Saturday, July 30, 2005

HAVE HAD computing troubles that I haven't solved completely, and now I'm heading to a family celebration. Tomorrow will be quite full to, so blogging will be likely low to non-existent until Monday...

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Friday, July 29, 2005

MY AMERICAN FRIENDS, you thought you'd be the only ones with a "leak scandal", didn't you? Well, turns out that we have our own "Wilson / Plame / Rove" kind of thing, this time over the journalistic revelations on the March 11 bomb attacks. Someone doesn't like that newspaper El Mundo has been publishing embarrasing information (such as this, this, this, this, this, this and this, to point out just a few, and don't miss the last one: "the wife of Syrian-born PSOE member and imprisoned terrorist Mouhannad Almallah in 2003 charged her husband with domestic abuse, and informed police about her husband's plan to blow up the Kio Towers office buildings in Madrid"; more here) so they're threatening the editor with jail unless he hands the judge all the information he has on the case.

In some cases it means that the internal code in documents and data DVDs originally given by the court to the affected parties and their attorneys will allow the judge to know who the leaker is.

Previous leaks published by El Pais, virtually the Socialist party house organ, which helped the Socialist government's case naturally were not theatened with prosecution (link in Spanish).

And of course, all usual suspects that have been blue in the face accusing the White House of intimidation to reporters for the alleged Rove manoeuvres (as you can guess, the issue is always explained the other way round, and with the gorevidalian conclusion that the US is a fascist country) are conspicuously mum on our scandal. For the administration-critic press here's no right to information and to protect their sources, apparently.

See now why I'm using a nom de keyboard?

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NOT ALL is bad news in the economic front (if I was a real cynic, I'd ask "yet?"):
Spain's jobless rate fell to 9.3 percent in the second quarter of 2005, its lowest level in 25 years, as the economy continued to generate jobs at a healthy rate.

According to data published Friday by the National Statistics Institute, or INE, the country's jobless rate fell to 9.3 percent from 10.2 percent in the first quarter - the lowest rate in about 25 years. The number of unemployed for the first quarter, including first-time job seekers, was 1.9 million, the Institute said.

In the last 12 months, the number of unemployed has fallen by 204,000, INE said, as the Spanish economy - one of the fastest growing in the euro zone - continued to create jobs at a healthy rate.

The annual job creation rate jumped by almost one point to 5.0 percent in the second quarter from 4.3 percent in the first three months of this year, INE said.

About 358,900 new jobs were created in services, as the summer holiday season was getting underway. About 68,000 jobs were made in construction and 5,200 were gained in industry, INE said.

Job creation was mainly boosted by an immigrant amnesty that took place earlier this year, when the Spanish government granted about 700,000 new residence permits for undocumented workers.

However, despite the progress made in the Spanish labor market, joblessness remains high by euro-zone standards as the 12-nation jobless rate was running at 8.8 percent in May.

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THIS PIECE by Youssef M. Ibrahim is today's required reading:
The world of Islam is on fire. Indeed, the Muslim mind is on fire. Above all, the West is now ready to take both of them on.

The latest reliable report confirms that on average 33 Iraqis die every day, executed by Iraqis and foreign jihadis and suicide bombers, not by US or British soldiers. In fact, fewer than ever US or British soldiers are dying since the invasion more than two years ago. Instead, we now watch on television hundreds of innocent Iraqis lying without limbs, bleeding in the streets dead or wounded for life. If this is jihad someone got his religious education completely upside down.

Palestine is on fire, too, with Palestinian armed groups fighting one another - Hamas against Fatah and all against the Palestinian Authority. All have rendered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas impotent and have diminished the world's respect and sympathy for Palestinian sufferings.

A couple of weeks ago London was on fire as Pakistani and other Muslims with British citizenship blew up tube stations in the name of Islam. Al Qaeda in Europe or one of its franchises proclaimed proudly the killing of 54 and wounding 700 innocent citizens was done to "avenge Islam" and Muslims.

Madrid was on fire, too, last year, when Muslim jihadis blew up train stations killing 160 people and wounding a few thousands.

The excuse in all the above cases was the war in Iraq, but let us not forget that in September 2001, long before Iraq, Osama Bin Laden proudly announced that he ordered the killing of some 3,000 in the United States, in the name of avenging Islam. Let us not forget that the killing began a long time before the invasion of Iraq.
(via Mojacar Hawk). Make sure you read the rest.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

I'M NOT REALLY IMPRESSED with the conclusions of Blair and Zapatero's meeting yesterday in London (link by government-owned news agency EFE, and it shows). Sure, Blair formally welcomed the Alliance of Civilizations, but it looked more like a diplomatic nicety than a real commitment ("I think this is a proposal with possibilities in it that we can develop over the months to come", "I would be very surprised if people didn't support this everywhere").

