Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Late guilty plea in terror trial
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From The Australian
A MELBOURNE Muslim convert who allegedly pledged to al-Qa'ida leader Osama bin Laden to pursue violent jihad while he was undertaking paramilitary training in Afghanistan has pleaded guilty to two terrorism charges in an apparent last-minute deal with prosecutors.
The trial of Shane Kent, 33, on three terrorism charges, including belonging to a Melbourne Muslim terror cell that allegedly planned to attack the MCG during the 2005 AFL grand final, had been due to begin yesterday afternoon in the Victorian Supreme Court.
Instead, in a dramatic turnaround, Kent pleaded guilty to one count of intentionally belonging to a terrorist organisation and one reduced count of recklessly making a document connected with preparing a terrorist act, which related to an al-Qa'ida propaganda video he helped to produce.
A Supreme Court jury had earlier failed to reach a verdict on whether Kent was a member of the Melbourne terror group when he stood trial last year.
The seven-month trial was told how the group's plans to launch an attack on the 2005 AFL grand final at the MCG or on the Crown casino during the Melbourne Grand Prix were disrupted by ASIO raids.
Kent, the only Anglo-Saxon member of the group, had converted to Islam when he was 19. He began going by the name "Yassin" and married a Muslim.
During yesterday's brief hearing, Judge David Byrne refused to continue Kent's bail, which had been granted in October under strict conditions,
Justice Byrne said he did not accept that such exceptional circumstances had been proven and remanded Kent, who stood impassively in the dock wearing a black jacket and dark grey open-necked shirt, in custody until August 17.

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Posted on 07/28/2009 9:13 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Fired wrestling coach files suit against Dearborn Fordson
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From The Michigan Messenger
More than a year after controversy erupted over the firing of longtime wrestling coach Gerry Marszalek by Dearborn Fordson High School over allegations that one of his volunteer assistant coaches had converted one of the team members to Christianity and baptized him, Marszalek has filed a wrongful termination suit against the Dearborn Public Schools and Fordson Principal Imad Fadlallah.
The situation began in 2005, when a volunteer assistant coach named Trey Hancock, the father of one of the kids on the team and a Pentecostal minister, was fired by the school and ordered to have no contact with students after he baptized a Muslim student
Hancock told the Michigan Messenger last year that the young man he baptized was one of his son’s best friends and had been attending his church for two years when he decided to make his conversion to Christianity complete with a baptism. The young man was not a student at Fordson high school at the time as this took place in the summer before his freshman year.
The
complaint (PDF) alleges that Principal Fadlallah’s reaction upon hearing of the student’s conversion was intolerant to the point of violence:
An extract:- Subsequently, in full view of students and faculty, Defendant Fadlallah approached the young Fordson student who had chosen to be baptized a Christian at Hancock’s summer wrestling camp, punched the student, and advised the student that he had “disgraced his family” by converting to Christianity from Islam.
According to the complaint, Fadlallah then banned Hancock from even coming to the school, despite the fact that his son was a student there, and from having any contact with the wrestling team, despite the fact that his son was an all-state wrestler on the team. It continues: -
On or about Thanksgiving Day 2007, Defendant Fadlallah verbally attacked Plaintiff Marszalek shouting “I thought I told you to keep Trey Hancock out of Fordson,” or words to that effect. Defendant Fadlallah then threatened Plaintiff that if he failed to keep Hancock out of Fordson that:  “You don’t know how crazy I can get!” Hancock had been in Fordson earlier that day to sign his student son up and pay for his participation in a Fordson “pay to play” sports program.
Defendant Fadlallah then expanded his mandate to Plaintiff Marszalek now barring him from mentioning Hancock, or his independent wrestling club “One On One,” and that despite Hancock’s son currently being an All State wrestler on Fordson’s team, Hancock’s existence was not to be acknowledged at wrestling meets. Defendant Fadlallah then banned the entire Hancock family
After the 2007/2008 school year, Marszalek was fired as the wrestling coach despite having been one of the most successful wrestling coaches in the entire country . . .
The complaint alleges a number of constitutional violations, including violations of Marszalek’s First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of association, as well as religious discrimination under Michigan state law.

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Posted on 07/28/2009 8:25 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 28 July 2009
California Nightmare
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These eye-opening graphics come from Doug Ross (hat tip: Maggie's Farm):

More Open Borders, More Welfare: This pie will give you indigestion; California (with 12% of the nation's population) represents 32% of America's welfare caseload. Chuck Devore explains, "California's share of the nation's welfare recipients has been soaring since Democrat legislators severely relaxed welfare rules and eligibility while hiking benefits around 2001. The result was as predictable for welfare as California's high taxes and heavy regulations have been for jobs and business."

Even More Open Borders and More Relaxed Welfare Policies: While the Blue State of New York has its own bragging rights (highest per capita spending on welfare rolls), the distance between New York and the other states compared to California is like the distance between the Earth (other states), the Moon (New York), and the Sun (California). California is the only state that refuses to "seriously enforce the federal lifetime limit of 5 years of welfare for able-bodied adults."
 

Contrast Perry County, Tennessee.

California agribusiness started all this by insisting on having plenty of  very low-paid disposable workers. (If your back gets bad or your knees give out, hey pal, there are plenty more where you came from.)  It's not even that Mexican workers can make that much more in California than in Mexico anymore, but the combination of low wages and welfare is what makes the difference. Each Mexican family entering the U.S. costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in welfare and services. There are not enough low-priced strawberries, oranges and lettuce in the world to make up for that. Plus there is a whole sub-culture in California made up of young native Californians who have figured out how to scam the system so they don't have to work.

More Nightmare: This AP story explains how the Federal government has spent $176 million in order to create 3,236 new jobs. Trouble is, the jobs only lasted an average of 35 hours each - that's $53,000 per job. Hummm.

