21 Aug

Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange accused of rape

Julian Assange Swedish authorities issue an arrest warrant for the founder of the whistleblowers’ website on accusations of rape…………………………….. 

The McGlynn: I would not be surprised if the CIA was behind this dirty trick.

STOCKHOLM — Swedish prosecutors withdrew an arrest warrant for the founder of WikiLeaks on Saturday, saying less than a day after the document was issued that it was based on an unfounded accusation of rape.

They said that for the moment Julian Assange remains suspected of the lesser crime of molestation in a separate case.

The accusations have been labeled a dirty trick by Julian Assange and his group, who are preparing to release a fresh batch of classified U.S. documents from the Afghan war.

Swedish prosecutors had urged Assange – a nomadic 39-year-old Australian whose whereabouts were unclear – to turn himself in to police to face questioning in the case involving suspicions of rape and the other based on an accusation of molestation.

“I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape,” chief prosecutor Eva Finne said, in announcing the withdrawal of the warrant.

Karin Rosander, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said Assange remains suspected of molestation.

“The prosecutor hasn’t made a decision” on that count, Rosander said. “The investigation continues.”

Assange had dismissed the allegations in a statement on WikiLeaks’ Twitter page, saying “the charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing.”

He was in Sweden last week seeking legal protection for the whistle-blower website, which angered the Obama administration for publishing thousands of leaked documents about U.S. military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Rightwing blogs lead ‘war on Islam’

Pamela Geller  

New York blogger Pamela Geller is at the forefront of campaign against Islamic centre near Ground Zero ………………………………….

Water off Gibraltar going boom

Blasts are destroying valuable fishing stocks and threatening habitat of rare birds, green groups claim. 
The Ministry of Defence is at the centre of a conservation storm after reportedly destroying marine life and threatening the habitat of endangered birds by blowing up old ordnance off the coast of Gibraltar…………………………………………….

US: Lockerbie bomber should return to prison

 Obama administration condemns Al Megrahi’s release and calls for him to be sent back to a Scottish jail. 


Disease fear for flood-hit Pakistan

Fresh floods have hit Pakistan’s Sindh province, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee from their homes and hampering relief efforts in an area already devastated by record-breaking rain.


Floodwaters have submerged dozens more towns and villages in the country’s south as the Indus river breaches its banks yet again, a sign that the worst is yet to come. 

Doctors have warned that stagnant water and unsanitary conditions could cause a disease pandemic. 

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reports from a rural health centre in Sindh’s Khanpur district.*******************************


Obama under pressure in test that could define presidency

 Politicians are stirring up opposition to a proposed mosque near Ground Zero. The result: a vital examination of American values  

By Rupert Cornwell, Saturday, 21 August 2010  

Rebuilding Ground Zero: pictured earlier this month

Rebuilding Ground Zero: pictured earlier this month  

Listening to the Great Mosque Debate, you’d imagine that minarets and domes are about to rise on the exact spot where the Twin Towers stood – and that at the appointed hour, a muezzin’s voice will soon ring out, summoning a city to bow to the faith of Mohamed Atta and his fellow hijackers. 

 The truth is a little different. Essentially, the New York authorities have given planning permission for a proposed Islamic cultural centre that, apart from a place of worship, will contain, inter alia, basketball courts, a restaurant, and babysitting facilities, as well as a memorial to the victims of 9/11. And all this is contingent on funding being secured for the project.  

Moreover, the 13-storey construction would be two blocks away from Ground Zero. In a vast and variegated city, two blocks can feel like a dozen miles. But why let facts get in the way of a good story, particularly when it’s election season and there is pandering to be done, prejudices to be stirred and votes to be won? American politics is often an unedifying spectacle. But rarely has it plumbed such depths as now in the midst of this typically news-less August.  

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Even so, were this merely a matter of party politics, the affair would not be so serious. The real risk is that it will reinforce the impression that the US, contrary to every assurance given since 9/11, is opposed to Islam, period. Which is precisely the argument of a certain Osama bin Laden.  

Few here are making that point. But what are politicians elected for, if not to lead? The 2001 attacks were of course a ghastly crime, still raw in the public consciousness. But no one is asking America’s politicians to commit professional suicide by playing down the atrocity of the event. All that is requested is a little honesty. Instead, especially if they are Republicans, they pander.  

No one used to make the point more often and more emphatically than George W Bush that Bin Laden and the 19 hijackers of 9/11 did not represent all Muslims. The 43rd president’s reputation these days may be much diminished, but a reminder from him now to this effect, apropos of the fracas over the mosque, would have been timely. Alas, from the memoir writer in Dallas, not a word – although, to be fair, some of his former aides have spoken out against the nonsense spouted by party “leaders” who should know better.  

Setting an especially tawdry example, predictably, has been the ever-intemperate Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker who is flirting with a 2012 presidential run. To go ahead with the project would be comparable to Nazis “putting up a sign outside the Holocaust Museum in Washington”, he has declared, adding that there should be no mosque near Ground Zero so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.  

Sarah Palin has also chipped in, tweeting to her followers that “Ground Zero Mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation. It stabs hearts.”  

Mitt Romney, a near-certain 2012 contender, has taken an ostensibly more statesmanlike approach, pointing to “the wishes of the families of the deceased”, and the danger of the mosque becoming a recruiting ground for terrorists. In fact, victims’ families are divided on the issue, with many arguing that the project should go ahead as planned.  

This chorus of competing voices, of course, bespeaks the current disarray of the Republican Party, united only in saying “no” to anything proposed by Barack Obama and Democrats. But the enduring economic crisis seems set to hand them a resounding victory in November’s congressional elections; if whipping up a Ground Zero controversy brings in even more votes, why not? And remember, this is a country where almost 20 per cent of the population believe that Obama himself is a Muslim, according to a poll this week.  

Sadly, the current president’s performance has been little more impressive. First he supported the project, only to backtrack the next day. He had merely been talking about freedom of religion, he explained, “not the wisdom of the decision to put a mosque there”.  

Harry Reid, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, who faces a tough re-election fight this autumn in Nevada, has also come out against the mosque as “not a good idea”. Republicans do not have a monopoly of pandering.  

Both Obama and Reid would have done better to repeat the sentiments of New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the most eloquent defender of the project in its envisaged site – on the grounds of both freedom of religion and freedom of property.  

“We would be untrue to the best part of ourselves, and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans,” Bloomberg has said, “if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.”  

That, incidentally, is also a defining difference between the open society of the US, and the intolerant Wahhabites in Riyadh.  

Perhaps a compromise will emerge, and the centre will go ahead, but a little further away, so as not to stir sensibilities unduly. That solution is advocated by Bloomberg’s Republican predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani; as the man who led the city through 9/11, Giuliani’s views may be persuasive. But they would be a cave-in nonetheless.  

For as David Ramadan, a Republican and an Arab-American, put it on public radio here the other day, “If two blocks is too close, is four blocks acceptable? Or six blocks? Or eight blocks? Does our party believe that one can only practise his or her religion in certain places, which define boundaries, and away from the disapproving glances of some other citizens?”  

If that is the case, millions more Muslims around the world will understandably take the view that America believes that Islam is an inferior faith, to be circumscribed and marginalised. The extremists will indeed find new recruits, and the meaning of 9/11 will be eroded. For Ground Zero is indeed a place of unspeakable wickedness, but not a place of Christian martyrdom. Among the victims that day were 300 Muslims as well. 


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