Of course, this is being sold in Spain by Zapatero's administration and the friendly media as a huge victory, as a key endorsement to his earthshaking project. Thing is, since Spanish Socialists are used to calling "assassins" or "complete dickheads" to anyone they disagree with (as they did with Blair himself), when other people don't insult them back they think everything's fine and dandy. They simply don't think of the possibility that diplomacy is, well, a diplomatic thing; you have to white lie sometimes, pretending you like the person in front of you. What Blair said sounded more like the "good idea, let's talk about that some day" when you don't really want to do something but you don't want to upset the other person saying simply "no". But maybe it's just me.

In any case, the really important thing from yesterday's meeting was Zapatero's major flip flop on his central argument: that Islamic terrorism is the consequence of the Iraq war. During the joint press conference after the meeting, Zapatero said:
Beyond the positions of each country, that each country has adopted on the military intervention in Iraq, I must say that the risk is global, as we have just seen in the bombing in Egypt, to such a point that since I am President of the government, I have adopted on two occasions the decision of having the maximum alert level in our country because of a terrorist threat, this involves a very broad deployment of both military and police presence, and at present we are at this top alert level, ever since I am President of the government, and of course ever since we withdrew our troops from Iraq.

[...] I have just reiterated this, beyond the position anyone may have had regarding Iraq, my position is known to everyone. It would be the first press conference in which I wasn't asked about the issue ever since I reached government, but the terrorist threat is a threat to all, the threat from radical Islamic terrorism affects us all equally. They have attacked very different countries and therefore prevention, combat and security affects us all and involves us all.
That Islamic terrorism (particularly the March 11 bomb attacks in Madrid) was the consequence of former PM Aznar support of the war in Iraq was used over and over by the Socialist party and it's media terminal, the powerful PRISA communications conglomerate (or is it by the PRISA group and its political terminal, the Socialist party?), up to the point that you can see things like this all over the place, and not only in graffiti, but in statements by politicians and opeds in the most 'distinguished' newspapers.

So it's still to be seen how long this new idea will last in Zapatero's head -after all it's only a few days after he wrote a piece in the Financial Times saying that the root cause of terror was the vast "sea of injustice"- but at least that's something.

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IS IRAN buying crucial nuclear parts from EU's aeronautical giant EADS via South Korea? German mag Der Spiegel says so (via Regime Change Iran):
London, Jul. 26 – European firms are unknowingly providing Iran with much-needed nuclear parts which could be used in making nuclear bombs despite efforts by the international community to prevent Tehran from acquiring such a capability, the German weekly der Spiegel wrote on Monday.

The paper said that it had seen secret documents showing that Iran was secretly buying European-made sophisticated nuclear parts via South Korea.

The French firm EADS Sodern was one such company involved in the illegal transactions though it was unaware of the final destination of its exports, the der Spiegel said.

According to the financial records for the deal, Tehran was busy buying 300 units of Nickel 63 (98.720 dollars) from the South Korean Kyung-Do Enterprises through an Iranian company called Partoris.
UPDATE. Well of course, it's all a fabrication by Zionists!

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The IRA has formally ordered an end to its armed campaign and says it will pursue exclusively peaceful means.

In a long-awaited statement, the republican organisation said it would follow a democratic path ending more than 30 years of violence. The IRA made its decision after an internal debate prompted by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams' call to pursue its goals exclusively through politics.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was a "step of unparalleled magnitude".

C'mon, ETA guys, now it's your turn!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

SOME VISION! (via Spanish blog HispaLibertas)

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Spain's trade deficit reached €30 billion in the first five months of 2005, a 40% increase over the same period in 2004, according to the ministry of industry, tourism, and commerce. The worsening is due to a strong increase of imports.
Well of course; with Spain's low productivity, it's more efficient to buy things abroad than making them.

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OF COURSE, they'd never demand such a thing from Saddam:
The leftist-separatist [and key parliamentary ally of Zapatero's Socialist party] Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) yesterday demanded that the Spanish administration apologize for Spain's alleged use of chemical weapons in the Rif War, which occurred in northern Morocco in the early 1920s. ERC spokesman Joan Tardá told a press conference in Parliament, "Spain must apologize. This is not humiliation, but an act of democratic maturity that would place brotherhood between peoples on the table." ERC also proposed that ceremonies of reconciliation and support for the poverty-stricken Rif region be celebrated. The party stressed that Spain carried out, beginning in 1921, "a war of aggression against the Moroccan population of the Rif in revenge for the disaster at Annual (a famous Spanish military defeat) with the goal of wiping out the Rif independence movement led by Abd el Krim."