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Posted on 07/28/2009 8:14 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 28 July 2009
No fun in Islam
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Brüno, which I saw a couple of weeks ago, turned out to be disappointing. It had some side-splittinlgy funny moments - and I still maintain that Sacha Baron Cohen is a comic genius - but there weren't enough of them. It wasn't a patch on Borat. Funny is the only thing a comdedian has to be. He can be offensive; he can ridicule good people; he can even be phony, but he has to be funny.

There are all kinds of reasons why Brüno was not as good as Borat. The main one is that Baron Cohen is first and foremost a clown, and clowns cannot be too knowing. Borat blundered and bumbled, and got away with making fools of hapless members of the public by being even more hapless. Brüno appeared calculating, rather than endearingly silly. Another drawback was that the film focused too much on America; he's been there and done that, and people know him. He should have stayed in Austria, a country whose überdullards, psychopaths and Mozartkugel are ripe for ruthless mockery. Finally, a strength of Borat, but a weakness of Brüno was the sidekick. Azamat Bagatov, the paunchy "producer" with whom Borat wrestles naked, was an inspired creation. Brüno's companion was limp - as would be a pun if I intended it.

Nevertheless, the film had its moments, one of which was the interview with Aymman Abu Aita, a terrorist from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. True to form, the "militant Palestinian group" is not amused. I suspect that "militant Palestinian groups" don't have much of a laugh. From The Times:

Sacha Baron Cohen has stepped up his security after being threatened by a militant Palestinian group angered at its portrayal in the film Brüno.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a coalition of Palestinian militias in the West Bank, said in a statement released to a Jerusalem-based journalist that it was “very upset” that it featured in the film starring Baron Cohen’s homosexual fashionista alter ego.

“We reserve the right to respond in the way we find suitable against this man,” it said. “The movie was part of a conspiracy against the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.”

The London-born comic is taking the threat seriously and has improved security for himself and his family in preparation for violent reprisals.  

Baron-Cohen's humour is not to everyone's taste. No doubt some, particularly those who don't get the joke, find him irritating or think he deserves a good spanking. He is an equal opportunities offender, but somehow I doubt the security measures will be needed to protect him against the angry Hassidic Jews, whom he also ridiculed, or against passing Kazaks, or the rodeo lovers of Tucson, Arizona.

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Posted on 07/28/2009 6:18 AM by Mary Jackson
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Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Obama Fan and ISA alum re-sentenced to life in prison
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According to this Washington Examiner report, “ Terrorist from Falls Church sentenced to Life in Prison,” Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, Unreconstructed Al Qaeda terrorist and 1999 Valedictorian of the controversial Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) of Fairfax, Virginia was resentenced  to life in prison in  a ruling by the Eastern Federal District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday. Note the background of ISA grad Abu Ali from the Washington Examiner report:
Abu Ali was originally sentenced in 2005 to 30 years in prison. 

U.S. Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the U.S. District Court for eastern Virginia ruled Monday that Abu Ali should spend life in prison partially because he never renounced his al Qaeda ties.

After the initial sentencing, both sides filed appeals. Abu Ali completed some of his sentence in solitary confinement at a Supermax prison in Colorado, where, his lawyers said, he suffered from physical and mental trauma.

Abu Ali’s lawyers, Ashraf Nubani of McLean and Joshua L. Dratel of New York, argued the original sentence was too harsh.

U.S. attorneys argued that Abu Ali’s sentence was not long enough, given he “knowingly and willfully committed extremely serious offenses jeopardizing the national security of the United States,” a government statement says. “Given the nature of the defendant’s offense and the intended consequences, the government submits that few cases present a more compelling argument for a life sentence.”
We have written about the “hot potato” of the ISA in Fairfax County, as well as this ‘illustrious’ American-born graduate of ISA and his three terrorist fellow alum, Raed Abdul-Rahman Al-Saif, a Saudi national caught with a butcher knife at Tampa airport last month and Mohammed Osam Idris and Mohammed el Yacoubi caught on trying to enter Israel on a suicide mission.  
They were all products of Wahhabist hate doctrine drilled into their impressionable young minds in the Islamic Studies courses at the ISA with texts supplied by America’s ally, the Saudi Education Ministry, the subject of criticisms of the U.S. International Religious Freedom Commission and reports authored by Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute. The ISA was the subject of protests in June 2008 at the Royal Saudi Embassy sponsored K-12 school organized by grass roots activists from northern Virginia. Among them was ACT! For America Northern Virginia stalwarts, Denise Lee, Catherine Martin, Christine Brim of the Center for Security Policy, John Cosgrove of the United American Committee Virginia Chapter, Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition and husband James Lafferty of Virginias Against Sharia Task Force. The controversy continues with protests against the expansion of the ISA campus in the Pope’s Head section of Fairfax County at hearings of the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors, see here.
According to this Washington Examiner report:
While in prison, Abu Ali requested “The Audacity of Hope” and “Dreams of My Father,” both books by then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, but was refused them.

A Bureau of Prisons notification states “... the referenced pages contain information which have been determined to be potentially detrimental to national security,” according to court documents.
Given President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim ummah and attempts to engage in discussions with Islamic terrorists in Syria, Iran and proxies Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Gaza, perhaps Abu Ali thought he had a shot at clemency. Apparently Federal prosecutors thought differently as he didn’t evince any contrition about the nearly 3,000 innocent victims of Abu Ali’s Al Qaeda ‘icons’’ Mohammed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Twin Towers bombing plot, mastermind.

Unrepentant home grown terrorists like Abu Ali, who plotted to kill Former President Bush, deserve to rot in federal prison for life. The ISA deserves to be shut down, unless and until the Royal Saudi Embassy eradicates the hate in the canon of Quranic Islam that propelled Abu Ali and the trio of ISA alum to take up arms against America. Given our State department’s diffidence at forcing this issue despite Congressional pressures, you can bet it won’t happen anytime soon. Pity.

