HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Be sure to click on BonnieBlueFlag for the lyrics and history behind "Auld Lang Syne".
In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.
A former Kremlin adviser denounced Russia's New Year deadline for Ukraine to accept a massive gas price increase, saying Saturday the demand was a sign of resurgent Russian imperialism. Europe, meanwhile, warily watched the standoff amid warnings that its supplies could be affected.
Russia's state-owned gas monopoly, OAO Gazprom, has threatened to cut supplies to Ukraine Sunday morning if Kiev does not agree to pay $230 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas - more than four times the current price. The company has said the price hike marks a long-overdue transfer to free-market price mechanisms.
However, Andrei Illarionov, a former economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the increase instead was a political move signaling the rise of neo-imperialist trends in Kremlin policy.
Illarionov said the Kremlin had asked him to help cast the price hike as a free-market measure, but that he resigned this week because the move "had no relation not only to liberal economic policy, but to economic policy at all."
"Energy weapons are being used against neighbors," Illarionov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. "The move toward a policy of imperialism ... has a clear and high price that will eventually be paid by the citizens of a nation that embarks on the imperialist path."
Russia supplies about half of the European Union's gas, most of which flows through Ukraine. Gazprom informed European customers that, once it stops deliveries intended for Ukrainian use, supplies to other countries could be restricted if Kiev siphons off gas meant for transit further west, company spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's office said his Cabinet introduced measures to ensure the unhampered flow of gas into Ukraine and its transit to EU countries until a new contract was signed. But his prime minister has said Ukraine has the right to take 15 percent of shipments through its territory as transit fees.
EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said he was concerned about the Russian threat, but was confident an agreement would be reached "and that Russia and Ukraine will honor their commitments to supply European gas markets as they have at all times in the past."
[...]Illarionov said that in August 2004, Gazprom signed a deal with Ukraine's gas company that envisaged five years of gas supplies at $50 per 1,000 cubic meters - part of the Kremlin's efforts to support presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, who lost a tense race last fall to the Western-leaning Yushchenko.
"When the political situation changed, they remembered about subsidies," said Illarionov, who long had been a dissenter in the Kremlin, which is dominated by Putin's fellow veterans of the Soviet spy agency KGB.
Illarionov likened Russia's price hike for Ukraine to Nazi and Soviet ultimatums issued to Eastern European nations before their annexation on the
eve of the World War II, and urged the Kremlin to step away "from the brink
of a precipice that we are approaching so blindly and quickly."
OpinionJournal - American Conservatism
In "The Conservative Mind" (1953), a founding document of the American conservative movement, Russell Kirk assembled an array of major thinkers beginning with Edmund Burke and made a major statement. He proved that conservative thought in America existed, and even that such thought was highly intelligent--a demonstration very much needed at the time.
Today we are in a very different and more complicated situation. Nevertheless, a synthesis is possible, based on what American conservatism has achieved and left unachieved since Kirk's volume. Any political position is only as important as the thought by which it is derived; the political philosopher presiding will be Burke, but a Burke interpreted for a new constitutional republic and for modern life. Here, then, is my assessment of the ideas held in balance in the American Conservative Mind today.
Hard utopianism. During the 20th century, socialism and communism tried to effect versions of their Perfect Man in the Perfect Society. But as Pascal had written, "Man is neither angel nor brute, and the misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the brute." In abstract theory was born the Gulag. One of conservatism's most noble enterprises from its beginning was its informed anti-communism.
Soft utopianism. Both hard and soft utopianism ignore flawed human nature. Soft utopianism believes in benevolent illusions, most abstractly stated in the proposition that all goals are reconcilable, as in such dreams as the Family of Man, World Peace, multiculturalism, pacifism and Wilsonian global democracy. To all of these the Conservative Mind objects. Men do not all desire the same things: Domination is a powerful desire. The phrase about the lion lying down with the lamb is commonly quoted; but Isaiah knew his vision of peace would take divine intervention, not at all to be counted on. Without such intervention, the lion dines well.
The nation. Soft utopianism speaks of the "nation-state" as if it were a passing nuisance. But the Conservative Mind knows that there must be much that is valid in the idea of the nation, because nations are rooted in history. Arising out of tribes, ancient cosmological empires, theocracies, city-states, imperial systems and feudal organization, we now have the nation. Imperfect as the nation may be, it alone--as far as we know--can protect many of the basic elements of civilized existence.
Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | Russia's autocrats must feel the weight of world opinion
International diplomacy's game of musical chairs plays again at midnight on Saturday when Britain's G8 presidency comes to an end and leadership of the world's most exclusive political club passes for the first time to Russia. It raises the question of whether the Russian government will prove itself worthy of the status it is about to acquire or whether its G8 presidency is destined to be seen as an embarrassing anomaly.
[...]Three years later it is clear that these hopes have been confounded. Instead of putting reform on a more stable footing Putin has put it into reverse by adopting a profoundly authoritarian model of governance he calls "managed democracy". This transformation has involved something far more subtle than a simple reversion to Russia's totalitarian past. The constitutional trappings of contested, multiparty elections and representative institutions remain in place, but they have been emptied of any real democratic content as the conditions for Russia's free internal development have been eroded. The scale of that erosion was made clear this week, with the resignation of Putin's economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, one of the few remaining liberals in the inner circle, saying that Russia was no longer free or democratic.