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NOT SURE this is the best way to fight against Islamic terrorism:
Telesforo Rubio, chief of the National Police's information brigade and head of antiterrorist operations, has been carrying out a "political cleansing," according to several officers and labor unions, in order to place inexperienced cronies of his in charge of the various antiterrorist police units. There has been a great deal of unhappiness among police officers at Rubio's management ever since Socialist prime minister Zapatero named him antiterrorism chief. As soon as he was named, criticism centered on his lack of experience for such an important post. Rubio had previously been police chief in the provincial city of Soria, in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcon, and in several districts in Madrid. He has won two minor decorations Rubio's connections to the Socialist Party are well-known, as he helped them draw up their electoral compaign and prepared his testimony before the March 11 parliamentary committee at Socialist headquarters in Madrid.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

THEO VAN GOGH'S murderer has been sentenced a few minutes ago: life imprisonment without parole.

Pieter Dorsman has been extensively following this issue, and today he reflects on the Dutch director killed by an Islamofascist fanatic without anyone from Hollywood or the movie industry -so keen to comments on politics as long as it's against Western policies- uttering a peep.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

JOE GANDELMAN: "The dead man was identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian, described by officers as an electrician on his way to work. If you look at this case, and the unfolding police dragnhet and security in London, it's clear that there is indeed a danger in the war against terror that some innocents may be killed by a new kind of "friendly fire."

It is a tragedy, but how can officials solve this one? Waiting too long could mean if the person is a suicide bomber police, bystanders, etc could be blown up. Shoot quickly could mean someone who panics at the wrong time, misunderstands what's going on and is either highly suspcious or flees, etc. could wind up on a slab in a morgue.

It's the quintessential debate about balancing rights of the individual and the common good — and it's likely be a huge debate particularly if there are more innocent deaths.

So what is the alternative when you have to make a mega-split second decision?

WARNING: We hope policymakers and police realize that this death and the likely controversy over it raises a NEW DANGER: that terrorist forces may try to set up a situation in which innocents are killed, which would then accentuate any existing controversies.

But the bottom line in the war against terror seems to be this: you are faced with suicide bombers and they ARE going to blow themselves up. And security forces have to act before they can do so. What, if any, safeguards can they use? What precautions should individuals use to make sure they don't get caught in a police crossfire? (Actually we can answer that: common sense.)"

Then Joe proceeds to a roundup of the blogosphere on this affair.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

AL-QAEDA - Not so decentralized and a lot of it in Iran; a must-read post by Dan Darling over at Winds of Change.

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IT'S NOT BECAUSE OF IRAQ that they hate us, Olivier Roy writes:
Conflicts in the Middle East have a tremendous impact on Muslim public opinion worldwide. In justifying its terrorist attacks by referring to Iraq, Al Qaeda is looking for popularity or at least legitimacy among Muslims. But many of the terrorist group's statements, actions and non-actions indicate that this is largely propaganda, and that Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are hardly the motivating factors behind its global jihad.

First, let's consider the chronology. The Americans went to Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11, not before. Mohamed Atta and the other pilots were not driven by Iraq or Afghanistan. Were they then driven by the plight of the Palestinians? It seems unlikely. After all, the attack was plotted well before the second intifada began in September 2000, at a time of relative optimism in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

[...] Second, if the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are at the core of the radicalization, why are there virtually no Afghans, Iraqis or Palestinians among the terrorists? Rather, the bombers are mostly from the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Egypt and Pakistan - or they are Western-born converts to Islam. Why would a Pakistani or a Spaniard be more angry than an Afghan about American troops in Afghanistan? It is precisely because they do not care about Afghanistan as such, but see the United States involvement there as part of a global phenomenon of cultural domination.

What was true for the first generation of Al Qaeda is also relevant for the present generation: even if these young men are from Middle Eastern or South Asian families, they are for the most part Westernized Muslims living or even born in Europe who turn to radical Islam. Moreover, converts are to be found in almost every Qaeda cell: they did not turn fundamentalist because of Iraq, but because they felt excluded from Western society (this is especially true of the many converts from the Caribbean islands, both in Britain and France). "Born again" or converts, they are rebels looking for a cause. They find it in the dream of a virtual, universal ummah, the same way the ultraleftists of the 1970's (the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Italian Red Brigades) cast their terrorist actions in the name of the "world proletariat" and "Revolution" without really caring about what would happen after.

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EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO TODAY, the English edition of Barcepundit saw the light. I don't really have anything especially witty to say today about this -hey, it's Sunday morning and am half aslpeep!- but it's been a very intense year full of developments in Spain and abroad, and I don't want to skip this opportunity to thank the hundreds of thousands of visitors since then, and among them the readers who have sent me lots of links, tips, comments and constructive criticism.

Very special thanks also to so many bloggers, columnists and opinion-makers-including many of the biggest shots- who have quoted or linked this blog during all this time. I won't name names because the list would be too long and I don't want to run the risk of forgetting someone, but if you're one of them you already know I'm talking about you...

And now, back to work!

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

IN THIS COUNTRY it's the Catholic church which is always accused of being homofobe -they're not happy with the approval of gay marriage, and so they're labeled as bigots, Nazis, whatever.

