Afghan bomber accidentally blows up militants

(HH here: I am not one to often indulge in schadenfreude “largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate.” but in this case I am laughing like a loon. Talk about karma being a bitch!!)
Afghan bomber accidentally blows up militants
Posted 11 hours 15 minutes ago
Updated 11 hours 14 minutes ago

A would-be suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up, killing six other militants as he was bidding them farewell to leave for his intended target, the Interior Ministry said.

“The terrorist was on his way to his destination and saying good-bye to his associates and then his suicide vest exploded,” a statement from the ministry said.

Taliban-led attacks in Afghanistan have escalated in the past year with suicide and roadside bombings insurgents’ weapons of choice.

The incident happened in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan where mainly British troops are struggling against a growing Taliban-led insurgency.

In a separate incident in Helmand, nine policemen were killed when Taliban insurgents attacked a police post in Nari Sarraj district, the Interior Ministry said.

Elsewhere, four Taliban insurgents were killed and seven policemen and two civilians wounded during a battle just outside Ghazni city, about 200 kilometres south-west of the capital Kabul, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.

On Friday, Washington is set to unveil a review of its strategy in Afghanistan, which is expected to emphasise the need to expand Afghan security forces and strengthen the country’s heavily aid-dependent economy.

– Reuters

Religious education in Germany

God and Berlin
Mar 26th 2009 | BERLIN
From The Economist print edition

A referendum next month may import religious teaching into Berlin’s schools

BY AMERICAN standards, German culture wars are mild affairs. A spat in Berlin over teaching religion in schools may be an exception. Next month the city will vote on whether schools should teach the subject as an alternative to an ethics course. The debate is only partly about how God fits into the classroom; it is also about how Muslims fit into Berlin.

In most of Germany, the constitution already makes religious instruction part of the curriculum (secular students can opt out). But Berlin and two other states are exempt. The city’s godlessness was shaken in 2005 by the “honour killing” of a young Turkish woman. As an antidote, Berlin’s government brought in a non-religious ethics course a year later.

For Berlin’s beleaguered believers, this was both threat and opportunity. Enrolment in (voluntary) religious classes outside school hours dropped. But some religious folk spotted a chance to sneak in more traditional teaching. Thus was born Pro-Reli, a movement that has festooned Berlin with red-and-white posters demanding “free choice between ethics and religion” and collected 270,000 signatures to force a referendum.

The debate is over whether religious teaching fosters or hinders tolerance. Pro-Reli’s critics fear that separating schoolchildren by religion may undermine social peace. Supporters retort that people with strong religious convictions respect faith, whatever its form. …

The battle lines are not sharp. Stephan Frielinghaus, a Protestant pastor, supports ethics classes as a “space where different traditions can learn to live together”. … he has joined a pro-ethics movement. Berlin’s ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the Left Party is anti-Reli, but some Social Democrats are pro, including the foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

What everyone shares is an obsession with Muslims, who account for over half the students in parts of the city. The ethics course is partly meant to snuff out incipient violent radicalism. But it leaves many children learning the Koran from teachers who have little stake in German society. Better, says Pro-Reli, to bring it into school, where German-speaking teachers can impart Islam under the state’s watchful eye.

That Pro-Reli has got so far is a success in a city one sociologist calls “the world capital of atheism”. Some 60% of Berliners profess no religion, a tendency stronger in the ex-communist east than in the bourgeois west. Even if Pro-Reli wins a majority, the referendum will fail unless a quarter of the 2.4m-strong electorate says yes. Teaching of religion in schools may be undone by sloth, not atheism.

Sex and sensibility: Doing harm in places where Catholicism should have a bright future

Mar 19th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Doing harm in places where Catholicism should have a bright future

AFP AFRICANS always give a visiting pope a hearty welcome. Thousands of finely dressed Cameroonians danced and sang at the roadside this week as Pope Benedict XVI arrived on an inaugural African tour that will also take in Angola. The Vatican is keen on the continent, home to around 135m Catholics. Pope Benedict delivered a compassionate message, recognising that Africa suffers disproportionately from food shortages, poverty, financial turmoil and a changing climate. Yet for all the mutual appreciation, he got one matter painfully wrong.

Asked about the use of condoms to help tackle the scourge of AIDS, the pope restated, in unusually explicit terms, the church’s position that these are not useful to “overcome” the epidemic, indeed their use actually makes the problem worse. He suggested the disease could be beaten through chastity, abstinence and “correct behaviour”. Speaking in a continent where more than 20m people have died from AIDS and another 22.5m are infected with HIV, his statement sounded otherworldly at best, and crass and uncaring at worst. Merely wishing away human sexual behaviour does nothing for the potential victims of AIDS, many of whom are innocent under even the most moralistic definition of that word.

