THE DARK SIDE OF CHANUKAH
By Avi Davis
Almost anyone who celebrates Chanukah today knows at least the rudimentary outline of its story. A righteous Judaean clan in the 2nd Century BCE led a vigorous uprising against Greek- influenced Seleucid rulers who had desecrated the Temple and outlawed the traditional practices of Judaism. The revolt led to the recapture of Jerusalem, the purification of the Temple and the establishment of an independent Jewish state. A small vial of oil found in the Temple, when no other could be located, burned for eight days, becoming an eternal symbol of the miraculous regeneration of the Jewish people. The Maccabees, the name of the guerilla army, led by the five Hasmonean brothers who were it successive commanders, have gone down in history as symbols of Jewish endurance and revival.
But there are a number of darker events related to Chanukah and its aftermath which have been swept away in the aroma of frying latkes and the whiz of spinning dreidels. The first is that the war that Chanukah commemorates was in fact a civil war, fought between Hellenizing Jewish reformers and Jewish traditionalists whose Temple-centric life had been severely compromised by Greek influence and rule. The fratricidal conflict consumed 34 years in the life of the nation and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
With the conquest of Jerusalem in 164 BCE and the complete defeat ( although “annihilation” would be a better description) of the Hellenizers twenty-two years later, the lone surviving brother, Simon the Maccabee, stood widely recognized as ethnach and high priest of the first independent Jewish state in 440 years. It would, then, be his progeny and descendants who would dominate Judean life over the next century.
After Simon and his two oldest sons were murdered by a son-in-law in 134 BCE, Simon’s third son John Hyrcanus( 134 BCE -104 BCE) took power. A man in the mold of his father, he was an able administrator and a brilliant military tactician who extended Judean rule to many neighboring tribes, forcibly converting whole populations. Although his 30 year reign has been looked upon kindly by Jewish history, the fact that Hyrcanus took a Greek name as monarchical title, was a portent of things to come.
It was during the reign of his son and successor Alexander Janneus (104 BCE - 76 BCE) that the Hasmonean legend began to disintegrate. Alexander had no interest in the religious fervor of his ancestors and exhibited a particular hatred for religious rigorist sects such as the Pharisees and Essenes. He carefully aligned himself with the upper class Sadducees and in one incident massacred 6,000 Pharisee worshipers in the Temple courtyard after receiving a personal insult from them during the Festival of Sukkot. The incident spurred the renewal of a civil war which resulted in 50,000 Jewish deaths. In one further event, after returning to Jerusalem following a victorious campaign in the north, Alexander had 800 of his Jewish male prisoners crucified, but not before murdering their wives and children before their very eyes.
The Hasmoneans continued as rulers of Judaea after the death of Alexander Janneus for another forty years - in and out of civil war – until finally being all but eliminated by Herod the Great (37 BCE – 4 BCE), an Idumean usurper who feared the family as a threat to his rule.
The point of recalling this gruesome tale is to illustrate a historical truism. History often comes full circle, rendering meaningless the achievements of previous generations because memory has lapsed and the commitment to former ideals is absent. The Hasmoneans began as liberators and ended as oppressors. They started as fervent adherents to Judaism and concluded as its deniers. In the end, they far more resembled the Greek inspired Hellenizers they had fought to eliminate than the vaunted redeemers portrayed in legend.
Many of the world’s democracies have much to learn from the terrible events of 2,000 years ago. As we know, the institution of the modern democratic state is only of relatively recent origin. Thousands of years of political struggle against oppression and denial of human rights were necessary to achieve the currently unprecedented level of human dignity enjoyed by individuals and societies around the world. But we have also seen how revolutions and their movements, seeking at their core to elevate human dignity in much the same way, have achieved exactly the opposite. The French Revolution, Russian Revolution and more recent Iranian Revolution are all examples of the absolute corruption of ideals and abandonment of principles following an accession to power. If there is one commonality to these historical events it is the notion that tyranny is not exclusive and can be the stock-in-trade of oppressors and reformers alike.
Ancient Judaea’s contemporary political incarnation, the State of Israel, also has much to glean from the historical lessons of the Hasmoneans. As a country which formed 60 years ago with high ideals and the promise of Jewish renewal, the current state is transforming into a bitter parody of itself. Rampant political corruption, an incompetent and self-serving echelon of leaders, an oligarchical economic structure which places 60% of the country’s assets in the hands of less than 1% of its population and a poverty level which hovers around 33%, are all signs of the imminent collapse of idealism and foundational principles. The abandonment of the Jews of Gaza in 2005 and last week’s disturbing IDF attack upon a Jewish owned building in Hebron, are sad examples of how deeply bruised is the Israeli notion of respecting and protecting Jewish dignity, life and property.
Of course, it is important to remember that men cannot predict how their descendants will act or how their legacy of achievement will be treated. But the burning question the full Hasmonean story presents to us is how can nations protect the memory of past struggles and make them meaningful and relevant for the current generation? Ironically, the institution of the Festival of Chanukah was such an attempt. And in large part it succeeded. But the nagging question remains - why did things go so terribly wrong in ancient Judaea within such a relatively short historical period? That question this Chanukah, given many of our current challenges, should be on our minds today, as much as for the great Hasmonean triumphs of 2000 years ago.