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Posted on 07/28/2009 3:13 AM by Jerry Gordon
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Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Religious Riots Spread to Kano, Yobe, Borno
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The violence in Nigeria continues. This is from This Day on line
The bloody clash between the police and members of an Islamic fundamentalist group known as Boko Haram (“education is sin”), which left many dead in the early hours of Sunday in Bauchi, has spread to other states in the North.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua . . .  has directed all the national security outfits to combine forces to immediately contain further spread of the religious crisis.
The militant group opposed to western education, which has been campaigning for the imposition of Sharia’h (Islamic law) on the 36 states of the federation, allegedly sparked off the crisis when its members launched an attack on a police station in Bauchi, leading to the bloodbath.
Over 150 people were left dead, while indigenes of the area are said to be fleeing their homes.
By yesterday, the attack by the group had spread to Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Kano States. But early yesterday, it emerged like a war situation in Maiduguri, Borno State as members of the sect led by one Mohammed Yusuf, who had earlier threatened to attack security installations and government establishments in the state, made good their threat.
They attacked the state police headquarters and some police stations along with some churches and mosques.
Over 100 adherents of the sect and few military personnel and police officers were said to have been killed in the clash.
It was gathered that the assault started around noon on Sunday when the fundamentalists in military camouflage stormed the police headquarters and other structures within the area in Maiduguri with petrol bomb, bows, arrows and other weapons with the aim of levelling the entire place.
The fundamentalists also gained access into the Police Mobile College, Maiduguri, beside the Police headquarters, after killing the Sergeant on guard.
They immediately moved into the quarters, burning down nine houses and slaughtering some policemen in the process before they were forced out of the area by riot policemen who shot sporadically at them.
They also attacked other parts of the town during which two police stations, Lamisula and Gamboru, were razed even as some churches and mosques were burnt with scores of civilian casualties recorded.
The new prison within Maiduguri metropolis was attacked where the fundamentalists freed inmates and killed some prison officers
It was gathered that five police officers on training at the Mobile Police College were killed at the college’s dormitory, while the Second-in-Command of the riot police in the state, simply called Superintendent Farouk, was also killed in the fundamentalists’ attack.
It was learnt that a journalist with the Daily Trust, Ahmed Salkida, was abducted for some hours by the fundamentalists for allegedly leaking information to the police authorities before he was later released after a series of appeals.
It was also discovered that all mobile networks except that of Starcomms were down for the major part of yesterday.
This was said to be for the strategic reason of preventing the militants from communicating with each other which could aid their mobilisation.
The main entry and exit points into the town have also been cordoned off and the few people moving about the town are being thoroughly searched by the police.
In Damaturu, Yobe State capital, the fundamentalists also attacked some police stations in the early hours of Monday which made the government to slam a curfew on the state.
In Kano State, the fundamentalists attacked Wudil Police Station and injured the Divisional Police Officer, CSP Sagir Idris, and one riot policeman in a gun duel.
However, the police in Kano killed three of the fundamentalists and arrested 33 others, which include some Chadians who can neither speak English nor Hausa, as they only speak Arabic.
During their surveillance on the main entrance to Kano from Bauchi and Maiduguri, the police also arrested over 100 people in two trucks, loaded with people alleged to be members of the Islamic group.
Addressing reporters at the Police Command, the state Police Commissioner Ibrahim Mamman Chafe said the suspected fundamentalists, who unleashed terror on the divisional police station and ran away with two AK 47 guns belonging to the police, left after exchanging fire with the police.
Speaking with THISDAY after being paraded at the police headquarters, one of the arrested fundamentalists, who gave his name as Mallam Abdulmuminu Ibrahim Muhammad, said he had no regret for being a member of the group.
“It is Jihad; Western education is a bad practice,” he said.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have condemned the outbreak of the religious crisis in some parts of the North.
Publicity Secretary of CAN in 19 Northern states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Rev. John Josept Hayab, said the attacks by the sect were premeditated, even as he blamed the security agencies for not averting them.

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Posted on 07/28/2009 1:14 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 27 July 2009
North Carolina: 7 Arrested For Terrorist Activities
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal authorities have charged seven men in North Carolina with supporting terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder abroad, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Officials said one of the men, identified as North Carolina resident and U.S. native Daniel Patrick Boyd, had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he trained in terrorist camps to carry out "violent jihad."

Boyd, 39, who went by the name Saifullah, was charged along with two of his sons: Dylan Boyd, 22, also known as Mohammed, and Zakariya Boyd, 20.

The four others also are residents of North Carolina, and all seven are accused of engaging in weapons training and military tactics in their home state, the Justice Department said.

"We consider this significant. We've been watching them for some time, and we think they were dangerous," said a federal law enforcement official who asked not to be identified.

The Boyd family and defendant Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan are identified as U.S.-born citizens. Defendant Hysen Sherifi is identified as a native of Kosovo who is a legal permanent resident of the United States, and Hiyad Yaghi and Anes Subasic are said to be naturalized U.S. citizens. Officials did not immediately identify their native countries.

The indictment, made public by the Justice Department, says Daniel Boyd and others left the United States for Israel in June 2007 to "engage in violent jihad but ultimately returned to the United States after failing in their efforts."

The defendants, with a substantial cache of weapons, had "practiced military tactics and use of weapons on private property in Caswell County, North Carolina, in June and July 2009," the indictment says...

There is an Jamaat al Fuqra camp in southern Virginia - just over the border from North Carolina. Caswell County is on the northern border. It's too soon to know if there is any connection to al Fuqra, but it wouldn't surprise me.

