Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Taliban Codex

The Taliban has released its code of conduct. The Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche has a copy, which has been translated by the excellent sightandsound.com (thanks to reader Expat for bringing the website to my attention).

Some of the rules would be applicable to any military, others are religious in nature, as in number 1.
Layeha (book of rules) for the MujahideenFrom the highest leader of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan.

Every Mujahid must abide by the following rules:

1) A Taliban commander is permitted to extend an invitation to all Afghans who support infidels so that they may convert to the true Islam.

2) We guarantee to any man who turns his back on infidels, personal security and the security of his possessions. But if he becomes involved in a dispute, or someone accuses him of something, he must submit to our judiciary.

3) Mujahideen who protect new Taliban recruits must inform their commander.

4) A convert to the Taliban, who does not behave loyally and becomes a traitor, forfeits our protection. He will be given no second chance.

5) A Mujahid who kills a new Taliban recruit forfeits our protection and will be punished according to Islamic law.

6) If a Taliban fighter wants to move to another district, he is permitted to do so, but he must first acquire the permission of his group leader.

7) A Mujahid who takes a foreign infidel as prisoner with the consent of a group leader may not exchange him for other prisoners or money.

8) A provincial, district or regional commander may not sign a contract to work for anon-governmental organization or accept money from an NGO. The Shura (the highest Taliban council) alone may determine all dealings with NGOs.

9) Taliban may not use Jihad equipment or property for personal ends.

10) Every Talib is accountable to his superiors in matters of money spending and equipment usage.

11) Mujadideen may not sell equipment, unless the provincial commander permits him to do so.

12) A group of Mujahideen may not take in Mujahideen from another group to increase their own power. This is only allowed when there are good reasons for it, such as a lack of fighters in one particular group. Then written permission must be given and the weapons of the new members must stay with their old group.

13) Weapons and equipment taken from infidels or their allies must be fairly distributed among the Mujahideen.

14) If someone who works with infidels wants to cooperate with Mujahideen, he should not be killed. If he is killed, his murderer must stand before an Islamic court.

15) A Mujahid or leader who torments an innocent person [I would like to see their definition of "innocence"; I'll wager it's pretty narrow--P] must be warned by his superiors. If he does not change his behaviour he must be thrown out of the Taliban movement.

16) It is strictly forbidden to search houses or confiscate weapons without the permission of a district or provincial commander.

17) Mujahideen have no right to confiscate money or personal possessions of civilians.

18) Mujahideen should refrain from smoking cigarettes.

19) Mujahideen are not allowed to take young boys with no facial hair onto the battlefield or into their private quarters [No mention of goats? Why is this rule necessary? Is the practice so widespread? Rather confirms some stereotypes--P].

20) If members of the opposition or the civil government wish to be loyal to the Taliban, we may take their conditions into consideration. A final decision must be made by the military council.

21) Anyone with a bad reputation or who has killed civilians during the Jihad may not be accepted into the Taliban movement. If the highest leader has personally forgiven him, he will remain at home in the future.

22) If a Mujahid is found guilty of a crime and his commander has barred him from the group, no other group may take him in. If he wishes to resume contact with the Taliban, he must ask forgiveness from his former group.

23) If a Mujahid is faced with a problem that is not described in this book, his commander must find a solution in consultation with the group.

24) It is forbidden to work as a teacher under the current puppet regime, because this strengthens the system of the infidels. True Muslims should apply to study with a religiously trained teacher and study in a Mosque or similar institution. Textbooks must come from the period of the Jihad or from the Taliban regime.

25) Anyone who works as a teacher for the current puppet regime must recieve a warning. If he nevertheless refuses to give up his job, he must be beaten. If the teacher still continues to instruct contrary to the principles of Islam, the district commander or a group leader must kill him.

26) Those NGOs that come to the country under the rule of the infidels must be treated as the government is treated. They have come under the guise of helping people but in fact are part of the regime. Thus we tolerate none of their activities, whether it be building of streets, bridges, clinics, schools, madrases (schools for Koran study) or other works. If a school fails to heed a warning to close, it must be burned. But all religious books must be secured beforehand.

27) As long as a person has not been convicted of espionage and punished for it, no one may take up the issue on their own. Only the district commander is in charge. Witnesses who testify in a procedure must be in good psychological condition, possess an untarnished religious reputation, and not have committed any major crime. The punishment may take place only after the conclusion of the trial.

28) No lower-level commander may interfere with contention among the populace. If an argument cannot be resolved, the district or regional commander must step in to handle the matter. The case should be discussed by religious experts (Ulema) or a council of elders (Jirga). If they find no solution, the case must be referred to well-known religious authorities.

29) Every Mujahid must post a watch, day and night.

30) The above 29 rules are obligatory. Anyone who offends this code must be judged according to the laws of the Islamic Emirates.

This Book of Rules is intended for the Mujahideen who dedicate their lives to Islam and the almighty Allah. This is a complete guidebook for the progress of Jihad, and every Mujahid must keep these rules; it is the duty of every Jihadist and true believer.Signed by the highest leader of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan (Editor's note: this Book of Rules was distributed initially to the 33 members of the Shura, the highest Taliban council, at their meeting during Ramadan 2006.)
Fairly prosaic stuff for the most part. The tribal underpinnings of the Taliban are apparent in several of the rules, but other than the rule about no boys in private quarters, and the unfavorable status of teachers, nothing too noteworthy.

