Friday, August 31, 2007

Top WWE Names Emerge In Doping Scandal

The WWE was rocked again today, after several of wrestling's top names emerged in the Albany district attorney's probe into a widespread Internet doping scandal. The wrestling conglomerate based in Stamford announced that it will suspend 10 of its biggest stars for violation of its wellness policy. In a list obtained by reporters, top wrestlers Randy Orton, Charles Haas, Jr., Adam "Edge" Copeland, Robert "Booker T" Huffman, Shane Helms, Mike Bucci, Anthony Carelli, John "Johnny Nitro" Hennigan, Darren "William Regal" Matthews, Ken "Mr. Kennedy" Anderson, Eddie "Umaga" Fatu, Shoichi Funaki and Chavo Guerrero were all identified as clients of Signature Pharmacy in Orlando, the site raided by Albany County and Florida law enforcement agencies in February for distributing steroids and other prescription drugs to clients who had not been examined by doctors. The investigation is part of a probe into illegal Internet drug distribution by Albany D.A. David Soares. It is unclear at this time which of these wrestlers will be suspended by the WWE.The WWE said in a statement that it issued suspension notices based on independent information received from the Albany D.A. The WWE's announcement comes as members of Congress prepare to investigate steroid use in professional wrestling. Two of its recently deceased stars - Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero - also received steroids and other drugs from Signature, as prescribed by Florida physician Gary Brandwein, who has pleaded not guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal diversion of prescription drugs. Benoit murdered his wife and son before killing himself in June and Guerrero died in a Minneapolis hotel in 2005 from heart disease. Guerrero received the steroids testosterone and nandrolone, along with the estrogen-blocker anastozole, a drug commonly taken by men on steroids to prevent developing breast tissue, Nov. 2, 2005, just 11 days before he died of heart disease. Guerrero's nephew, Chavo Guerrero, found Guerrero unconscious in the hotel room. Benoit received steroids from Signature, based on a Brandwein prescription, in February, 2006. The WWE stars are among the first athletes to face discipline for their part in the nationwide Signature Pharmacy scandal, the Internet steroid ring that has already led to guilty pleas from nine doctors, anti-aging clinic owners and operators. Law enforcement sources have said they expect the names of numerous NFL and Major League Baseball athletes to emerge as well.

Iraq Chemical Weapons Found At United Nations

United Nations officials found vials of dangerous chemicals, which had been removed from Iraq a decade ago, in a U.N. building in New York, but U.N. officials said there was no danger. The FBI was called in to help remove the substances. The material was phosgene, a chemical warfare agent, U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe told a news conference. The inspections unit said in a statement that the chemicals had been found last Friday.The Iraqi weapons inspectors came across the material as they were closing their offices, which are housed in a building near the U.N. headquarters in Manhattan, said Ewen Buchanan, a spokesman for the inspectors. Phosgene was used extensively during World War I as a choking agent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A New Muhammad Cartoon

Leading figures in Sweden's media industry have backed newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, which has been criticised by Iran for publishing a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog. The paper itself has meanwhile defended its decision to publish. PeO Wärring, deputy chairman of the Swedish Newspaper Publishers' Association (TU), said that regardless of what people thought of the cartoons it was important that they could be published and debated. "The strength of freedom of expression lies in the fact that it tolerates - and protects - not only comfortable, harmless and uncontroversial opinions, but also those that are tasteless, controversial, upsetting and offensive," he said in a statement. The cartoon in question, by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, depicted Muhammad's head on the body of a dog. Vilks had found it hard to find a gallery willing to display his work, and Nerikes Allehanda published the cartoon alongside an editorial on freedom of expression. A Swedish diplomat was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday to receive a protest from the Iranian government about the cartoon. Wärring said that TU fully supported Nerikes Allehanda, an Örebro-based regional paper. He also called on the Swedish government to stand up for Sweden's tradition of press freedom, religious freedom and other forms of free expression.Nerikes Allehanda published an English translation of the editorial by leader-writer Lars Ströman. In it, he argues that while a liberal society "must be able to defend Muslims' right to freedom of religion and their right to build mosques," it must also allow the ridicule of "Islam's foremost symbols - just like all other religions' symbols." Ströman told reporters that Nerikes Allehanda had decided to publish after a number of other papers had printed Vilks' cartoons. "I was a bit surprised by the reaction, as we were the last of a number of publications to publish the picture. I also think that the context in which we published should make it more acceptable for Muslims." He said he thought it strange that the Iranian government contacted the Swedish government about the matter, saying it could just as easily have contacted the newspaper itself. The article, he said, points out "that the right to caricature a religion and the right to practice a religion are connected." "We at Nerikes Allehanda have a good record of defending Muslim rights in Sweden," he added. The initial reaction to the publication of the cartoon was positive, he said. "In the first few days I just got one email from a Muslim who was a bit upset," he said. On Friday, a protest was held in Örebro against the cartoon, but it was "very peaceful, and followed all the rules,". Ströman added that he did not feel that he was in physical danger after the Iranian action.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Have a look at the map of Manhattan below (used recently by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in a speech). The red dots indicate people who live in Manhattan (and so clearly are neither hurting for money nor tilling the soil on the family farm) but receive agricultural subsidies from the federal government. The larger red blobs mark people receiving more than a quarter of a million dollars in farm subsidies annually.The farm bill passed by House Democrats in July would continue giving millionaires farm subsidies (setting the income threshold for payments at $1 million a year, and keeping loopholes in place that allow some making much more to qualify). The Bush administration has proposed sharply reducing the income threshold to $200,000 a year and ending many of those loopholes. That would reduce the number of subsidy recipients by less than 40,000 (of the current million or so recipients)—though I suppose it might put some rooftop gardens on Park Avenue out of commission.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iraqi Army: Strength Is In Diversity

