before it is posted online. Both companies are among 21 whose executives have been summoned to appear in person in a lower court on March 13 for allegedly hosting obscene and objectionable content."It's easy for people to say you can use filters. If we were to block the word 'sex', for instance, all data on ration cards, passports etc. will get blocked in one go, as the word 'sex' figures in all this data," argued Google's lawyer, Neeraj Kishan Kaul. The company said that as a search engine, it leads to surfers to sites they're looking for. "The offending material belongs to the website, controlled by the owner of the website. Google has nothing to do with it," Mr Kaul added.  The legal trouble for companies including Orkut, Yahoo and YouTube is based on a petition filed by Vinay Rai, a Delhi resident who has pointed the court to obscene depictions that he found online of Hindu deities, the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ. A Delhi court has suggested the executives of these 21 companies be tried for criminal conspiracy; the government has sanctioned their prosecution. The companies appealed against this in the High Court, which warned last week that like China, India can choose to ban these websites."There are serious issues regarding freedom of speech. We have this freedom in our country unlike a totalitarian regime like China. We are proud we have this freedom," said Mr Kaul on behalf of Google.Read the full story here.

  • Zhirinovsky warns Putin against returning as president.(RN).Russian presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on Monday that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should decide against returning to the post of the country’s president as it is not accepted in the civilized world.“No one can be the head of the country for more than two terms. With the exception of Argentina, former presidents do not return to their posts as it is unbecoming and means that [he] does not want to give up his power,” Zhirinovsky said at a news conference.The populist firebrand and the leader of the ultra-right Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) said it would be harmful “when the very same person will be looking at us for six more years and telling us how we must live.”The 65-year old politician said the ruling tandem of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev “will not give away their power to the opposition,” as they have an intention of keeping it until 2030.Zhirinovsky, running against Putin in the March 4 presidential election, said his campaign slogan will be “Zhirinovsky or it will be worse” and promised early elections to the Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, in May next year if he is elected president.“We support all the demands of the opposition of any kind. We promise to hold early elections in May next year,” he said.“Why did you not hit the streets after June 12, 1991, when [late Russian President Boris] Yeltsin did not gain the votes that were attributed to him?” he said adding that all the following elections in Russia were falsified and that is why “there is such a complete mess in the country.”LDPR garnered 12 percent in the December 4 disputed parliamentary election.Read the full story here.

  • Gulf business in Egypt brings with it sex trade.(BikyaMasr).CAIRO: Marwa is 20-years-old. She protested in Tahrir, cheered when Hosni Mubarak left power and had a sense of hope for the future of Egypt and herself. Now, with January 25 in less than two weeks, she is angry, frustrated and in her own words, “hopeless.”She is one of many young Egyptian girls who has fallen victim to the massive influx of Gulf Arabs to the country since the ousting of Mubarak, who have come to the country for “tourism.”Marwa’s story is shocking and sad. She is blunt and doesn’t mince details, some too descriptive to reveal publicly.“I was out with my friends and I met a nice man. We spoke for a while and he asked if I wanted to come for a drink,” she told “I thought okay, why not? I can do that in this free country.”When she arrived back at the man’s hotel room, a Saudi national who she did not name threw himself on her, ripping her clothes off.“He raped me over and over again for hours. It was horrifying. I was in tears and didn’t know what to do. At the end of the night he gave me money and passed me off to a friend,” she continued.“Then his friend did the same thing and then another. I was there for days. They gave me money and said I was a prostitute and if I told the police they would say that.”Her repeatedly being raped gave her a new sense of determination to fight against the growing sex trade in the country, which has seen numerous young girls forced to work in dirty, unfinished flats, or go out with predominantly Gulf men for the evening.“They are forced into it because there are no means for them to speak out or get help,” she said.It is part of a growing trend of wealthy Arabs arriving in Cairo to “experience the local” society.Waleed Abdelrahman, a wealthy tourist operator in Cairo who helps Saudis and other Gulf Arabs find flats for their summer vacation, says he is inundated by Saudis for “the place to get the best girls.”“They don’t just come for the good weather and cheap living, that is for sure,” Abdelrahman revealed. “They are here because now that they can’t go to Europe due to a number of restrictions, they come to Egypt instead, because our society is more open and free.”He said that in the past decade or so, Egyptian nightclub owners have learned quickly how to cater to their Gulf clients.Abdelrahman says that while his agency, which he asked to remain anonymous, does not participate in the day-to-day affairs of their Saudi guests, he knows what goes on. And it is not to his liking.“They come here to party. Sometimes, when we clean up a flat at the end of the summer, it is a mess because all they do here is drink alcohol and trash the place. Let’s not forget the girls,” he said.According to the tourism operator, nightclubs will hire, often forcing, young women and girls to work as prostitutes for their Arab clients. He said that at the hotels, including the 5-star hotels in Cairo, “there are dozens of call girls waiting and prepared to be an escort for the night, or the entire time the Saudi men are here.”Very few people talk about what goes on, and the Egyptian government does little to address the issue of prostitution in the country. Tourism is one of Egypt’s top foreign currency earners and the Gulf Arab influx in the summer months goes a long way to keep the industry booming.Dina Radwan, a 28-year-old aspiring writer, says that the desire for money by the Egyptian tourism industry is part of the “hypocrisy now flourishing in the country,” she told argued that when the “Gulfies” come to Egypt, the same people who would be willing to throw a woman in jail for kissing someone on the street or pre-marital sex, are the same individuals “who support the prostitution” of girls and women.“They don’t care about anything except money and this is a main source of income for them during the year because the Saudis pay a lot of money for the girls,” she said.There are no statistics on prostitution in Egypt. It is a don’t ask don’t tell reality that Radwan says hundreds of women get involved in.“Often their families will get money for giving their girls away for the so-called ‘urfi [temporary] marriage to one of the rich Gulf businessmen. Nobody complains and the government turns a blind eye.”Now that the Saudis have their own flats, it will be easier to move for them and stay away from the gaze of police, said Abdelrahman.He believes that with so many Saudis owning property in the country, the police and military will not be able to do the little amount of cracking down that they had done in recent years.“The Saudis can simply pay them off and go to their own homes. There is nothing anyone can do until the tourism ministry takes it upon themselves to make this situation end. It is not good,” he added.But, for many, it is part of the business that earns millions of Egyptian pounds from their Saudi and Gulf guests.Read the full story here.

  • Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says no changes to tourism, alcohol and bikinis okay.(BikyaMasr).CAIRO: Representatives from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) sent a message of reassurance to tour operators and foreign workers in the tourism sector, at a meeting on Sunday, pledging no changes or restrictions over beaches in the coming period.The party also asserted the freedom of the tourist to wear whatever clothes, including bikinis, and have full access to all types of food and beverages.The FJP took almost 45 percent of seats in recent parliamentary and was followed by the ultra-conservative Salafist al-Nour Party, which won around 20 percent of the seats.“The party regrets the decline in tourism and other economic activities as one of the repercussions of the January 25 revolution,” said Ahmed Suleiman, Chairman of the Tourism Committee of the party, during a meeting organized by the Business Association and attended by representatives of the FJP and foreign tour operators.He pointed out that the party would contribute to the redoubling of “the rates of tourism in the coming period,” and that the situation of tourism and its present conditions “would remain the same as before the revolution and this sector will not be subjected to any changes as long as the FJP is represented in the parliament.”Suleiman stressed the need to reactivate beach tourism as it is one of the “most popular aspects of tourism in Egypt.”He said the FJP is already speculating tourism numbers, “taking a number of measures including the establishment of a series of museums along the Nile Valley to boost the cultural tourism traffic.”He pointed out that monuments and statues currently in stores will be taken out and displayed in the order of dynasties, in each governorate of origin, respectively.He explained that the party`s vision is to make good use of nature reserves, medical and therapeutic tourism and conferences.At the same meeting, Ahmed el-Imam, a member of the “tourism boosting committee” of the FJP said the government, without mentioning the military junta by name, “is one of the main reasons afflicting tourism internally, and while Egypt has about 33 percent of the monuments of the world, the state is incapable of utilizing them in an optimum way,” saying that the party aims at bringing 25 million tourists annually in the upcoming years.Hmmmm.......Heeeeeelp we're broke, Mummies and pyramides first ?Read the full story here.