Is it possible to be a "moderate" Muslim?

Given that Muslims dogma holds that the Koran is the direct word of God, unlike the Bible which is believed to have been inspired by God, it may be impossible for observant Muslims to accept anything other than a theocracy. While that may be overstating things, the infallability of the Koran--leaving precious little opportunity for modern thinking to creep in--makes it difficult to imagine Islam as anything but a Dark Ages religion. In fact, the tide seems to be heading in the direction of a more literalist reading of the works that guide Muslims; fundamentalism is increasinly triumphant.

Nevertheless, some Muslims are pushing for change on a limited scale. This opinion piece in The Times notes the difficulties in overcoming the reactionary nature of Islam (internal link in original):

What does it mean to be a “moderate” Muslim today? As Pope Benedict treks to the secular Muslim state of Turkey, this is a good week to ask the question.

The Pope raised this question – unintentionally – in September. He delivered a speech emphasizing the need to reconcile religion with reason. Along the way, Benedict quoted an obscure Christian emperor who linked Islam to violence. As if on cue, Muslims around the world reacted angrily, some resorting to the very violence that they denied plays any role in our faith.

Days later, I delivered a television commentary about why, as a faithful Muslim, I don’t believe the Pope needed to apologize. We Muslims resent it when non-Muslims reduce the Quran to its most bloodthirsty passages. Why, I wondered, are we reducing the Pope’s speech to a mere few words?

The emails I received in response proved that Muslims know how to exercise freedom of expression as vigorously as the Pope does. Consider, for example, this message from Imran, a self-described “moderate Muslim” and American citizen who works for the US government: “You said that how Muslims are reacting to the Pope is like reducing the Quran to its most bloodthirsty passages. There is no such thing, Missy… You are looking for cheap publicity for your book and bashing Islam is the easiest way to get it nowadays. It used to be sleeping with the publisher, but for that you require looks. One more thing, if you are a Jew, you should not be ashamed of it."

Sonya is another Muslim American who benefits from her country’s free speech guarantees. She told me that I should be ashamed of myself for stating my heretical views publicly. Sonya went on:

“Do you blame the people who give you death threats? Or try to psychically harm you? I happen to agree with them. If you know how to talk to people, it will get you somewhere. If you don't, you will have many enemies...”

I could make a big deal of Sonya’s support for death threats or Imran’s gratuitous anti-Semitism. But there’s something else in their messages that explains why moderation is a concept with which Muslims struggle, even in the 21st century.

Imran says that there’s “no such thing” as reducing the Quran to selected passages. Translation: the Quran must be accepted as the alpha and the omega of God’s will. Likewise with Sonya. When she accuses me of not knowing “how to talk to people”, she’s saying that Muslims don’t want to hear about anything negative in our revelations.

The irony is, my defence of the Pope played up the Quran’s non-violence. I pointed out that Islam’s holy book encourages Muslims to reflect far more than to retaliate. Even if someone is mocking your religion, the Quran advises, walk away. Once tempers have cooled, engage in dialogue.

Still, my simple acknowledgment that the Quran contains harsh passages, too, is enough to eclipse the gospel of dialogue.

Imran and Sonya are more representative than I wish. All Muslims are taught that because the Quran comes after the Torah and the Bible, we must regard it as the final and perfect manifesto of the Divine. It is, we’re told, free of ambiguities, contradictions and human editing; in other words, free of the corruption that contaminates Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Thus the central conundrum for us Muslims. If it’s an article of our faith that the Quran is the unfiltered declaration of God, then what makes moderate Muslims “moderate”?

Perhaps it’s that they won’t murder to assert their convictions. But is this enough, given that moderates such as Sonya tolerate the murderers? And, as Imran demonstrates, those of us who dare to imply that the Quran can be questioned are not real Muslims. We are Jews.

Fortunately, more and more Muslims are proclaiming that it’s time for a liberal Islamic reformation. Two groups that powerfully attest to this movement are the Democratic Muslims of Denmark and their off-shoot, the Critical Muslims, both of which emerged from the Danish cartoon wars.

It’s revealing that neither group calls itself the “Moderate Muslims”. Their members considered doing so. But in the end, they couldn’t agree on what “moderate” means. Maybe that’s because it means too little. Suppose more of us aimed to be reform-minded instead?

Yet another question to ask during an important week in relations between Muslims and Christians worldwide.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pope blesses Turkey's EU bid

In a attempt to win over a tough crowd, Pope Benedict offered support to Turkey's all but dead bid to join the EU. This was a throw away gesture as the pope has no diplomatic muscle in Brussels. Nevertheless, it had the benefit of demonstrating that he bears no animus to the Turks (as a cardinal he was strongly against Turkey's bid), and is capable of change--two good methods of disarming one's opponents.
Pope Benedict XVI came to Turkey on Tuesday carrying a surprise gesture of goodwill that could blunt much of the Muslim anger against him: Publicly reversing his own personal objections, the pope gave his blessing to Turkey's deep and long- stalled desire to join the European Union.