The strength of any democracy is the equal representation of various cultural interests; thus, the power of a military force can be measured by diversity as well. American culture takes pride in boasting equal opportunity in public service roles. Iraqi culture mirrors this attitude, and the warriors of the Iraqi Army’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division – currently conducting a force integration with Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines – are a simple, flawless example of strength in diversity. Speaking from an office at Combat Outpost Golden in Al Anbar Province here, Iraqi Col. Ali Jassimi, 1/2/1 commanding officer, explained the cultural representation within his unit. “My staff is Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish. We have officers from many different areas of Iraq; Mosul, Baghdad, Ramadi – and we’re all here working together,” he said. “There are many people around the world who would think this would be a problem. We are a perfect example that it is not.”
Colonel Ali Jassimi, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army division
Jassimi, a native of Southern Iraq, said there is a preconceived notion in some global media circles that various sectarian issues create problems within the new Iraqi Army. To combat this, he said, he avoids prejudice by ignoring religious preference altogether. “When I get a new officer, I do not ask him if he is Shiite or Sunni. I don’t care.” The recent history of the diverse organization’s success in Falluja (a primarily Sunni area), conducting security and stability operations is a testament to the camaraderie of junior enlisted troops (Juundis) who come from all walks of life, said Jassimi. “We’ve had great success in Falluja, and it’s because of the Juundis-- they’re all brothers.” The colonel went on to explain that junior enlisted troops in his battalion ignored sectarian issues during operations. “If anyone needed help, we helped them. We visited mosques, and no matter if it was Shiite or Sunni, we prayed with them.” Captain Mustafa Al Jaaf, a Kurdish staff member of 1/2/1, echoed his commander’s sentiments. “We are from all over Iraq, and it makes a stronger force. You can see now Falluja is a much safer place.”
Members of 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division
Originally from Ramadi, Capt. Basim Ashumari said his anger over foreign fighters – Al Qaeda subordinates historically from Egypt, Jordan and Syria – caused him to join the new Iraqi Army and fight for his countrymen, no matter what religion they were. “In Ramadi, I saw men from another country come and kill civilians, so I decided to join the new Iraqi Army. No matter what religion they are, these officers here are on a mission to keep the Iraqis safe. We are one team with one goal.” Marine Lieutenant Col. Woody Hesser, Military Transition Team commander, said within the MTT, the ethos of “one team, one fight” is clearly evident during joint operations. Hesser and his team have shadowed 1/2/1 since January, and he says with each patrol a shared interest in Iraqi security is obvious. “We’re here fighting a war, and when we go on patrol, it’s one fight. There have never been any sectarian issues,” said Hesser. “Really, it’s almost like another Marine unit taking over, but it’s not about ‘Marines’ and ‘Iraqis,’ it’s about good guys versus bad guys.”As Marines have always kept close the ethos of “brothers in arms,” the Iraqi Army shares the exact ideal. During a nightly dinner with 1/2/1 staff, uniforms and language are the only visible difference between 3/1 Marines and Iraqi Army forces here. The staff laughs, jokes and singles out members with good-natured scrutiny. At the end of the night, they shake hands and go on with business. Officers constantly duck in to the commander’s office to have forms signed and plans authorized. The parallels between US and Iraqi forces are striking. For the Iraqi Army, however, it is not a mimicking act – it is an old way of life. “I’m from the north and I’m a Sunni,” began Maj. Istabraq Ashawani. “That man over there,” he gestured, “is a Shiite. That man over there is Kurdish … everyone in this battalion is a family. We eat together, sleep together and pray together. Anything you hear on the news about us being ‘different’ is not true,” he exclaimed. “Ask any Juundi or officer … we’re all the same.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Football 'Insults Islam' In Afghanistan

American troops in Afghanistan have been accused of insulting Islam after footballs bearing the name of Allah were dropped from helicopters as gifts. The balls display flags from around the world, including that of Saudi Arabia, and carry the Koranic declaration of faith known as the shahada. About 100 people demonstrated in the south eastern province of Khost after clerics criticised the US for insensitivity.Mirwais Yasini, an MP, said: "To have a verse of the Koran on something you kick with your foot would be an insult in any Muslim country." A US military spokesman said that the footballs were intended to be gifts for Afghan children adding: "Unfortunately, there was something on those footballs we didn't immediately understand to be offensive and we regret that."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Elian Gonzalez: The Next Generation

Nearly eight years after the battle over young Elian Gonzalez divided Miami, another Cuban child has become the center of a bitter custody fight. A trial is set to begin tomorrow in family court over whether the four-year-old girl's father can regain custody of his daughter or whether she should remain with the wealthy Cuban-American sports agent and his wife who want to adopt her.Cuban-American community leaders say this case probably won't spark the same tensions that Elian did. Both parents in this case are in Miami and have agreed to participate in the U.S. legal system -- and both say the girl should go with her father.

Iraq Leaders Reach Agreement On Key Benchmarks

Iraq's top Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders overnight announced they had reached consensus on some key laws that Washington views as vital to fostering national reconciliation. The appearance of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Iraqi television with the other leaders was a rare show of public unity amid crumbling support for the prime minister's government. The other officials at the news conference were President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi; Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Masoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. Iraqi officials said the leaders had signed an agreement on easing restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military. "They signed a new draft on debaathification," said Yasin Majid, a media adviser to Mr Maliki. Other officials said consensus had been reached on holding provincial elections and releasing many detainees who have been held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority are members of their sect. Mr Majeed said the leaders also endorsed a draft oil law, which has already been agreed by the cabinet but has not yet gone to parliament.The law is seen as the most important of a package of measures that have been stalled by political infighting in Mr Maliki's government between the political parties, who have been reluctant to compromise. The lack of political action has frustrated US President George W. Bush's administration, which has been urging more political progress before a pivotal report on Iraq is presented to the US Congress next month. The report by the US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and ambassador Ryan Crocker, is seen as a watershed moment in the unpopular four-year-old war, with Democrats likely to use the negligible political progress to press their case for troops to begin pulling out soon. Mr Bush is pleading for patience, pointing to the military's apparent success in reducing levels of violence between majority Shiite Muslims and minority Sunni Arabs. But Democrats are not convinced, with presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton and fellow Senator Carl Levin calling for Mr Maliki to be replaced. The embattled prime minister hit back today, saying: "There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin." "This is severe interference in our domestic affairs. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton are from the Democratic Party and they must demonstrate democracy," he said. "I ask them to come to their senses and to talk in a respectful way about Iraq."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dark Days Ahead For Golliwog