Of course, things like these are buried inside newspapers, if covered at all; after all, we have to set up an Alliance of Civilizations with these guys, so we better not upset them.

(via Glenn Reynolds)

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"CHIRAKS DO IT, Schroeders do it, even educated Zapateros do it" ("educated" not to be taken literally; it's just so that it can be sung with Cole Porter's tune): our dear leader is also for EU's lifting of the arms embargo against China:
Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called on the European Union to lift an arms embargo against China during an official visit to Beijing.

Zapatero said his government agreed with China the arms embargo should be lifted.

[...] Zapatero expressed Spain's admiration for his host country, which he called "the modern China, which is becoming a great global power".
and I though being a global power was a requisite for being an arrogant imperialist hyperpower... but of course, it's only when it's the evil fascistic yanks, not the peaceful and impeccably democratic Chinese.

And, upon hearing Zapatero's remarks, General Zhu smiled.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

NOMRAN GEARS IN THE GRAUDIAN!* Aiming at terror apologists among us, no less. Wonder if they'll take the hint:
Within hours of the bombs going off two weeks ago, the voices that one could have predicted began to make themselves heard with their root-causes explanations for the murder and maiming of a random group of tube and bus passengers in London. It was due to Blair, Iraq, illegal war and the rest of it. The first voices, so far as I know, were those of the SWP and George Galloway, but it wasn't very long - indeed no time at all, taking into account production schedules - before the stuff was spreading like an infestation across the pages of this newspaper, where it has remained.
Well, the guys in Barcelona's El Periódico -Barcelona 2nd biggest newspaper- are not only apologists, they're cheerleaders. Look at Page one of today's edition, after yesterday's bomb wave in London:

Translation: "Al Qaeda ridicules London security". At least they didn't print "Yippie yay!" all across the cover, let's give them credit for that.

I am ashamed for having several op-eds written in that newspaper in the past (with my real name, so don't bother searching!). Can't wait to tell them "no" when they call me again.

(* Mispellings on purpose; for those of you who don't know, The Guardian is not-so-affectionally called "The Graudian" by critics who point at the increasingly frequent typos as a proof of lowering standards in a formerly respected newspaper.)

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GOOD NEWS for road warriors flying in to Barcelona or Madrid: a wi-fi service, by a joint venture between KubiWireless, Comunitel, and Vodafone, has been launched in both cities' airports. Instead of wasting your time, say, buying presents for your spouse of kids at the duty-free shop, you could actually be emailing or IMing Barcepundit!

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THE GUY'S got nerve, that's for sure:
Secretary of state for foreign relations Bernardino León ironized yesterday in reaction to PP leader Mariano Rajoy's offer to mediate between the Spanish administration and US president George W. Bush after his visit to Washington on Tuesday. Leon commented that he had heard Rajoy had been at the White House, but "I haven't seen any pictures, except the typical photo you take at the gate, and I don't think you can mediate much from the gate."
Neither you can sitting by the phone waiting for Bush's call unsuccessfully for half a year, which is exactly what has happened to Zapatero since POTUS's re-election. Even if it was true that Rajoy had been at the gate -which it is not, no matter there were no photos released it's on public record that he was with the International Democratic Union delegation meeting Bush- he's been a million times closer to the White House than your boss, Bernie.

Honestly, if I had been failed at having Bush return my boss congratulation call for several months, as you have, I'd be a little, just a little more discreet with that subject.

You're welcome.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

CALEB CARR nails it (via Instapundit):
What common elements can we establish among these societies at the given moments that they were victimized?

Of paramount interest is the fact that each nation had recently exhibited a weakening public determination to aggressively meet the rising challenge of Islamist terrorism. Consider the U.S. of 2001: The Clinton administration had left behind a record of essentially ignoring those few terrorism analysts who asserted that full-fledged military action against al Qaeda's Afghan training bases, backed by the possibility of military strikes against other terrorist sponsor states, was the only truly effective method of preventing an eventual attack within U.S. borders. President Clinton himself, we now know, at times favored such decisive moves; but opposition from various members of his cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and finally (as well as most importantly) a general public that would not or could not confront the true extent of the Islamist problem generally, and al Qaeda specifically, forced him to confine his responses to occasional and counterproductive bombings -- even as the death toll from al Qaeda attacks on U.S. interests abroad rose dramatically. Correctly sensing that the new president, George W. Bush, was treating the terrorist threat with a similar attitude of denial, al Qaeda's Hamburg-based subsidiaries launched the 9/11 operation. . . .

In all of these examples, then, the "trigger" for terrorist action was not any newly adopted Western posture of force and defiance. Rather, it was a deepening of the targeted public's wish to deal with terrorism through avoidance and accommodation, a mass descent into the psychological belief, so often disproved by history, that if we only leave vicious attackers alone, they will leave us alone. It is hardly surprising that by actively trying -- or merely indicating that they wished -- to bury their collective heads in the sand, the societies were led not to peace but to more violent attacks.
Too bad the article is pay only.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005


“If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,” said General Zhu Chenghu.