Want to comment on this article? See Avi Davis’ new blog
Avi Davis is the Executive Director and Senior Fellow of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at email@example.com
NEWS: EUROPE AND AMERICA
Iraqi NHS doctor guilty of plot to murder hundreds in terror attacks on London and Glasgow - but fellow medic is cleared-Daily Mail Reporter
An NHS doctor was today found guilty of conspiring to murder hundreds of people with Baghdad-style car bombs in the West End and at Glasgow airport. Bilal Abdulla, 29, copied tactics used against the US military by insurgents in Iraq in an attempt to cause carnage in Britain in revenge for the war in Iraq. He was part of a gang that left two car bombs packed with gas canisters, nails and petrol outside the crowded Tiger Tiger nightclub in central London last year that would have exploded "in a fireball of shrapnel and flame", Woolwich crown court heard. But the bombs failed to explode because the mobile phone detonator devices failed to work. The tight air seals on the boots of the two Mercedes also meant there was not enough oxygen to cause an explosion. A second defendant, his close friend, Jordanian NHS neurologist Mohammed Asha, 28, was acquitted of the same charges. Islamic extremist Abdulla drove one of two Mercedes saloons loaded with gas cylinders, petrol and nails into central London. Just over a day later a Jeep loaded with a similar deadly cargo was crashed into Glasgow Airport in a suicide attack. Abdulla wanted revenge for the wars in his homeland and what he saw as Western oppression of Muslims worldwide. He plotted 'indiscriminate and wholesale' murder with Indian PhD student Kafeel Ahmed in a wave of car bomb attacks. Colleagues said Abdulla travelled to Britain to further his career at university and in hospital. (Dailymail.co.uk)
See Also: Glasgow bomber Bilal Abdulla was in Iraq terrorist cell
Terrorism adviser to Met is on wanted list-Richard Kerbaj in Tunis and Dominic Kennedy in London
Interpol notice urges arrest of Islam TV chief
A man wanted by Interpol for his links to an alleged terrorist organisation has been advising Scotland Yard on countering Muslim extremism, a Times investigation has discovered. Mohamed Ali Harrath has been the subject of the Interpol red notice since 1992 because of his alleged activities in Tunisia, where he co-founded the Tunisian Islamic Front (FIT). Tunisia has accused Mr Harrath, the chief executive officer of the Islam Channel in Britain and an adviser to the Scotland Yard Muslim Contact Unit, of seeking help from Osama bin Laden. It says that the FIT wants to establish “an Islamic state by means of armed revolutionary violence”. Mr Harrath has been convicted in absentia of numerous criminal and terrorism-related offences by Tunisian courts and sentenced to 56 years in prison. Tunisia is an ally of the West in the fight against terrorism but is regarded by critics as a police or one-party state. Its secular Government regards those who advocate an Islamic state as a threat to its stability. (Timesonline.co.uk)
Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Treasury Secretary to Stop AIG Bailout Financing of Terrorist Activities
ANN ARBOR, Mich., Dec 15, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- A federal lawsuit was filed this morning against U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. and the Federal Reserve Board to stop all bailout funds from going to American International Group, Inc. ("AIG"). According to the lawsuit, the U.S. government, through its ownership of AIG, is not only violating the Constitution, but also promoting and financing the destruction of America using American tax dollars.The basis of the lawsuit is that AIG intentionally promotes Shariah-compliant businesses and insurance products, which by necessity must comply with the 1200 year old body of Islamic cannon law based on the Quran, which demands the conversion, subjugation, or destruction of the infidel West, including the United States. To help achieve these objectives and with the aid of federal tax dollars, AIG employs a three-person Shariah Advisory Board, with members from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Pakistan. According to AIG, the role of its Shariah authority "is to review [its] operations, supervise its development of Islamic products, and determine Shariah compliance of these products and [its] investments." Of particular significance is the Pakistani Board member, Dr. Muhammed Imran Ashraf Usmani. Dr. Usmani is the son and devoted disciple of Sheik Mufti Taqi Usmani, the leading authority on Shariah financing who, in 1999, authored a book dedicating an entire chapter on why a Western Muslim must engage in violent jihad against his own country - even if Muslims are given equality and freedom to practice their religion and to proselytize. (Marketwatch.com)
Blind man's guide dog barred from restaurant for offending Muslims-John Bingham
A blind man has been turned away from a fashionable Indian restaurant because his guide dog offended Muslim staff.
Alun Elder-Brown, a recruitment executive, said he was left feeling "like a piece of dirt" after being barred from bringing the animal into Kirthon Restaurant in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on religious grounds. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said the decision was illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act and Mr Elder-Brown, 51, is now considering suing the establishment in The Pantiles. It follows a series of successful prosecutions of Muslim taxi drivers who refused to carry guide dogs in their cars because they considered them unclean on religious grounds. Mr Elder-Brown was taking his girlfriend out to celebrate her birthday with her five year-old daughter last week when he was told he would have to leave his dog, Finn, tied up outside.
He showed a card issued by the Institute of Environmental Health Officers certifying he and his dog were allowed into any premises but an argument ensued and the owners threatened to call the police if he did not leave. (Telegraph.co.uk)
Afghan youth silent at sister-killing trial in Germany-DPA
Hamburg - An Afghan-born youth declined to testify Tuesday at his trial for the murder of his own sister in Germany. The May 15 stabbing death of Morsal O, 16, in Hamburg attracted enormous attention at a time when Germans were concerned at a rash of "honour killings" by immigrants from archaic central Asian societies. The term usually refers to a Muslim daughter being killed by the male members of her own family who collectively decide she has disgraced the family honour through a sexual relationship. As more details of the Morsal case have emerged, some media have suggested the case may not fit that pattern. Morsal and her elder brother were both troubled teenagers in the Hamburg family of an ethnic Tajik dealer in used trucks who had been a fighter pilot in the communist air force in Afghanistan. The parents had difficulty managing both children. Morsal was lazy at her schoolwork, but her parents were proud when she won a civic prize for setting up a peer counselling project at her school and her photograph appeared in newspapers. The boy, Ahmad O, became a truant and a delinquent with a record of petty crime going back to 1998, including assaults on other members of his own family. He was close to his sister, but objected to her wearing glitzy clothes and make-up. He stabbed her 23 times in the attack, one day after the schoolgirl had sought counselling from city youth aid officials. (Earthtimes)
Government launches consultation on Islamic finance in the UK-Centre For Social Cohesion
The Government has launched a consultation on the legal implications of regulating Islamic finance in the UK. The joint Treasury – Financial Services Authority (FAS) consultation will set out the proposed legislative framework for regulation of an alternative financial instrument commonly known as an Islamic bond, or sukuk, which is interest-free and asset-backed. Ian Pearson MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, launched the consultation as part of the government’s work to support the growth of Islamic finance in the UK. “We value the contribution Islamic finance makes to London’s position as an international financial centre and we want to see this sector continue to grow and prosper in this country,” he added. Islamic finance is a growing market in the UK. Lloyds TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland, and HSBC all offer Sharia compliant products. The Islamic Bank of Britain – Britain’s first stand-alone, Sharia compliant, retail bank, opened in 2004 – recently reported an increase in the number of non-Muslim customers since the start of the credit crunch. The Islamic mortgage market has grown to over half a billion pounds since 2003. However, Chancellor Alistair Darling said last month that in light of the current economic situation the Government would not be releasing the country's first sovereign sukuk. The Economic Secretary also spoke of the government’s commitment to equal opportunity and access to financial services: “The Government wants to ensure no one in the UK is denied access to good financial services on account of their religious beliefs.” Increasing the availability of Islamic finance will also ensure that Muslim communities in Britain have equal access to business opportunities, according to a Treasury statement. Today’s launch coincided with the publication of a government paper Islamic finance, The development of Islamic finance in the UK: the Government's perspective, which aims to raise public awareness of sharia-compliant finance. (CentreForSocialCohesion)