A Brisbane hospital pharmacy is still selling golliwog dolls in its gift shop despite outrage from indigenous community leaders. The Atrium Plaza Pharmacy at the Royal Brisbane Hospital had to replenish supplies of the Golly Molly doll on Wednesday morning when only two remained unsold. A pharmacy staff member said the buying frenzy was a "backlash" to criticism levelled at the store and the dolls' manufacturer.The pharmacy manager declined to comment other than to say: "If you read the blog on your (local newspaper) website, you will see the support we have received." Respondents said the dolls were simply toys and not intended to be racist or offensive.However, Aboriginal community elder and spokesman Sam Watson said the buying frenzy was "unbelievable ... It's absolutely appalling and says a great deal about the mentality of those consumers who flocked to pay for the horrible things. "The dolls are really a very negative and very hurtful depiction of people with colour." Mr Watson said he had lodged a complaint about the dolls with the Human Rights Commission. The Indonesian-made dolls are sold for $14.95 and $19.95.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fidel Castro Believed To Be Dead

Fidel Castro’s death is being speculated in recent reports. On August 13th the communist dictator’s health took a downward plunge and since then speculation on his death has hit the internet. According to one source, United States officials will be holding a press conference to officially announce the death of Castro and police are calling in reinforcements before the announcement is made.Due to his failing health Castro has not been seen in public for more than a year but has appeared in several videos and photographs. Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque denies the rumors Castro is about to die. “In particular he keeps in constant touch with the leaders of Cuba’s (Communist) Party and government,” he says. He adds that Castro is “informed and consulted constantly and works all the time.”

Raúl Castro Signals Change Of Tack In Cuba

Raúl Castro has started to make cautious changes in Cuba which could signal plans for political and economic reform. Since he took over from his brother Fidel, dozens of dissidents have been released, an olive branch has been extended to Washington and there is talk of easing communist controls on property and agricultural production. Three political prisoners have been freed in the past fortnight, the latest being Armando Betancourt Reina, a journalist jailed for 15 months after reporting on the eviction of a family in Camagüey. Analysts said Raúl, 76, who has been acting president since illness forced his brother to step down last year, was experimenting with stealth reforms to improve living conditions and morale without eroding government control. The defence minister has a reputation for hard-nosed pragmatism, in contrast to the more ideological Fidel, who at 81 embodies the 1959 revolution but no longer manages policy. The changes could easily be reversed, but they signal a desire to ease the poverty and sense of claustrophobia which afflicts many Cubans, said a senior western diplomat. "There is a real effort to look at what doesn't work and to change it. Raúl wants to make life more bearable. The hope is that by addressing some specific complaints the system can continue."
Raúl Castro
The Venezuela president, Hugo Chávez, has shipped in 90,000 subsidised barrels of oil daily, easing an energy crisis and giving the government resources it has not seen since the height of Soviet subvention. The dissidents who have been freed have slipped back to their homes with little or no official comment. Mr Betancourt, who worked for Miami-based website Nueva Prensa Cuba, was freed on Monday, said the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York. Francisco Chaviano, a human rights activist, and Lázaro González Adán, a labour union activist, were also released this month. The Havana-based Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said more than a fifth of the island's 316 political prisoners had been freed in the past year. Restrictions on free speech and opposition politics have not been lifted and the tiny group of dissidents has not become more outspoken. "Still in force is a police state whose nature is reflected in almost every aspect of national life," the human rights commission said in June. However, some analysts say the acting president and his ministers are warily exploring new policies with a view to emulating Vietnam, where communists preside over market-driven prosperity, and avoiding the Soviet Union's unsuccessful perestroika.Cuba's education and health systems, the pillars of the regime's legitimacy, remain intact, but severe shortages of food, transport and housing cause deep resentment which has reportedly shaken Raúl and other officials. In addition to pursuing better relations with the US, which were rebuffed by the Bush administration, Raúl has called for a national dialogue on corruption and inefficiency. Controls on agricultural production have been loosened to give farmers more incentive to produce, and there is speculation that it will become legal to buy a car without government permission. Officials have publicly fretted that young Cubans will be seduced by consumerism unless conditions improve. Hundreds of buses are being imported from China to ease the queues and overcrowding which dog public transport, and a big overhaul of resorts is under way to try to win back tourists from Caribbean rivals. Fidel, who has not been seen in public since surgery for an intestinal illness in July last year, is suspected of acting as a brake on some of the proposed changes. There is speculation that his health has deteriorated. There were no photographs to mark his birthday on August 13, and his opinion columns have become fewer. On a visit to Brazil this week, the foreign minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, sought to dispel the rumours about Fidel's health. "Fidel is fine and is very disciplined about his recovery," he said.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ted Nugent Goes Off On Obama And Hillary!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Burping Moose 'More Destructive To Environment Than Cars'!

The poor old Scandinavian moose is now being blamed for climate change, with researchers in Norway claiming that a grown moose can produce 2,100 kilos of methane a year -- equivalent to the CO2 output resulting from a 13,000 kilometer car journey. Norway is concerned that its national animal, the moose, is harming the climate by emitting an estimated 2,100 kilos of carbon dioxide a year through its belching and farting.Norwegian newspapers, citing research from Norway's technical university, said a motorist would have to drive 13,000 kilometers in a car to emit as much CO2 as a moose does in a year. Much like cows, bacteria in a moose's stomach create methane gas which is considered even more destructive to the environment than carbon gas. Cows pose the same problem. Norway has some 120,000 moose but an estimated 35,000 are expected to be killed in this year's moose hunting season, which starts on September 25.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Romney Targets Illegal Migrants & Sanctuary Cities

Ads for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a GOP presidential candidate attacked city policies allegedly giving "sanctuary" to illegal immigrants. The cities targeted include New York, where Romney's rival for the presidential nomination, Rudy Giuliani, was mayor. The radio ads are set to run in the crucial primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire."Immigration laws don't work if they're ignored. That's the problem with cities like Newark, San Francisco and New York City that adopt sanctuary policies," an ad says. "Sanctuary cities become magnets that encourage illegal immigration and undermine secure borders." Giuliani is striking back, running his own ad advocating a fence along the border with Mexico.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ted Nugent Might Run For Governor Of Michigan