Gen Zhu was speaking at a function for foreign journalists organised, in part, by the Chinese government. He added that China's definition of its territory included warships and aircraft.

“If the Americans are determined to interfere [then] we will be determined to respond,” said Gen Zhu, who is also a professor at China's National Defence University.

We . . . will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds . . . of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.

UPDATE. Reader Mike H writes: "Franco, we didn't expect this? The Soviet Union falls and the next stronger player steps up. One of these days in the future we'll face India also. That's why the loss of Europe is a tragedy, a strong front would contain the threat longer."

I agree.

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STOP THE WAR! Terrorism should be fought by courts and police, not by the armies! For example, like this:
In a ruling seen as a sharp blow to coordinated counterterrorism efforts in Europe, Germany's highest court today refused to turn over a terrorist suspect to Spain, arguing that a recent European agreement to streamline extradition procedures violated the rights of German citizens.

The case involved Mamoun Darkazanli, a 46-year-old German of Syrian origin suspected in Spain and by independent experts on terrorism of having provided logistical and financial support to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Darkazanli, who runs a trading company in Germany, is pictured in a videotape at a wedding in Hamburg in 1999 also attended by two of the hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Judge Baltazar Garzón of Spain, using the new European procedure, issued a European warrant against Mr. Darkazanli last year, accusing him of being the "permanent interlocutor and assistant" in Europe for the Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.

But the German Constitutional Court today declared the law creating the European warrant void, even though it was ratified by the German Parliament last November. The court reasoned that the law infringed on every German citizen's right, enshrined in this country's Basic Law, to a hearing in a German court before extradition can take place.

The ruling will surely be seen as a setback in a Europe still reeling from the terrorist attacks in London this month and where closer coordination to prevent terrorism is at the top of the public agenda.
Thank you, Germany.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

"OSAMA'S WORST NIGHTMARE"; most of you probably know already about Irshad Manji (canadian, Muslim, lesbian, feminist), but no matter if you do or don't. You just have to read this excellent article about her on London's Times.

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PAPILLON LIVES, IT'S A MIRACLE! Henri Charrière, notorious for his epic narration of his bids to escape from the dreadful prison in the French Guyana, left this vale of tears 32 years ago. But that doesn't seem to be a problem for Venezuela's authorities: he, and thousand of illustrious and not so illustrious dead, has suddenly appeared in the countriy's electoral census, ready to vote in next August local elections.

Jimmy Carter, call your office!

(via Glenn Reynolds).

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THE London bombers may have been duped into killing themselves so their secrets stayed hidden.

Police and MI5 are probing if the four men were told by their al-Qaeda controller they had time to escape after setting off timers. Instead, the devices exploded immediately.

A security source said: "If the bombers lived and were caught they'd probably have cracked. Would their masters have allowed that to happen? We think not."

The evidence is compelling: The terrorists bought return rail tickets, and pay and display car park tickets, before boarding _ a train at Luton for London. None of the men was heard to cry "Allah Akhbar!" - "God is great" - usually screamed by suicide bombers as they detonate their bomb.

Their devices were in large rucksacks which could be easily dumped instead of being strapped to their bodies. They carried wallets containing their driving licences, bank cards and other personal items. Suicide bombers normally strip themselves of identifying material.

Similar terror attacks against public transport in Madrid last year were carried out by recruits who had time to escape and planned to strike again.

Bomber Hasib Hussain detonated his device at the rear of the top deck of a No 30 bus, not in the middle of the bottom deck where most damage would be caused.

Additionally, two of the bombers had strong personal reasons for staying alive.

Jermaine Lindsay's partner Samantha Lewthwaite, 22, mother of his one-year-old son, is expecting her second baby within days. Mohammed Sidique Khan's wife Hasina, mum of a 14-month-old daughter, is also pregnant.

Our source disclosed: "The theory that they were not a suicide squad is gathering pace. They were the weakest link.

"We think it's possible they were told that when they pressed buttons to set off timers they'd have a short time to abandon the bombs and get away before the blast. Instead, the bombs exploded immediately."

Another intelligence source added: "Whoever is behind this didn't want to waste their best operatives on a suicide mission. Instead they used easily recruited low-grade men who may have believed they'd walk away."

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

THREE SUPERB COLUMNS about the "enemy within" factor in the terrorist attacks hitting European soil: Tom Friedman on the New York Times, Charles Krauthammer on the Washington Post, and Leon de Winter also on the Gray Lady (thanks, Golan, for the third link).