The most obvious erosion has been the effective re-imposition of state control over the national television network. There is a noisy pluralism in bits of the media Putin can afford to ignore, but in the places ordinary Russians rely on for information, coverage is heavily slanted in favour of the Kremlin. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe election monitors' report on the 2003 presidential elections stated bluntly that opposition candidates had been denied fair coverage and noted that television stations gave them a fraction of the extensive and largely positive coverage given to Putin. Since then, things have got even worse, with the forced closure of the remaining independent national television network and the dismissal of journalists who fail to toe the Kremlin line.
Space for the policies of the ruling elite to be effectively contested has been further constrained by an increasingly repressive attitude to the independence of Russian civil society. NGOs that ask difficult questions have been officially denounced as agents of foreign influence, while some have become the target of intimidation by the security services and subjected to occasional physical abuse. A law just passed by the Duma requires NGOs to be officially registered and empowers the authorities to close them down if they are deemed a threat to "national interests". Even the British Council has been raided.
In the old days, state power arrived with a knock at the door in the middle of the night. In Putin's Russia it arrives in the form of a falsified tax demand. It sounds comical, but the consequences can be equally dire. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of several oligarchs selectively prosecuted by the Kremlin, was sentenced to eight years in a Siberian labour camp in a tax case that almost all independent observers regard as politically motivated. Last week a British judge refused a request to extradite one of Khodorkovsky's former colleagues on the grounds that the request had been "made for the purpose of punishing him on account of his political opinions". In the legal world, at least, it is understood that rule of law no longer applies in Russia and that the judicial system has become an arm of the Kremlin.
Some will no doubt see this as just desserts for the scandal of Russia's post-Soviet privatisation programme, but the objective of Putin's campaign to "liquidate the oligarchs as a class" has not been to right past wrongs. The purpose has been to consolidate power at the centre and eliminate all rivals. The result has been the rise of a new oligarchy based on a fusion of economic and political power and, in particular, monopoly control of the energy sector by people at the highest reaches of the Kremlin.
Kremlin reasserts control of oil, gas | csmonitor.com
Call it PetroKremlin. A vast state-run energy conglomerate has been assembled over the past year, some experts say, to fuel Russia's bid to revive Soviet-style great power status.
To date, the Kremlin has effectively renationalized almost a third of the formerly private oil-and-gas sector. Other developments also point to growing state ambitions:
• A $15-billion Siberian pipeline, due to begin pumping in 2008, will shift Russian crude exports to Asia, particularly China, where Moscow is cultivating fresh strategic relationships.
• A 737-mile gas line being laid under the Baltic Sea will cut out middlemen Ukraine and Poland, whose relations with Moscow have recently soured, while locking in Russia as Western Europe's key energy supplier.
• State-run Gazprom has teamed up with several foreign partners to develop a vast Barents Sea gas field whose production, converted to liquefied natural gas (LNG), could begin supplying the US market by 2010.
• A long-delayed law on subsoil resources, to be passed by the Duma next year, is expected to ban foreign-owned companies from exploring or developing Russian oil fields and other key mineral resources.
"Amazing changes are happening swiftly, because Putin has understood that energy is Russia's key card to play at the international table," says Michael Heath, a political analyst with Aton, a Russian brokerage. "Instead of the military force the Soviet Union used to project its power, Russia is using oil as a major tool of foreign policy."
[...]Putin has appointed some of his top aides to run the Kremlin's newly acquired empire.The daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta estimated earlier this year that seven people from Putin's inner circle now control nine state companies with total assets of $222 billion, which is equal to 40 percent of Russia's GDP.
Last week Kremlin economic adviser Andrei Illaryonov slammed what he called the transformation of Russia into a giant corporation. "The main outcome of this year is the formulation of a new corporatist model for political, economic, social, public, and international life," said the outspoken Mr. Illaryonov, who Tuesday offered his resignation. "Until recently, no one put any restrictions on me expressing my point of view. Now the situation has changed," the Associated Press reported him as saying.
If the Kremlin is demonstrating that energy supplies can be dangled like a carrot, it has also realized they can be wielded like a stick. Ukraine, which broke free of Moscow's orbit in last year's "Orange Revolution," was hit last month with more than a quadruple price hike for natural gas supplies - from $50 per 1,000 cubic meters to $230. Kiev has protested that it cannot adjust to such a rapid price hike, but Gazprom has threatened to shut down gas deliveries to Ukraine on New Year's Day if it doesn't comply. Ukraine announced Tuesday an agreement had been reached but a Gazprom spokesman in Moscow denied the claim.
Meanwhile Belarus, Moscow's most loyal former Soviet ally, has contracted with Gazprom to pay just $46 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas.
OpinionJournal - Featured Article
Congress can't usurp the president's power to spy on America's enemies.
In the continuing saga of the surveillance "scandal," with some congressional Democrats denouncing President Bush as a lawbreaker and even suggesting that impeachment hearings may be in order, it is important to step back and put things in historical context. First of all, the Founding Fathers knew from experience that Congress could not keep secrets. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin and his four colleagues on the Committee of Secret Correspondence unanimously concluded that they could not tell the Continental Congress about covert assistance being provided by France to the American Revolution, because "we find by fatal experience that Congress consists of too many members to keep secrets."
When the Constitution was being ratified, John Jay--America's most experienced diplomat and George Washington's first choice to be secretary of state--wrote in Federalist No. 64 that there would be cases in which "the most useful intelligence" may be obtained if foreign sources could be "relieved from apprehensions of discovery," and noted there were many "who would rely on the secrecy of the president, but who would not confide in that of the Senate." He then praised the new Constitution for so distributing foreign-affairs powers that the president would be able "to manage the business of intelligence in such manner as prudence may suggest."