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND MIDDLE EAST STUDIES-Erin O’Connor and Maurice Black
It has become fashionable in academic circles to declare that academic freedom is under attack. Ever since September 11, 2001, the argument goes, legislators and outsiders have intruded unconscionably upon professors' freedom to teach, research, write, and speak. Professors complain that these critics have tried to control curricula, blackball controversial teachers, manipulate tenure cases, and even reshape university life according to partisan ideological agendas. In 2007, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a statement on "Freedom in the Classroom" intended—in the words of AAUP president Cary Nelson—to say "don't mess with me" to those interested in ensuring that professors behave appropriately in the classroom. A month later, a group of well-known academics calling itself the Ad Hoc Committee to Defend the University issued its own statement asserting that professors' academic freedom is threatened by non-academic forces. Hundreds of academics signed the petition, committing "to speak out against those who attack our colleagues and our universities in order to achieve their political goals." To be sure, some concerns about academic freedom are justified. Academic freedom is increasingly under threat in America—but not quite for the reasons cited by the AAUP and the Ad Hoc Committee. Academic freedom is in jeopardy primarily because of the widespread and erroneous assumption that academic freedom is synonymous with freedom from criticism. Nowhere is this erroneous assumption more widespread and more corrosive than in the contentious field of Middle East studies. In this discipline, a cadre of academics is working hard to cloud the definition of academic freedom—often undermining it in the name of defending it. The field is suffering as a result. (Jewishpolicycenter)
Public Universities Overwhelmingly Violate First Amendment-By Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
Today the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has released its 2009 report on campus speech codes, revealing that American colleges and universities systematically violate students’ and faculty members’ right to freedom of expression. Spotlight on Speech Codes 2009: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses reports on policies at 364 American colleges and universities. FIRE found that approximately 74 percent of schools surveyed maintain policies that clearly restrict speech that, outside the borders of campus, is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.“Unfortunately, this year’s report demonstrates that—despite decades of precedent declaring speech codes unlawful and two decisions this year alone—the majority of colleges and universities brazenly maintain policies that violate students’ and faculty members’ fundamental rights,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Everyone who values the free exchange of ideas should be deeply disturbed by these findings.” FIRE’s report is the most comprehensive effort to date both to quantify the proportion of colleges and universities that restrict free speech and to assess the severity of those restrictions. The report surveyed publicly available policies at institutions ranked in the 100 “Best National Universities” and at the 50 “Best Liberal Arts Colleges,” as rated in the August 27, 2007, “ America’s Best Colleges” issue of U.S. News & World Report, as well as at 207 major public universities. The research was conducted between September 2007 and September 2008. (Studentforacademicfreedom)
Campus PC Gone Crazy-Jason Mattera Young America’s Foundation
Political correctness ran amuck in our nation’s school system this past year, and Young America’s Foundation has once again compiled our “best of the worst” academic abuses for 2008. From “free speech zones” to transgendered speakers at military academies, the following list may make you both laugh and cry in the same breath. That probably isn’t too surprising, however, since we are talking about academia after all…
1. The free speech “zone.” A student at Yuba College in California was sent an ultimatum by the school’s president: discontinue handing out gospel booklets or face disciplinary action and possibly expulsion. That’s right—gospel booklets. Ryan Dozier, the 20-year-old student, had the audacity to distribute Christian literature without a school permit, which restricts free speech to an hour each Tuesday and Thursday. Yuba College even directs students to where on campus they are allowed to exhibit free speech. In this case, it’s the school theater. Campus police threatened to arrest Ryan if he didn’t comply with the “free speech zone,” oblivious to the fact that students don’t need permission to exercise the First Amendment’s free speech and religious clauses.
2. Transgendered activists in, pro-life speakers out. Liberal administrators at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic institution in Minnesota, censored the appearance of prominent pro-life speaker Star Parker because campus officials felt “uncomfortable” and “disturbed” by previous conservative speakers at the school. The University’s mission statement claims it values “the pursuit of truth,” “diversity,” and “meaningful dialogue.” Except, not really—or better yet, as long as the said “pursuit” doesn’t offend leftist predilections. Meanwhile, within the past year, the same school hosted Al Franken, the bombastic liberal comedian, and Debra Davis, a transgendered activist who believes God is a black lesbian. Realizing they had a public relations disaster on their hands, the head honchos at St. Thomas eventually reversed the ban on Star Parker. (Frontpagemagazine)
Putting the Boot In: NYT's Front-Page Mockery of Bush-Clay Waters
The New York Times and the rest of the media can't get enough of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during a press conference in Baghdad, with a front-page story calling the potentially dangerous action a "defiant act" and a "mythic moment" and commenting on shoe-hurling Muntader al-Zaidi's "hero status" in the Arab world. Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed added insult to Bush's deftly dodged injury in Tuesday's front-page story, "In Iraqi's Shoe-Hurling Protest, Arabs Find a Hero. (It's Not Bush.)" Calling someone the "son of a shoe" is one of the worst insults in Iraq. But the lowly shoe and the Iraqi who threw both of his at President Bush, with widely admired aim, were embraced around the Arab world on Monday as symbols of rage at a still unpopular war. In Saudi Arabia, a newspaper reported that a man had offered $10 million to buy just one of what has almost certainly become the world's most famous pair of black dress shoes. A daughter of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, reportedly awarded the shoe thrower, Muntader al-Zaidi, a 29-year-old journalist, a medal of courage. In the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, people calling for an immediate American withdrawal removed their footwear and placed the shoes and sandals at the end of long poles, waving them high in the air. And in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, people threw their shoes at a passing American convoy. In street-corner conversations, on television and in Internet chat rooms, the subject of shoes was inescapable throughout much of the Middle East on Monday, as was the defiant act that inspired the interest: a huge and spontaneous eruption of anger at President Bush on Sunday in his final visit here. Some deplored Mr. Zaidi's act as a breach of respect or of traditional Arab hospitality toward guests, even if they shared the sentiment. (Mr. Bush, having demonstrated his quick reflexes, then brushed it off as an expression of democracy.) The Times noted how popular the act was in the Arab world, including in Syria, where "Zaidi's picture was shown all day on state television, with Syrians calling in to share their admiration for his gesture and his bravery." (Newsbusters)
Freedom of Speech
Geert Wilders Speech From Facing Jihad Conference In Jerusalem this past weekend. (For full speech click on link)
Thank you very much.