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A MOST INTERESTING profile of Nicolas Sarkozy in Foreign Policy magazine:
When Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California in 2003, all French politicians sneered, except one. For Nicolas Sarkozy, the leader of a center-right Gaullist party and the son of a Hungarian refugee, the rise to power of the Austrian-born Hollywood star was a sure sign of modernity. Commenting soon after Schwarzenegger’s election victory, Sarkozy said, “ [that] someone who’s a foreigner in his country, who has an unpronounceable name and can become governor of the biggest American state—that is not nothing!”

Over the past three years, Sarkozy has become one of France’s most popular politicians by pushing reform, fighting crime, talking straight, and injecting progressive ideas into the ruling center-right party, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). A politician who often runs against the grain, Sarkozy has challenged his fellow citizens’ views on immigration, social welfare, and tax relief, and told them that, in some cases, France should look abroad for its inspiration to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Britain and, yes, even President George W. Bush’s America. His emergence has breathed new life into France’s ossified political landscape where the same leaders have been holding sway for decades. And his ultimate ambition couldn’t be more clear: The 50-year-old politician, whose boyish energy and penchant for fidgeting has earned him the nickname “Speedy,” is hoping that French voters will show a California-like openness and make him France’s next president. Indeed, in 2003, he broke with French tradition by openly declaring his presidential ambitions and igniting a feud with his mentor, President Jacques Chirac. When I asked him about his political coming-out in a country where discretion is often preferred to ambition, he threw his arms up in the air: “What can I say? I’m ambitious. It’s true. Should I pretend otherwise?”

Read the rest; it's fairly long, but it's Sunday, so there's time for things like these!

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

I'M GREEN WITH ENVY of you, Aussies!:
MAXINE McKEW: Prime Minister, if as you say you can't rule out that possibility that we could have potential bombers right here in Australia, what if today's announcement, this redeployment to Afghanistan and our continued presence in Iraq is all the provocation they need?

JOHN HOWARD: Maxine, these people are opposed to what we believe in and what we stand for, far more than what we do. If you imagine that you can buy immunity from fanatics by curling yourself in a ball, apologising for the world - to the world - for who you are and what you stand for and what you believe in, not only is that morally bankrupt, but it's also ineffective. Because fanatics despise a lot of things and the things they despise most is weakness and timidity. There has been plenty of evidence through history that fanatics attack weakness and retreating people even more savagely than they do defiant people.

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THIS IS really huge:
Osama bin Laden's standing has dropped significantly in some key Muslim countries, while support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence has "declined dramatically," according to a new survey released today.

In a striking finding, predominantly Muslim populations in a sampling of six North African, Middle East and Asian countries are also as alarmed as Western nations about Islamic extremism, which is now seen as a threat in their own nations too, the poll found.

[...] Compared with previous surveys, the new poll also found growing majorities or pluralities of Muslims surveyed now say democracy can work in their countries and is not just a political system for the West. Support for democracy was in the 80 percent range in Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco and the highest score at 43 percent in Pakistan and 48 percent in Turkey, where significant numbers were unsure.

"They are not just paying lip service. They are saying they specifically want a fair judiciary, freedom of expression and more than one party to participate in elections. It wasn't just a vague concept," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center and director of the project. "U.S. and Western ideas about democracy have been globalized and are in the Muslim world."
Yes, but Bush is Hitler!

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AS IF THERE WAS still any doubt at this point, the Spanish press reports today on a document found in the computer of one of the key perpetrators of the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid (link in Spanish, my translation):
A document found in the personal computer of Jamal Ahmidan, "The Chinese", undersigned by the Abu Hafs al Masri brigades and dated March 15, 2004 declares that the March 11 perpetrators intented to remove [Aznar's] Popular Party from the government.

The document was recently found by police, according to the Cope radio network who has seen it. It says: "those who were suprised for our quick claim of responsibility in the battle of Madrid, let them know that there were other circumstances. In the case of Madrid, the time factor was very important in order to put an end to the government of Aznar the ignoble.

The night of March 11, the Abu Hafs al Masri brigades sent the London daily 'al Hayat' a statement claiming responsibility for what they called the "operation trains of death". The same group claimed responsibility last July 9 of the terror attacks in London.

"Let all know that we're a part of the so-called world order. We change states, we destroy others with Allah's help and even decide the future of the world's economy. We won't accept being mere passive agents in this world", the text found in Jamal Ahmidan's computer, one of the main perpetrators of the March 11 cells and who blew himself up in Leganes a few days later together with other co-participants, warns.

Apparently, this statement was a response to intelligence services who questioned the authenticity of the first claim of responsibility sent by the brigades only a few hours after the Atocha [station] attacks.

The text also contains strong criticism of Western leaders, particularly [Spain's] former Primer Minister Jose Maria Aznar, described as the "tail of the American tyrants".
ABC (the Madrid newspaper, not the American or Australian TV network) reports further (also in Spanish) and reminds a very telling detail: when he was brought before a judge after the first 72 hours in isolation (permitted by Spanish anti-terror legislation), the first thing asked by Jamal Zougam, another of the key suspects of March 11, was: "Who won the election?".