An ugly light
It need not be that way. Three years ago Pope Benedict was willing for his council for health to consider whether condom use would be a “lesser evil” than allowing the spread of a deadly virus. Liberal cardinals had suggested that in a marriage where one partner is infected, condoms should be permitted. In Africa, as elsewhere, many Catholics simply ignore the Vatican’s view on condoms anyway.

The pope now seems immovable on the issue. His words on condoms and AIDS look particularly heartless in light of a scandal in Brazil that also casts the Catholic church in a poor light. An archbishop there excommunicated doctors for performing an abortion on a nine-year-old girl who had been raped repeatedly by her stepfather and made pregnant with twins. The girl’s mother was also expelled from the church; the rapist was not. The Vatican has made a partial retreat, criticising the haste with which the decision was made—and, eventually, the decision itself. In this and in its views on condom use to combat the spread of AIDS, the Vatican risks seeming callous to the plight of the weakest, surely those whom the church should strive hardest to protect.

Voting inconclusive so far in search for new I.A.E.A. chief

By Alan Cowell Published: March 26, 2009

PARIS: Officials from 35 nations failed in initial voting Thursday to choose a successor to Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

Taous Feroukhi, chairwoman of the agency’s 35-member board of governors, said that neither of the two candidates had secured a two-thirds majority in the first three rounds of voting so ‘‘we were not able at this stage’’ to elect a successor to Mr. ElBaradei, whose term expires in November.

The outcome raised the possibility of a stalemate that could lead to new candidates.

(HH here: That would be a disaster. The Japanese guy is already the best we could hope for. I mean really, who would be more dedicated to making sure NO ONE used the damn things as weapons ever again? He is solidly in the lead. He should get the leadership.)

Only last week President Barack Obama offered a video message to Iran urging the leadership in Tehran to talk out its many differences with the United States — an offer that was swiftly rebuffed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other Iranian officials.

(HH: I keep telling my more conservative Friends that this reaching out is not naive at all. By putting countries like Iran in a corner by walking up with that Howdy Doody Grin of his and holding out his hand he makes THEM reject HIM. This frees up his possible responses considerably!! When the cruise missiles fly toward their nuclear facilities everyone in the world will see that it was IRAN that said they refused to talk.)

In the balloting Thursday, Yukiya Amano, 62, Japan’s ambassador to the organization, faced his South African counterpart, Abdul Samad Minty.

Under the organization’s rules, the winner needed 24 votes to secure a two-thirds majority.

But Ms. Feroukhi, who is from Algeria, said that in the first of three rounds Thursday Mr. Amano won 21 votes to Mr. Minty’s 14, while the margin in the second and third rounds was 20 to 15. Ms. Feroukhi was speaking to reporters in Vienna and her remarks were relayed by the I.A.E.A. on its Web site.

The agency’s rules provide for a second day of balloting Friday in which officials cast votes first for the leading candidate, and, if that ballot is inconclusive, for his rival. If neither wins, a new contest would be started from scratch.

(HH: That would really suck!!! Having someone outside the Europe-America/Islam conflict and from the only culture to have been on the receiving end is more than anyone could hope for!)

Both candidates are experienced diplomats and negotiators.

The choice of candidates reflects a division in the I.A.E.A. between those Western and industrialized nations that lead the nuclear club and see the atomic agency’s prime role as a watchdog (HH:in other words those who do not want ANYONE to EVER use the things again), and developing countries more interested in the broader use of nuclear energy. (HH:In other words the countries that have no clue that the bomb is anything more than a bigger popgun to threaten their neighbors with. They all feel that if countries like America can have them EVERYONE should have them. Atomic weapons do not level the playing field, too many players having them simply guarantees the playing field will be incinerated.)

Mr. Amano, depicted by experts as the candidate favored by the United States, favors a strict approach toward Iran, which Western countries contend is trying to build nuclear weapons.

Iran says that its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes to generate energy.

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North Korea readies missile and makes new threat

Reuters Published: March 26, 2009
By Jonathan Thatcher

North Korea said on Thursday that if the international community punishes it for next month’s planned missile launch it will restart a nuclear plant that makes weapons grade plutonium.

The secretive state this week put a long-range missile in place for a launch the United States warned would violate U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for past weapons tests.

The planned launch, seen by some countries as a disguised military exercise, is the first big test for U.S. President Barack Obama in dealing with the prickly North, whose efforts to build a nuclear arsenal have long plagued ties with Washington.

North Korea warned that any action by the U.N. Security Council to punish it would be a “hostile act.”

… All the processes for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula … will be brought back to what used to be before their start and necessary strong measures will be taken,” the North’s foreign ministry spokesman said in comments carried by the official KCNA news agency.

North Korea has frozen its ageing nuclear reactor and started to take apart its Yongbyon atomic plant under a deal signed by regional powers in 2005 that called for economic aid and better diplomatic standing for the isolated North in return. Despite the agreement, the North carried out a nuclear test in 2006.