Ted Nugent is exuberantly excited most of the time, but he grows even more animated when asked if he ever tires of playing "Cat Scratch Fever," the 1977 hit he's played thousands of times in a 40-year career. He shouts repeated obscenities, then picks up a guitar and plays part of both "Cat Scratch Fever" and his 1975 song "Stranglehold" with unbridled enthusiasm. "When I get on stage, I know what it means to people, I know what it means to me. It's a timeless masterpiece guitar song, how can I not play that?" he said in his dressing room before a recent concert at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. At age 58, Nugent still brims with teenage enthusiasm for hard rock music. He is also one of the nation's most outspoken gun and hunting advocates. And he is considering a run for political office. Mixing the unbridled personality of actor Robin Williams with the vocabulary of an urban rapper, the father and grandfather still performs about 70 concerts a year in which his music stays true to his hard rock roots with a relentless beat. "I haven't lost the energy but I have learned how to better and more efficiently channel it."People close to Nugent confirm his manic ways. "He's pretty much that way all the time," said singer and guitarist Derek St. Holmes, who has played with Nugent since the 1970s. A board member of the National Rifle Association, Nugent says he spends about 200 days a year hunting, guiding clients to places such as his Michigan hunting preserve, as well as Alaska, Africa, California, Colorado, Texas, and Canada. He favors hunting many different species, including elephants, mountain lions and tigers, and only when pressed comes up with a few animals he believes should not be hunted, such as penguins. From Detroit and known as the "Motor City Madman," he has performed nearly 6,000 concerts in his career and releases his 32nd album, "Love Grenade," on September 4, which sticks with the sex and rock formula. For all of his wild-man antics, the politically conservative Nugent is talking about following in the footsteps of celebrities such as actor Arnold Schwarzenegger or wrestler Jesse Ventura, who won gubernatorial races. "That would be beautiful," Nugent said when asked if he would run for governor of Michigan in 2010. "I have threatened to do so and I was sincere."Some of Nugent's antics make even Schwarzenegger's past outspokenness appear measured by comparison. "Michigan was once a great state. Michigan was a state that rewarded the entrepreneur and the most productive, work-ethic families of the state. Now the pimps and the whores and the welfare brats are basically the state's babies." Nugent refuses to mince words and often uses a racial epithet to describe blacks that normally would mean political suicide. He says his embrace of the word reflects his respect for the black contribution to rock and roll and has another expletive for anyone who disagrees with him. Heavy duty weapons decorate the stage during his concerts and at his Las Vegas performance he condemned Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Long a critic of drugs, Nugent wrote a recent opinion article for the Wall Street Journal condemning the widespread drug use during the Summer of Love in 1967. He drank just cold water before his Vegas concert.Nugent still embraces the carnal part of the sex, drugs and rock and roll formula and peppers his concert dialogue with a word describing women that many find offensive. He described the availability of sex earlier in his life like this: "It was like when carp breed. You walk across the stream and they are ... splashing in the shallows. Just jump in." Now Nugent says he is a one-woman man, living with his wife and youngest son in Crawford, Texas, near President George W. Bush's ranch. Life is "peaceful, barbecue every day, a lot of school activities with my son Rocco, a lot of charity work." Although Nugent appears younger than his 58 years (he says freshly hunted venison meat is one secret to longevity), loud music for decades has caused major hearing loss in one ear. "The ear's not too good, especially with background noise. That's a small price to pay," he said. "Believe me the journey was worth it."

Monday, August 20, 2007

BBC Forced To Removed 'Bastard' Slur About Jesus From Its Website

The BBC has been forced to remove statements from its website referring to Jesus as a 'bastard'. It is the latest in a string of offensive comments that BBC editors have allowed members of the public to post. The remarks have been allowed to remain for weeks, despite complaints from religious groups. It has led to claims that the BBC is allowing its output to be hijacked by extremists while censoring anti-Muslim sentiment. The remarks about Jesus were left as part of a discussion of the death of the Archbishop of Paris. The debate had descended into an argument about the merits of Christians, Jews and Muslims when a writer, known as 'colonelartist', posted: "Are you a christian? You do know that jesus had to hide all his short life he lived in those promised land because his tribesmen used to call him fatherless, ridiculed him for being a B-A-S-T-A-R-D...' He added: "Jesus...was also persecuted because the jews would never accept as their Messiah a person whose father was missing...' The comments were allowed to remain for a week despite complaints. But after The Mail on Sunday contacted senior BBC officials, they were deleted.Colonelartist is a regular contributor to the BBC site. He has also written: "The jews in much remembered concentration camps had even better qualitity of freedom that these palestinians have...' One website user wanted to see if BBC editors were allowing these offensive remarks to remain while blocking others. He wrote: "No one can surpass the Muslims for denial of their role in Terrorism and Suicide bombing." The remarks were almost immediately deleted. The BBC has also been criticised for allowing allegedly anti-Semitic posts from a contributor called "Iron Naz'. In a message left on the site for more than a month, Iron Naz says: "Zionism is a racist ideology where jews are given supremacy over all other races and faiths. This is found in the Talmud...which allows jews to lie as long as its to non-jews." The remarks brought complaints from the Board of Deputies, the organisation that represents Britain's Jews and its Community Security Trust. They say the post draws on a discredited 19th Century text, the Talmud Unmasked, which is still distributed by neo-Nazi booksellers. However, the BBC said the remarks did not merit removal. A spokesman said posts were taken down if they were considered likely to 'disrupt, provoke attack or offend others or are considered racist, homophobic, sexually explicit or otherwise objectionable'. The Board of Deputies intends to pursue its complaints. Mark Gardiner, of the Community Security Trust, said: "The BBC obviously no longer recognises anti-Semitism. The BBC is a public body, funded by the British taxpayer. It has legal obligations." Last night the Church of England also criticised the management of the BBC discussion sites noting that "voices of reason, compassion and charity seem to get little look-in". A spokesman said: "Discussion - including robustly critical discussion - of any faith's doctrines and practices is an important feature of civilised discourse. "But deliberately or recklessly offensive denigration of those doctrines and practices is unacceptable."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Iran President Says Israel Is "Flag Of Satan"