In 1790, when the first session of the First Congress appropriated money for foreign intercourse, the statute expressly required that the president "account specifically for all such expenditures of the said money as in his judgment may be made public, and also for the amount of such expenditures as he may think it advisable not to specify." They made no demand that President Washington share intelligence secrets with them. And in 1818, when a dispute arose over a reported diplomatic mission to South America, the legendary Henry Clay told his House colleagues that if the mission had been provided for from the president's contingent fund, it would not be "a proper subject for inquiry" by Congress.
For nearly 200 years it was understood by all three branches that intelligence collection--especially in wartime--was an exclusive presidential prerogative vested in the president by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, John Marshall and many others recognized that the grant of "executive power" to the president included control over intelligence gathering. It was not by chance that there was no provision for congressional oversight of intelligence matters in the National Security Act of 1947.
Russia and Ukraine widen gas dispute - Business - International Herald Tribune: "Gazprom, Russia's state-owned natural gas monopoly, sharply criticized Ukraine on Tuesday after that country's prime minister asserted that Ukraine had a right to take 15 percent of the gas that Russia exports via Ukraine to Western Europe, fanning a dispute that has pitted the Kremlin against a former satellite and one of Russia's most important neighbors.
Characterizing Ukraine's plans as theft served to escalate a war of words while Gazprom moved forward with plans to more than quadruple the price it charges Ukraine for gas at the start of the new year. The acrimony reflects a determination by both sides to hold out over a dispute that could have long-term consequences for the foreign policy of both nations.
'If Ukraine holds out and manages to strike a compromise with Russia, then Russia's ambitions to restore its influence in this part of the former Soviet empire could be finished,' said Bruce Jackson, president of Project on Transitional Democracies, a U.S. group that has supported former Communist countries joining the NATO military alliance.
'This is Russia's last chance to influence Ukraine,' he said. 'And it is no coincidence that it is using energy as its tool against President Yushchenko before Ukraine's parliamentary elections that take place "
Ukraine has sought to have the increase phased in over several years and upped the stakes this month by saying it was considering raising the $98m in annual rent Moscow pays for the use of its naval base in Sevastopol, on Ukraine's southern Crimean peninsula.
The Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov warned yesterday any attempt to change the terms of Moscow's lease would threaten agreements recognising Ukraine's post-Soviet borders. "The accord on conditions for the presence of the Russian Black Sea fleet is part of the main Russian-Ukrainian treaty, the second part of which includes the point on recognition of the inviolability of state borders ," he told state television. "To revise those agreements would be fatal."
Democracy's High Price
A YEAR AFTER Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Russia's effort to combat the spread of democracy in Eastern Europe continues unabated. Its latest weapon is natural gas. As the heating season got underway this month, Moscow announced through its state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, that it would more than triple the price it charges Ukraine for gas supplies, to $160 per 1,000 cubic meters. When Ukraine's government sought to negotiate a more gradual increase, Moscow threatened to raise the price further, to more than $200, or cut off supplies as of Jan. 1. Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to trigger this crisis just as Ukraine approaches a crucial parliamentary election on March 26. Thanks to Mr. Putin, soaring energy prices for Ukrainian consumers may be a punishing issue for the former Orange revolutionaries.
Opinion - Ben Macintyre Times Online
The explosive growth of youthful, irreverent online diaries has alarmed Iran's hardline Government
THE MUSIC OF Eric Clapton was banned in Iran this week. Broadcasters were ordered to cease playing “decadent” western songs and stick to “fine Iranian music”. Not content with denying the Holocaust, Israel’s right to exist, and advertising hoardings featuring David Beckham, Iran’s hardline President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has now denied his people the chance to listen to Layla — cruel and unusual punishment indeed.
But if Iran, under the repressive rule of the ultraconservatives, is silencing the sound of Western pop, in another area of its culture, a wild cacophony of voices has erupted. The blogosphere is exploding. In Iran there are now more than 100,000 active blogs or weblogs, individual online diaries covering every conceivable subject, from pets to politics. Farsi is the 28th most spoken language in the world, but it now ties with French as the second most used language in the blogosphere. This is the place Iranians call “Weblogistan”: a land of noisy and irreverent free speech.
The collision between these two sides of Iran — hardline versus online — represents the latest, and most important, battle over freedom of speech. The outcome will dictate not only the shape of Iran, but also the future of the internet as a political tool, heralding a new species of protest that is entirely irrepressible.
The growth in Iranian blogging is part of a worldwide surge. In 1999, there were some 50 bloggers on the web; in January there were about 5.4 million; today, according to the blog search engine Technorati, there are more than 23 million.
There are reasons why Iran should be especially fertile ground for blogging. More than 90 per cent of the country is literate, and 70 per cent of the country’s citizens are under 30. Computer ownership is relatively high and internet cafés abound. The first Iranian blog was born in November 2001, when Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian journalist, posted instructions on how to build a simple weblog in under ten minutes. As Nasrin Alavi (a pseudonym) demonstrates in her new book, We Are Iran: the Persian Blogs, these diary sites cover the gamut: angry, sad, humorous and brave. Like all blogs they can also be self-indulgent, inaccurate, inarticulate and boring. Internet usage is growing faster in Iran than anywhere in the Muslim Middle East, and there are now more blogs in Farsi than in German, Italian, Spanish, Russian or Chinese. Apparently, since the rise of the blogs, graffiti have almost entirely vanished from the walls of Tehran’s public toilets.