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THE LEADER of the Spanish cell of al-Qaeda, who was recently on trial in Madrid for his role in the 9/11 attack (sentence pending) was beaten by fellow inmates:
The suspected leader of al Qaeda in Spain, accused of aiding the September 11 hijackers, was beaten by a group of prison inmates on Friday and had to be taken to hospital, a prisons spokeswoman said.

Syrian-born Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, also known as Abu Dahdah, is awaiting a verdict after being tried for "terrorist murder" for allegedly helping the hijackers plan the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

If convicted he could be sentenced to up to 74,000 years in jail.

"He was attacked while he was eating breakfast. They started by insulting him. Prison guards warned him to get out but the group jumped him immediately," the spokeswoman said. "The injuries do not appear serious."

Can't help wondering what was this guy doing in the same prison area with all other inmates; one would expect him to be in some kind of special area, precisely to prevent being attacked for being a mass murderer (besides 9/11, he's believed to have had some role in March 11, though he's waiting for trial on that); it's well known that prisoners like to offer a "special welcome" to convicts for especially hideous crimes.

So the incident may have been pure incompetence of prison authorities. Of course, it could also be a way to get him killed, to shut him up, though I guess there would be more effective methods for that.

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SHRED, SHRED, shreddicky shred:
The man who abruptly retired as Kofi Annan's cabinet chief after shredding papers related to the Oil-for-Food (search) program has been shredding still more documents at the United Nations, an eyewitness told FOX News.

Iqbal Riza (search ), who has been working on a $1-a-year salary as a special advisor to Annan, has been shredding large quantities of unknown documents in his new 10th-floor U.N. office across the street from the U.N. Secretariat building, the source said.

According to the eyewitness, a U.N. staffer who works on the same floor as Riza, the retired cabinet chief arrived within days of leaving his old job, loaded down with many cartons of papers and files.

Riza was not in his new office daily, but every day he appeared, he would put large numbers of material through an office shredder located in a public area.
(via HispaLibertas)

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

THE MOTHER OF ALL CONNECTIONS: Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn report the new information solidifying the link between Saddam and al-Qaeda. There's been so much distortion in this issue that it's really important to read information countering the widespread distortion on the MSM, so read the full article.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

APPARENTLY, prayers also can backfire, from time to time.

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WE CANNOT -we're not gonna, I'd add- surrender, writes Christopher Hitchens:
The preachers of this faith have taken care to warn us that they love death more than we love life. Their wager is that this makes them unstoppable. Well, we shall have to see. They certainly cannot prove their point unless we assist them in doing so.

My American friends have been impressed by the composure of the Londoners they have seen on the screen: I bet London Transport runs again rather sooner than US airlines resumed flying after 9/11.

I remember living in London through the Provisional IRA bombing in the 70s. I saw the very first car-bomb explode against the Old Bailey in 1972. There was no warning that time, but after a while a certain etiquette developed.

And, even as I detested the people who might have just as soon have blown me up as anyone else, I was aware there were ancient disputes involved, and that there was a potential political solution.

Nothing of the sort applies in this case. We know very well what the "grievances" of the jihadists are.

The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.

FOR a few moments yesterday, Londoners received a taste of what life is like for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose Muslim faith does not protect them from slaughter at the hands of those who think they are not Muslim enough, or are the wrong Muslim.

It is a big mistake to believe this is an assault on "our" values or "our" way of life. It is, rather, an assault on all civilisation. I know perfectly well there are people thinking, and even saying, that Tony Blair brought this upon us by his alliance with George Bush.

A word of advice to them: try and keep it down, will you? Or wait at least until the funerals are over. And beware of the non-sequitur: you can be as opposed to the Iraq operation as much as you like, but you can't get from that "grievance" to the detonating of explosives at rush hour on London buses and tubes.

Don't even try to connect the two. By George Galloway's logic, British squaddies in Iraq are the root cause of dead bodies at home. How can anyone bear to be so wicked and stupid? How can anyone bear to act as a megaphone for psychotic killers?

The grievances I listed above are unappeasable, one of many reasons why the jihadists will lose.
Read it all.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

ANOTHER SUPERB ROUNDUP of the good news coming from Afghanistan, by Arthur Chrenkoff. As usual, it's full of information, and worth every minute you'll spend with it.

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NICK COHEN at The Observer writes a superb piece saying that it's time to face up to the truth after last week's massacre in London: it's not Blair, nor Bush, who is to blame for it, even though there are quite a few voices who claim so. Just like they did in Spain after March 11, when lots of guys blamed Aznar in stark terms.

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ALMOST EVERYTHING that could be said about the Iraq was has already been said; however, it's always interesting to read a good debunking of the eight most used anti-Iraq war myths, by John Hawkins (hat tip: JBW).