"I asked his support for our membership in the European Union," the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told reporters after a brief, last- minute meeting with Benedict at the airport here. "The pope said they did not have the political power to interfere but said they would like to see Turkey as a member."

The Vatican does not play any formal role in EU process, but the pope's gesture was nonetheless a deft piece of political stagecraft at a delicate time in relations between Muslims and the West and for this pope's own damaged reputation among Muslims.

Long before he angered the Muslim world two months ago with a speech critized as equating Islam with violence, Benedict was not liked here because of comments he made, as a cardinal in 2004, opposing Turkey's EU membership. As the successor to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has always stood, he said at the time, "in permanent contrast to Europe."

But the 79-year-old pope's concession Tuesday, at the start of a four-day trip here, seemed a concrete act to make good on his pledge, amid the uproar among Muslims over the speech, to heal the wounds between East and West. It also may have the practical effect of tamping the still-smoldering anger here. Because of that anger, security Tuesday was thick, with helicopters hovering at the airport, commandos draped in bullets guarding the pope's plane from Rome and sharpshooters on the roofs of buildings. [....]

Iraq resembles Algerian war, but has been far less severe

So says noted military historian John Keegan in The Telegraph, himself quoting historian Alistair Horne.

Although the war in Iraq bears many resemblances to the long ago Algerian war of independance, Keegan also lists several areas where they differ--one critical area, though not mentioned, is that the Algerian war was due to France's colonial mindset. While the Left pushes the idea of neo-colonialism driving US foreign policy, there is little evidence that controlling Iraq's oil fields played any part in the decision to invade.
Certainly there are resemblances. The Algerian war, launched by ferocious nationalists, many of whom had served as soldiers in the French Algerian regiments against Germany in the concluding years of the second world war, was as bitter and cruel as Iraq has become.

As the Algerian war did, the Iraq war has spilt over into the homelands of the Western armies fighting it, leading to terrorism and atrocities on Western soil. It has also affected the politics of those homelands. It has also baffled, just as Algeria did, governments as to how to bring the war to a conclusion.

And it has drawn into the conflict external forces, based on neighbouring Muslim countries that support the anti-Westerners and complicate efforts at solutions by favouring one party or another among the Muslim combatants.

In addition, there is vast oil wealth, to intensify Western desire to achieve victory.

Fortunately there is also a lack of resemblances. As was not the case in Algeria, there is no large white minority domiciled in Iraq and demanding the entrenchment of its political privileges. Partly as a result, the politics of Iraq have not undermined the loyalties of the Western armies, nor encouraged generals or particular regiments to lend their support to factions or to attack institutions of government at home.

Nevertheless, as a war, Iraq depressingly resembles Algeria. There are the same massacres of Muslims who support the Western troops, the same failure to inflict disabling setbacks on the enemy, the same inability to identify the source of hostile supplies and recruits, the same sense of frustration in the Western leadership at its failure to get on top of the situation.

There is no doubt that, if transferred to Iraq today, many of the French generals who struggled to beat the Army of National Liberation (ANL) would recognise the same problems and perhaps advocate the same solutions, including repression of the Muslim population and the use of torture to extract intelligence. [...]

Though they could win local successes, they could not stop the ANL from mounting attacks. Following a number of judicial executions, the ANL launched a wave of killings of French civilians in Algiers, the worst outrage so far. In retaliation, Paris ordered General Massu to take over the Arab quarter of the city with his 10th Parachute Division. Massu was a famed fighter and veteran of Indo-China. Between January and March 1957, Massu's Paras terrorised the casbah into pacifity. Torture was widely used and in the end the ANL gave up because its counter-terrorism could not carry the Arab population with it.

Meanwhile, however, the war in the countryside continued, while, in France, a succession of weak governments was already becoming infected by defeatism. There were rumours of a negotiated peace. In Algiers, white colonists took to the street. In Paris, the government showed every sign of incapability. [....]
Incapability. Good word for our planning of post invasion Iraq. As far as defeatism goes, the Democrats have that locked up.

The Algerian uprising was an anti-colonial movement. Algerians wanted independance while France was desperate to hang on to one of its few remaining colonies, and figured they could easily do so, given Algeria lies just across the Med. As in Vietnam, the insurgents wanted it more than did the respective Western governments.

In the case of Iraq, there is no strong independance movement motivating the fighters. For the most part, they simply want to be free to slit the throats of their heretical brethern. Add in the catspaws of Syria and Iran, and the comparison of the fighters' motivations becomes less apt.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Islam's problem in a nutshell: no debate permitted

The hijab, or headscarf, worn by many Muslim women was recently criticized by the Egyptian minister of culture as being a sign of backwardness.

He was roundly condemned for his remarks. In rising to his defense, some pointed out that wearing the hijab is not obligatory under Islam.

Not so, ruled the top Sunni religious institution, Al Azhar university in Cairo:
“This matter is one of the givens of Islam and must not be subject to debate”
The same response was used to squelch discussion of how to treat apostates. Islam's ultra-reactionary nature is a terrible problem. It stems from the idea that the Koran is the literal word of God, and thus immutable. The Bible on the other hand is held to have been written by men, but inspired by God. This is a crucial difference. While still open to limited interpretation, the Koran's interpreters have enormous influence on what the faithful believe.