The South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo quoted a diplomatic source as saying the North could fire its Taepodong-2 missile, which has the range to hit U.S. territory, by the weekend.

This is earlier than the April 4-8 timeframe Pyongyang announced for what it says is the launch of a satellite.

“Technically a launch is possible within three to four days,” the Chosun Ilbo quoted a diplomatic source in Seoul as saying.

The U.S. State Department said top nuclear envoys from Japan, South Korea and the United States will meet in Washington on Friday in a signal of growing concern over the possible launch.

U.S. diplomats responsible for the North Korea nuclear dossier will meet the Japanese and South Korean envoys separately and then all three parties could meet informally, spokesman Gordon Duguid said.

The White House said a missile launch by Pyongyang would be “provocative” and in violation of United Nations resolutions. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, said that a North Korean missile launch would risk international condemnation or “worse,” told reporters in Washington.

South Korea said the launch would be a serious challenge to security in north Asia, which accounts for one sixth of the global economy. Japan urged North Korea to refrain from action that would destabilise the region.

“We strongly urge the North to immediately stop the launch of a long-range missile, which would be a clear violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution 1718,” South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae told reporters.

ROCKET ON THE PAD

On Wednesday, a U.S. counter-proliferation official told Reuters that North Korea appeared to have positioned the rocket on its launch pad.

Another U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said North Korea had placed together two stages of what is expected to be a three-stage rocket.

Once it has been positioned, North Korea will need several days to fuel the rocket which could, in theory, carry a warhead as far as Alaska. The only previous test of the rocket in 2006 ended in failure when it blew apart seconds after lift-off.

South Korea plans to dispatch an advanced destroyer capable of tracking and shooting down missiles to waters off the east coast, Yonhap news agency quoted government sources as saying.

The planned launch and growing tension on the Korean peninsula are beginning to worry financial markets in the South, although so far there has been only minor impact.

“If they really fire something, it would definitely shake the financial markets, but only briefly, as has been the case in many previous cases of provocation and clashes,” said Jung Sung-min, a fixed-income analyst at Eugene Futures.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a visit to Mexico, said on Wednesday the launch would deal a blow to six-party talks to end Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.

Those talks sputtered to a halt in December over disagreement on how to check the North was disabling its nuclear facilities.

Pyongyang repeated its threat on Thursday to quit the six-party talks, which also involve South Korea, Russia, Japan, the United States and China, if it was punished.

CHINA TO BLOCK MORE SANCTIONS?

North Korea faces a range of U.N. sanctions and many analysts doubt new ones would get past China — the nearest Pyongyang has to a powerful ally — in the Security Council.

China, sticking to its low-key approach, said it hoped all “relevant parties will remain restrained and calm.”

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Iran, take not: Olmert: Israel will target threats near and far

IAF Sudan strike / Olmert: Israel will target threats near and far

By Yossi Melman, Amos Harel and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted on Thursday at Israel’s suspected role in an air-strike that reportedly hit a convoy of arms smugglers as it drove through Sudan toward Egypt in January.

“We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure – in close places, in places further away, everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure, we hit them and we hit them in a way that increases deterrence,” said Olmert, speaking at a conference in Herzliya.

“It was true in the north in a series of incidents and it was true in the south, in a series of incidents,” he added. There is no point in going into detail, and everybody can use their imagination. Those who need to know, know. And those who need to know, know that there is no place where Israel cannot operate. There is no such place.”

Earlier Thursday, two senior Sudanese politicians confirmed that unidentified aircraft attacked the suspected arms smugglers, killing almost everyone in the convoy. An American news network said that the attack was carried out by the Israel Air Force.

(HH here: This probably won’t get much play in the U.S.. Unless there were a lot of hookers along with the convoy then the NY Times can have a headline reading: Israeli strike in Sudan kills 17 women aged 9 to 35.)

New film ‘Lemon Tree’ offers fresh look at Mideast conflict

By Reuters

Boiling the complexities of the Middle East down into a 106-minute film about a Palestinian woman’s lemon trees and tensions arising when Israel’s defense minister moves next door risk over-simplifying the issues.

But Israeli director Eran Riklis has delivered a stirring fictional story, “Lemon Tree,” that is in many ways a microcosm of the struggles between Israelis and Palestinians – a dispute about land, security, fears and displacement.

“It’s a film about people who are trapped in a political situation,” said Riklis after the contemporary film, based loosely on true stories with a cast of Israeli and Palestinians, made its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on Friday. “It’s a film for all audiences.”

A Palestinian woman has long been peacefully tending the lemon tree grove she inherited from her father on the Green Line that separates Israel and the occupied West Bank.

But she faces eviction and the removal of the trees so lovingly cared for over many decades when the Israeli defense minister moves in next door – and the lemon tree grove is deemed to be a security threat.