  • Two Palestinians caught with 10 pipe bombs near checkpoint.(Ynet).Military Police forces working at the Salem checkpoint caught two Palestinians carrying 10 pipe bombs, a gun and several bullets. The bombs were dismantled and the Palestinians were turned over to security forces. An initial investigation suggests that the soldiers detected two Palestinians in their 20s approaching a checkpoint near the military court carrying two bags. After a check they discovered the contents of the bags."An investigation of the previous incident suggests that the suspects planned on carrying out a terrorist attack at the court," the battalion commander Lt. Col. Erez Raven said. "The other side is not familiar with our MOs which change from time to time and we raised our alert level in the past week. There were no terror threat alerts." The Salem Military Court is scheduled to discuss a hearing on the sentence of Amjad Awad, one of the murderers of the Fogel family. Read the full story here.

  • Belgium: Muslim executive 'under control of foreign countries'.(IIE).Via HLN (Dutch):"Belgian Muslim bodies are definitively under the control of foreign countries. The Muslim Executive will now be led only by people who will prioritze the interests of their land of origin over those of Belgian Muslims," says the AMDB (Democratic Alternative of Belgian Muslims), who say they unite 'all components of the Muslim community' in Belgium.The general assembly of the Muslim Executive recently extended Semsettin Ugurlu's term as chairman, as well as a series of other positions. The Executive also passed a motion of no-confidence against the new members, and the three members of ADMB were excluded. AMDB says the general assembly orchestrated the illegal exclusion of the three active members who refused to comply with embassy-Islam policy."Just 11 of the 44 members of the general assembly were present. AMDB say that this way they passed the motion of no-confidence against the AMDB members who are 'known for their battle for a transparent, democratic Islam' which is not linked to any state intervention.The AMDB do not recognize the legality of the decision and its members intend to continue in their positions and sue the Muslim Executive in court.Read the full story here.

  • Egypt’s “virginity tests” case postponed for third time.(BikyaMasr).CAIRO: An Egyptian military court on Sunday postponed the “virginity test” case filed by Samira Ibrahim against a military doctor, Ahmed Adel Mohammed, to a session on January 29. This is the third such postponement since the case was filed.The postponement came as a result of a request from the Doctors Union, who showed solidarity with the defendant and sent a delegation of lawyers to defend him, and asked the court to give time for them to review the case.Ibrahim filed a lawsuit against the doctor, who works at a military facility, and has accused him of forcing her to undergo a virginity test last March, when she and other female protesters were arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during a sit-in and taken to a facility.The women were forced, in front of dozens of other soldiers, to take down their pants and allow a doctor to examine them. When Ibrahim asked for the procedure to be done in private, she was assaulted, Ibrahim said.The military court has been charged the doctor of committing a “crime against modesty,” and “negligence of the obedience of the military orders.”Rights groups have told that by using these charges, it eases the crimes from felony by physical assault to indecent misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of no more than one year.Local groups have condemned the continued protection of the leaders and members of the armed forces from any accountability for crimes committed against civilians.Ibrahim described the decision to postpone her case as a “total mess and farce.”The lawsuit was filed by Ibrahim with the assistance of lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.Although dozens of young women were subjected to the tests on March 9, the 25-year-old Ibrahim is the only one who has spoken out about the incident and filed a lawsuit against the military rulers.Human Rights Watch interviewed Ibrahim and another victim, Salwa al-Hosseini, and reviewed the testimony of two others obtained by doctors at the Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.All four concurred in their statements that on the morning of March 10, two officers went into the prison cell holding the 17 women and asked them who among them was married and who was not.“Then they told the seven of us that they were going to examine us to see if we were really virgins. They took us out one by one. When it was my turn they took me to a bed in a passageway in front of the cell.”“There were lots of soldiers around and they could see me. I asked if the soldiers could move away and the officer escorting me tasered me. The woman prison guard in plain clothes stood at my head and then a man in military uniform examined me with his hand for several minutes. It was painful. He took his time. It was clear he was doing it on purpose to humiliate me.”“I was beaten, electrocuted, and forced to strip naked in front of male officers,” Ibrahim told Human Rights Watch.The official complaint before the Administrative Court states that Ibrahim “was exposed to the ugliest forms of humiliation, torture and a violation of the sanctity of her body.”In a court hearing on October 25, the State Council lawyer denied this allegation and called for the dismissal of the case based on lack of evidence.The case, however strong in many corners of Egyptian society, received little local media coverage, angering and saddening Ibrahim.“It breaks my heart that international outrage over my case is stronger than that of my fellow Egyptians,” Ibrahim said.Violations against women are therefore hugely underreported in Egypt – one recent report from 2003 found that as many as 98 percent of rape and sexual assault cases are not reported to authorities.Read the full story here.

  • Indonesia - 25 Volcanoes Showing Abnormal Activity: Presidential Aide.(JG).Padang, West Sumatra. Twenty-five volcanoes in Indonesia are now showing abnormal activity or have been put on alert or watch status, presidential special aide Andi Arief said here on Saturday. “According to official data, 25 volcanoes are now under alert or watch status and they must be given priority with regard to disaster mitigation planning at district or city levels,” he said at a workshop on journalists’ role in disaster management. He said in West Sumatra there were two volcanoes that need to be closely watched, namely Mount Marapi and Mount Talang, as they are still under alert status. Mount Marapi is located in Agam and Tanahdatar districts and rises 2891 meters above sea level, and Mount Talang (2597 meters above sea level) in Solok district was located around 40 kilometers from the provincial capital Padang. Apart from the two volcanoes, the government and regional disaster management agencies were also giving priority attention to Mount Papandayan in West Java, Mount Karangetan and Lokon in North Sulawesi, Mount Ijen in East Java, Mount Gamalama in North Maluku, Mount Krakatau in Banten and Lampung and Mount Lewoloto in East Nusa Tenggara. Read the full story here.

Pakistani Intellectual Exposes the Truth About Muslim Societies


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Overnight Music Video - Survivor - Burning Heart

Canada sells the oil sands to China. Then complains about ‘foreign interference’