Of course, the main problem is the material the interpreters have to work with. Mohammed (or his angel messenger) did his followers no favors by bequeathing so many contradictory passages along with the injunction to follow them to the letter.

The Sunni clerics must still be upset about how the hajib is often worn:
In Cairo’s fashionable shopping malls, girls can be seen in skin tight jeans, clinging lycra tops and colourful or beaded headscarves tied in elaborate styles with names like “Spanish” or “gypsy”.

“Here in Egypt we have made hijab dance,” said the head of a women’s organisation, her head wrapped in two headscarves in contrasting pink and purple to match her linen suit and shirt.

Der Spiegel reconstructs the history of Pope Benedict's Islam speech

Just in time for the Pope's visit to Turkey, too. The author is not complimentary, but provides a wealth of background info. It's a long article, but if you have 15 minutes, it is worth reading in full.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pope into the lions' den

The Pope is off to do battle for the West. Let's hope he is polite in public but firm in his beliefs and argument. The central criticism he put forward in Regensburg--that Islamic terror, and by extension Islam, is non-rational--must be addressed by the world. Pope Bendict is doing his bit.

Janet Daley's fine opinion piece in The Telegraph offers a good appraisal of the current situation:
When Pope Benedict XVI flies to Turkey tomorrow, he will embody the most potentially incendiary confrontation between Islam and the West since the defeat of the Turks at Vienna in 1683 brought an end to Islamic conquest in Europe.

The Pope will take with him an understanding that at the root of our problems in dealing with the Islamist death cult, there is a fundamental debate to be had about the role of human reason in political affairs.

The remarks he made in a lecture in Regensburg, Germany, which implied that Islam rejected rationality while Christianity saw it as essential to faith were contentious (and almost certainly designed to be so), but they raised a question that almost no Western government has the courage to ask, let alone answer. How is a liberal democracy to deal with an illiberal religious minority in its midst?

To understand the life-or-death significance of what the Pope does and says when he arrives in Istanbul, it is necessary to see this confrontation for what it is. This will involve some traumatic re-adjustment for most of the opinion-forming class in Britain. The first assumption that will have to go is the premise that Islamist terrorism can be understood in pragmatic, politically rational terms: in other words, that it can be addressed with the usual mechanisms of negotiation, concession and amended policy.

The most readily accepted version of this is that a change to our policy in the Middle East will remove the grievances that "fuel" Muslim terrorism. The Cabinet has apparently been advised that all foreign policy decisions over the next decade should have the goal of thwarting terrorism in Britain and that this should involve "a significant reduction in the number and intensity of the regional conflicts that fuel terror activity". So Britain is contemplating constructing a foreign policy, specifically in the Middle East, that is designed to give in to terrorist blackmail.

Never mind that the hereditary grievance of almost all British-born Muslim terrorists is the Kashmir question, to which the almost entirely irrelevant Palestine issue has been tacked on by political manipulators with larger ambitions. (The easiest way to make a connection between the Palestine-Israel conflict and the problem of Kashmir is to construct a global theory of persecution in which British-born Muslims may see themselves as born into a victimhood perpetrated by all non-Muslim nations upon Islam.

That, as it happens, chimes perfectly with the true goal of Islamism, which is global supremacy.) So this ignominious posture – what you might call the "save our own skin; who cares what happens in the rest of the world?" view – is based on a false premise. It is not adjustments to our stance on Israel-Palestine that the international Islamist terror movement wants.

That demand was just a bin Laden afterthought that went down a treat with the old reliable anti-Semitic interest in Europe. What Islamic fundamentalism plans to achieve (and it has made no secret of it) is a righting of the great wrong of 1492, when the Muslims were expelled from Spain: a return of the Caliphate, the destruction of corrupt Western values, and the establishment of Sharia law in all countries where Muslims reside. That is what we are up against.

The Pope characterised it as a battle between reason and unreason. Scholars may debate the theological and historical soundness of his analysis. But what is indisputable is that this is not an argument that is within the bounds of diplomatic give and take, the traditional stuff of international policy argy-bargy. What we could plausibly offer to the enemy, even at our most craven, would never be sufficient.

What is being demanded is the surrender of everything that Western democracy regards as sacred: even, ironically, the freedom to practise one's own religion, which, at the moment, is so useful to Muslim activists. We are forced to accept the Islamist movement's own estimation of the conflict: this is a war to the death, or until Islamism decides to call a halt.

But we do not have to accept all that Islamism claims for itself: most importantly, the idea that it alone embodies the true principles of its faith. The argument that the Islamic religion is inherently violent, which the Pope was thought to have supported in his Regensburg lecture, is academic, in both the literal and metaphorical senses.

What matters for us now is that a great many Muslims – including some enthusiastic converts who cannot even lay claim to a life history of persecution or injustice for their beliefs – are prepared to use their religious affiliation as a justification to commit mass murder. How are we to deal with this? There is only one way: we must, with the co-operation of the Muslim majority, separate the faith from its violent exponents.