With almost all Iran’s reformist newspapers closed down and many editors imprisoned, blogs offer an opportunity for dissent, discussion and dissemination of ideas that is not available in any other forum. There is wistful yearning in many Iranian blogs, and a persistent vein of anger: “I keep a weblog so that I can breath in this suffocating air,” writes one blogger. “I write so as not be lost in despair.” Blogs by Muslim women are particularly moving in their bitter portrayal of life behind the veil.
The Iranian State has done its utmost to smother the nascent Iranian blogosphere. In 2003 the Government began to take direct action against bloggers — more than 20 have been arrested, on charges ranging from “morality violations” to insulting leaders of the Islamic Republic. One blogger was sentenced to 14 years in prison for “spying and aiding foreign counter-revolutionaries”; in October, Omid Sheikhan was sentenced to a year’s jail and 124 lashes for a weblog featuring satirical political cartoons.
The regime has also reportedly brought in powerful software programs to filter the net and block access to provocative blogs. But the Government remains profoundly alarmed by a tool it cannot control. Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, the head of the Iranian judiciary, recently described the internet as a “Trojan Horse carrying enemy soldiers in its belly”. Many of Iran’s religious leaders recall how an earlier revolution was fuelled by new technology, when cassette tapes and videotapes of sermons by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were smuggled into the country, undermining the Shah and hastening his downfall.
Decentralised, informal and versatile, blogs offer a potential for secrecy, anonymity and evasion unthinkable in a hierarchical, paper-based information system. A blogger may be arrested, but once his words are out there and replicable, they are effectively immortal and invulnerable. The bloggers have proved so wily and hard to censor that the Government has even considered removing Iran from the internet entirely, by creating a national intranet that would seal off Iranians from the contaminating freedom of the world wide web.
If the Iranian Government succeeds in crushing the blogs, other intolerant regimes will take heart; but if the Iranian blogosphere continues to expand, nascent networks of free thought will follow elsewhere. Already US policymakers are exploring ways of nurturing home-grown Arabic language blogs in the Middle East to spread democratic ideals and increase pressure for change.
It is less the political content of the blogs that terrifies Iran’s Government than the mere existence of this space outside its control, where Iranians are free to say whatever they wish to one another. Here in Weblogistan they can tell jokes, flirt, mock their leaders and share music files, unencumbered by mullahs’ fiats or state decrees.
For a reader from the West, the blogs offer a vision of Iran, far from the chanting crowds, hidden women and ranting mullahs of popular imagery. As much as President Ahmadinejad may seek to turn back the clock and battle “Westoxification”, at the blog level this is a modern country. “My blog is a blank page,” writes one young Iranian blogger. “Sometimes I stretch out on this page in the nude . . . now and again I hide behind it. Occasionally I dance on it.” That may not sound like a call to arms, but in a country where the music is dying it may be the harbinger of revolution.
FT.com / International Economy / Oil - Ukraine gas dispute with Russia raises supply fear
Ukraine and Russia have had many disputes over natural gas, but have never come as close as now to reducing supplies to Europe.
Even through the break-up of the Soviet Union and crises that followed, Russia's gas exports to Europe, 80 per cent of which transit Ukraine, have always been reliable.
But unless Ukraine agrees to pay much more for the gas it takes from the pipeline for its own use – Moscow first asked for roughly a four-fold increase, but now suggests it should be more than five-fold – Russia has said it will cut out Ukraine's portion from the gas going into the pipe.
If Ukraine keeps taking gas, which Moscow says would be stealing, supplies to Europe could be cut by about 20 per cent.
Both sides have huge incentives to make a deal. Russia has no other way to get its gas to Europe, while Ukraine, which currently receives 30 per cent of its gas from Russia in a barter deal in lieu of transit fees, has no alternative source.
Yet both sides claim the other is refusing to negotiate seriously. Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's president, this week called Russia's position “irresponsible, unprofessional and naive”.
He accused Moscow of trying to punish Kiev for its turn towards democracy in last year's Orange Revolution and of operating “double standards” by demanding that Ukraine pay roughly twice as much for gas as the south Caucasus and Baltic states pay.
FT.com / Home UK - A year on, Ukraine's democracy is showing results
Last year, as families throughout Europe celebrated winter holidays, millions of Ukrainians rose up against a discredited regime in what became known as the Orange Revolution. That peaceful and bloodless uprising against election fraud came to a close last December 26. Voters chose European democratic values and elected me as independent Ukraine's third president.
Belief remains that the Orange Revolution will change Ukrainian society. Politicians offering illusions about simple solutions wrapped in populist rhetoric have lost trust. Yet, citizens expected and this year we began delivering policies that provoked a new political, economic and social discourse within our country. The competition of ideas and sometimes disorderly nature of democracy is testament to a vibrant young nation that is steadily evolving.
On our path will be the rise and fall of political parties, alliances and coalitions. My challenge is to ensure that each of them contributes towards realising those hopes, values and ideals that provoked my countrymen to rise against a despotic regime. While it is impossible to transform instantaneously a country of 47m, significant and irreversible changes, unthinkable 12 months ago, have been implemented.
First, we instituted the basic freedoms of speech and assembly, which replaced media censorship and planned democracy. A policy dialogue was established with citizen groups. Only informed and empowered constituency groups can make the difficult choices required to transform a closed society into a competitive nation.
Gangsters' hold on Sydney is safe - Opinion - smh.com.au
For too long our politicians and police have turned their backs on a festering problem writes Miranda Devine.