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Posted on 07/27/2009 6:54 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 27 July 2009
More on the Gates affair
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Today it comes out that:

1) On Sgt. Crowley's arrival on scene, he radioed in a message that Henry Louis Gates Jr. was belligerent, and that backup officers were required to handle the scene, and

2) The woman (Lucia Whalen) who called in the original 911 call did not mention the race of the men whom she saw forcing the door open on the house.  When prompted by the dispatcher, she offered that one of the men may have been Hispanic.  Whalen has been castigated on many pro-Gates blogs for being a racist.

But the conversation has already conveniently morphed from whether Crowley was a racist for arresting a belligerent and uncooperative Gates for obstructing a simple investigation, to a litany of stories from the public about the time ___ years ago in ___ state where they were treated poorly by a racist cop.  The apparent implication is that if enough examples are given, then by induction we may infer that Crowley is a racist.

But if we're using inductive reasoning, the conversation is conspicuously missing the converse side:  a litany of police officers' examples for all time in all places of cases where people caught allegedly breaking into houses were in fact later found guilty.  Some of those people may have been persons of color, and/or well-educated, and/or respected members of their community.  Some of them might not have fit into any of those apparently unreproachable groups, but may have initially lied to the police when detained.

There is also an unstated assumption in all these cases.  Blacks who are mistreated by white officers assume that their rude treatment is due to their race, when in fact the officer may just be generally cynical and surly, and may treat white suspects with equal contempt.  Even more shocking are the whites who call or write in to criticise police for the respectful and deferential treatment they received by investigating officers, which they again attribute to racism.

Racism exists.  Both in the overt swastika-tatooed skinhead form, and in the quiet suburban country-club form.  But false cries of racism also exist, as do attempts to use the cry of "racist" as a way to immediately silence all criticism, no matter how objectively justified  The case of Gates v. Crowley, or Gates v. Whalen, falls firmly in the case of the latter, according to published accounts.

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Posted on 07/27/2009 3:03 PM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
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Monday, 27 July 2009
Muslims welcome coverings for female police
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From The Independent
Avon and Somerset Police force is issuing its female officers with head coverings to be used in places of worship to improve relations with Muslim communities.
There are two versions of the head coverings to match the black of a police officer's uniform and the blue of the police community support officer uniforms.
Both garments are embroidered with Avon and Somerset Constabulary emblem and are suitable to be worn by both uniformed and non-uniformed officers.
The head coverings were produced after the force worked with the Mosque Initiative and the Aklima Initiative.
They have already been issued to eight PCSOs and seven police officers, including Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Roberts.
Ms Roberts said: "Producing head coverings for our officers and staff to wear in places of worship is part of our commitment to engage with all our communities. It recognises and respects the cultural and religious practices of our communities. This is a very positive addition to the Avon and Somerset uniform and one which I'm sure will be a welcome item for many of our officers."
Rashad Azami, Imam and director of the Bath Islamic Society, said: "It is highly pleasing to see that the Avon and Somerset Constabulary is introducing specially designed head coverings for female officers as part of their police uniform. This will go a long way in encouraging a trustful relationship between the police and the Muslim community."
This is a load of blethering nonsense. The police and PCSO uniforms already include a hat. If headcovering is required, and while it is no longer the rule in Anglican, Catholic and non-conformist churches I believe that it is considered polite in a Sikh or Hindu temple and some synagogues, that hat is perfectly acceptable. And if it isn’t - tough. The religions I named above don't require any special headcovering.
It is the convention in British society that a man removes his hat indoors, especially in a church. But if a policeman may be entering a dangerous situation he keeps his helmet on.
These are police officers, on duty. Get over it.

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Posted on 07/27/2009 10:05 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 27 July 2009
Teenage bombers are rescued from Taleban suicide training camps
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From The Times
Murad Ali, one of five schoolboy suicide bombers rescued from a Taleban training camp, looks haggard beyond his 13 years.
He was thrilled at first when he was given a gun, but Murad told The Times last week of his ordeal at the hands of the Islamists, who have kidnapped 1,500 children like him to prepare for their fatal missions.
Murad was studying in class five in Mingora, the main city in northwest Pakistan’s Swat Valley, when the Islamists abducted him and took him to their remote mountain base in Chuprial.
The next stage of his training included 16 hours a day of physical exercise and psychological indoctrination. “My instructor told me that martyrdom is the biggest reward of Allah,” Murad said quietly.
Another boy, Abdul Wahab, 15, said that the Taleban lured him to the camp from his studies at a madrassa — Islamic school — in Mingora. “I was told that it was a religious duty of every Muslim to get training to fight the enemies of Islam,” he said.
He said that he did not appreciate what he would be asked to do. “I panicked when a few days later I was told that I would be getting training for suicide bombing,” he said.
The Army believes that between 1,200 to 1,500 boys as young as 11 who were trained in Swat to become suicide bombers were recruited after the Pakistani Government signed a peace deal with the Taleban in February, handing over control of the valley to the militants.
The boys were rescued after the Taleban were forced to abandon their camps. Many are still missing, however, having been sold to militants in other areas.
The Taleban turned to children as potential suicide bombers because they were impressionable, less likely to be detected, and better able to reach their targets.
“They are told that the Pakistani Army has become an enemy of Islam, as it is fighting for Christians and Jews,” said a senior official involved in the interrogation of potential suicide bombers who have surrendered or been captured.
On the day of a planned attack, the designated suicide bomber is taken to a mosque to be congratulated for being chosen by God. “Sometimes he is also heavily drugged before the attack,” the official said.
The children were told that they should not allow anyone, even their parents, to get in the way of jihad. “You must not hesitate even to kill your parents if they are on the wrong side,” said Kurshid Khan, 14,
A recent UN report said that 80 per cent of the bombers involved in attacks in Afghanistan came from camps in Pakistan. The army has set up a rehabilitation centre for the children to help them to return to their former lives.

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Posted on 07/27/2009 9:13 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 27 July 2009
A Boy named Sue
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It isn't about the cash (geddit?). Caitlin Moran argues that when people sue, it's because they want mummy to sort it out.