It's a privilege for me to be here in this beautiful city Jerusalem, the capitol of the only democracy in the entire Middle East. When I was a teenager I lived some years here in this city and after that I visited Israel more times than I can count. Israel: the only country in the region with a functioning parliament, a rule of law and free elections. The only country in the region that shares the values of our Western societies, in fact is one of the foundations of our Judeo-Christian identity. We are here to voice our concern over the growing Islamisation of the West. We do this in this city, the city of David. The city that, together with Rome and Athens, symbolizes our ancient heritage. Perhaps a few of you may be new to Jerusalem, yet, Jerusalem is not new to any of you. We all carry Jerusalem in our blood, in our genes. We all live and breathe Jerusalem. We talk Jerusalem, we dream Jerusalem. Simply because, the values of ancient Israel have become the values of the West. We are all Israel, and Israel is in all of us. This city is the capital of a democracy under threat. Israel is under siege, like the Jewish community in the Land of Israel is under siege for over a century now. Israel with all its glory and splendour is unique, and its history unparalleled. Yet, Israel’s security situation is not unique, and neither is its enemy. Samuel Huntington writes it so aptly: “Islam has bloody borders”. Israel is located precisely on that border. This tiny country is situated on the fault line of jihad, just like Kashmir, Kosovo, the Philippines, Southern Thailand, Darfur in Sudan, Lebanon, and Aceh in Indonesia. Israel is simply in the way of the Islamic advance. Just like West-Berlin was during the Cold War. (Jihadwatch)
Prison bans chapel crucifix to avoid offending Muslims-Daily Mail Reporter
A prison’s new chapel will not contain a crucifix to avoid offending Muslim inmates, it emerged today.
Bosses at HMP Lewes have been told the traditional Christian symbol, featuring Jesus nailed to a cross, must not be used in the Grade-II listed Victorian jail’s ‘multi-faith space’. The room - part of a £1million new block - has been split in two, with one half featuring heated foot baths so Muslim worshippers can wash their feet before prayer. But the other side, dedicated to Christian prayer, contains just a simple wooden cross and portable alter - both of which can be removed if necessary. According the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), the traditional Christian crucifix was erased from the chapel’s blueprints after discussion with a Muslim imam. Amanda Hamblin, chairman of the IMB, said: ‘We see this as a vastly improved facility and very much welcome the fact that the prison has an imam. ‘It is key that everyone will have access to a decent place of worship whether they are Muslims, Christians or any other faith. ‘The significant thing about this is that the facilities were very poor before. Now they have been set up with a lot of consultation and thought given to how to make it fit for purpose, fit for access and fit for the religious needs of our prisoners, whatever those may be.’ A source at Lewes Prison, which houses 668 convicts, said he was not surprised by the decision to ‘drop Jesus’ from show. He added: ‘This is typical. On one side of the room there are heated foot baths for the Muslim inmates, but on the other side there is this silly little movable alter that can be hidden away at a moment’s notice. ‘And there is just a wooden cross, not a crucifix showing the suffering Jesus went through, because those in power thought it might offend the Muslims.’ He continued: ‘I don’t think the Muslim prisoners would give a monkeys to be honest, it’s just the normal PC brigade poking its nose in when it isn’t needed.’ (Dailymail.co.uk)
Belgian Jews condemn Hezbollah presence at conference in parliament-EJP
BRUSSELS (EJP)---The Belgian Jewish community firmly condemned the presence of Hezbollah representatives at a conference organized Monday in the building of the Belgian parliament in Brussels.
The parliament gave its authorization to the conference titled “Sufferings and Resistance of the Palestinian prisoners” and organised by the "International Union of Parlementarians for Palestine".
Hussein Al Haj Hassan, a Lebanese MP who is one of the founders of Hezbollah, and Abdullah Kassir, head of the Al Manar TV station, run by the Lebanese Shiite movement, spoke at the anti-Israeli gathering.
Al Manar was banned from several European countries, including France and Germany, for inciting to murder, racism and hate propaganda. The conference room in the parliament was booked by a Belgian Green MP, Fouad Lahssaini. Speakers at the gathering called Israel “the last apartheid state” and compared the “resistance of Hezbollah against Israeli Nazism to the resistance of the Belgian people against the Nazis.”