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a new verbal assault on Israel, denounced it as the "flag of Satan" and said it may be facing disintegration, official media reported. Ahmadinejad, who triggered outrage in the West two years ago when he said Israel should be "wiped off the map", has often referred to its destruction but says Iran is not a threat. Two months ago, he said the Lebanese and the Palestinians had pressed a "countdown button" to bring an end to the state of Israel. The official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying of Israel in a speech: "When the philosophy of the establishment and the continuation of this regime is not just, it is not unlikely that it is on the path of decline and disintegration." Accusing Israel of "occupation and aggression", he added: "This regime is the flag of Satan".It was not clear whether his choice of words was an indirect reference to Israel's close ally the United States, which Iran's clerical leaders have branded "the Great Satan." Iran often praises the Palestinians for what it says is their resistance to Israeli occupation. Tehran also described the war last summer between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel as a victory for the Iranian-backed group. Ahmadinejad's comments in 2005 caused consternation in Israel and the West, which also fear Iran is trying to build an atomic arsenal under cover of a civilian nuclear power programme, a charge Tehran denies. While Ahmadinejad has said Iran is not a threat to Israel, Iranian officials have said Tehran would respond swiftly to any Israeli attack. Some analysts have speculated Israel may try to knock out Iran's atomic sites.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Arkansas Law Allows Kids To Marry

Thanks to one little misplaced word, it appears that people of any age can legally be married in Arkansas, with parental consent. Lawmakers say a law passed this year would even allow infants to be married if their parents agree. And that may force the governor to call a special session to fix the mistake.The bill's sponsor says the legislation was intended to establish 18 as the minimum age to marry -- but also let pregnant teenagers marry with parental consent. An extraneous "not" in the bill, however, allows anyone who is not pregnant to marry at any age if the parents allow it. A commission that fixes typographical and technical errors in laws had tried to correct the mistake, but a group of legislators argued that the commission went beyond its powers.

Friday, August 17, 2007

New Delhi Wants To Ship Stray Dogs To Korea

New Delhi's stray dogs lead a difficult life but if it was up to one city councillor, they would find themselves in more hot water - soup to be precise. Shipping the thousands of strays to Korea to be consumed in soup was one of the more outlandish ideas proposed at a city council meeting to deal with the problem, the Hindustan Times newspaper reports. None of the ideas - from the aforementioned Korean plan to drugging the canines so they sleep through the day - are likely to be implemented anytime soon. Instead, the council chairman asked the presumably more responsible veterinary department to come up with a workable plan.Tens of thousands of strays live in New Delhi. Many are often cared for by people in the areas they live but some become aggressive and bites and rabies are a problem. Efforts to sterilize them have been largely unsuccessful. City councillor Mohan Prashad Bharadwaj said he had read Koreans are fond of dog meat and "maybe we can send all the stray dogs of Delhi there," the paper quoted him saying. A soup with dog meat called boshintang is popular in Korea, especially on the three hot "dog days" of summer on the lunar calendar. The traditional belief is dog meat helps boost stamina and virility but activists regularly criticize the practice and call for bans on eating dog meat. City officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Canadian Team Discovers Gene That Turns Cancers Off

A unique gene that can stop cancerous cells from multiplying into tumours has been discovered by a team of scientists at the B.C. Cancer Agency in Vancouver. The team, led by Dr. Poul Sorensen, says the gene has the power to suppress the growth of human tumours in multiple cancers, including breast, lung and liver.The gene, HACE 1, helps cells fight off stress that, left unchecked, opens the door to formation of multiple tumours. Dr. Sorensen's team found cancerous cells form tumours when HACE 1 is inactive, but when additional stress such as radiation is added, tumour growth is rampant. Kick-starting HACE 1 prevented those cells from forming tumours.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Balloon Ban Wipes Smile Off British Clown's Face

A British clown has had the smile wiped off his face after being told he couldn't use balloons in his act because children might be allergic to latex. Barney Baloney said he was told by bosses at a supermarket where he was booked to appear that he should leave his balloons at home because of the potential for allergic reactions. The 47-year-old entertainer, also known as Tony Turner, has previously had to ditch his bubble-making machine because he could not get public liability insurance as companies assessed that youngsters might slip and hurt themselves. He said he was also told by one venue he could not twist balloons into the shape of guns for fear of encouraging youngsters to commit violence, although swords were deemed acceptable."At this rate I will have no act left. Things are going from crazy to ridiculous," Baloney, from Sheffield, northern England, was quoted as saying. "This country is going crazy with its political correctness and health and safety issues and it's making us a laughing stock." A spokesman for the Tesco supermarket in Leeds where he was due to appear refused to back down: "This is a health and safety issue. "We have banned balloons because latex is used in the manufacture of them and this can trigger an allergic reaction in some children. We always have the welfare of children at heart."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Does Congress Spend Money Efficiently?

Since the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, there has been a lot of discussion about federal transportation money spent over the past few years. A government watchdog group claims Congress approved billions of dollars for road and bridge repairs years ago, but the group says that money has been poorly spent. "There is a big story here that people are not getting and it really goes back to the 2005 transportation bill where Congress loaded it up with crap and they really should be embarrassed at themselves," says David Williams, with the group Citizens Against Government Waste. Williams said Congress wasted $20 billion on pork barrel projects in that transportation bill. Money, he says could have gone to road and bridge repairs.A local news investigation from 2006 showed nearly $800,000 of federal funds were used to build four bus shelters in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In addition, Congress allocated $50,000 for a bus stop at the University of Minnesota. "When you build a bus depot or a bus stop or anything like that, you can have a ribbon cutting. You get your photo in the paper and on the local news, you look like this great guy because you just got funding, but in reality the more important things are the ones with no photo ops," Williams said. Williams also points out money he says has been wasted like millions on flowers to decorate a California freeway. President Bush signed the bill authorizing funds to be used for the flowers. But Williams agrees with the president, the problem begins with Congress. "Each member on that committee gets to set his priorities first and then what's left over is set aside to funding, and whatevers left over is spent through a funding formula. That's not the way to protect the people's money," the president said.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Iraq Prime Minister Calls Emergency Summit