This week, a family in Saudia Arabia took a genie to court — accusing it of threatening them, stealing mobile phones and throwing stones. “We began to hear strange sounds,” the head of the family, who comes from Mahd Al Dahab, told a local paper. He did not want to be named.

[...]

But really — is suing a genie any odder than any one of six dozen high-profile lawsuits we’ve had over in the supposedly more rational West? We have, after all, had a man sue for emotional distress after finding a woman in the men’s toilets, a surfer suing another surfer for stealing “his wave” and a man who sued Disney World after an employee told him that he was standing in the wrong queue, causing him to “faint from humiliation” and injure himself. Obviously these are the more ridiculous “stunt” lawsuits — the flashers on the legislative football pitch — and they were all, reassuringly, thrown out very early on in the proceedings.

But then, are these kind of — to use the technical term — “freakin’ nutso lawsuits” actually so odd? When you look at them a little longer, you realise that, often, they tend to get launched in vacuums where proper philosophical debates should have occurred on a subject, but which — for one reason or another — we just hadn’t got round to yet. All over the world, people are basically launching lawsuits when they are a bit confused by life and just want someone bigger than them to come along and sort it all out for them.

The man who donated a kidney to his ill wife, only to sue for its return when they divorced, was a case in point. Obviously, until very recently in human and medical history, the exact moral position on giving a major organ to someone — only to subsequently start hating their guts and wanting to hack it back out with a pair of scissors — was uncharted territory. To be frank, we hadn’t gone anywhere near it. If you Google the phrase, “Am I unreasonable to want my kidney back now my wife’s buggered off?”, you get literally no answers.

[...]

Similarly, last year, the 77-year-old playboy Rolf Eden sued the 19-year-old model Katharina Weiss, after she refused to sleep with him. He claimed it was prejudice — ageism — and basically tried to prosecute her into bed. And in many ways, who, again, does not feel a sneaking sympathy for Rolf Eden? Who has not, on occasion, wanted to sue someone for not being blown away by how amazing you are?

“Have you seen my LOVELY HAIR?” you shout, in your mind. “Do you not register my WINSOME YELLOW TIPPY-TAPPY SHOES? Are you unaware of how other people ACTUALLY FOUND THAT ANECDOTE ABOUT THE BARGE HOLIDAY AMUSING? I will see you in court, my friend, where Lady Justice will force you to make sweet love to me.”

Ultimately, in these kind of court cases, you can see the vestigial tail of the emotions that prompted them, and it is this: deep down, everyone involved wanted someone’s mum to come into the room, and say, “Adam, don’t punch Jimmy in the elbow. Jimmy, give Adam back the miniature Slinky. Friends? Friends. Now — bugger off up the garden and don't come back until teatime.”

This, I suspect, is the real reason why judges wear wigs and gowns — to look a bit more like mums. The gavel-banging — that recreates the sound of a smack across the back of the legs. And “Case dismissed” is “Bugger off up the garden” for 56-year-old men in suits.

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Posted on 07/27/2009 8:56 AM by Mary Jackson
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Monday, 27 July 2009
Your Tax Dollars At Work In Iraq
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The thinking goes that if poverty and unemployment are the root cause of terrorism, we can fight the insurgency in both Iraq and Afghanistan by providing the locals jobs on public works projects. There are areas in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, not to mention the rest of the county that could really use this type of project, where the locals won't kidnap and murder the contractors, raise militias to attack our government or steal the money. USAToday:
 
WASHINGTON — The top U.S. aid agency has suspended a $644 million Iraq jobs program after two outside reviews raised concerns about misspending, including an inspector general's audit that found evidence of phantom jobs and money siphoned to insurgents.

The Community Stabilization Program, launched in 2006, was designed to tamp down the insurgency by paying Iraqis cash to do public works projects such as trash removal and ditch digging. International Relief and Development (IRD), a Virginia-based non-profit corporation, ran the program, one of many it manages for the U.S. government.

It is rare for the U.S. Agency for International Development to suspend an ongoing aid program, particularly involving one of its major contractors. More than 80% of IRD's $500 million annual budget comes from USAID, company tax filings show.

The stabilization program "is generally thought of as one of the most effective counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq," Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew told USA TODAY.

Gosh, this was a surprise.

In a little-noticed March 2008 audit, however, USAID's inspector general reported evidence that the program was being defrauded through overbilling and payments to ghost Iraqi employees.

 

The audit included a letter from an unnamed U.S. official working with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Baghdad asserting that "millions of dollars from these projects were fraudulently going to insurgents, as well as to corrupt community leaders and (program) representatives." That fraud, the official wrote, could potentially put American troops at risk.

Much of the evidence of fraud, the audit said, came from "a number of classified and unclassified intelligence reports."

The inspector general did not cite corruption allegations against the American employees of IRD. However, it found that IRD's records were replete with "irregularities that call into question not only" the reported jobs "but also the validity of payments made to project contractors." Asked why IRD claimed credit for creating jobs when timesheets were incomplete or missing, one IRD official said the military was "pushing for job creation," the audit said.

In the wake of the audit, which focused mostly on problems in Baghdad, USAID and IRD put in place new financial monitoring.

(...)

Lew, Keys and USAID declined to say how much money went astray in Mosul.

Four former IRD employees, who investigated the irregularities or were briefed on them, told USA TODAY that at least $10 million was spent questionably in that city. The four declined to give their names because they said it would hurt their ability to get new jobs in the aid field. One of the former staffers who was assigned by IRD to assess the damage said that as much as tens of millions worth of projects didn't exist and the documents for them were faked.Nearly $600 million has been spent in the program across Iraq. USAID says the program created 45,000 jobs, though Gambatesa said those numbers cannot be verified because data and oversight were poor.