FORGET Clover Moore as the Grinch of Sydney's Christmas. The "Lions of Lebanon" with their Glock pistols and Molotov cocktails have put her to shame this holy season. While the NSW police lock down entire beachfront suburbs, instruct stores to stop selling baseball bats, and apply the full force of the law to pasty-faced nerds with a taste for Nazi literature, they continue to cower from the real hardmen, the Lebanese-Australian criminal gangs of Sydney's south-west who have ruled the roost in this city for at least a decade and now number in their thousands.
So when parents and children attending Christmas carols on Monday night, December 12, at St Joseph the Worker Primary School in South Auburn were abused and spat on by "young men of Middle Eastern appearance", there were no police to protect them. Not even when the sounds of gunshots echoed inside the church, and parked cars were pumped full of bullets. "Police were called by a number of parents and the principal, but they were unable to attend because they were needed elsewhere," said Cardinal George Pell in a statement.
The police were busy that night - Sydney's mini Kristallnacht "night of the broken glass" - as carloads of men drove east from Lakemba and Punchbowl to systematically attack whole streets of parked cars with bats and machetes. Identified by police as being of the proverbial Middle-Eastern appearance - code for Lebanese Muslim, despite the fact many are second-generation Australians - they also stabbed a man, smashed a woman's head with a bat, attacked another woman in a pizza shop and a man who was putting out his rubbish.
They were extracting revenge for the riot the day before on Cronulla beach when a protest against continuing intimidation of beachgoers by thugs described as Lebanese turned ugly and drunken racists attacked passers-by suspected of being "Lebs".
The retaliation from the gangs of the south-west was a calculated show of strength, with victims reportedly being asked if they were "Australian" before being attacked. Over the next 24 hours another three churches in Sydney's south-west were attacked.
With police unable to guarantee safety, Holy Spirit College at Lakemba cancelled its carols service. Other schools in the south-west cancelled concerts and end-of-year presentations or hired security guards.
Thus the lead-up to Christmas this year has been notable for a rash of cancellations of traditional yuletide activities. The North Cronulla surf carnival was called off. As was the Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club's annual Christmas cheer party, and a carols concert expected to draw 3000 people to Coogee beach.
Rather than a problem of race, religion or multiculturalism, Sydney is suffering from a longstanding crime problem. It is a textbook case of how soft policing and lenient magistrates embolden successive waves of criminals, infecting other people who might otherwise have been law-abiding.
icLiverpool - Jihad is 'Muslim obligation'
A lawyer defending al Qaida-linked suspects standing trial for the 2003 suicide bombings in Istanbul told a court that jihad, or holy war, was an obligation for Muslims and his clients should not be prosecuted.
"If you punish them for this, tomorrow, will you punish them for fasting or for praying?" Osman Karahan -- a lawyer representing 14 of the 72 suspects -- asked during a nearly four-hour speech in which he read religious texts from an encyclopedia of Islam.
The November 2003 blasts targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and the local headquarters of the London-based HSBC bank, killing 58 people.
The Arabic word jihad can mean holy war among extremists in addition to its definition as the Islamic concept of the struggle to do good.
Karahan spoke for three hours at the court in Istanbul.
"If non-Muslims go into Muslim lands, it is every Muslim's obligation to fight them," Karahan said.
Birdblog: The Night Before Fitzmas
The Night Before Fitzmas
THE NIGHT BEFORE FITZMAS
(with apologies to Clement Clark Moore):
Twas the night before Fitzmas, in the Senate and House
all the Democrats were stirring; Teddy Kennedy was soused
The indictments were hung around Howard Dean`s lair
in the hopes to get Rove in a defendent`s chair
and with Dick in his turban and Byrd in his sheet
Harry Reid fairly drooled over Dr. Frist`s seat.
Then from high on the Hill there arose such a blather
all the Democrats thought that it must be Dan Rather.
The London-based Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Iran and Syria signed a strategic accord meant to protect either country from international pressure regarding their weapons programs. The magazine, citing diplomatic sources, said Syria agreed to store Iranian materials and weapons should Teheran come under United Nations sanctions.
Byron York on Bill Clinton & No-Warrant Searches on National Review Online
In a little-remembered debate from 1994, the Clinton administration argued that the president has "inherent authority" to order physical searches — including break-ins at the homes of U.S. citizens — for foreign intelligence purposes without any warrant or permission from any outside body. Even after the administration ultimately agreed with Congress's decision to place the authority to pre-approve such searches in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, President Clinton still maintained that he had sufficient authority to order such searches on his own.
Don’t Buy National Geograhic… as it looks like Duranty has taken up residence there.
Really, how can there be an article on Genocide in this icon of intelligence - and not a single mention of Ukraine? Its like Sci Fi Magazine failing to note that a UFO crashed on the pointed ear exhibit at the Star Trek Convention!
Chimp's painting fools experts - NEWS.com.au
A GERMAN art expert was fooled into believing a painting done by a chimpanzee was the work of a master.
The director of the State Art Museum of Moritzburg in Saxony-Anhalt, Katja Schneider, suggested the painting was by the Guggenheim Prize-winning artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay.
"It looks like an Ernst Wilhelm Nay. He was famous for using such blotches of colour," Dr Schneider confidently asserted.
The canvas was actually the work of Banghi, a 31-year-old female chimp at the local zoo.
While Banghi likes to paint, she is not able to build up much of a body of work as her mate Satscho generally destroys her paintings before they can get to the gallery.
But this one survived long enough to give Dr Schneider a red face.