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called for a political summit in a bid to consolidate political stability in the country. "We must look for solutions for the problems we are facing. I have invited major political leaders to a meeting to discuss substantial issues," he said Sunday, referring to different efforts aimed at undermining his national unity government. "Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow could be the first meeting for these leaders to discuss the political program and important strategic problems," the premier added.The latest obstacle, which further hampered the reconciliation efforts, was created this month when the main Sunni Arab bloc, the Accordance Front, withdrew its six members from Maliki's cabinet. "The Sunni Arabs, who along with Shias and Kurds are one of the three parts of Iraqi society, will not be excluded from the government," Maliki reiterated. He said he hoped the front would return, but if not, he could replace them with others, possibly tribal sheikhs. Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, and Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi, are among those who are expected to attend the crisis summit.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Philippine Army Vows To Wipe Out Militants After Fatal Clashes

After suffering some of its heaviest casualties in decades, the Philippines' armed forces have vowed to wipe out militants in the south of the country. Over 50 people have been killed in the Philippines in fighting between troops and Islamic militants on the southern island of Jolo. The military was deploying two extra battalions with 1000 troops to back up the 4,000 troops already there. Of those killed at least 26 were soldiers , Major Eugene Batara, spokesman for the military's Western Mindanao Command said. The army has blamed the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf terrorist group which has its stronghold in the Philippines. However Hatimil Hassan, a representative of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said his group was also involved in the clashes. The MNLF, one of the oldest Islamic rebel groups in the Philippines signed a peace deal with the government in 1996, in which it agreed to lay down its arms in exchange for limited autonomy.However the deal has never been applied fully and this has led to frustration among some MNLF leaders. According to sources, various factions within the MNLF consider the peace deal "invalid" and believe that a return to the use of arms is "legitimate". Clashes between the groups linked to the MNLF and the military have become more frequent in the past few months. This latest attack follows an operation launched by the military against suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf in the nearby island of Basilan where 10 soldiers were decapitated on 10 July. The soldiers were part of a group of 14 killed in a clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Islamic rebel group in the Philippines with 12,000 militants. Manila and the MILF have been involved in peace talks since 2001. The MILF has re-positioned its forces in Basilan to allow for the Filipino troops to advance. The MILF and the Abu Sayyaf derived from the radical wings of the MNLF. In the southern Philippines, where clans and tribal links are particularly strong, the divisions between the various groups are often difficult to define.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Two Bridges In St. Paul Need Work

Two heavily traveled bridges in Saint Paul are now under the microscope, one week after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed. Mayor Chris Coleman said one of the bridges was supposed to begin replacement three years ago. The state owns both bridges, and Coleman is actively pushing to get them replaced.
Lafayette bridge
"The Cayuga bridge, that was supposed to be replaced starting in 2004 and now isn't on the schedule. This isn't acceptable. We need to change that, and we need to move up the 2011 date for the Lafayette bridge, sooner than that, it simply has to happen," Coleman said.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Nuclear Asteroid Deflector

It's headed for an asteroid. It's got nuclear weapons. And it doesn't involve Bruce Willis. NASA scientists have proposed a spacecraft that would use atomic blasts to deflect asteroids on collision courses with Earth. Researchers from the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., presented the idea at the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference, held in early March in Washington, D.C.The asteroid deflector would be launched from low Earth orbit by an Ares V rocket, NASA's next-generation heavy-cargo lifter, scheduled to go into service in 2020. As it approached the asteroid, the craft would at one-hour intervals release six missile-like interceptors, each tipped with a B83 one-megaton nuclear warhead. The warheads would detonate one by one near the surface of the asteroid, pushing it far enough off course so that it passes comfortably wide of Earth. Les Johnson, manager of interstellar propulsion research at the Marshall Center, took care to point out that the asteroid deflector is just an idea so far. "There's no blueprints. There's no funding," he said. "At this stage, it's just one of the many possible uses for the Ares V vehicle."Nevertheless, the discovery of several potentially dangerous asteroids in recent years has prompted the space-science community to develop what it calls Near-Earth-Object Mitigation concepts — in other words, asteroid deflectors. Astronomers are specifically worried about 99942 Apophis, a 1,000-foot-wide asteroid discovered in 2004 that will come very close to Earth in 2029 — possibly hitting geostationary communications satellites — and might come even closer in 2036. In June 2002, another asteroid passed within 1/3 of the distance to the Moon, but was not discovered until three days later. Congress in 2005 charged NASA with cataloguing and analyzing 90 percent of all near-Earth objects by 2020.Johnson stressed that the Marshall Center's proposal was not related to that law, which was incorporated into that year's NASA budget. The March presentation makes clear that nuclear-tipped interceptors would be a last resort, best used against solid asteroids within a short time frame before Earth impact. A "kinetic" interceptor, which would simply smash into the asteroid, would be better against smaller objects with a longer time frame. Best of all would be a solar collector, which would refocus solar light into a beam directed against the asteroid, slowly heating the surface to provide thrust — but that would require 10 years or more of lead time to be effective.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hitler's Record Collection Found

Hitler’s outward hatred for Jews and Russians may have belied a secret passion for some of their greatest musical works, if a recently discovered cache of records proves to be the remains of his private music collection. The nearly 100 records, now worn and scratched, were stored in the attic of a former Soviet intelligence agent, who left a note saying he took them from the Reich Chancellery after the fall of Berlin in 1945. Among the records are recordings of works by Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Rachmaninov, and prominent Russian and Jewish musicians, notably Bronislaw Huberman, a Polish Jewish violinist, an article in this week’s Der Spiegel magazine said. The discovery, if legitimate, could indicate a secret hypocrisy on the part of Hitler, but could also force a new look at Russia’s treatment of artifacts seized from museums in Germany and elsewhere during and after World War II. The former Soviet intelligence officer, Lev Besymenski, described pilfering the records from the Chancellery at the end of World War II. They remained hidden until last week when his daughter, Aleksandra Besymenskaya, showed them to Der Spiegel. Mr. Besymenski died in June at the age of 86.“I was astonished that Russian musicians were among the collection,” Mr. Besymenski wrote. Russians and Jews were among many groups disparaged by the Nazis as untermenschen, or subhumans, and tens of millions were killed in concentration camps and during the war. The recordings were each stamped with the label “Führerhauptquartier,” indicating that they belonged to Hitler’s headquarters, though Der Spiegel put forward no other evidence that Hitler had actually listened to or owned them. Der Spiegel suggested that Mr. Besymenski, a former history professor in Moscow, kept quiet about the records for fear of being branded a looter, though in recent history Russia has tended to glorify its sizable collection of war spoils. An exhibition of looted German art, titled “Archaeology of War: The Return From Oblivion,” at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, provoked criticism from the German government when it opened in May 2005 to observe the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Ms. Besymenskaya said she had not decided what to do with the recordings, which remain in her possession.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hello Kitty To Discipline Police