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Posted on 07/27/2009 8:46 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 27 July 2009
No nay never, no nay never no more
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These days word-manglers juggle "deny", "refute" and "rebut" like a lot of balls. If I knew what triangulate meant, I'd say they that's what they were doing. Oliver Kamm, in-house pedant at The Times, clears the matter up once and for all:

 A long dispute about admissions data for an academy recently drew this sharp comment from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE): “It’s completely untrue that we turned a blind eye to incorrect data returns from London Metropolitan University. We also refute the fact that there was any change in attitude by HEFCE.”

The HEFCE spokesman managed to confuse not only deny and refute, but also (and bizarrely) “allegation” and “fact”. You can't refute a fact because, by definition, a fact is true. To deny something while inadvertently describing it as true is a defence of some incompetence.

Occasionally a writer will be aware that refute and deny mean different things but not be familiar with the exact distinction. There is a temptation then to use “rebut” in the sense of “deny”. It should always be resisted. To rebut a charge means to offer detailed evidence against it. In a debate, one side will rebut the argument presented by the other. If it merely denies the argument, then there won’t be much of a debate. If it refutes the argument, then it will have won the debate.

This holds good whether you are in London debating an issue, in New York debating a person or in transit between the two.

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Posted on 07/27/2009 8:43 AM by Mary Jackson
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Monday, 27 July 2009
Would Jesus approve of Mohammed?
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Muslim apologists and Muslims addressing an Infidel audience frequently claim that Jesus is revered in Islam. The apologists are generally ignorant or naive: "Can't we all get along because we worship the same God?" But when believing Muslims say this to non-Muslims they are practising taqiyya, or more accurately kitman, for they are not telling the whole truth. The Muslim "Isa" is not Jesus. First, Isa is not the Son of God, who was crucified and rose again, but merely a prophet. Second, Muslims cannot possibly revere both Jesus (the real one) and Mohammed. One or the other must be the perfect example for mankind - they cannot both be.

I returned after a long absence to Answering Islam, one of the first sites I looked at when I started to question Islam shortly after 9/11, and stumbled across the first of a series of articles by Keith Thompson called "Would Jesus Approve of Mohammed?" The author demonstrates how far Mohammed falls short of the standards set by Jesus:

Would Jesus approve of how Muhammad behaved? Did Muhammad demonstrate that he was of God by following Jesus' command of showing mercy with respect to murder? In the Sunan Abu Dawud we discover that Muhammad did not show mercy at all. Instead, when Muhammad was informed that his followers would kill people for merely talking negatively about him, Muhammad brushed the murders off as if they were nothing - showing he was not a merciful man and that his fruit was not of God.

The hadith is quoted about the killing of the pregnant woman who "slandered" Mohammed, along with the story of the torture of Kinana. Thompson goes on to explain how the command to kill apostates is directly at odds with the mercy shown by Jesus:

In John 6:64-70 when many of Jesus' followers turned their back on him did he order his remaining followers to assassinate them or plot their deaths? No he did not. However, he did let them know that there was an apostate among them, Judas. Did he order them to kill the future apostate? No he did not. >>>more

Anyone, Christian or not, with a smattering of Biblical knowledge, will see the contrast between Jesus and Mohammed. Yet many of the chattering have no such smattering, and will blithely, stupidly and dangerously drivel on about how all religions have good bits and bad bits and about the three Abrahamic faiths and why oh why can't we just get along.

And to answer the question: would Jesus approve of Muhammed? No. Would he forgive him? What do you think?

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Posted on 07/27/2009 6:51 AM by Mary Jackson
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Monday, 27 July 2009
Clich? corner
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Gates-gate
Gates-gate
Gates-gate
Gates-gate
Gates-gate

Yes, I know, I've used it too, and yes, that's the pot calling the kettle Black in America. But hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue, as I'm not the first to say, and there is a cliché-free, bad-joke-free platonic Mary somewhere over the rainbow. Weigh a pie - and make it humble.

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Posted on 07/27/2009 4:26 AM by Mary Jackson
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Monday, 27 July 2009
Blogs about blogs about blogs
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Linking to a web article about blogs, web articles about blogs and blogs about web articles about blogs, the editors of Arts and Letters Daily ask:

There is endless journalistic comment on the web – about other blog-comments that are in turn about further commentators. Where does the chain end?

The answer is here. It stops here:

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Posted on 07/27/2009 3:30 AM by Mary Jackson
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Sunday, 26 July 2009
Dozens of Nigerian pro-Taliban Islamists killed after police station raid
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From The Telegraph
Clashes between police and a pro-Taliban Islamist sect in northern Nigeria left as many as 42 people dead on Sunday.
Around 70 fighters from the fundamentalist group armed with guns and grenades attacked a police station in Nigeria's northern Bauchi state early on Sunday, but retreated after officers opened fire.
"Our men succeeded in repelling the dawn attack by the Taliban," Mohammed Barau, Bauchi state police spokesman, told AFP, adding that it appeared the assailants "wanted to steal weapons from the police station".
The Nigerian Taliban is inspired by the Afghan militia but has no known direct connection.
The group is made up of former students who want hardline Islamic sharia to be the dominant legal system across all of Nigeria.
A member of the gang who was wounded during the initial attack on the police station told Reuters the group wanted to "clean the (Nigerian) system which is polluted by Western education and uphold sharia all over the country."
"The police has been [sic] arresting our leaders that is why we decided to retaliate," said the man, who gave his name only as Abdullah.
The north of the country is majority Muslim, and has progressively ushered in a stricter enforcement of Islamic law since 2000.
But this has resulted in increasing tensions with Christians, including in Bauchi where five people died during religious clashes in February.
A Muslim mob attacked Christians and burnt churches in reprisals over the burning of two mosques, which Muslims blamed on Christians.