"I did think it looked a bit rushed," she told Bild newspaper.
The Middle Eastern cycle of violence is not local. It can occur on the central coast, around Cronulla, Bondi, Darling Harbour, Five Dock, Redfern, Paddington, anywhere in Sydney. Unlike their Vietnamese counterparts, they roam the city and are not confined to either Cabramatta or Chinatown. And even more alarming is that the violence is directed mainly against young Australian men and women. There is a clear and definite link between violent attacks on our young men and women being racial as well as criminal. Quite often when taking statements from young men attacked by groups of Lebanese males around Darling Harbour, a common theme has been the racially motivated violence against the victims simply because they are Australian.
I wonder whether the inventors of the racial hatred laws introduced during the golden years of multiculturalism ever took into account that we, the silent majority, would be the target of racial violence and hatred. I don’t remember any charges being laid in conjunction with the gang rapes of south-western Sydney in 2001, where race was clearly an issue and race was used to humiliate the victims. But then, unbelievably, a publicly-funded document produced by the Anti-Discrimination Board called “The Race for Headlines” was circulated, and it sought not only to cover up race as a motive for the rapes, but to criticise any accurate media reporting on this matter as racially biased. It worries many operational police that organisations like the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Privacy Council and the Civil Liberties Council have become unaccountable and push agendas that don’t represent the values that this great country was built on.
MANY OF YOU would have heard of the horrific problems in France with the outbreak of unprecedented crimes amongst an estimated five million Muslim immigrants. Middle Eastern males now make up 45,000 of the 90,000 inmates in French prisons. There are no-go areas in Paris for police and citizens alike. The rule of law has broken down so badly that when police went to one of these areas recently to round up three Islamic terrorists, they went in armoured vehicles, with heavy weaponry and over 1000 armed officers, just to arrest a few suspects. Why did it need such numbers? Because the threat of terrorist reprisal was minimal compared to the anticipated revolt by thousands of Middle Eastern and North African residents who have no respect for the rule of law in France and consider intrusions by police and authority a declaration of war.
The problems in Paris in Muslim communities are being replicated here in Sydney at an alarming rate. Paris has seen an explosion of rapes committed by Middle Eastern males on French women in the past fifteen years. The rapes are almost identical to those in Sydney. They are not only committed for sexual gratification but also with deep racial undertones along with threats of violence and retribution. What is more alarming is the identical reaction by some sections of the media and criminologists in France of downplaying the significance of race as an issue and even ganging up on those people who try to draw attention to the widening gulf between Middle Eastern youth and the rest of French society.
That is what we are seeing here. The usual suspects come out of their institutions and libraries to downplay and even cover up the growing problem of Middle Eastern crime. Why? My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that these same social engineers have attempted to redefine our society. They have experimented with all manner of institutions, from prisons to mental institutions and recently to policing.
The American Spectator
We all remember Hillary Rodham Clinton's charge of a "vast right-wing conspiracy": the allegation that there were a bunch of right-wingers out to get her husband, hoping to impeach him and dance on his grave. Admittedly, there were many such individuals. Mrs. Clinton also correctly identified certain sources in the food chain. Where she was wrong was her allegation of an organized conspiracy.
Now, however, there is a vast left-wing movement to get George W. Bush, an effort never more apparent than on Friday, December 16, 2005, the day after the incredible Iraqi elections.
As someone who has been cautiously optimistic over whether the Middle East could democratize, I was thrilled with the results. It was a huge vindication for Bush, who is now a proven visionary, one that history will not be able to deny.
As for the left, which should be ecstatic over this triumph of Wilsonian idealism, there is a seething rage over George W. Bush's renewed success. "Progressives" were hoping for his ignominy, a crash and burn in Saddam's former Republic of Fear, now en route to an actual republic, a Republic of Promise.
On Friday, I watched anxiously to see how liberal reporters would swallow what was, for them, a terrible political loss. How would they cover this achievement? I hurried to the web to check the reaction of the New York Times, the Grand Central Station for liberal enmity toward the president.
I got my answer: The Times rolled out a gem examining whether the Nixonian George W. Bush has been spying on innocent Americans with the sinister assistance of dark forces at the National Security Agency.
For liberals, it was beautiful. The liberal media nurses at the breast of the New York Times. In this period of ugly, white-hot hatred of the so-called Religious Zealot in Chief, liberals each morning look in eager expectation to the Times for fodder for their cannons, something to satiate their hunger.
Well, on Friday, the Times came through in spades. The rest of the collective media had its ticket to ride-off to the races, so excited and effective that even Rush Limbaugh was forced to devote his broadcast not to the success in Iraq but to responding to the latest Times salvo. The Times's desperate gasp to knock the Iraq triumph from the front pages would be comical if it were not so sad.
The American Spectator
There are politically motivated criminals in our government who should be unmasked and punished to the fullest extent of the law. These people have leaked some of our most sensitive secrets and damaged our national security for no reason other than to discredit President Bush. Forget the Plame nonsense. That -- according to a CIA assessment -- caused no damage at all. No, I'm talking about the leaks of the secret CIA detention facilities in Europe and elsewhere where terrorist detainees are kept. I'm talking about the leak of a top-secret satellite program, apparently by three U.S. senators. And I'm talking about last week's New York Times report about the NSA's domestic intelligence gathering effort that's paying off handsomely. Or was, until the leakers told the Times.