She challenges the security order in court, taking her fight all the way to the High Court of Justice.

The defense minister’s fears that an attack against him could come from the grove might seem absurd, but the film portrays in a balanced fashion the ever-present threat. Yet his wife views the security measures as exaggerated.

Riklis said he had read recent accounts of Palestinians going to court against Israel, which he found intriguing. He said he thought that was a tribute to the Israeli justice system and developed the “Lemon Tree”, which he also wrote, around it.

“It does not try to impose any view on you,” he said. “It’s about people trapped in a deadlock. It tells a story, shows you emotions and glides through a complex, delicate situation in an explosive setting.”

Riklis said “The Syrian Bride” was a success in Israel and elsewhere, and he is optimistic “Lemon Tree” will have an even better box office performance.

“To use an American term, it’s a ‘feel-good movie’,” he said. “Maybe it’s not a happy ending. But anyone walking out afterwards will have a smile and sense of learning something. This film will have a wide release whereever it goes.”

For the rabid environmentalists out there

This was sent to me recently in response to several articles about rabid environmentalists. You know, the sort that think a minnow that cannot survive outside of a small area and is doomed by Mother Nature anyway must be protected against any action by MAN. Not other animals or climate change or flood, but only from the actions of man. Think I am making things up? Look up the snail darter in the 70’s.
But the biggest thing that ticks me off about many so-called environmentalist is that they do not want any solution that does not include man removing himself as much as possible from the equation. They allow no possibility of new resources or new ways to serve man and the Earth at the same time. They have their minds made up. Man is the bad guy and eventually must go. These people are real, they came out of M. Night’s The Happening saying it was “provocative” instead of ragingly stupid.
Anyway, enough of my ranting, here is the piece that was sent in by someone called Witchpoet.

“Look Up

Love spaceship Earth they prattle and bray, And have not the wit to know what they say.
The Earth is our mother these other ones say, While hiding in womb, not conceiving of day.

We grow and we grow within this small shell, But the egg that we live in will soon be called hell.
We fly spaceship Earth and never reach out to land, Never open our hatches, scoop up what we can
And carry it back to feed our Mom’s breasts. We cling to Her womb not much better than pests.

Life is insatiable, it always will grow, yet fools talk of Spaceships and Mom’s like they know
that the end cannot come, no need for more fuel. Say that eggs are for hatching and they call you a tool
of mean nasty male pride, tell you to not rock the ship, they don’t seem to realize there’s no end to THIS trip.

Our Mother conceived us, She nourished our life, but now we must reach out with heart and with strife.
To bring what She needs to grow and be strong, so that She may feed us, Her life to prolong.
“On this ship no passengers, on Her only crew”. Yet they always imagine they will be one of the few
Who manage to struggle and cling to their life, in a World empty of resource, filled only with strife.

The chicks in our Egg will eat their own kin, till one just is left, who then will die from within.
The fetus grows large, not in body but need, we say we are children but instead cancer breeds.
We squawk and we squabble and fight over sand, The armies go this way and that on the land.
But down here is not where the real treasure lies. Look up all you fools look up to the skies!!

The trees overhead are heavy with fruit and with wood, while we fight to eat insects and build the mud.
Look up you fools from the immature fights, take up the right tools before the last night.
Break open the shell, emerge from the womb, refuel our spaceship before it’s our tomb
I know that some things down here cannot wait, but some time we must find to refuel or our fate
Will be as a derelict Ship, a cancer filled Womb, an Egg that has died, that’s the future that looms.

The Egg of our life will be rotten and smell, of more pain and more death than any can tell.
We betray our Mother, fill Her with dread growths, more like violent cancer than children of hopes
Look up I beg you before it’s too late. There’s still time, She still breathes but the time now is late.”

Muslim Scholar Unwelcome: Obama Lawyer (You probably won’t see this on Jihad Watch)

By Muhammed Qasim, IOL Correspondent

Ramadan is one of Europe’s leading Muslim thinkers and has often condemned terrorism and extremism. (Reuters)

WASHINGTON — Although it has made a break with many of George Bush’s controversial, self-declared war on terror policies and has promised to reach out to Muslims, the Obama administration has decided to back a Bush decision to deny one of Europe’s leading Muslim intellectuals entry.
“Consular decisions are not subject to litigation,” Assistant US Attorney David Jones told the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

He asked the court to uphold a decision to bar Tariq Ramadan, an Oxford University professor, from entering the country.

Jones argued that if the court questioned a consular officer’s decision to bar Ramadan, this would leave the administration in a “quagmire” with others seeking such reversals.

When one of the judges asked how high the review of Ramadan’s case has gone within the Obama administration, Jones said it was “upwards in the State Department.”

Ramadan was invited to teach at the University of Notre Dame in 2004 but the Bush government revoked his visa, citing a statute that applies to those

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