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Posted on 07/26/2009 12:24 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 26 July 2009
Mark Kirk?Israel?s Best Friend in Congress?Announces Senate Bid
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Jerry Gordon interviewed Rep. Mark S. Kirk for NER here.
This article is by Dr. Richard Benkin.

 
Last November, Israpundit carried an article by Jerry Gordon, “Two Who Won Against the Democratic Tsunami.” One was Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL). Kirk, whom Gordon described as “very pro-Israel,” won a fifth term in Congress despite a perfect Democratic storm: the Republican brand was in tatters; Illinois had become one of the most reliably “blue” states in the nation; Kirk’s district was trending heavily Democratic; the Democratic National Committee was spending millions trying to unseat Kirk; and there was Barack Obama, who carried Kirk’s 10th District by 61 percent. Yet, Kirk prevailed in part because, as Gordon wrote, he is “one of the most effective, intelligent and moderate GOP members in Congress.” That assessment is shared widely on both sides of the aisle in Washington and has helped make Kirk an effective legislator.
 
On Monday, July 20, Democrats got what they could not get at the ballot box when Kirk announced that he would not seek re-election to his House seat in 2010. “It’s probably the only way that Democrats would ever get that [Congressional] seat,” quipped one 10th District resident on hand for Kirk’s announcement. But Democrats also got a bigger headache because at the same time Kirk announced he was running for the United States Senate. In fact, Kirk’s expected candidacy has been giving Democratic leaders fits.
 
He is running for the Senate seat formerly held by Obama; the seat that disgraced Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell to the highest bidder; the seat whose current occupant, Roland Burris, is accused of winning in that lottery. Burris has become such a liability for Democrats that—led by Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin (D-IL)—they have been urging him not to run for a full term.  When Burris finally bowed to reality, however, it left Democrats without a credible candidate who can come close to Kirk’s national, foreign policy, and pro-Israel credentials.
 
In fact, one of the only things that the three likely Democratic candidates share is the lack of any pro-Israel record. The most prominent and only announced Democratic candidate is Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. The closest thing he has to a record on Israel is that he did not stop Illinois’ purchase of Israeli bonds—a purchase he justified solely as a good investment. Another is businessman Chris Kennedy whose only claim to fame is being the late Robert F. Kennedy’s son. The third, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson, shared a podium last August with Otis Moss, pastor of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ; and as Blogojevich’s spokesperson, justified the appointment of the Nation of Islam’s Minister of Protocol to a state hate crimes commission, saying the Farrakhan associate shares the commission’s goals of eliminating hate crimes and discrimination. None have ever been to Israel. Giannoulis has stated many times that he owes his office to Obama, and all three are supporters of the President and his policies.
 
Kirk, on the other hand, is arguably Israel’s best friend in Congress. He was personally responsible for convincing the Bush Administration to give Israel enhanced missile defense after he saw the danger on a trip to a forward military base in Israel. (Kirk has been a Naval Intelligence Office since 1989, has combat experience, and was once named Naval Intelligence Officer of the Year.)   He and Congressman Steven Rothman (D-NJ) have led efforts to end US funding for UNWRA—the UN agency devoted solely to promoting the system of Palestinian Arab refugees, a designation he challenges. With regard to Hezbollah, Kirk told Gordon “despite the UN peacekeeping force and $500 million of US taxpayers’ money that we simply reset the stage for another tragedy.” He has characterized attempts to force negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as trying to “chase down every terrorist group on the West Bank and Gaza… there are times when you have to hang tough.” An effective human rights advocate, Kirk (together with me), won the freedom of Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury after he was arrested and tortured for exposing the rise of Islamists and urging relations with Israel. As a Congressional aide, Kirk helped free several Soviet refusniks. With much of official Washington trying to find “nuanced” positions, Kirk remains undaunted. In April, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House Appropriations Committee that Israel would have to comply with the Administration’s demands, he replied that the committee would then have to cut appropriations to the Palestinian Authority.
 
This election is critical for Israel at a time when many in Washington are ready to trying to force suicidal agreements on the Jewish State. In announcing for the Senate, Kirk pledged to fight those efforts, “And to supporters of America’s strongest friend in the Middle East – Israel’s greatest ally in Washington will be Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois.”

Neither Jewish nor evangelical, Kirk’s commitment for Israel rests on two propositions: that it is the right thing to do; and that it is and always has been in the best interests of the United States. None of his prospective opponents, on the other hand, will oppose the policies of their political godfather and what has been described as the most anti-Israel administration in the Jewish State’s history.
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Posted on 07/26/2009 10:19 AM by NER
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Sunday, 26 July 2009
Death inquiry reveals Afghan troop failings
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This is the Melbourne paper The Age on the circumstances surrounding the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan.
AN OFFICIAL inquiry into the combat death of an Australian soldier reveals serious failings by the Afghan troops he was mentoring, highlighting the massive task facing foreign forces in building the capacity of the Afghan army.
The inquiry report shows Afghan troops played only a limited role when a joint Australian-Afghan patrol came under intense Taliban fire — even though the Afghans are likely to have formed the bulk of the patrol.
And it shows that Australian soldiers — who were meant to support the Afghans supposedly leading the patrol — had to take charge amid a fierce and chaotic battle. The heavily censored army report found medical intervention would not have saved Corporal Mathew Hopkins after he was shot in the head on March 16 this year.
Corporal Hopkins, 21, was the ninth Australian, and the first member of an operational mentoring and liaison team, to die in Afghanistan.
The teams are helping to train the Afghan National Army so it can take charge of security and allow foreign troops to leave — a task Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston last week said could take up to five years.
Corporal Hopkins was in a small group of Australians who set out with a larger force of Afghans from an outpost called Forward Patrol Base Buman in Oruzgan province on March 16.
They were patrolling near the village of Kakarak when they came under intense fire from three directions.
While their names are censored in the official report, the Australians were led by Lieutenant Jake Kleinman, 25, while the senior Afghan officer was Captain Abdul Qadir Habibullah, a 54-year-old veteran of decades of Afghan wars.
When The Sunday Age visited Buman two weeks before Corporal Hopkins was killed, the friction between the Australians and Captain Habibullah was obvious.
In public comments, the Australians referred to "cultural challenges" in mentoring Afghan troops. But in private some were scathing, particularly towards the Afghan commander, who they complained was obstructive, lazy, reluctant to fight and unwilling to conduct the detailed planning that is normal for Australian troops.
After Corporal Hopkins was fatally wounded, and with the patrol under fire, a helicopter made a risky landing to evacuate him. At this time, the Australians "re-organised the ANA elements into patrol formation" to get back to base.
The report reveals Afghan soldiers played little part in the actual battle. It two young Australians — not the Afghan commander who outranked them and was twice their age— took control on March 16.
The efforts of the two "were significant in maintaining cohesion throughout a prolonged, chaotic and confusing contact and in the subsequent orderly withdrawal of the combined patrol".