Liberal democracy reached an understanding with religion a long time ago: your right, as a citizen, to observe your faith without persecution will be explicitly protected by the state. In return, you will agree to make your peace with the civil law and respect the rights of others to pursue their beliefs. That's the deal. We cannot make exceptions either by removing Muslims who accept their side of the bargain from that protection, or by permitting those who refuse to accept it to flout our law (on, say, sexual equality or the overt slavery of forced marriages).

As Caroline Cox and John Marks argue in their book The West, Islam and Islamism, republished in a new edition by Civitas this week, it is imperative that we distinguish between the Islamic faith and Islamist ideology. If we accept – or even countenance – the view that the two are indistinguishable, we will either be paralysed by our own democratic commitment to religious freedom or forced to engage in all-out religious war.

If a majority of the Muslim community is prepared to separate itself, clearly and explicitly, from the terrorist faction, then we have a chance. If it is not, if it is swept up in the glamour of international victim status and the dark victory of glorious death, then we face generations of bloodshed.

To some extent, this is up to us. Britain must have more to offer than domestic confusion and international cowardice. But it is up to conscientious Muslims as well, of whom much – perhaps more than is fair – must be demanded by way of intercession and courage.

Major Caspian sea find even bigger than suspected

Good news for the West. Bad news for Russia and the Middle East. Although we can expect the Russian bear to make growling noises about its one-time province.
Kazakhstan’s giant Kashagan oil field will produce 25 per cent more oil than expected once it hits peak production, international companies developing the field have found.

News that the field, the largest and most important discovered in more than 30 years, will yield significantly more than than the 13bn barrels forecast is a breakthrough as dwindling world oil supplies and problems accessing oil-rich countries such as Iraq raise doubts about meeting rapidly increasing demand.

The Financial Times has learnt that peak production of the Kashagan field in the Caspian Sea, due at the end of the next decade, is expected to be 1.5m barrels a day, 25 per cent higher than published estimates. The field, operated by Eni, Italy’s biggest oil and gas group, is expected to pump this amount each day for more than 10 years, meaning it will yield 10 per cent more reserves than currently assumed.
While expected production is up, so are costs. Apparently, this field has the engineers really earning their money.
Kashagan’s extra production is almost equivalent to all the oil produced in Sudan in 2005, according to latest figures. But the complicated field – originally due to start pumping oil in 2005 – will take longer to develop, Eni is expected to warn shortly. The operator has pushed back its start date several times, most recently to 2008, but is now set to announce production will not start until 2009 at the earliest.

The field will also cost its partners, which include some of the world’s biggest oil companies, more than the official estimate of $29bn. It is now expected that the minimum price tag of Kashagan, already the world’s most expensive energy project, will be in the mid-$30bn range.

Airbus' A350XWB on the brink?

Airbus' A350 has had a troubled history. Concieved as a larger version of its highly regarded A320 series, it found itself competing with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Once it became clear that the A350 would fail, it was hastily redesigned to make it wider and more fuel efficient. Sounds good, but the problem was that it would come out years after the 787, and not be much better. Thus leaving the emerging midsize airliner field to Boeing.

Now the boards of Airbus and its parent EADS are debating whether to produce it in its current version, and if so, how best to finance it. The fight pits German backed Daimler-Chrysler against the French government, which predictably sees this as an opportunity to advance its interests. In this case, tighter political control of publically traded EADS.
The question of how to finance a new long-range Airbus jet has led to a showdown between core shareholders of its parent, European Aeronautic Defense & Space, that threatens to delay a decision on the $12 billion project, people with knowledge of the discussions said Friday.

A planned Friday meeting of the EADS executive board at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France, was abruptly canceled late Thursday evening, these people said. The decision was made after the group's biggest private shareholders - the German automaker DaimlerChrysler and the French conglomerate Lagardère - failed to persuade the French government, which owns 15 percent of EADS, to support a public bond issue to raise money for the A350 XWB, the radically redesigned 270-seat jet that Airbus hopes will be a competitor to the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner."

"The private shareholders want to achieve this financing via the capital markets," said one person who had been briefed on the situation. "But the French state objects to that. They want a capital increase."

The French Finance Ministry has proposed an issue of new shares in EADS that would be bought up either by the government directly or by the French state-owned bank, Caisse des Dépôts & Consignations, said the person, who requested anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue.

"It looks as if the French are trying to use the A350 as a hostage to increase their influence" within EADS, this person said. [...]

The French co-chief executive of EADs, Louis Gallois, who also assumed the role of Airbus chief last month, has promised investors and employees that a decision would be made on the development of the A350 by Thursday. But a prolonged tussle over the financing program could postpone a ruling until next month or beyond.

After failing to drum up more than 100 orders for the A350, Airbus went back to the drawing board this year and in July introduced the A350 XWB, which is to have a wider fuselage and is expected to make extensive use of lightweight composite materials. But the plane, which Airbus has said will begin deliveries in 2012, is already several years behind the 787, which Boeing says will enter commercial service in 2009. Boeing has already received more than 400 orders for the 787. [....]
Airbus cannot miss out on the midsized market, therefore it seems a foregone conclusion that it will produce the A350XWB, albeit with several further improvements. A complete redesign at this point will lock them out of this crucial segment.