Canada sells the oil sands to China. Then complains about ‘foreign interference’.(NP).By Terry Glavin.If there were a global competition for the most brazen and preposterously transparent attempt by a ruling political party to change a necessary subject of national debate with alarmist distractions and hubbub, the Conservative escapade engineered in Ottawa these past few days really deserves some kind of grand prize.let’s review what’s really going on, shall we?
The $5.5-billion Enbridge pipeline project is all about sending Alberta bitumen in huge oil tankers to China. Beijing’s own state enterprises are among the project’s major backers, and Beijing has been buying up Alberta’s oilpatch at such a dizzying pace lately it’s hard to keep up.
  1. In the spring of 2010, China’s state-owned Sinopec Corp. took a $4.65-billion piece of Syncrude.
  2.  Then the China Investment Corporation, which is run by the Chinese Communist Party, took possession of a $1.25-billion share of Penn West Petroleum.
  3. Last summer, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation gobbled up Opti Canada for $2.34 billion. And so on.
  4. Then, last month, Sinopec spent $2.2-billion to take over Daylight Energy Ltd.,
  5.  and last week, Petro-China, with the final push of $1.9 billion, became the owner and manager of the MacKay River oilsands project. This is what Ottawa doesn’t want you noticing.
Until now, Beijing’s strategy has been to fly under the radar by taking only pieces of oil sands ventures and to murmur occasionally about bringing in Chinese workers or pulling up stakes altogether should they hear too much backchat. Now, everything’s changed. Sinopec’s Daylight deal was a first: it was a complete takeover of a Canadian oil sands company by a Chinese state corporation. The MacKay River deal was a first, too, but in a bigger way: when the McKay project is up and running in 2014 it will be a full Chinese show, with a boss that answers directly to Beijing. The thing is, nobody in Ottawa wants to have a serious conversation about any of this.During the 2008 election campaign, the vow to block the export of Canadian bitumen for processing offshore didn’t come from Leonardo DiCaprio in some underground command bunker of Hollywood eco-freaks. It was what the federal Conservative Party said. Back then, Ottawa’s very own Competition Policy Review made a series of recommendations about how to deal with takeovers of Canadian resources by foreign state-owned companies. Ottawa promptly ignored those recommendations. In last May’s federal election, the subject simply didn’t come up. And now it’s serious. Really serious.
It’s not just old-school Canadian nationalists who think so. Last April, a poll conducted for Canadian environmental groups found that 72.8 per cent of British Columbians were worried about China’s increasing command of Canada’s resources sector.
This isn’t just old Vancouver hippies worrying about the implications of 200-plus tankers taking oil out of Kitimat every year. Last summer, John Bruk, the Asia Pacific Foundation’s founding president, warned that Ottawa was ignoring the rapid emergence of Chinese government interests “in sheep’s clothing” taking over Canada’s natural resource industries. Bruk told B.C. Business magazine: “Are we jeopardizing prosperity for our children and grandchildren while putting at risk our economic independence? In my view, this is exactly what is happening.”As things have turned out, Bruk was more right than he knew.Read the full story here.

Palestinian Minister: Israeli Jails More Horrible than Nazis' Dungeons .

Which University did G. Shalit 'graduate' from while in Captivity?

Palestinian Minister: Israeli Jails More Horrible than Nazis' Dungeons.(FNA).TEHRAN - Palestinian Minister for Captives Affairs Ataollah Abu Sabah said Palestinian prisoners are suffering harsh and inhuman conditions in Israeli jails, and stressed that Israeli prisons are much more horrible than those of the Nazis'. Speaking told FNA, Sabah said that almost 4,400 Palestinian prisoners are incarcerated in Israeli jails, and added that those prisoners who are sentenced to long terms of imprisonment are kept in central prisons whose conditions are gravely inhume and terrible. "These prisons lack sanitation and are overcrowded," he said, and added that Israel is using the harshest methods of suppression against Palestinian prisoners in these jails. He added that conditions in Ketziot Prison, where many Palestinian political prisoners are held, are even harsher than the conditions tolerated by prisoners in the Nazi Germany. Sabah added that prisoners in Ketziot are not safe from night torture. Palestinian prisoners have always voiced complaint about the torturing and mistreatment of prisoners by Israeli guards. In July, more than 20 Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli Negev jail were poisoned after eating meals served in the prison's canteen, prisoners reported. They explained that after eating burger sandwiches from the canteen the prisoners suffered from diarrhea and vomiting after which they were carried to the prison's clinic but the administration did not tell them about their condition. They asked the Red Cross to intervene and demand their transfer to hospital for adequate checkup. Also in July, thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israel staged a mass hunger strike to defend prisoners' rights and protest against Israeli guards' inhumane behavior. Read the full story here.

Hmmmm...............Samir Kuntar; is a Lebanese Druze convicted murderer and former member of the Palestine Liberation Front. On April 22, 1979, at the age of 16, he participated in the attempted kidnapping of an Israeli family in Nahariya that resulted in the deaths of four Israelis and two of his fellow kidnappers.In addition, while in prison Kuntar graduated from the Open University of Israel with a degree in Social and Political Science.The Red Cross visits the Palestinian prisoners on a regular basis and writes reports where necessary. If the organization sees problems in the treatment of prisoners it raises the issue with the jail’s management team, said Israel Prison Service (IPS) Spokesman Ian Dominitz. “They are held in very good conditions in accordance with all international conventions including the Geneva Convention even though they are not even classed as prisoners of war,” said Adato. The prisoners have access to books, newspapers, 10 TV channels (four in Arabic), radio and receive vouchers to spend in prison minimarkets. “The conditions of the prisoners are governed by law and the regulations of IPS,” said Dominitz. “They have rights and privileges,” he added. Of the 270 inmates studying for degrees at Open University, a program that enables continuing education, at the end of 2010, the vast majority were Palestinians and Israeli Arabs serving time for links to terrorism. The most popular courses are Introduction to the History of the Middle East in Modern Times; Genocide; Basic Concepts in International Relations; Israeli Arab Society; and Islam: Introduction to the History of the Religion, according to Israel’s Prison Service. An item in the Palestinian daily Al-Hayyat Al-Jadida (Oct. 9, 2010) spoke of Palestinian prisoners gaining masters degrees and doctorates while in Israeli jails. Source.

Is Iran stronger than the West believes?

Did Obama 'Blink' ? Joint US-Israel drill postponed to 'defuse Iran tensions'.

Obama 'Blinked' - Joint US-Israel drill postponed to 'defuse Iran tensions'.(Ynet).
A major joint Israel-US military drill, which was set to take place in a few weeks time with the participation of thousands of IDF and US army soldiers, has been postponed by at least six months, Ynet reported Sunday. The decision was made by Defense Ministry officials in coordination with the Pentagon. A number of global media outlets said the exercise will likely take place in the summer – at the earliest.
Israeli officials said the Americans asked to delay the drill so as not to heighten tensions with Iran over its nuclear program and avoid drawing any additional attention from the Arab countries during such a turbulent period. Security establishment officials said the decision was also related, in part, to budgetary concerns. The decision to postpone the drill comes after the US condemned last week's assassination of a nuclear scientist in Tehran and after US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the recent developments in the Islamic Republic.
Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet's military analyst, said Washington is looking to defuse tensions in the region following Iran's military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz and the raid by Iranian protesters on the British Embassy in Tehran. The Americans also hope the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran will force it to engage in talks over its nuclear program, he said. According to Ben-Yishai, the decision to delay the drill is also related to financial concerns. Washington has cut its defense budget for 2012 by $450 billion dollars – a move which is aimed at helping the US tackle its national debt, which has affected the country's credit rating.Hmmmmm........."The Americans also hope the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran will force it to engage in talks over its nuclear program."Obama just POSTPONED the oil sanctions for 6 months....on who's side is he?Read the full story here.

Obama Has Silenced the Republicans.