CCOJB, the umbrella representative body of Belgian Jewish organizations, denounced the authorization given by the Belgian parliament to Hezbollah, “ a violently anti-Semitic party and terror organization which is considered to be responsible for several attacks, including the one that destroyed the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994”. The Jewish group, which was present at the gathering, denounced the "anti-Zionist propaganda and apology of terrorism." In New Yok, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) also condemned the appearance of the two Hezbollah officials. "Was this an error, or is it really the case that none of the various parties in the Belgian Parliament thought providing a platform for Hezbollah, an Islamist terrorist organization, was objectionable?" said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris. "Hezbollah has the blood of thousands of American, French, Israeli, Lebanese and other citizens on its hands," said Harris. "It is simply disgraceful that Hezbollah officials were permitted to address a meeting in the parliament building of a leading European democracy," he added. The AJC described the "International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine”, which sponsored the conference, as a "a front organization for the Iranian regime launched in Tehran in April 2001." Hezbollah, contrary to Hamas, the Islamic movement in Gaza, is not on the EU list of terrror organisations. (EJP)
'Jewish groups back Durban II no-show'-Herb Keinon
Israel is confident there is strong support among Jewish organizations for following Israel's lead and skipping the 2009 UN World Conference Against Racism, or Durban II, in Geneva in April, according to Foreign Ministry officials. Aviva Raz Schechter, director of the ministry's department for combating anti-Semitism, said Israel's impression from a conference call Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held on Tuesday with Jewish organizations throughout the world was that there was understanding of Israel's position not to attend and "wall to wall recognition that the organizations would try to convince their governments not to attend either." There was consent by the organizations and NGOs that took part in the conference call that, considering the preparatory material for the conference, it had been hijacked by elements who wanted to turn it into another Israel-bashing convention, Raz Schechter said. She denied reports that the major Jewish organizations did not unequivocally back Israel on this matter. David Harris, the head of the American Jewish Committee, told The Jerusalem Post following the call that his organization opposed the current Durban II agenda but wanted to "proceed on the most solid ground possible" before approaching the Europeans with demands to drop out. Harris added that until US President-elect Barack Obama took office next month there would be no decision from the American side, and that he would not rule out the possibility that the new president would expend the political capital to fundamentally alter the Durban II agenda. The New York-based Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted earlier this month to oppose US participation in Durban II and plans to send letters to both the outgoing Bush administration and Obama's transition team urging non-participation, according to its executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein. He told the Post last week that the organization objected to the use of the word "boycott" but otherwise backed the Foreign Ministry's stance. (JPost)
Allison Hoffman contributed to this report from New York.
Netherlands threaten anti-racism meeting boycott
Dutch foreign minister says nation will not attend conference unless anti-Israel statements are not scrapped from meething's draft texts-AP
The Dutch foreign minister threatened Tuesday to boycott a UN racism conference if anti-Israel statements are not scrapped from draft texts being drawn up for the meeting. Maxime Verhagen told Dutch radio he "will not be involved in anti-Semitism" at the April meeting in Geneva. Israel and Canada already have withdrawn. The United States has protested the conference, but has not decided if it will attend. "It seems like the sole intention is to criticize Israel and condemn the West for slavery and its colonial history," Verhagen said Tuesday. At the last conference in South Africa in 2001, Israel and the United States walked out midway because of a draft resolution equating Zionism with racism. The resolution was not approved. Verhagen fears a repeat performance in Geneva, and said the Dutch will withdraw unless the proposed resolutions are changed. "We won't take that decision lightly. We will take every opportunity at this time to fight racism and discrimination but we will not be used for a propaganda circus," he said. (Ynet)
Jewish Teacher Murdered in Yemen-Maayana Miskin
(IsraelNN.com) Moshe Nahari, a Torah teacher and a well-known figure in Yemen's Jewish community, was murdered on Thursday morning in Reida, a city north of the capital city, Sanaa. According to the Arabic daily Ash-Sharq il-Awsat, Nahari's attacker called out, “Jew, receive the message of Islam” before shooting at him. Nahari's friends said he had never attempted to hide his Jewishness. He hung a star of David on the door of his home and wore long peyot (sidelocks). One of his brothers is a leading rabbi in the Yemenite community. The murderer fired on Nahari several times, made sure he was dead, and then waited for police to come. Ash-Sharq il-Awsat identified the killer as Abed el-Abdi, a former pilot. El-Abdi murdered his wife two years ago, but was not imprisoned because he agreed to give his wife's family financial compensation. Yemeni officials said the shooter who killed Nahari was deranged. The shooter was arrested, and allegedly told police he had killed Nahari because “Those Jews need to become Muslim.” Nahari, 35, is survived by a wife and nine children. In his life, he established a school where he taught local Jewish children Torah and basic professional skills. Reida Jews said his school aimed to teach Torah according to Yemenite traditions in an area where the Jewish community is heavily influenced by the Satmar chassidic group. Nahari also forged contacts with Jews around the world and gathered donations for Yemen's small Jewish community, including Torah scrolls and other holy books. He remained in Yemen in order to strengthen the local Jewish community despite opportunities to relocate to Israel or the United States, friends said. (INN)
TERRORISM, INTERNET, JIHAD
The Britons with us in their sights-Con Coughlin
British-born terrorists are returning to the UK after learning deadly skills in the world’s most dangerous country.
Every month, thousands of young British Muslims travel to Pakistan on holiday to visit family and friends. For most it is an opportunity to celebrate important religious festivals, such as the Eid feast that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, or simply to spend time in the country of their own or their family's origin.
But in a small number of cases their reasons for leaving their adopted country are more sinister. Despite the efforts of British and Pakistani security officials monitoring the movements of the estimated 400,000 "Brit-Paks" (British passport holders of Pakistani descent) travelling between the two countries, some simply disappear the moment they arrive. Months later, and trained as terrorists, they slip back into the crowds of innocent fellow-Muslims at the airport and board a return flight to Britain. It is a two-way traffic between Britain and Pakistan which proved deadly on 7/7 and becomes ever more worrying with growing instability in a nuclear-armed state which is earning a reputation as the world's most dangerous country. (Telegraph.co.uk)
Lashkar-e-Taiba in America-Steven Schwartz
A convicted terror recruiter plays victim of the NSA.