Friday, in a report that the White House asked not be published because it could jeopardize ongoing anti-terrorist operations, the Times revealed that in 2001 the president authorized the National Security Agency to collect intelligence from conversations routed through the United States and possibly including people within the United States. And the media feeding frenzy aimed at declaring George W. Bush a criminal started all over again.
It's pretty clear that NSA's domestic intelligence gathering was -- and is -- legal. But before we get to that, we have to set the context for this debate correctly, which is more than the Times, the Washington Post, or any of the other politico-media will do. We need only two data points to accomplish that.
First, the last time a war was fought on American soil, the president then didn't merely authorize intelligence gathering within our borders, he suspended the writ of habeas corpus for anyone held in military custody (even though we didn't yet have a base at Gitmo), and declared that anyone opposing the war would be tried and punished under martial law in military courts. Thank heaven that George Bush isn't as radical as Abraham Lincoln was when he signed that proclamation in September 1862. Or as radical as FDR was in interning Japanese citizens in World War II.
Second, the price of inaction in the war against terrorists is too high. We know, from Mansour Ijaz's accounts and from the admissions Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger has made in several interviews, that the Clinton administration turned down Sudan's repeated 1996 offers of bin Laden on a silver platter because its lawyers didn't believe we had enough evidence to indict him in a U.S. court. Instead of telling the lawyers to find a way to put OBL out of business, the Clintons took the easy way out their lawyers had provided and let bin Laden get away.
There's one good thing about the news that Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest Saudi prince in the world, just bought Harvard and Georgetown universities — or, at least buried them up to their ivy in $40 million.
It gives everybody reason to relive a McAuliffe moment. McAuliffe, of course, was Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, who, in response to a Nazi invitation to surrender during the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, sent back a one-word reply: "NUTS."
In kindred spirit, but in a very different war, Rudy Giuliani gave the United States a McAuliffe moment after he realized that Mr. Alwaleed's $10 million donation to help rebuild the Twin Towers after 9/11 was in fact the price of principle. Having signed his hefty check, Mr. Alwaleed spoke his nasty piece: basically, that the United States had it coming — "it" being 9/11 — given America's support of Israel.
Rudy didn't say "nuts," but he immediately returned the money. "Not only are those statements wrong," Mr. Giuliani said, "they're part of the problem."
[...]Take [the prince's] media holdings. In the West, they include a sizeable stake in Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns Fox News, "fair and balanced" pride of any parent company. And Mr. Alwaleed takes pride — pride of ownership, anyway — in Fox as well. "During last month's street protests in France," he bragged to an audience at a Dubai media conference, according to Middle East Online, "Fox ran a banner saying: 'Muslim riots.' I picked up the phone and called Murdoch" — Rupert — "to tell him these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty. Within 30 minutes," the prince recalled, "the title was changed from 'Muslim riots' to 'civil riots.'"
And then, having painstakingly constructed his relentlessly fair argument, he then turned it back on his critics with airtight logic.
"There is a difference," he said, "between honest critics who recognize what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right. Defeatism may have its partisan uses, but it is not justified by the facts."
Thus, the president was saying, I hereby acknowledge both my mistakes and my responsibility for the decisions I've made. You have every right to blame me and hold me liable if you think the choice was the wrong one. You may even make "partisan use" of the war if you wish.
But in the end, "the need for victory is larger than any president or political party." In the end, "the security of our people is in the balance." Hate me. But if you love America and its brave men and women in uniform, you will agree with me that "the road to victory . . . is the road that will take them home."
Checkmate, Mr. Murtha.
Michelle Malkin: RED ALERT: CHICKEN LITTLES ON THE LOOSE
Those who actually read the piece will note that the paper must grudgingly acknowledge that it is talking about the NSA's monitoring of international communications (e-mails, cellphone calls, etc.) only; the agency still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
And not until the 16th paragraph, some 1,110 words into the massive piece, does the paper tell you the important context in which the program was created and used:
The American Thinker
[Editor’s note: this article was written by a Magdi Khalil, a journalist in London and Egypt, writing for an Arabic readership. It is translated with the author’s permission. An earlier article of his explaining the United States to his readers can be found here.]
The recent disturbing articles and news in the Arabic media may very well lead people to believe that the Muslims living in the United States are being subjected to collective persecution or even eradication ─a false accusation easily refuted by the fact that millions of Muslims continue to apply for emigration to, and temporary residence in, the United States for study and business purposes. Polls conducted by credible organizations show that even now, and in spite of the unprecedented hostility towards the United States and the West, millions of Muslims around the world still aspire to live in the United States or Europe.
I would like to shed light on the situation of Muslims living in the United States, and to call readers’ attention to a number of significant facts:
1. Muslims are able to practice their religious rituals and celebrations freely, as well as openly maintaining and asserting their cultural traditions.
2. They are granted total religious freedom including the freedom to proselytize anywhere, even within the American prison system; a CNN report indicated that the ratio of prisoners who convert to Islam each year is 1:6.
3. Muslims have the right to establish Islamic schools, institutes and universities anywhere in the United States with no constrictions; the American government has even provided support to some of these institutions.
4. Muslims have the right to establish their own media, with no restrictions or particular conditions, whether they will operate in their own languages or in the English language. They also have total access to Arab and Islamic media in the form of newspapers, magazines and satellite channels, and though most of those are openly hostile to the United States, none of them have been banned by the US.
5. There are numerous registered Islamic institutions and associations that are concerned with the defense of Muslims‚ rights, freely operating under the American law. No restrictions are imposed on these associations as long as they are not associated with international terrorist organizations.