Obama Has Silenced the Republicans.(JI).By Prof. Paul Eidelberg.That Barack Obama should disparage the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, the two foundational documents that enabled him to realize what he called the “audacity of hope,” is a monumental display of what animates America’s first black president, the Audacity of Ignorance and Arrogance.
But no less appalling is the incompetent assortment of Republican presidential candidates who hope to replace him. Obama is the perfect target for a candidate that wants to restore American Exceptionalism, for as John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations observed long before the current presidential primaries, Obama is the first “post-American” president. Especially blameworthy is one of the more competent candidates on domestic affairs, former Speaker of the House of Representatives New Gingrich. Gingrich, a professor of history, is familiar with the celebrated “Lincoln-Douglas” debates. Indeed, Gingrich reported in his website—note its name—that Barak Obama, ensconced as President of the United States, skipped the phrase “our Creator” at least four times when citing the Declaration of Independence, even though the teleprompter included the words we are “endowed by our Creator.” See, American Exceptionalism, Vol. 6, No. 25, June 22, 2011. Why doesn’t Gingrich expose Obama’s anti-Americanism? This is what Abraham Lincoln did in his 1860 campaign against Senator Frederick Douglas, who Lincoln accused of violating “our ancient faith” embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Almost any Republican candidate could do this with the exception of Ron Paul, a gentleman from the “American First” school of politics who alas, is also an ignoramus. Obama is a perfect target for Republican candidate concerned about the decline of American Exceptionalism. He can be exposed as a cultural or moral relativist, which would explain the anti-Christian posture he has taken throughout his presidency. The question arises: What’s lacking among the Republican Party candidates? Is it political wisdom or political courage?Are the Republicans afraid of being accused of “racism”? Are they afraid of being accused of Islamo-phobia?Are there no politicians in America with courage and intelligence enough to warn their fellow Americans that when Obama campaigned in 2008 on the theme of CHANGE, he had nothing less in mind than a fundamental change in the political character of the regime—a bloodless revolution? This revolution would stifle individual freedom, on the one hand, and transform the government into bureaucratic welfare state, on the other. In fact, it is precisely in terms of this political revolution that we should understand his political and judicial appointments, as well as his devastation of the economy, which is intended to expand the powers and functions of the bureaucracy which he is stuffing or staffing.An abundance of facts can and should be cited to illustrate Obama’s radical intentions—which may readily be linked to his anti-American supporters, for example, George Soros. But mindless fear seems to have silenced the most eligible Republican candidates.If this is the case, none will expose the greatest threat to America and Judeo-Christian civilization than Islam, to which Obama bowed when he genuflected to Saudi King Abdullah and supported the PLO over against Israel.
Why hasn’t the Republican Party exposed Obama’s treachery?

Prof. Paul Eidelberg is a political scientist, author and lecturer; Founder and President, Foundation for Constitutional Democracy, a Jerusalem-based think tank for improving Israel's system of governance.Read the full story here.

One Nation Under a New Holocaust

Egyptian "Moderate" Muslims watching 'soccer game'.


Security and Defense: Cold winds blowing from the North

Security and Defense: Cold winds blowing from the North.(JPost).By Yaakov Katz.
They are spotted along the border every few kilometers, sometimes in groups and sometimes on their own. The Israeli soldiers are under clear orders – keep a distance and do not engage with them.
Nevertheless, there is concern as to why Syria has beefed up the amount of troops stationed along its border with Israel in the Golan Heights, particularly now, when every soldier is needed to protect embattled President Bashar Assad.The IDF Northern Command is split between two theories.
Some officers think that the Syrians are laying the ground for a small border skirmish, which could potentially escalate into a larger confrontation, with the ultimate goal of diverting attention away from the massacres on the streets of Homs to the Arab world’s traditional enemy – Israel.
According to this school of thought, the Syrian people would rally behind their leader and forgive him for his past crimes as he protects them and wages war against the Zionists.The other theory is that the slight increase in Syrian soldiers along the border is not sanctioned by the regime in Damascus but is a result of large-scale defections – thousands of soldiers and officers are believed to have gone AWOL – and instead of returning home, they are milling around the border.Either way, there is concern in the IDF that the border with Syria, which has been the quietest of Israel’s borders since the Yom Kippur War, could become more like the border with Lebanon or the Gaza Strip where the IDF needs to be on high alert all day and every day.Almost a year into the protests and after at least 5,000 people – mostly innocent civilians – have been killed, there is still no clear way for how Assad and his regime will be brought down. While Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last week that Assad would fall “within weeks,” he has been making these predictions for months and Assad does not appear ready to go.Some intelligence officials in Israel admit that Assad is not likely to just pick up and leave on his own and that in absence of international intervention – like there was in Libya – it could still take some time. But foreign intervention is unlikely.While the world feared Muammar Gaddafi, his military was outdated and barely functional. This is not the case with Syria, which demonstrated its military might during maneuvers in late December when it test fired a Scud missile as well as new antiship cruise missiles it recently received from Russia.Israel, which would like to see Assad toppled, is concerned that foreign military intervention could lead the president to attack – a fear that did not exist in the Libyan case.The situation in Syria is also incomparable at the moment to the revolution in Egypt. There, the military for the most part sat on the sidelines and remained in the consensus, whereas in Syria the military is heeding Assad’s orders to violently crack down on the protesters.
Unlike Hosni Mubarak, who did not want to be remembered for killing protesters but never thought he would find himself being wheeled into a cage in a courtroom on a stretcher, Assad knows there will be no retirement package in a Tartus vacation home on the shores of the Mediterranean after he steps down. He will not be able to remain in Syria and the number of countries willing to receive him is quickly dropping.A potential game-changer for Assad, though, could be the continuation or even an increase in the number of soldiers – and particularly senior officers – who defect from the military and refuse to open fire on peaceful demonstrators. Without the military’s support, Assad will have trouble remaining in power.Naturally, the IDF is closely following the situation in Syria. On the one hand, the feeling is that in the long term Assad’s fall could positively change the reality along Israel’s northern front – further isolating Iran and cutting off the main weapons supply line to Hezbollah. There is concern, though, that that the situation in Syria could lead to a conflict in the more immediate term.
The first concern is what will happen the day after Assad. Who will succeed him and whose hands will all of the advanced weaponry he has accumulated fall into? Syria has one of the most extensive arsenals of chemical weapons in the world, including Sarin, VX and mustard gas. It also has hundreds of long-range Scud missiles.One possibility is that Hezbollah would try to get its hands on the weaponry.There are already signs that Hezbollah has been moving some of the advanced weaponry it had been storing in Syria into Lebanon out of fear that it will be lost if Assad falls. If the West were to receive intelligence on the transfer of chemical weapons to Lebanon it might take preemptive action.The other possibility is that these weapons would be secured by the new Syrian government. But considering that no successor can be accurately identified, Israel cannot sit confidently and believe that the weapons will be safe.Of particular concern is the possibility that an al-Qaida-like global jihad element is growing in Syria. The infrastructure could be based on fighters who crossed into Syria from Iraq and the IDF suspects that global jihad terrorists were behind the twin suicide bombings that killed over 40 people in Damascus last month.If this is the case, then Hezbollah getting its hands on chemical weapons might be the lesser of two evils.
Another question the IDF is grappling with is whether Assad – when he feels the end is near and his back is up against a wall – will look to shift attention away to Israel.To do this, he will likely seek to cause a conflict in a way that will make it seem as though Israel, rather than Syria, is the aggressor.
How? One way would be to order thousands of pro-regime activists to try to cross the border into Israel, like 100 Palestinians did on Nakba Day in June. Then when IDF soldiers open fire to stop the infiltrators, the Syrian military will have an excuse to return fire.
This is the type of potential scenario that is the main concern for the Northern Command, which recently deployed an additional infantry battalion in the Golan in order to be able to respond to, and hopefully contain, such incidents.Read the full story here.

SOLYNDRA: The scandal that will defeat Obama

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

HT : The Astute Bloggers.

MFS - The Other News

                    Morning Posting.

  • Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation Argentina 6.7 - 6.5 ; Solomon Islands 5.3; Russia 5.1 !More info here.