The coincidence can best be described as macabre: The terrorist assault on Mumbai occurred just as a House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, headed by Democratic Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey, initiated an inquiry into the conviction of a radical Muslim hatemonger, Ali Al-Timimi, for recruiting to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) or Army of the Righteous, the group considered responsible for the latest atrocities in India. Purportedly, Al-Timimi, when he was tried, may have been a "victim" of anti-terror measures introduced by the Bush administration.The review of the Al-Timimi case would be the Holt panel's first formal action against the Bush administration's record in this field. The panel was established last year by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But let us take our own look at the movements, incidents, and characters involved. Congressional and media attitudes toward Islamist extremism are in fact more deserving of criticism here than are Bush policies. LET is a powerful fundamentalist militia financed by the Pakistani government in its fight with India over Kashmir. The group has a close relationship with al Qaeda; prominent Guantánamo captive Abu Zubayda, a top al Qaeda operative, was arrested in a LET safehouse in Pakistan in 2002. The group is committed to terror in the West as well as in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Indeed LET is present wherever Pakistani radicals are found, and was involved in the 2006 plot at Heathrow airport that changed airline policies on passengers carrying liquids. (Weeklystandard)
Pakistan 'linked to 75% of all UK terror plots', warns Gordon Brown-Sam Coates, Chief Political Correspondent, and Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent, in Islamabad
Gordon Brown demanded "action, not words" from Pakistan yesterday, blaming Pakistani militants for last month's attack on Mumbai and revealing that three quarters of the gravest terror plots under investigation in the UK had links to Pakistan. Winding up a two-day tour of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, the Prime Minister urged Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's President, to "break the chain of terror" linking Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan to attempted terrorist attacks in Britain. British military officials believe there are a "handful" of British militants fighting alongside the Taleban in Afghanistan, often entering the country through northern Pakistan, where al Qaeda and Taleban leaders are thought to be sheltering. Officials also believe that there are currently around 30 major terrorist plots in the United Kingdom with 2,000 suspects being watched by police and the intelligence services. "Three quarters of the most serious plots investigated by the British authorities have links to al-Qaeda in Pakistan," said Mr Brown in a press conference alongside Mr Zardari in the presidential palace in Islamabad. "The time has come for action, not words." Speaking just a few hours after meeting Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, in Delhi, Mr Brown also formally declared for the first time that Britain backs India's assertion that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group with links to Pakistan's military-run spy agency, carried out the Mumbai attack. His remarks were clearly designed to heap pressure on Pakistan's civilian government to do more to crack down on militant groups in the wake of the Mumbai strike, which killed at least 170 people, including three British citizens. (Timesonline.co.uk)
Explosives found in Paris department store-Charles Bremner and Adam Sage in Paris
France was on full anti-terror alert yesterday after police sought the origin of explosives that were planted in a top department store and claimed by an odd-sounding "Afghan Revolutionary Front". An anonymous letter alerted police to five sticks of ageing dynamite behind a lavatory cistern in the menswear department of Printemps, one of the two grand old stores on the Boulevard Haussmann, alongside the Opera. No one had heard of the "Front" and its warning letter was couched in language that would be unusual for Islamic radicals. The search for the explosives caused two hours of disruption as several thousand Christmas shoppers and staff were hustled out of the Printemps' three buildings and police filtered traffic on the boulevard, which is also home to its rival, Galeries Lafayette. France has been primed for possible attack by Islamic terrorists after intelligence reports and threats from Taleban spokesmen over the presence of French forces deployed with Nato in Afghanistan. In another operation yesterday, unconnected with the store incident, police arrested six young men who are suspected of links with radical Islamic movements. Their main target was a French convert to the religion who had been "in contact with jihadists", according to police. (Timesonline.co.uk)
Prosecutor: Overwhelming evidence offered in Fort Dix terror trial-John P. Martin The Star Ledger
A federal prosecutor today urged jurors to convict five Muslim immigrants of plotting to kill U.S. soldiers, arguing the government had offered "overwhelming evidence" that the South Jersey men were jihadists preparing to attack. The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Hammer, walked jurors through dozens of secretly recorded conversations where the defendants professed their commitment to a holy war, the need to train and buy weapons and their concern about being discovered. Attacking a pillar of the defense, Hammer also reminded jurors that the government doesn't have to prove there was a specific plan, target or timetable. "Even if it was just talk, that talk was powerful evidence of a conspiracy," Hammer said. His comments launched what is expected to be at least two days of closing statements in Camden by attorneys in most prominent terrorism case in New Jersey since the 9/11 attacks. Authorities say the men became friends at a Cherry Hill high school and later formed a homegrown terror cell, sharing a fierce religious identity and contempt for the U.S. military. Jurors saw evidence that the men watched Al Qaeda videos and listened to jihadist lectures, and prosecutors said they their visits to a firing range and weekly games of paintball represented paramilitary training exercises. Two FBI informants spent nearly a year secretly recording conversations with the men. One accompanied defendant Mohamad Shnewer, a 23-year-old cab driver and Jordanian from Cherry Hill, on what authorities contend were "surveillance missions" to Fort Dix, Dover Air Force Base and other possible targets. (NJ.com)
Woman who preached jihad on internet charged with five other 'al Qaeda militants' over suicide plot to kill EU leaders-Stephen Wright
Belgian police have charged six suspected al Qaeda terrorists - including one woman - arrested on suspicion of being part of a plot to kill Gordon Brown and other European leaders at the EU summit. A judge decided there was insufficient evidence to hold eight other suspects picked up in Thursday's anti-terror sweep.
The raids came hours before the start of a European Union summit of 27 government leaders in the Belgian capital. Spokeswoman Lieve Pellens of the federal prosecutor's office said the six charged early today constituted the hard core of a terrorist group and included one militant who allegedly was plotting a suicide attack. It was feared they were planning a suicide bombing as the Prime Minister and 26 other European premiers met in Brussels for a two-day summit. All suspects under arrest are Belgian, and include Moroccan-born Malika El Aroud, who writes online in French under the name of Oum Obeyda. El Aroud was the only woman among those arrested. Most of the others are in their 20s or early 30s and only one of those was known from other terror investigations, Pellens said. El Aroud was caught in a pre-Christmas terror sweep last year but was released because of insufficient evidence. She moved to Belgium from Morocco when she was very young, and began writing online after her first husband died in the suicide attack in Afghanistan that killed anti-Taliban warlord Ahmed Shah Massoud, just before the September 11 attacks in 2001. The risk of an imminent attack rose after one of the suspects was given the 'green light' from his masterminds to strike, officials said. They believe the attack is linked to Al Qaeda and said they had found a 'martyrdom video' made by the suspect. He was thought to be mounting an operation 'from which he was not expected to return'. (Dailymail.co.uk)
Missile and Mortar Attacks on Israel Pass 10,000 Mark-Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
(IsraelNN.com) Gaza terrorists escalated attacks on the western Negev Tuesday, pushing to 10,046 the number of mortar and rocket attacks the past eight years. The IDF spotted and hit one rocket-launching cell.