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Posted on 07/26/2009 6:05 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 26 July 2009
One Blissful Free Afternoon, Or Paradise Revisited
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I did manage to take this (Saturday) afternoon off and went, with R_______ and the dogs, to the Cawdor village Church fete. Yes, the very same 'Cawdor' used by Shakespeare in the play which one should not name in the theatrical world! Lord Cawdor, the current Earl (Thane, perhaps?) opened the proceedings and a good time was had by all. The fete was held on The Mound in the village; the sky was mostly of the clearest cerulean blue with some few, but light, clouds occasionally punctuating the sunshine; the afternoon temperature peaked at around 24 degrees Celsius; the strawberries and cream were served off hillocks of ice; the tea and scones flowed copiously; music, both classical and traditional rang out across the site and was provided by an expert troupe of local musicians; in short, the afternoon was perfect and I felt a huge contentment flow, like balm, into my soul.

The stately ancient trees provided much needed shade; the glimmering white marquees housed much to be bought and wondered over. R_______ and I raided the second-hand bookstall to great effect and went home with an entire winter's worth of reading material. We also raided the home baking and preserves stall to great effect and returned with much produce which can only inflict great harm upon our avoirdupois.
 
What can one say? This was a perfect British summer afternoon: everything that it ought to be - civilised and calm country life in a glorious setting. The local Golfers had a driving range, perhaps it was a putting range but I didn't, shame on me, stop by to check - the clink of club against ball provided the perfect punctuation to the music and to the chatter of old friends, and to the merriment and the innocent mischief of the youngsters. Never, I think, have I had a more perfect afternoon.
 
There was face painting for the children. There were wonderful plants for the garden. There was that staple of fetes everywhere – a silent auction. There was a toy stall. Across the narrow lane the ancient village Kirk’s grey stones almost sparkled in the bright sunshine of this lovely afternoon. It, and its Minister, had just hosted a wedding and she, the Minister that is, was ever so slightly late in arriving at the fete because the happy couple, may they be blessed for all of their life together, had been late in arriving for their solemnisation. That little Kirk lay, in that beautiful afternoon light, in God’s fine acre and seemed to me to smile upon us. Not to put too fine a point on it there was everything present that a village fete ought to have and it was wonderful!
 
That, I thought to myself as we drove away, is exactly what I fight to defend, what I fight to remind people of: that there is a life, a wonderful, almost unbearably perfect life, available in Britain which can yield a fulfilling sense of peace and contentment. It isn't a fantasy, nor is it an impossible tale from some novel or other. It's real - and millions of us British lead that life. What this afternoon taught me is that I lead that life and that all the people around me, wherever I go, lead it too. Oh, I admit, some millions living here don't lead that life - poverty, and other circumstances, can exclude a person from even the most simple of pleasures such as a village fete and that fact is to our eternal shame. However, here, deep in the somnolent, summer, sylvan and sative countryside of Scotland basking in the seasonal warmth and sheltering in the shade of the great arboreal works of nature, there was a great sense of contentment, a great sense of continuance and of belonging but, more than anything else, I detected, and it spoke to me, a sense of a community, a sense of ease and charity - a sense of wealth not necessarily measured in money but in a commonality of purpose; the sounding being taken was one of friendship and kinship and giving – and all aided by, and armoured in, the local Kirk and it's Minister and the rightful continuity and care of the Lords of Cawdor.
 
Here, it seems, social synoeciosis, if one can have such a thing, became a reality this afternoon. I will treasure the memory of it! It will raise me up and make me fight all the harder for my way of life and for all the little decencies of life which I value and which I saw so amply displayed by the citizens of Cawdor this Saturday afternoon.
 
Now, I do not belong to the Kirk (the Church of Scotland) for I am an Anglican but I have heard nothing but good of the Minister and the Elders of the local Kirk. She, and the Elders of her congregations, is, and they are, deeply wrapt in charity and I'm informed that the monies raised by this glorious afternoon are earmarked for good causes and that is as it should be. A Church fete should be dedicated to doing good, not just locally but everywhere.
 
Well, that was my Saturday afternoon – not a disruptive Muslim in sight! Did you have one as delightfully carefree and fulfilling? Did you have one, as I did, so free of threat, so free of Islam, so free of relativism as to be a relief? I did and it was extremely refreshing and I hope that you did, too.
 
As R_______ and I sat to take tea and eat, as it turned out, the lightest and most wonderful drop-scones we’ve ever had, the lady who served us remarked upon the perfect day which had been granted to them: “We prayed hard for this,” she stated, indicating the clear and sunlit sky. And we two who have a rational faith couldn’t help but wonder, just a little, if sometimes God does interfere and grant us, now and again, just one perfect afternoon. If he does then this one was it!
 
So I suppose I should say thank you, just in case.
 
Thank you!
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Posted on 07/26/2009 5:10 AM by John M. Joyce
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