The real drama will be how the financing is accomplished. France wants to flood the markets with more shares, thus allowing it to buy--at a discount--more influence. Other shareholders want a bond issue, which would keep the current stock ownership levels stable. Vive le compromise, anyone?

Swiss approve EU's extortion ploy

The Swiss voted on a couple of referenda yesterday, the most important being one "recommended" by the EU. The question before the voters was: do we Swiss approve a solidarity fund that sends one billion ChF to the ten newest EU member states?

The EU wasn't shy about twisting arms, either. Various EU officials were on record noting that a no vote would imperil future bilateral trade accords. The Swiss dutifully approved the quid, with the quo expected to be further bilateral agreements including a big one on electricity.

From SwissInfo:
Swiss newspapers say voters showed their usual pragmatic attitude to European issues by approving a SFr1 billion ($800 million) payment to the Union's newest member states. [...]

The French-language business paper L'Agefi provided the context, saying the vote was the third in favour of the bilateral route in 18 months. This suggested that the electorate was happy with non-member Switzerland's arm's length approach to the European Union.

For Zurich's highly respected Neue Zürcher Zeitung the result showed that "the bilateral path was built on stable ground".It added that the country had shown itself to be a reliable negotiating partner that was prepared to share the financial burden of the EU's eastern expansion. [...]

For Geneva's Le Temps, voters have given the thumbs up to the bilateral route, and are refusing to listen to the isolationists and nationalists on the Right. The paper cautioned that the EU had to show some restraint before making more demands on the Swiss.
Sound advice. The EU should not look at Switzerland as a cash cow to take care of its eastern european members. But for every bit of good editorializing there is some of this:
For Zurich's Tages Anzeiger, Swiss voters provided a shining example for the rest of sceptical Europe. "In no other country would a ballot on handing over funds to another nation been accepted," it wrote.

Lucerne's Neue Luzerner Zeitung stressed the pragmatism of the Swiss, saying voters considered a "no" ballot to be too risky – ie: it would have antagonised Brussels. It said the Swiss simply saw the SFr1 billion in question as the price for gaining access to the growing markets of eastern Europe.

Bern's Bund saw things in a similar light - the SFr1 billion for the new EU members would reinforce Brussels's goodwill towards Switzerland. The French-language tabloid Le Matin said the vote had everything to do with pragmatism and little to do with solidarity.
That's it in a nut shell. Switzerland is like the shopkeeper approached by the mob, and chosing to pay a bit now to avoid future trouble.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, especially to expat Americans. Thanksgiving is an utterly portable holiday. We expats can celebrate it wherever we may find ourselves.

We are having a traditional feast: Bird, stuffing sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries, mashed spuds, and pie. Just my immediate family and a couple of my daughter's friends will partake.

Hope yours is a good one, too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

France's Socialist presidential candidate: pretty, but pretty weak

Two views of France's Socialist party's candidate--Ségolène Royal--for next year's presidential elections. Neither are favorable (other than on her looks, which are stellar). The main complaint: there's not much there, there.

First up, The Times:
What the world wants to know is her recipe for rescuing France from its slough of despond, of restoring long-term growth and reducing chronic youth unemployment. She talks about restoring confidence, of ending exclusion, of tackling the deteriorating living standards of the French middle class. She supports a boost to the minimum wage and rejects criticism of the 35-hour week, accusing employers of devaluing labour. She wants what she calls “le bon deal”, a bit of new Labour’s New Deal repackaged with Nordic ideas of flexible job security.

What you don’t get is any insight into why France fails to create more jobs. In response to criticism that she lacks substance, Ms Royal created her own think-tank, Désirs d’Avenir, including a website that offers voters a medium for discussion and a chance to help to form policy. [...] But you search in vain for any real analysis of France’s problems. The website includes a selection of Ségo wisdom, called “what I said . . .”, with snatches of speeches and soundbites on a variety of subjects from housing to genetically modified organisms. Several deal with the big monsters that trouble French people — unemployment, financial insecurity, social exclusion, summed up in the word “précarité”. Yet there is something missing from Ms Royal’s compendium of issues: nowhere does she mention the word “enterprise”. [...]

Ségo wants economic order — and who better to put this in place than the French State. It matters little to her that the State has no capacity to create sustainable employment or a growing economy. Ms Royal’s objective is to restore faith. Restore to the French faith in the State and its socialising mission: in the pantheon of French heroines, Ms Royale is more Jeanne d’Arc than Marianne. [....]
Same old stuff. Let the State fix things.

Next up, The Telegraph:
With sublime cruelty, Le Figaro – not a newspaper well-disposed to leftists – celebrated Mme Royal's coronation by publishing a huge table of her greatest gaffes during the campaign. She had, at various times, promised national service for young delinquents, longer working hours for teachers, a new policy towards Iran and nuclear weapons, and various other absurdities designed to make the flesh creep either of her own party or of the wider electorate. The article also listed choice epithets from her critics (which included, in a couple of instances, her common-law husband, François Hollande, general secretary of her party) and, in delicious detail, the squirm-laden minutiae of her backtrackings. So there will be no radicalism: and, for the avoidance of doubt, M Hollande said last weekend that Mme Royal would stick to orthodox socialist policies if elected. You know the score: high taxation, vast public sector, dirigisme, total absence of meaningful economic reform, and the concomitants of high unemployment, minimal growth and sporadic social unrest. Plus ça change, plus ce sera la meme chose, as the proverb almost goes. [....]
Different author, but same verdict. France will go nowhere with Ségo. Fortunately, her expected rival, Sarkozy, will eat her for breakfast come debate time.