Thai police officers who break rules will be forced to wear hot-pink armbands featuring “Hello Kitty,” the Japanese icon of cute, as a mark of shame, a senior officer said. Police officers caught littering, parking in a prohibited area, or arriving late — among other misdemeanors — will be forced to stay in the division office and wear the armband all day, said Police Col. Pongpat Chayaphan. The officers won’t wear the armband in public. The striking armband features Hello Kitty sitting atop two hearts. “Simple warnings no longer work. This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor,” said Pongpat, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.“(Hello) Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It’s not something macho police officers want covering their biceps,” Pongpat said. He said police caught breaking the law will be subject the same fines and penalties as any other members of the public. “We want to make sure that we do not condone small offenses,” Pongpat said, adding that the CSD believed that getting tough on petty misdemeanors would lead to fewer cases of more serious offenses including abuse of power and mistreatment of the public by police officers. Hello Kitty, invented by Sanrio Co. in 1974, has been popular for years with children and young women. The celebrity cat adorns everything from diamond-studded jewelry, Fender guitars and digital cameras to lunch boxes, T-shirts and stationery.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Iran Detains Scores At "Satanic" Rock Gig

Iranian police detained more than 200 people and seized alcohol and drugs in a raid on a "satanic" underground rock concert, media in the conservative Islamic state reported on Saturday. Iran, which has launched an annual summer crackdown on "immoral behavior", bans alcohol, narcotics and parties with unrelated men and women dancing, drinking and mixing. Western popular music is frowned upon. The police operation took place on Wednesday night in the town of Karaj near the capital Tehran, at an event with local disc jockeys, rock and rap groups performing, the media said."Most of those arrested are wealthy young people ... who came to this party with the goal of attending a provocative, satanic concert," daily Tehran-e Emrouz quoted a senior police official, Reza Zarei, as saying. Karaj's public prosecutor, Ali Farhadi, said invitations had been sent out via the Internet and that people from Britain and Sweden were among those held. Zarei suggested they were expatriate Iranians visiting the country. Farhadi said 150 bottles of alcoholic drinks, 800 "obscene" CDs and different kinds of drugs had been confiscated by police, as well as "inappropriate" dresses that those behind the event were giving to female guests as gifts."Some 230 people who attended a rock party in Karaj were identified and arrested," Farhadi said on the Web site of Iran's state broadcaster. He said 20 video cameras had also been seized and that the organizers had planned to blackmail girls after filming "inappropriate and obscene" videos of them. Under sharia, Islamic law, imposed after Iran's 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose clothing to disguise their figures and protect their modesty. Violators can receive lashes, fines or imprisonment.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

North Korean Leader's Frequent Visits To Army Bases Prompt Speculation

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has visited military bases for four straight days, an unusual frequency that has prompted speculation he may be about to make a decision regarding the country's disputed nuclear program. The visits come ahead of a joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise. On Friday, North Korea denounced the upcoming Aug. 20-21 drill as an ``unacceptable provocation.'' The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday that Kim inspected an army unit and expressed satisfaction with its combat readiness. It was the fourth straight day that KCNA reported Kim visiting an army base. Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's largest newspaper, said the visits may indicate Kim was about to make an important decision, possibly regarding his country's nuclear programs.North Korea shut down its sole functioning nuclear reactor last month in exchange for energy aid under a deal with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. Kim periodically visits military bases to ensure the loyalty of his troops, the backbone of his iron-fisted rule. But it is unusual for him to make so many visits in such a short time. ``I think the main purpose is to boost the morale of soldiers during vacation season and ahead of'' the joint military exercise, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University. North Korea has condemned the annual drill in South Korea as a rehearsal for a northward invasion. The U.S. and South Korea say the exercise, staged since 1975, is defensive. About 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War which ended in a cease-fire, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pakistan Govt Slams Obama

Pakistan criticised the Democratic election contender Barack Obama over his warning that as president he might order military strikes against Al Qaeda targets in the country’s border areas. As protesters burned the US flag in Karachi, Khusheed Kasuri, Pakistan’s foreign minister, said: “It’s a very irresponsible statement, that’s all I can say. As the election campaign in America is heating up, we would not like American candidates to fight their elections and contest elections at our expense.”Obama, in a speech on Wednesday, said President George Bush had chosen the wrong battlefield in Iraq and should have concentrated on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said he would not hesitate to use force to destroy those who posed a threat to the United States, and if the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, would not act, he would. A Pakistan foreign statement, meanwhile, said President Bush had described the prospect of US strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan as “unsavoury”. Bush made the comments to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in a telephone call to congratulate Pakistanis ahead of the 60th anniversary of their independence on August 14, the statement said.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Islamic Jihad Leader Killed In Clash With Israeli Soldiers

Israeli soldiers shot and killed an Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank city of Nablus early Friday, the militant group and the Israeli military said. Palestinians said Israeli soldiers entered the Old City of Nablus in a civilian vehicle and shot dead Read Abu Ads, 34, the Islamic Jihad commander in Nablus.The Israeli military said soldiers surrounded a house and demanded that the militant surrender. Instead, he tried to escape, and soldiers shot him. Palestinians said Israel sent about 20 jeeps and a bulldozer into the city after the incident. The military said the operation was still in progress. Israel sends forces into West Bank cities and towns almost every night to arrest suspected militants.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bridge Collapse Video