One Israeli suffered shock in the latest barrage, which included five Kassam rockets and a mortar shell. One rocket exploded in a soccer field next to the Sapir College, located adjacent to Sderot, and the other rockets landed in open areas outside the city. The IDF identified and hit a Kassam launcher in northern Gaza, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that he would continue diplomatic non-military retaliation by keeping Gaza crossings closed and preventing trucks from bringing goods into the region. The Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the latest barrage, which it said was a response to the IDF's eliminating one of its leaders near Jenin, in Samaria, early Tuesday morning. Media outlets have been emphasizing December 19 as the end of six months since outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to the June 19 ceasefire, although no expiry date was set in the unsigned agreement. (INN)
The Terrorist Group Hamas Celebrated It’s 21st Anniversary this past weekend. This is a text which was posted on the English Website:
In December 1987, the council of the Islamic movement headed by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin met and announced the formal establishment of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). The meeting took place on the backdrop of a week of intense popular demonstrations and confrontations with Zionist occupation forces in the Gaza Strip following the death of 4 Palestinian laborers from Jabalia.
Hamas spokesman in the 21st Anniversary
The Information Office of Al-Qassam Brigades conducted an interview with Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman, in the eve of Hamas 21st anniversary of sacrifice and work.
1. What are Hamas achievements from its beginning till the siege?
In January 25, 2006, Hamas proved practically that the Palestinian people vote for the option of Hamas movement, which is the choice of resistance. After that, Hamas formed the tenth government, the government of national unity despite of what happened from Abbas militia. Hamas managed to combine between the resistance and the government. Hamas succeeded to produce the necessary needs to the Palestinian people despite the conspiracies which led by the Americans, Europeans, the Zionist entity and the Palestinian president against the Palestinian people. Hamas showed the whole word that it has a hiuge care in the Palestinian national unity. We call the president Mahmoud Abbas not to follow the American and the Zionist demands, which are against the Palestinian interests.
2. After Hamas and the Palestinian resistance factions had declared truce with the occupation, what are the conditions for renewing this truce?
We said clearly that there is a definite political view in this regard. If the Zionist people in the region want to live in security and stability, Hamas would accept such choice conditioned with the withdrawal from our land, which was occupied in 1948, giving us a Palestinian state with its capital Al-Quds as a whole, the release of all prisoners and detainees and the return of all refugees to their homes. All these things may achieve a political stability in the region and Hamas will give the truce.
This solution does not mean the abandonment of any inch of our occupied land. We say that these demands are not conditions but it’s a temporary solutions.
3. In the case of a presidential election, will Hamas participate?
I think it is not a time to decide nowadays whether to participate in the presidential election or not. However, Hamas proved the ability to be in the playground of policy and resistance at same time. The next stage might be a military stage against Gaza Strip, so Hamas will examine all matters in their context.
4. In the end, a word from you to the Palestinian people in the 21st anniversary of foundation Hamas movement?
Our message to the Palestinian people is to be with the resistance road in order to restore our rights. Also to protect the resistance government and keeping support to resistance men who stand against the Zionist entity. Our message to the Arab and Islamic nations is to decide their position from the Zionist entity. They must reject the coordination and normalization with the Zionist entity from every side. The Arab and the Islamic nations must support our steadfastness in everything they could do whether politically or financially. We must unify resistance against the Zionist occupation in all over the world and that will make a Defensive Shield to our Rights and a thorn in the Zionist path.
ENVIRONMENTALISM and Science
Dame Jane Goodall: Lady and the chimps
Dr Dame Jane Goodall was a debutante dabbling in secretarial work when she suddenly moved to Africa to study chimpanzees. Fifty years, five professorships, 24 degrees and 61 awards later, she tells Sabine Durrant all about her life in the bush – and what her subjects can teach us human beings . Jane Goodall, the world’s leading primatologist, walks carefully through the atrium of a Heathrow hotel, clutching a stuffed brown monkey. She is a small, delicate figure, narrow-shouldered, slightly stooped because of the drag of baggage. Her long grey hair is pulled back in a ponytail and she is wearing comfy trousers and deck shoes with no socks. We reach a brightly lit conference room. Dr Goodall screws up her eyes. 'Oh, dear, it is very harsh,’ she says in a soft, gentle voice, the sort of voice that doesn’t like to make a fuss. She turns the chairs to face an outside atrium, where an overcast morning emits a dull early light. Her steady green eyes assess the uninspiring view. 'That’s better,’ she says, placing the monkey carefully on the table between us. 'We’ll be fine now.’ Goodall’s study of chimpanzees in the 1960s revolutionised how we understand primates. Her conservation charity, founded in 1977 to protect primates and their habitats, has revenues of more than £2.5 million a year and her environmental youth movement, Roots and Shoots, has 9,000 groups in 100 countries. She has received five professorships, 24 honorary degrees and 61 awards, including being named UN Messenger of Peace by Kofi Annan. Now 74, she’s still on the road, lecturing, 300 days in every year, and is spearheading the clothing company Gant’s environmental Commitment Campaign (money from sales of certain products goes towards the planting of trees in Tanzania). Is a car coming to collect her after this? 'No,’ she replies. 'I will get a bus.’ (Telegraph.co.uk)
Seas will rise faster than predicted, say scientists-Frank Pope
Sea levels will rise much faster than previously forecast because of the rate that glaciers and ice sheets are melting, a study has found. Research commissioned by the US Climate Change Science Program concludes that the rises will substantially exceed forecasts that do not take into account the latest data and observations. The adjusted outlook, announced at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, suggests that recent predictions of a rise of between 7in and 2ft over the next century are conservative. The study predicts that sea level rises will be far higher than the levels that were set out last year by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. The research looked at prehistoric periods when the climate changed dramatically over the course of decades, and evaluated the mechanisms behind such rapid transformation. Rising sea levels were one of the major elements involved in past episodes, along with faster glacial melting, droughts and changes to the Atlantic Ocean’s heat-driven circulation. The report also concludes that some changes will not be as bad as first thought. It says, for example, that rapid releases of methane stored in permafrost and on the seabed may be less likely than feared.Other forecasts include a severe and permanent drought in the American West. The authors state that they are “among the greatest natural hazards facing the United States and the globe today” and call for “committed and sustained” monitoring of the forces that could trigger abrupt climate change. Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at Oregon State University and a lead author on the report, to be published in the journal Science, said: “If we don’t monitor the vital signs of the patient, then we’ll never be in a position to advise on the best course of action to take to ward off or prepare for the potentially devastating consequences.” (Timesonline.co.uk)