  • Bolton: Why Is Obama Taking Credit For Navy SEAL Team 6 Killing Bin Laden?(Fox).Mitt Romney’s newest foreign policy surrogate didn’t waste any time before going on the attack.Last night, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton made a fierce debut by Romney’s side, delivering some of the harshest criticisms of President Obama’s foreign policy to date.“He’s not only the most radical president in history domestically; he is the first president, republican or democrat, at least since Franklin Roosevelt, who didn’t get up every morning thinking first about what threats the united states faces. he just doesn’t care about national security the way other presidents did, ” Bolton told the audience at a veterans rally in Hilton Head, South Carolina.The American people are looking for a president “who doesn’t believe that the role of America in the world is to be a well-bred doormat,” Bolton said.He also stripped the president of any credit for the killing of Usama Bin Laden.“It’s because navy seal team 6 killed Usama bin laden. that’s his definition of success. as somebody pointed out, in 1969 when Americans landed on the moon, it’s like Richard Nixon taking for credit for that, because it happened to occur during his presidency,” he said.Read the full story here.

  • Issa Committee Releases Charts Ahead of Holder Hearing.(BN).Mark this date down. On February 2nd, Attorney General Eric Holder will be in front of the Oversight Committee for the first time to answer questions about Fast and Furious. A website started by the committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa has released a couple of very informative charts. One shows who all of the players are and who is ultimately responsible for the operation. Think of it as an accountability flow chart.I wouldn't be surprised if this chart ends up right behind Issa so Holder can stare at it during the hearing.Here is a similar chart that focuses on the victims. Perhaps the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) should take this one to heart. Each member of the CHC is a Democrat and not one of them has called for Holder's resignation.Read and see the full story here.

  • National Groups File Challenge to Obama’s Unconstitutional Stacking of NLRB.(BigGovernment).The National Right To Work (NRTW) joined by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) took off the legal gloves and are forcing the Obama Administration to defend its unconstitutional appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Some say that President Barack Obama is creating a serious constitutional crisis.This is the first legal challenge regarding these NLRB Board appointees who Obama appointed without a U.S. Senate confirmation process; but, more are expected.From the NRTW release: Washington, DC (January 13, 2012) – Today, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed a motion in federal court challenging the legality of President Barack Obama’s recent purported recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).The legal challenge is part of a larger case attacking controversial new NLRB rules that require every employer to post incomplete information about employee rights online and in the workplace, even if they’ve never violated or been accused of breaking federal law. The NLRB’s posting rules do not require union officials to issue information about workers’ rights to refrain from union membership or opt out of union dues. Currently employers can only be required to post notices if the Board has ruled that a violation of labor law occurred.The Foundation’s case has been consolidated with other legal challenges to the biased NLRB notice posting rules brought by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), and two small businesses. Those parties filed the joint motion today raising the issue of the NLRB’s lack of authority to implement the rule given the unprecedented recess appointments.The new filings in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia case comes after NLRB lawyers notified the court that President Obama’s recent recess appointees were now parties in the ongoing legal battle. Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s New Process Steel decision, the NLRB needs three members to act. However three of the five current NLRB members were installed by unilateral Presidential appointment earlier this year, despite the fact that the Senate was not in a self-declared recess.In the motion papers, Foundation attorneys argue that the controversial appointees to the Board are not legitimate because the U.S. Senate is still in session per the body’s rules, so there was no “recess” for the President to make appointments without Senate confirmation. Therefore the NLRB lacks the necessary quorum to implement the new posting rules. Foundation attorneys are asking the judge to rule on the constitutionality of the three recess appointees.“President Barack Obama has already shown time and again that he is willing to abuse his executive authority to force more workers into union-dues-paying ranks,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Now Obama’s executive abuse jeopardizes the constitutional balance our country holds very dear, all in the name of paying back his Big Labor benefactors.”The implementation of the NLRB’s new posting rules, originally supposed to be in August of last year, has been twice delayed due to the legal challenge in the Foundation’s case. The rules are currently scheduled to be effective on April 30, 2012.The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is also a party in the case, but is not party to the Foundation’s motion.Read the full story here.

  • Ya'alon dismayed with US response to Iran threat.(JPost).Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon voiced disappointment with the Obama administration on Sunday, saying "election-year considerations" lay behind its caution over tough Iran sanctions sought by US legislators.While Washington has been talking tougher about Iran's nuclear work and threat to block oil export routes out of the Gulf if hit with harsher sanctions, new US measures adopted on Dec. 31 gave US President Barak Obama leeway on the scope of penalties on the Iranian central bank and oil exports.The senior official contrasted the administration's posture to that of France and Britain, which he said "are taking a very firm stand and understand sanctions must be imposed immediately.""In the United States, the Senate passed a resolution, by a majority of 100-to-one, to impose these sanctions, and in the US administration there is hesitation for fear of oil prices rising this year, out of election-year considerations," Yaalon told Israel Radio."In that regard, this is certainly a disappointment, for now."The remarks by Yaalon, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, appeared to jar with praise centrist Defense Minister Ehud Barak offered last month for what he described as Obama's resolve against Iran.The Democratic president has said he is determined to deny Tehran - which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful needs only - the means to develop an atom bomb. His aides cast their sanctions strategy as a bid to work collaboratively with foreign powers and win over states that import Iranian oil without triggering price-boosting shocks to energy markets.Read the full story here.

  • US looking for assurances J'lem won't strike Iran.(Jpost).Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, will visit Israel next weekend as part of a reported new and concerted American effort to prevent Israel from taking unilateral military action against Iran.Dempsey’s visit – reported in The Jerusalem Post last month – comes as US concern is growing over the possibility that Israeli military action is being planned for the near future. It will be Dempsey’s first meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz as the US’s highest ranking military officer.In a recent interview, Dempsey said Israel would likely not update the US ahead of such an operation.On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported on contingency planning by the US in preparation for a possible Israeli military strike.According to the report, the phone conversation between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday was one of a series of messages warning Israel of the consequences of military action.Israel and the US have reportedly been at odds recently regarding the preferred timetable for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US has said military action will become a real option only after the Islamic Republic begins building a bomb. According to some reports, Israel has warned of other so-called red lines, such as the activation last week of the new underground uranium enrichment facility near Qom.According to The Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other officials have failed to receive assurances from Israel that it is not planning a military strike soon.Hmmmm....."Pour les vaincre, messieurs, il nous faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace et la Patrie sera sauvée!" ~ Danton. Read the full story here.

  • Car bombs, suicide blasts target police station, mosque in Iraqi city of Ramadi.(AlArabiya).At least five people were killed and six more wounded after a series of explosives-packed cars and suicide bombs were detonated in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday. Four car bombs had targeted a mosque and a police building in the city, AFP news agency reports. The bombs were followed by two suicide bomb blasts inside the police building.Security forces had cordoned off the police building, which also holds several al Qaeda suspects in a jail, officials said.“Police and army are surrounding the building. There is no exchange of fire, but the security forces are studying storming the building and saving the hostages,” the police official said.Ramadi, capital of the mainly Sunni Muslim Anbar province, witnessed some of the worst violence during the height of the war that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. It was the heart of a Sunni Islamist insurgency tied to al-Qaeda.The initial suicide bomb blast killed five people but it was not clear how many possible hostages were inside, one police official at the scene said.Violence in Iraq had ebbed since the height of sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007 when thousands were killed in attacks between Shiite and Sunni groups. But the withdrawal of the last American troops in December has fanned worries of a spike in violence.Read the full story here.