Six Dead, 41 Injured In 35W Bridge Collapse In Minneapolis

Six people died Wednesday and dozens more were injured when a busy highway bridge that spans the Mississippi River collapsed during rush hour, sending about 50 cars, tons of concrete and twisted metal crashing into the water below. Mayor R.T. Rybak announced the deaths at a news conference Wednesday night. There were no immediate reports on the total number of injured, but Dr. Joseph Clinton, emergency medical chief at Hennepin County Medical Center, said the hospital treated 28 injured people - including six who were critical.
The I-35 W Bridge over the Misssissippi River before the collapse.
Other area hospitals were also seeing victims. Aerial shots from local television stations showed the entire span of Interstate 35W had crumpled into the river below. Some injured people were carried up the riverbank, while emergency workers tended to others on the ground."There were two lanes of traffic, bumper to bumper, at the point of the collapse. Those cars did go into the river," said Minneapolis police Lt. Amelia Huffman. "At this point there is nothing to suggest that this was anything other than a structural collapse."Paul McCabe, a spokesman with the FBI in Minneapolis, said terrorism did not appear to be a factor. "Although it is much too early to make any determination of the cause, we have no reason at this time to believe there is any nexus to terrorism," he said. Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the department is getting briefed on the collapse, but it was mainly being handed by local agencies."Right now the focus is on saving lives," he said. A school bus had just crossed the bridge before it collapsed. The bus did not go into the water, and broadcast reports indicated the children on the bus exited out the back door. Christine Swift's 10-year-old daughter, Kaleigh, was on the bus, returning from a field trip to Bunker Hills in Blaine.She said her daughter called her about 6:10 p.m. "She was screaming, 'The bridge collapsed,"' Swift said. She said a police officer told her all the kids got off the bus safely. Josetta Ollison, of Minneapolis, said her 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old niece also were on the bus. "I haven't been able to talk to them, but they tell me they're OK," she said.Gregory Wernick Sr., Rockford, Ill., drove over the bridge just 10 minutes before the collapse. He stopped to get a drink nearby and heard commotion so he went back. "I figure I crossed about 10 minutes before it happened," he said. "That's just too close to call." He's now standing about 200 feet away on top of a parking ramp with large group of people. "I've never seen anything like this," he said.Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said he spoke with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, and that both of them along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will be flying to the Twin Cities early Thursday. While the focus has to be on emergency response, Coleman said, authorities will have to also set up a transportation system. "Down the road, they will be doing full a forensic analysis to see what caused this," Coleman said. According to Coleman, the bridge had been inspected in 2004.

Terrorism-Alert Speakers Installed In Australia

Dozens of loudspeakers have been installed around Sydney's CBD to tell people what to do in the event of a major emergency like a terrorist attack. New South Wales Police Minister David Campbell says the system is part of the Government's counter-terrorism initiatives announced two years ago and should be operational for next month's APEC summit. Mr Campbell says the speakers can be used to deliver a range of messages to people in the city."If there were a terrorist event or a major building fire and there were people in the streets, this is a way of giving them information," Mr Campbell said. "But equally, if there are a lot of people in the city, for example after New Year's Eve celebrations, it's a means of communicating with those people and saying, look you might be better to move from Circular Quay Station to Martin Place or Wynyard to get that train," he said.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Muslim Leader Blames Women For Sex Attacks

Australia's most senior Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don't wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned "meat" that attracts voracious animals. In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame. While not specifically referring to the rapes, brutal attacks on four women for which a group of young Lebanese men received long jail sentences, Sheik Hilali said there were women who "sway suggestively" and wore make-up and immodest dress ... "and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years". "But the problem, but the problem all began with who?" he asked. The leader of the 2000 rapes in Sydney's southwest, Bilal Skaf, a Muslim, was initially sentenced to 55 years' jail, but later had the sentence reduced on appeal. In the religious address on adultery to about 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, Sheik Hilali said: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?"The uncovered meat is the problem." The sheik then said: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred." He said women were "weapons" used by "Satan" to control men. "It is said in the state of zina (adultery), the responsibility falls 90 per cent of the time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon of enticement (igraa)." Muslim community leaders were yesterday outraged and offended by Sheik Hilali's remarks, insisting the cleric was no longer worthy of his title as Australia's mufti. Young Muslim adviser Iktimal Hage-Ali - who does not wear a hijab - said the Islamic headdress was not a "tool" worn to prevent rape and sexual harassment. "It's a symbol that readily identifies you as being Muslim, but just because you don't wear the headscarf doesn't mean that you're considered fresh meat for sale," the former member of John Howard's Muslim advisory board told The Australian. "The onus should not be on the female to not attract attention, it should be on males to learn how to control themselves." Australia's most prominent female Muslim leader, Aziza Abdel-Halim, said the hijab did not "detract or add to a person's moral standards", while Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Waleed Ali said it was "ignorant and naive" for anyone to believe that a hijab could stop sexual assault. "Anyone who is foolish enough to believe that there is a relationship between rape or unwelcome sexual interference and the failure to wear a hijab, clearly has no understanding of the nature of sexual crime," he said. Ms Hage-Ali said she was "disgusted and offended" by Shiek Hilali's comments. "I find it very offensive that a man who considers himself as a mufti, a leader of Australia's Muslims, can give comment that lacks intelligence and common sense." Yesterday, the mufti defended the sermon about "adultery and theft", a recorded copy of which has been obtained and translated by Australian news. Sheik Hilali said he only meant to refer to prostitutes as "meat" and not any scantily dressed woman with no hijab, despite him not mentioning the word prostitute during the 17-minute talk.
He told The Australian the message he intended to convey was: "If a woman who shows herself off, she is to blame ... but a man should be able to control himself". He said if a woman is "covered and respectful" she "demands respect from a man". "But when she is cheap, she throws herself at the man and cheapens herself." Sheik Hilali also insisted his references to the Sydney gang rapes were to illustrate that Skaf was guilty and worthy of receiving such a harsh sentence. Waleed Ali said Sheik Hilali was "normalising immoral sexual behaviour" by comparing women to meat and men to animals and entirely blaming women for being victims. "It's basically saying that the immoral response of men to women who are not fully covered is as natural and as inevitable as the response of an animal tempted by food," he said. "But (unlike animals) men are people who have moral responsibilities and the capability in engaging in moral action." Revelation of the mufti's comments comes after he criticised Mr Howard last month in The Australian for saying a minority of migrant men mistreated their women. Sheik Hilali said such a minority was found in all faiths. "Those who don't respect their women are not true Muslims." "There's a small percentage found among all religions, but we don't recognise ours as Muslims." Aziza Abdel-Halim said Sheik Hilali's remarks during Ramadan were inaccurate and upsetting to the Muslim community. "They are below and beyond any comment (and) do not deserve any consideration."