6. Muslims in America have the full right to wear the Islamic outfit, and to worship during working hours in most governmental agencies, schools and institutes.
7. At the beginning of each new American Congress, verses from the Holy Quran and Islamic prayers are recited among other prayers, underlining the fact that Islam is part of the mainstream religious landscape of the U.S.
8. Muslims have the right to build mosques anywhere in the US with no restrictions other than the ones that apply to buildings in general and to other houses of worship.
9. Muslim feasts are considered official holidays in schools where there is a significant Muslim presence, as well as for Muslim employees.
10. Following the events of September 11, 2001, a strong warning was issued against targeting the Muslims or subjecting them to abusive or vengeful measures, clearly stating that offenders would be subjected to serious penalties.
11. Complaints of abuse or discrimination are examined and handled with honesty and earnestness.
12. The Bush Administration has offered its apology to Muslims, and openly rejected the insulting approach used by a few individuals in the media.
The Seattle Times: Nation & World: New York to monitor people with diabetes
Under a revised city code passed by the Board of Health, most medical laboratories in New York will be required to electronically forward the results of thousands of blood-sugar tests to the city Health Department, which will then analyze the data to identify people having trouble controlling their diabetes.
Some patients might then get letters or phone calls from their doctors, prodding them to take medication, come in more frequently for checkups, or change their diet. Diabetes is the fourth-leading cause of death in the city.
New York's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, said the program's potential to save thousands of lives outweighs what it gives up in medical privacy.
FrontPage magazine.com :: Muslim Gang Rapes and the Aussie Riots by Sharon Lapkin
In Australia this week amidst anger over an Islamic man’s rape conviction and the bashing of two Aussie life savers, working-class locals erupted in a rampage of anger and brawling in some of the worst racial riots in decades. But there is more to the story than is being repeated in the American mainstream media....
Four days after he set foot in Australia, the rape spree began. And during his sexual assault trial in a New South Wales courtroom, the Pakistani man began to berate one of his tearful 14-year-old victims because she had the temerity to shake her head at his testimony.
But she had every reason to express her disgust. After taking an oath on the Qur’an, the man – known only as MSK – told the court he had committed four attacks on girls as young as 13 because they had no right to say “no.” They were not covering their face or wearing a headscarf, and therefore, the rapist proclaimed: “I’m not doing anything wrong.”
MSK is already serving a 22-year jail term for leading his three younger brothers in a gang rape of two other young Sydney girls in 2002. In his own defence, he argued that his cultural background, was responsible for his crimes.
And he is right.
In some parts of Pakistan, sexual assault – including gang rape – is officially sanctified as a legitimate form of enforcing the social value system.
One village council recently ordered that five young girls should be “abducted, raped or murdered” for refusing to be treated as chattel. The girls were aged between six and thirteen when they were married without their knowledge, to pay a family debt.
And when Mukhtar Mai’s 12-year-old brother was alleged to have committed an offence in a small Pakistani farming village, the village council ordered that his sister be gang-raped. So, she was taken to a hut where four men repeatedly assaulted her.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan there were 804 cases of such officially orchestrated sexual assault in 2000, and 434 of these were gang rapes. And if that isn’t bad enough, the victims of these atrocities are then expected to commit suicide because rape victims bring irreparable shame upon their family.
So as MSK committed his acts of rape while visiting Australia, he was simply perpetuating his own cultural heritage. He hails from a society where officially sanctioned sexual violence is commonly employed as a means to enforce the subservience of women.
After weeks of escalating tensions attributed to unruly behavior by Lebanese youths on city beaches, surfers and other locals of a suburb called Cronulla organized a beachside demonstration last Sunday which erupted into clashes between whites and people of Arab origin.
Because of racist taunts, the presence of some white supremacist activists and the targeting of people according to their appearance, the clashes were quickly labeled "race riots," although some observers said it was more accurate to call them turf struggles between two groups of badly-behaved youngsters, fueled by excessive drinking.
As police in Sydney brace for the possibility of more street brawls this weekend, Christian symbols have become a new target following last Sunday's clashes between white Australians and ethnic Arab gangs.
Four such attacks were reported in two days - a Uniting church hall was torched; an Anglican church's windows were smashed; Molotov cocktails were thrown at another Anglican church; and gunshots were fired at parked cars and parents and children verbally abused outside a Catholic primary school Christmas carol service.
Herald Sun: More to the riots than racism [16dec05]
FOUR attacks on churches in 24 hours remind us it's foolish to dismiss the riots in Sydney as just proof of white Australian racism.
Yes, the scuffles at Cronulla on Sunday were brutal and cowardly. But they seemed in part driven not just by beer, but exasperation at the failure of police to deal with Lebanese gangs who'd harassed beachgoers for years. And only a few people were hurt and none seriously.
Yet this was, to the usual suspects, confirmation of "our" racism – of the "racial exclusion" that La Trobe University's Professor Marilyn Lake yesterday said was "a deep part of our heritage".
But see now the far worse retaliation by Lebanese gangs. Over the past days we've seen a man stabbed in the back, a woman bashed in the face with a bat, businesses smashed and more than 100 cars wrecked.
Now the gangs have allegedly burned the hall of a Uniting church – a church catering for Tongan Australians. They've smashed the windows of St Thomas's Anglican Church – attended by Chinese Australians. And they've allegedly shot up cars outside a carols service for mainly Maronite Christians – Australians of Middle Eastern background.
Each assault was against a proof of "our" welcome to people of other races. Those who say this strife is about nasty "us", as in white racists, are blind, or maybe racist themselves.