  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter After Meeting With Badie: I Recognize Egyptian People’s Love for the Muslim Brotherhood.(IW).Dr. Mohamed Badie, Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and his deputy Khairat Al-Shater met with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, president of the Carter Center international foundation, and his accompanying delegation, at MB headquarters.In a press statement, Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan, MB spokesman said: “Carter congratulated the Muslim Brotherhood on the legislative elections results, stressing that he’s come to recognize the love of the Egyptian people for the Muslim Brotherhood as a result of their sacrifices and their interaction with all people in society, and that his foundation reports confirm that the Egyptian parliamentary elections were fair and reflect the will of the Egyptian people.”With regard to the Palestinian issue, Carter stressed that the Israeli side did not honour the rights of the Palestinian people enshrined in the peace treaties, as evidenced by its continued settlement activities and the seizure of Palestinian land. He added that he, personally, when he was president of the United States, as well as Bush senior, made real efforts to stop the settlements, but were not successful, and that Bush junior and President Obama allowed the Israelis to increase their settlement efforts.For his part, the MB chairman welcomed Carter’s visit, and hailed the role played by the Carter Center and its testimony for the fairness of the Egyptian elections, adding that the elections result is a huge responsibility placed by the Egyptian people on the shoulders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who vow to effect democratic change and achieve stability, security and rejuvenation of Egypt, hoping that this change should be a role model for all the countries of the region.Dr. Badie also expressed his indignation and condemnation of the continuing gross injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people, and called on the U.S. administration to change its biased and constant support for the Zionist side, to take a practical just position on this issue, and not to resort to “mere soothe-saying as we heard from President Obama”, if it wanted a change in people's hearts, currently overflowing with hatred towards the successive U.S. governments.Hmmm......Carter still fighting strong for the tittle "Worst President ever"?Read the full 'story' here.

  • US, Israel in open rift over Iran: Big joint military drill cancelled.(Debka).US-Israeli discord over action against Iran went into overdrive Sunday, Jan. 15 when the White House called off Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint war game the US and Israel have every staged, ready to go in spring, in reprisal for a comment by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon in an early morning radio interview. He said the United States was hesitant over sanctions against Iran's central bank and oil for fear of a spike in oil prices.The row between Washington and Jerusalem is now in the open, undoubtedly causing celebration in Tehran.Nothing was said about the 9,000 US troops who landed in Israeli earlier this month for a lengthy stay. Neither was the forthcoming visit by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, Thursday mentioned.The exercise was officially postponed from spring 2012 to the last quarter of the year over "budgetary constraints" – an obvous diplomatic locution for cancellation. It was issued urgently at an unusually early hour Washington time, say debkafile's sources, to underscore the Obama administration's total disassociation from any preparations to strike Iran and to stress its position that if an attack took place, Israel alone would be accountable.Israel's Deputy Prime minister further inflamed one of the most acute disagreements in the history of US-Israeli relations over the Obama administration's objections to an Israel military action against Iran's nuclear sites in any shape or form. Yaalon ventured into tricky terrain when he pointed out that US Congress had shown resolve by enacting legislation for sanctions with real bite. But the White House "hesitated." He went on to say: "A military operation is the last resort, but Israel must be ready to defend itself."The friction was already fueled last week by the deep resentment aroused in Israel by Washington's harsh condemnation of the assassination last Wednesday, Jan. 11, of the nuclear scientist Prof. Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, and absolute denial of any US involvement.Although Tehran has since accused the United States of the attack, the White House treated it as the defiant sign of an approaching unilateral Israeli military operation against Iran to which the administration is adamantly opposed.Friday, Jan. 13, the Pentagon announced the substantial buildup of combat power around Iran, stationing nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait - two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit – and keeping two aircraft carriers the region: The USS Carl Vinson, the USS John Stennis and their strike groups.Debkafile's military sources report that a third aircraft carrier and strike group, the USS Abraham Lincoln, is also on its way to the Persian Gulf.This massive military buildup indicates that either President Obama rates the odds of an Israel attack as high and is bolstering the defenses of US military assets against Iranian reprisals - or, alternatively, that the United States intends to beat Israel to the draw and attack Iran itself.The official purpose of Gen. Dempsey's visit next Thursday was supposed to be coordination between the US armed forces and the IDF. But his main object was another try to dissuade Israel's government and military leaders from plans to strike Iran without Washington's prior consent.The "budgetary constraints" pretext for cancelling Austere Challenge 12 is hard to credit since most of the money has already been spent in flying 9,000 US troops into Israel this month. Although the exercise in which they were to have participated was billed as testing multiple Israeli and US air and missile defense systems, the exercise's commander, US Third Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, announced that the event was more a "deployment" than an "exercise."Its cancellation leaves Washington and Jerusalem at loggerheads in four main areas.Neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, nor Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Deputy Prime Minster Yaalon, who are responsible for all decisions on Iran, are willing to put all their trust for defending Israel in American hands or relinquish unilateral military options against Iran. They believe US officials when they assert that the administration is prepared to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, but they want to see proof of the pudding and actions to back up the rhetoric. In the light of credible intelligence that Iran is very close to achieving its nuclear goal, Israel is holding on to its military option over American objections.Read the full story here.

  • Iran warns Gulf states not to replace its oil.(Jpost).TEHRAN - Iran warned its Arab neighbors on Sunday not to raise crude output to replace Iranian oil in the event of an embargo by the European Union, Tehran's OPEC Governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi was quoted as saying."The consequences of this issue are unpredictable. Therefore, our Arab neighbor countries should not cooperate with these adventurers and should adopt wise policies," Khatibi said in an interview with the Sharq newspaper.European Union countries have agreed in principle to embargo imports of Iranian as part of the latest Western efforts to step up heat on Tehran.They will look to other oil exporters to increase output to make up for the shortfall and Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Saturday his country was ready to meet any increase in consumer countries' demand.Iran has threatened to block the vital oil shipping route of the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if sanctions imposed on its oil exports.Read the full story here.More here.

  • Armenian genocide: Israel must maintain its moral compass.(JPost).Was the recent surfacing of the Armenian tragedy in the Israeli Knesset rooted in political or moral ground? Fully aware that the timing of the public debate on the Armenian tragedy recently held by the Knesset’s Education Committee is political to an embarrassing degree, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin set out to negate this immediate perception by stating, more than once, that the reopening of the debate on the issue was not a matter of political or diplomatic considerations, but a moral duty.Such rhetoric aims to establish a narrative according to which the Israel-Turkey political relationship held Israel’s moral position hostage. Now that Israel is free from its political commitments to Turkey, the argument goes, Israel may officially declare that what happened to the Armenians during WWI was genocide.However, to argue that Israel did in fact keep silent on this issue for the sake of maintaining political ties with Turkey is tantamount to declaring Israel’s moral bankruptcy.A state that prides itself on earnestly trying to do the right thing despite endless and tremendous challenges and unprecedented moral trials cannot afford to abandon its moral compass in this manner.Is Israel prepared to sacrifice the integrity of its current president, whose position symbolizes Israeli consensus, and say that when Shimon Peres announced unequivocally in April 2001 that what happened to the Armenians was tragic but not genocide, he sold morality for political gain? Tragically, by blurring the differences between the Holocaust and the massacre of Armenians, Israel is harming itself by lending a hand to the continued practice of irresponsible use of the term genocide in other arenas of conflict, such as the conflict Israel itself has with the Palestinians. In a growing number of forums, campaigns against Israel’s position in its conflict with the Palestinians are armed with the term genocide as a weapon of mass political pressure.This has already had a detrimental effect on Israel’s international relations, but will surely haunt it to a greater extent in days to come, especially should the United States reduce the level of its commitment to warding off accusations against Israel in the international system. Such a scenario may eventually lead to united international opposition against Israel, and perhaps even to outside interference with Israeli actions through international courts of law. Is it hard to imagine a possible law somewhere in Europe that would make it illegal to deny the “genocide” of the Palestinians? Instead of letting politicians add more fuel to the fire of misuse of the term genocide, careful scholarly work must be done to investigate the transition from Holocaust to the modern-day use of the term genocide and put its politicization in proper academic perspective.Read the full story here.