Holland goes to the polls today

The Netherlands have nationwide balloting today, with no single concern seen as a make or break issue for voters. Thus, there are many undecideds out there. As does California for the US, Holland often serves as a bellwether for Europe, so many are watching the election closely.

The major parties are solidly behind the idea of integration, but have not come up with many concrete ideas beyond the recent banning of burqas and other head coverings, which strikes me as simply populist in nature. More effective would be requiring immigrants to work. Nothing integrates a group of people better than earning a paycheck and griping about tax rates.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrats are expected to emerge as the largest party.

But the opposition Labour Party has been narrowing the gap.

Neither right nor left blocs are expected to win the 76 seats to secure a majority and talks to form a coalition could be protracted.

Some experts say the Socialist Party's rise in the polls show a left-wing coalition could pose a real challenge to the centre-right coalition of the Christian Democrats (CDA) and liberals (VVD). [....]

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dutch consensus on Muslim integration?

John Vinocur of the IHT ($) has a different take on Holland's approach to its Muslims than I do. He feels the nation has finally arrived at a consensus about how to go about integrating the million or so Dutch Muslims. I see Holland--and the rest of Europe--as still flailing about for a process whereby the Muslims can be made to adopt European values.

Nevertheless, we agree that Holland, despite being one of the more determined multi-culti nations, has begun tackling the problem of Muslim assimilation. Their solution is to demand more of immigrants, force them, like St. Augustine advised, to "perform the acts of faith [in this case, secularism], and faith will come".
In the period since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the Netherlands has lived through a populist revolt against the problems of Islamic immigration led by Pim Fortuyn, later murdered by an animal rights activist; the murder of the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, accused of blasphemy by a homegrown Muslim fundamentalist killer; and the bitter departure from the Netherlands of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who became a member of Parliament before being marked for death for her criticism of radical Islam.

Over the same period, the Dutch paradigm on the integration of its Arab and Turkish immigrant population (about 6 percent of a total of 16 million) has gone from one of accommodation to an emphasis on requiring compatibility from resident Muslims.

The swing has been away from multicultural concessions to obligations that reject seemingly parallel societies. The basis for living here has been defined as accepting the primacy of the Constitution, practical standards of engagement in society such as Dutch language competence, European notions relating to women's rights or homosexuality, and the plain old cohesive value of work.

The changes include speaking openly about Muslims in the Netherlands who neither condemn nor challenge the harsh and violent ways of Islamic fundamentalists and fundamentalist regimes.

Clearly these days, the what-to-do- about-the-Muslims question here has lost some of its old heat. The issue is less a voter preoccupation now because it has been redefined to reflect the concerns of the majority.

The explanation for how this happened may be exclusively Dutch. Because most of the major political parties realized the legitimate grip on voters of Fortuyn's success in talking about how the Dutch would not accept a loss of their identity and ethos - an issue with a sequel in the Dutch rejection last year of a European Union constitution - the parties turned their approach to insisting on demands for Muslims' compatibility and tighter immigration controls. [...]
Holland has just begun on the path to demanding more of its Muslim immigrants and citizens, and yet the constant caterwauling from the Muslims over every perceived slight has fatigued them already.
Both Frits Bolkestein, the former European Commission member who began writing in the early 1990s about Islam as a challenge for Europe, and Halberstadt [a professor of economics] emphasize that the Dutch are weary of confrontation.Halberstadt says that the present consensus reflects a current Dutch "satisfaction with perceptions, and not wanting to spend passion on issues."

For Bolkestein, integrating Islam "remains Europe's most serious problem." He believes the Dutch are not really going to come to final terms with it until there is a constitutional amendment ending religious schooling. "Divided schooling leads to a divided country," he says.

Still, in ranking buying power, affordable health care, and better education as the central issues in the election Wednesday, voters in the Netherlands seem to be saying that something has been accomplished here in relation to the integration of Muslim immigrants. If it's an illusory respite, the Dutch will be the first to know.

A RINO Thanksgiving at Right Thoughts

Jim at Right Thoughts has this week's set of postings. The host's theme? Lazy Thanksgiving. I'm all for it. Although Thanksgiving as practiced by Americans is largely unknown in Switzerland, we've made a habit of inviting friends over to celebrate this quintessential American holiday.

Not this year, though. Laziness has caught up with us. It'll be a simple meal just for the family.

Edible cotton, and it's not even chocolate coated

Milo Minderbinder, the amoral character from one of my favorite novels, Catch-22, seems to have been on to something when he sought to produce edible cotton in order to eliminate his surplus piles of Egyptian cotton. Science has finally made his dream a reality:
Researchers have genetically engineered cotton plants that produce toxin-free seeds, potentially unlocking enough nutritional content to feed half a billion people worldwide each year.