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Anyone who has visited a shantytown in Africa can applaud the impulse behind Live 8 and the Make Poverty History campaign. It would be swell if, as we are repeatedly told, "for the price of a Big Mac" we could save 20,000 people a day who die from extreme poverty. But there is little reason to think that aging pop stars have figured out how to achieve a goal that has eluded generations of policymakers.

The solution being promoted by Live 8 is simple: Send beaucoup bucks. The anti-poverty campaigners are grouchy because the wealthy world spends only 0.25% of its gross national income on aid — a mere $76.8 billion last year. They want to nearly triple that, to 0.7% of GNI.

The United States, in particular, is castigated for its stingy development budget — only 0.16% of GNI. This obscures the fact that, in absolute terms, the U.S. government spends far more on foreign aid ($19 billion last year) than any other nation. And that's only a small part of our total contribution. Thanks in part to our lower tax rates, Americans give far more to charity than do Europeans. If you include private-sector donations, the Hudson Institute finds, U.S. foreign aid totals $81 billion, or 0.68% of GNI — close to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. And that's not counting the billions the U.S. spends to subsidize global security or the billions more it sends abroad as investment capital.

By any measure, the U.S. is extraordinarily generous, and President Bush is making us more generous still. He has already tripled development aid to Africa and plans to double it again. But for the anti-poverty campaigners it's not enough. It never is. Their animating idea is the same one that was behind Lyndon Johnson's Great Society: Massive transfers of wealth can eradicate poverty. It didn't work in the U.S., and it has even less chance of working abroad.
Make sure you read the rest.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

VICTOR DE LA SERNA, El Mundo's deputy editor and a very sensible observer, writes on The Guardian about the similarities and differences between yesterday's terror attacks in London, and Madrid's March 11:
Explosions on jam-packed trains during rush hours with no prior warning, horrific results in terms of deaths, maimings and injuries, chaos and panic in a major European capital city, early if unreliable claims of responsibility by obscure al-Qaida subsidiaries: the resemblances between the 3/11 terrorist attacks in Madrid and the 7/7 attacks in London are so obvious that comment appears superfluous. The differences may be more revealing.

The key difference, of course, was that three days after 3/11 there was a 3/14 in Spain: general elections that the conservatives of the then prime minister, José María Aznar, were likely to win despite the fact that he was not himself running and despite widespread popular opposition to his backing the American invasion of Iraq. In the end, however, the Socialist party won after three venomous days of recriminations about the terrorist actions and their perpetrators.

These electoral effects contaminated reactions to the bombings in a deep and lasting manner - the same will not happen in the UK, where there are no electoral urgencies at present.
Make sure you read the rest.

UPDATE. Read this from the Washington Post, too.

UPDATE II. ABC News: "Counterterrorism officials learned six weeks ago that al Qaeda has been looking at attacks on rail facilities in Europe and the United States after of the success of the 2004 Madrid bombings, a senior government official told ABC News."

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GERARD BAKER in London's The Times:
The idea that al-Qaeda was no threat until we created it does not stand the slightest scrutiny of events in the 1990s — from the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993, to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and, of course, the September 11 atrocity a year later. And no one seriously thinks that only America was in their sights. The ideology of Islamism doesn’t stop at the superpower’s borders; its ambitions sweep through Europe; indeed that is where it is breeding so many of its jihadists.

The fight in Iraq is not, as the opponents claim, a self-inflicted wound, suddenly giving rise to new threats on our homeland from people we should have left well alone. We are, steadily, beating the terrorists in Iraq. Not only in the military operations, but also by demonstrating who and what the enemy really is. and thereby creating the only real long-term conditions for safety from Islamo-fascism — free states that do not deny the most basic human rights to their peoples. The people who murdered innocent Londoners yesterday are the same people who are murdering innocent Iraqis.

There’s another way in fact of looking at the question that offers a rather more optimistic perspective. Is this the best they can do? Is this what we have reduced them to? The damage to al-Qaeda wrought by four years of war is clearly impressive. The leadership is disconnected from its fanatical followers. The support infrastructure has been broken up. And yes, by fighting them in Iraq, side by side with Iraqi soldiers and police, we are showing too just how empty their death-loving cause is. We are still not safe from a much larger, more destructive attack than yesterday’s, but we are steadily eliminating the conditions that create the motivation.

Read the rest.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005


My deepest sympathies, dear Londoners.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I'M BACK, sort of; basically to thank Golan for his invaluable contribution these days, and then trying to get up to speed after the absence. Unfortunately I cannot spend the whole time blogging, even if I'd want at least these days to get updated more quickly, and since so many things happen in only a few days I'm afraid it'll take some time since I can reach the regular pace. Stay tuned, though!

UPDATE. thanks to reader Jørgen Dybdahl for pointing out a shameful mistake: I originally wrote "basically to thank Golan for his unvaluable contribution" which has an entirely different meaning to what I intended. I just corrected it; sorry, Golan!

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