  • Iranian Christian Pastor Nadarkhani Rejects Release Offer.(BNL).By Stefan J. Bos.Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has rejected an offer to be released from prison if he publicly acknowledges Islam's prophet Mohammed as "a messenger sent by God" well-informed Christians and rights activists said Friday, January 13.  Iranian authorities reportedly summoned lawyers for Pastor Nadarkhani to his home city of Rasht on December 30, to explain the deal. Local officials indicated they would release the pastor if he agreed to make the statement about Mohammed, Christians with close knowledge about the situation explained."However, Pastor Nadarkhani has refused to do so, and remains in prison awaiting a final decision on his case," confirmed advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement to BosNewsLife.Christians said the pastor has made clear that making the demanded statement about Muhammed would amount to abandoning his faith in Jesus Christ.Another source assisting the pastor told BosNewsLife there is concern about the renewed pressure on Nadarkhani, who faces execution for refusing to recant his Christian faith and return to Islam."Keep in mind that brother Youcef has not had a Bible the entire two years and about three months that he has been in prison. He has no access to a computer or the outside world other than meeting with his wife and family," the source said.Yet, the Christian said that "The Holy Spirit is sustaining him in his faith and endurance". He added that the 34-year-old pastor, who is married with two children, "is healthy in mind and body and his faith is as strong as ever."Pastor Nadarkhani was detained in the city of Rasht in October 2009, while trying to register his Church of Iran home congregation, with hundreds of members in Gilan province.With international pressure mounting, "I think judges would rather release him, but are under pressure by hardliners to execute him," explained Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor's Church of Iran. "That's why the court asked the Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini for an opinion so they can say they are not responsible for his execution," he told BosNewsLife.CSW said Iran's latest conditions for his release violates article 23 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that no-one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.“Just as the initial conviction of Pastor Nadarkhani is illegal under Iranian law, the recent offer made by the authorities in Rasht is a violation of the Iranian constitution, and of international covenants to which Iran is a signatory that guarantee freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion," said CSW's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas.He told BosNewsLife that his group has called for his unconditional released and "of all those imprisoned in Iran purely on account of their faith."Read the full story here.

  • Syria's First Lady falling from grace.(Emirates24/7).Not so long ago, she was the darling of the international press, described as a "rose in the desert" and "a ray of light in a country full of shadow zones."But today, Syria's First Lady is being likened to a modern-day Marie-Antoinette, drawing criticism for staying mum on a crisis that has left more than 5,000 people dead in her country.The British-born Asma al-Assad, who virtually disappeared from the public eye after the revolt broke out in Syria in mid-March, made a surprise appearance this week to support her husband Bashar as he spoke at a pro-regime rally.Pictures of the 36-year-old, all smiles with two of her children, adorned the front pages of many Arab and Western newspapers."This shows that she is standing by her man, that she and him are on the same page," said Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria and former press adviser to local charities run by the First Lady."She is clearly part of the regime."Her appearance, however, has also drawn scathing criticism."Bashar's wife and kids cheer on daddy the dictator," one tweet scoffed."The British should withdraw Asma Assad's passport and those of her parents as accessories to a war criminal," fumed another.But the former investment banker continues to attract admiration among supporters of the Assad regime.Syria's First Lady has emerged as a style icon in the world of politics and has been compared to the likes of Queen Rania of Jordan or France's Carla Bruni, with a reported fondness for Chanel in particular.Tall, stylish and charismatic, Asma al-Assad is the picture of glamour: in designer outfits and her trademark Christian Louboutin heels, her impeccable British accent and credentials have helped promote the soft side of an iron-fisted regime."She was an important part of the public relations of the regime," Tabler said."She has an obsession with fashion," he added. "How do you reconcile this princess-like image with one of the poorest countries in the Middle East?"The daughter of a prominent London-based cardiologist, Fawaz al-Akhras, and a former diplomat, Sahar Otri, Asma is seen as the modern, progressive side of the Assad dynasty, with a degree from King's College in London where she was raised.Ten years her husband's junior, Asma has welcomed the likes of the Spanish king and queen and Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to her country.During a 2010 visit to France, Asma told French weekly Paris Match that she had married Bashar for the "values" he embodied.Fashion magazine Vogue even ran a glowing interview with her before the outbreak of the revolt, describing Asma as the "most magnetic of first ladies," but later removed the article from its website.Bashar's rise to power more than a decade ago symbolised the hope for change in a country long isolated internationally.Once a banker with J.P. Morgan, Asma herself is credited with having played a significant role in liberalising the Syrian economy.Bashar and Asma for years have been viewed as a symbol of coexistence in multi-confessional Syria. While the president is a minority Alawite, Asma is a Sunni Muslim who originally hails from Homs -- bastion of the current anti-Assad revolt.But as the death toll in Syria tops 5,000, many find the pair increasingly out of touch with reality.In a 2009 interview with CNN, the honey-eyed Asma slammed Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip as "barbaric" and, "as a mother and as a human being," called for an end to the violence."This is the 21st century. Where in the world could this happen? Unfortunately it is happening," she said in a calm, soft voice.Now her own words have come back to haunt her."Stop being a hypocrite! You are slaughtering your own people!" one YouTube commenter recently wrote beneath the video.Another summed it up in two words: "Lady Macbeth."Read the full story here.

  • Kristin Butler: UN Resolution Threatens Freedom of Speech.(Crosswalk).By Kristin Butler. A new resolution introduced at the United Nations Human Rights Council has free speech advocates concerned about a potential backlash against religious minority groups. Previously introduced as Resolution 62/154, “Combating defamation of religion,” the piece was originally written to criminalize the criticism of religion. Advocates worried that the resolution would, at best, limit freedom of speech, and at worst, jeopardize religious minorities in countries carrying heavy punishments for blasphemy and apostasy.Recently the piece has morphed into Resolution 16/18, the goal of which is “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based upon religion or belief.”But in spite of the seemingly benign language, free speech advocates say there is still cause for concern. According to Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, in some Islamic countries, particularly those with harsh penalties for apostasy and blasphemy, it often doesn't take much for religious minorities to incite extremist rage. "Just the building of churches ... having a cross outside your door can be inciting violence," Sekulow says. "So if you let them define these definitions when there is no problem coming from the minority faiths, this is somehow going to 'green-light' their suppression," he explains.Advocates point to the case of Asia Bibi, a wife and mother who awaits death by hanging in Pakistan after being charged with blasphemy. During a dispute over drinking water, Bibi's Muslim co-workers accused the Christian woman of insulting the Prophet Mohammed – charges that led to her conviction of blasphemy in a Pakistani court. Religious freedom advocates say that religious minorities often bear the brunt of persecution under blasphemy codes in Islamic countries. In Pakistan, Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities comprise only 3 percent of the population of 180 million.Those opposing the resolution say that the countries most heavily lobbying for its passage are those with less than ideal track records for freedom of speech or religious diversity. Jordan Sekulow, Director of Policy and International Operations for the American Center for Law and Justice, says that the countries pushing this resolution are countries whose “populations are 90 to 99 percent one single religious group.” He is concerned that religious minorities in these predominately Muslim countries already face some forms of persecution, and that the passage of this resolution might serve to increase persecution against minority groups. "What is the problem here with the 1 percent speaking out and why is that such an issue that needs to be handled at the international level?" he asks.The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is backing the resolution. Frank Gaffney, president of the American Center for Security Policy, questions the group's goals for the resolution, accusing the group of attempting to promote Sharia, Islamic law, through the passage of the resolution. "It is 57 states and Palestine that have come together to promote what is fundamentally the agenda that is known as Sharia," he says.Read the full story here.