TAU study: Prozac can help fight cancer-Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
The commonly used psychotropic drug Prozac (fluoxetine) is no longer meant only for treating depression. Tel Aviv University researchers have found that Prozac can fight the resistance of cancer cells to a major Israeli-developed tumor-fighting drug. Dr. Dan Peer and colleagues at the department of cell research and immunology have shown that Prozac dramatically enhances the effectiveness of a widely used anti-cancer drug doxorubicin. Called Doxil in a reformulated, more effective version in which the active ingredient was placed in a fat bubble called a liposome, the chemotherapy drug was developed by Prof. Yechezkel Barenholz of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Shaare Zedek Medical Center oncologist Prof. Alberto Gabizon. The approved drug is widely used to treat ovarian and breast cancer and currently is in the process of being approved for other types cancer. "The good news is that the medical community won't have to wait," said Peer. Prozac is a well-tested medication that can be used for this purpose right away, he continued, noting that US doctors already prescribe it to treat depression in chemotherapy patients. "Prozac is a very interesting non-specific blocker of cancer resistance," said Peer, whose study focused on colon cancer and doxorubicin. In their laboratory experiments, the TAU scientists led by graduate student Mirit Argov together with Prof. Rimona Margalit, found that Prozac enhanced doxorubicin's efficacy more than 1,000%. Prozac, in effect, worked to block the cancer drug from leaving the interior of the cancer cell and poisoning the healthy non-cancerous cells that surrounded it. (Jpost)
Society and CULTURE
The ‘right to die’ is a fashionable nonsense-Dominic lawson
It is traditional, when mounting a coup, to seize control of the airwaves. Last week the supporters of euthanasia did their best. Monday’s Panorama was entirely given over to a “report” on this topic by the Lothians MSP, Margo MacDonald; but since Ms MacDonald has already launched a campaign to legalise “assisted suicide” north of the border, the BBC’s attempt to promote her as an impartial reporter was disingenuous, at best. Two days later, Sky broadcast Right to Die, a 90-minute documentary that told the story of Craig Ewert, a 59-year-old Yorkshire-based American, who had travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich to be humanely put down. As advertised, we were not spared the moment of Mr Ewert’s death. The very phrase “right to die” is a fashionable piece of nonsense. How can we be said to require a “right” to something that is absolutely unavoidable, whether we want it or not? It is not the “right to die” that campaigners such as Margo MacDonald want, but the right to be killed – at a time of their own choosing. This is why some doctors, less sensitive to public queasiness, refer to the practice of “assisted dying” as “therapeutic killing”. In the case of Craig Ewert, it seemed to be as much therapy for his mental condition, as the removal by annihilation of his physical ailment, motor neurone disease. While he was definitely becoming incapacitated after five months with the condition, the programme commentary at no time suggested that he might be suffering from clinical depression. Yet any sensitive viewer could see that he was, and indeed his wife seemed to suggest as much to a news reporter last week. Obviously for the thoroughgoing euthanasiast it is quite irrelevant if the applicant for immediate extinction is not in unbearable physical pain, or indeed in any pain at all. He should have his wishes respected: it is his life, to do away with when and how he wishes. Suicide, indeed, is not illegal, and has not been so in this country since 1961. (Timesonline.co.uk)
Romantic comedies make us 'unrealistic about relationships', claim scientists-Richard Alleyne
Watching romantic comedies could ruin love lives because they create unrealistic expectations of relationships, scientists claim.
Unlikely happy endings, improbable plots and faux philosophy are to blame, they say.
Researchers believe that the influence of Hollywood films is instilling a warped sense of the "perfect" relationship within society and providing unrealistic expectations about romance. They are also oversimplifying the process of falling in love and wrongly giving the impression that it could and should be achieved without any effort, it is claimed. The team at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh studied 40 top box office films released between 1995 and 2005, to establish common themes. They then asked hundreds of people to fill out a questionnaire to describe their beliefs and expectations when it came to relationships. The psychologists found that fans of films such as You've Got Mail, The Wedding Planner and While You Were Sleeping, often fail to communicate with their partners effectively, with many holding the view that if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you needing to tell them. Dr Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist who led the research, said: "Marriage counsellors often see couples who believe that sex should always be perfect, and if someone is meant to be with you then they will know what you want without you needing to communicate it. "We now have some emerging evidence that suggests popular media play a role in perpetuating these ideas in people's minds. "The problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realise." Dr Holmes said that the team had spent a year "thoroughly analysing" and discovered a number of common themes that were unrealistic. They included the idea of "the one" soul mate who we were all pre-destined to meet and that they should know us instinctively so well they can "almost read out minds". (Telegraph.co.uk)
Teenage pregnancies go UP (despite free contraception and sex education for five-year-olds)-Steve Doughty
The number of teenage pregnancies leapt last year, despite all Labour's efforts to increase sex education and contraception among children and the young. The increase appears to have struck a death blow to the Government's long-standing pledge to halve rates of pregnancy among girls under 18. It means Britain will entrench its position, already deeply embarrassing to ministers, as the country with by far the highest teenage pregnancy levels in Europe. Officials in Whitehall admitted yesterday that last year, far from falling, the figures were 'slightly higher'. In fact, the indicators show that 2007 is likely to have seen the first major jump in teenage conceptions in a decade. The sudden rise may have inspired a series of new efforts by ministers to intensify sex education and persuade more girls to use contraception. This week the Health Department announced trials of a scheme to allow women to get the contraceptive Pill at chemists without a prescription. The idea - aimed mainly at teenagers - is likely to develop into a nationwide system to make the Pill available over the counter. In October Schools Minister Jim Knight ordered that primary school pupils should for the first time have compulsory sex education from the age of five. But critics of the Government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy said the contraception and education doctrine has failed and that instead there should be state-sponsored attempts to persuade teenagers to avoid having sex. The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, launched by Tony Blair in 1999, is a centrepiece of Labour's attempts to cut poverty, benefit dependency, and the number of troubled children. Half of teen pregnancies end in abortions and many of the rest in single mother families. It set an ultimate target of reducing the teenage pregnancy rate - the number of girls out of every 1,000 in England who become pregnant before they are 18 - by half. A reduction of 15 per cent on rates in the base year, 1998, was supposed to be achieved by 2004 and the full 50 per cent cut by 2010. (Dailymail.co.uk)
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