  • Kuwait police abused transgender women: HRW.(Alarabiya).Human Rights Watch on Sunday accused Kuwaiti police of torturing and sexually abusing transgender women and called on the Gulf state to hold officers accountable.In a report, the New York-based group said that police have been using a “discriminatory” amendment to the penal code passed by parliament in 2007 which arbitrarily criminalizes “imitating the opposite sex.”Transgender women are individuals who are born male but identify themselves as female.The arbitrary and ill-defined provisions of the law have allowed numerous abuses to take place against them, said the 63-page report based on interviews with 40 transgender women, as well as with interior ministry officials, lawyers, doctors, and members of civil society.The accusations were based on the accounts of the 40 victims “all of whom gave almost a similar story on what they faced,” Rasha Moumneh, HRW's Middle East and North Africa researcher, told a press conference in Kuwait City.“We have met with officials from the interior ministry ... and presented the findings to them but have not yet received any response,” Moumneh said, adding that Human Rights Watch does not know the exact number of transgender women in Kuwait.Kuwaiti police have a free rein to determine whether a person’s appearance constitutes “imitating the opposite sex,” without any specific criteria being laid down for the offence, the report said.Transgender women reported being arrested even when they were wearing male clothes and then later being forced by police to dress in women’s clothing.In some cases documented by Human Rights Watch, transgender women said police arrested them because they had a “soft voice” or “smooth skin.”“No one ̶ regardless of his or her gender identity ̶ deserves to be arrested on the basis of a vague, arbitrary law and then abused and tortured by police,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said in a statement.“The Kuwaiti government has a duty to protect all of its residents, including groups who face popular disapproval, from brutal police behavior and the application of an unfair law,” the statement said.Abuses include degrading and humiliating treatment, such as being forced to strip and paraded around police stations, being forced to dance for officers, sexual humiliation, verbal taunts and intimidation, HRW said.“In several cases, Human Rights Watch found that police officers took advantage of the law to blackmail transgender women into sex,” the report said.Redress for these violations was difficult for fear of retribution and re-arrest, said the rights watchdog.“HRW calls on the Kuwaiti government to repeal the amendment to article 198, criminalizing imitating the opposite sex,” the report said.Pending repeal of the law, the interior ministry should issue a moratorium on arrests of individuals and the government also should work to protect transgender individuals, it said.Read the full story here.

  • Solving Turkey’s puzzle: Children as brides, parents as abusers.(TodaysZaman).In what activists and legal experts alike hail as a potential precedent-setter in children and women’s human rights, “attempted sexual abuse” charges have been filed in two recent “child bride” cases in Turkey.What makes the action so progressive, though, is the defendants who are charged with sexual abuse are the children’s parents.A prosecutor’s office filed a criminal complaint last week against the parents of a 15-year-old in Bolu on charges of “attempted sexual abuse” and “deprivation of liberty” for trying to marry off their young daughter against her will. The parents of the girl countered that because the marriage has not yet taken place and the child has not been physically abused no crime has occurred.In another incident, Nizip Public Prosecutor Burç Berkan Alp charged the family of a 12-year-old girl who gave birth last week in Gaziantep with sexual abuse, as the young girl was married well below the legal age limit. But these stories are merely the latest manifestations of a chronic malady ailing Turkey.While most young girls busy themselves with classwork and friends, more than 180,000 girls under the age of 18 are married in Turkey, according to the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat).But what does that really mean?If all of the child brides in Turkey were brought to the country’s biggest soccer stadium (52,695 capacity), Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Stadium, they would fill every seat, more than three times over.Even if they were moved to Atatürk Olympic Stadium (76,000 capacity), the girls and young women wedded under the age of 18 would fill Turkey’s largest-capacity stadium more than two times over.While eastern and southeastern Turkey are traditionally considered the hotbed of early marriage, activists argue it is important to remember nearly 25,000 of Turkey’s child brides live in the western province of İstanbul.According to Turkish women’s rights activist Pınar İlkkaracan, the problem is not the law itself but its lack of implementation. “Early marriage has been forbidden in Turkey since 1926. That is 85 years,” she said.According to the Turkish Civil Code, a person is allowed to marry at the age of 18 without parental consent. An individual may marry at age 17 with parental consent and at age 16 under special circumstances with court approval.Ankara attorney Gürkan Özocak, in comments to Sunday’s Zaman, reaffirmed that the charges have teeth in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).According to Article 103 of the TCK, “A person who sexually abuses a child shall be punished by imprisonment of three to eight years.” Accordingly, a person entering into sexual relations with a child under 15 years of age whether it is consensual or not is punishable under this article.Özacak then elaborated on the difference between “abetting” and “attempted” sexual abuse charges. “If the families of child brides marry off their children by means of unofficial marriage arrangements and the children enter into sexual relations with the person with whom they are forced to marry, the parents are liable for ‘abetting crimes of sexual abuse’ and face between three and eight years for each person who had sexual relations with their child,” he said.But if the marriage has not yet occurred or if it has not been consummated, as is the case with the 15-year-old in Bolu, the parents could then face charges of “attempted sexual abuse.”“One of the most important reasons behind child marriages in Turkey is the children’s parents. Deterrent penalties for parents who marry off their young children against the law are extremely important,” Özocak commented.Read the full story here.

  • Atheism under wraps in Egypt.(BikyaMasr).CAIRO: Outside, the January evening air is blowing wet and cold, better suited to London than Cairo. Inside this brightly lit Nasr City café, all is cozy and warm, as young Egyptians cluster around tables in study groups and discuss politics.The interview has wrapped up and it’s time to go when the couple sitting beside us flags our attention.“Psst, we couldn’t help overhearing you talking to that Muslim Brother,” Sophia says, pushing aside her laptop. “But we just want you to know that in this ‘100 percent religious’ country, we belong to that non-percent.”“And what is that non-percent?”“Atheism,” she says, her dark curls at odds with the sea of hijabs in Cilantro.“We just believe more in science and reason,” 23-year-old recent pharmacy school graduate Sophia, says, glancing around for eavesdroppers.“But,” adds Sam, who is sharing her piece of chocolate cake, “you can get in big trouble for even questioning religious matters or asking theoretical questions. Even with my parents,” 25-year-old telecommunications engineer adds, “I don’t bother bringing it up.”“Sam” and “Sophia” may be well educated, and the setting, Starbucks-esque cafe Cilantro, may be upscale, but what they talk about is still so heretical in this country, that being Jewish is often more acceptable.Sam was raised Coptic and Sophia Muslim. Her father disowned her when she told him she no longer considered herself Muslim.“He disowned her for thinking for herself, can you believe it,” Sam says, in obvious admiration of Sophia’s rationality.Technically atheists can be sued, though it’s rare. In 2000, a State Security Court found atheist author Salaheddin Mohsen guilty of “holding Islam and the Prophet Mohamed in contempt and questioning the divine sanctity of the Holy Qur’an.”Salaheddin had called for the establishment of an Egyptian Atheist association.While still largely underground, atheists in Egypt have found a small community and support online. Sam and Sophia met on the social-networking site“The sad thing is, a few decades back, Egypt was much more liberal,” Sam notes.“People could flirt in public, laugh, wear what they wanted, even, god-forbid, have pre-marital sex.”“Flirt in public”—a bit ironic said in this upscale and urbane cafe where occasionally hand-holding couples who laugh too loudly are asked to leave for “inappropriate behavior.Hmmmm........There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious." ~ Ayatollah Khomeini. Read the full story here.
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