Cotton is grown in more than 80 countries and is a primary source of fibre for textiles, providing an important cash crop to some 20 million farmers in Asia and Africa. But a little-known characteristic of the cotton plant is that for every kilogram of fibre that is produced, it also yields 1.65 kilograms of seed packed with high-quality protein. So cotton plants have the ability to meet the protein requirements of millions with no reduction to the output of cotton fibres.

Cottonseed is underutilized due to the presence of gossypol, a toxic molecule belonging to a class of organic chemicals known as terpenoids. Gossypol is found in glands throughout the leaves, stems and floral tissues of cotton plants and lends crops protection from insects and pathogens.Only ruminant animals such as cattle can safely digest the toxin.

Now, using RNA interference (RNAi) technology, researchers have managed to disrupt a key enzyme and cut the gossypol content in cottonseeds by 98%, while leaving the chemical defences of the rest of the plant intact. The team shows that the absence of the toxin is heritable and that plants lacking gossypol could be suitable for large-scale agricultural use. The results are reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Suicide bomber to infiltrate Indonesian anti-Bush protests?

Allah knows there will plenty of people out protesting Bush's visit to Bogor, Indonesia (aside: a lovely city, home to wonderful botanical gardens and 5 million people). With the increasing Islamist prescene in Indonesia, it is not hard to imagine someone happy to kill a few dozen co-religionists in a suicide bombing. Certainly the police take it seriously:
Indonesian security forces wereinvestigating unconfirmed reports that a suicide bomber was planning to infiltrate demonstrations during U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to the Muslim nation on Monday, police said.

Bush's whirlwind trip comes amid mounting anger over U.S. Middle East policy and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan -- seen by many in Indonesia as attacks on their faith.

Islamic hard-liners and students vowed to disrupt the six-hour visit in the hilly town of Bogor, where Bush is scheduled to hold wide-ranging talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The bombing window of opportunity is closing soon, though, so any aspiring bombers better get out there and mingle.

First a book about cod, now pigeons get their due

Don't like the French? Well here's more justification: They introduced the pigeon to the Americas, as this history of the pigeon relates. Sacre bleu!
Admittedly, the bird is a hard sell, but in “Pigeons,” an amiable, mildly engaging tour of the species and its fans, Andrew D. Blechman does his level best to inspire respect, perhaps even affection, for “a scruffy-looking bird with a brain the size of a lima bean.”
Some of the pigeons in history were quite brave.
In wartime it was the pigeon, with its uncannily accurate homing instincts, that could be relied on to brave enemy fire and deliver secret dispatches.

The greatest of them all, Cher Ami, suffered multiple gunshot wounds but pressed on and delivered the message that saved the surviving members of the Lost Battalion during World War I, a feat that won him the Croix de Guerre.

Holland using St. Augustine's methods to convert Muslims to secularism

The Dutch government seeks to ban wearing of the burqa. This is populism, pure and simple. The rationale behind the policy is overbroad and weak: public order, security and protection of citizens were reasons listed. The timing, ahead of elections, is extremely suspect.
The Dutch cabinet said burqas - a full body covering that also obscures the face - disturb public order and safety.

The decision comes days ahead of elections which the ruling centre-right coalition is expected to win.

The proposed ban would apply to wearing the burqa in the street, and in trains, schools, buses and law courts in the Netherlands.

Other forms of face coverings, such as veils, and crash helmets with visors that obscure the face, would also be covered by a ban. [...]

The main Muslim organisation in the Netherlands, CMO, said the plan was an "over-reaction to a very marginal problem", the Associated Press reported. [....
It's rare that I agree with religious groups--let alone Muslim groups, but this proposal strikes me as using a very large hammer to strike a very small nail. It is simply a reflection of Europe's and the West's inability to deal with these strangers-by-choice in our midst.

If any good can come out of this law, it will be because Holland is seeking to secularize the Muslims. In the end, the West is made up of secular nations, and Holland (a leading proponent of multi-culti and secularism) is seeking to apply St. Augustine's famous dictum on converting others to one's religion: Perform the acts of faith, and faith will come.

In Holland's case, they want to wean Muslims away from overt demonstrations of faith, and toward secularism--the State's faith.

Preventing people from worshiping as their faith requires is always more difficult than getting them to change faiths. St. Augustine knew that, so he had people perform the acts the Catholic church required of the faithful. The acts (attending church, participating in baptisms, etc.) soon became second nature, the faith grew, and England was once again a Christian nation.

Given that Holland is holding the economic whip, they may yet be successful. Many of the most devout Muslims are dependant in some way on the State. This should provide Holland with enormous leverage. I hope they don't resort to more populist measures, but chose wise and subtle policies.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Art consultant: buy art rather than MRI devices

In an incredible example of stupidity, art historian, consultant, and super navel-gazer Susan Loppert--while defending art bought for hospitals--writes in today's The Guardian that:
Unlike expensive equipment such as MRI scanners, which depreciate in value, carefully and shrewdly bought works of art are often a hospital's only appreciating assets. [....]
Great idea; those increasingly worthless MRI scanners, what do they possibly have to offer patients? As to the "carefully and shrewdly bought works of art" which are often a hospital's only appreciating assets? Ms. Loppert spent some of her budget on non-appreciating art such as:
[...] [T]he world's first full-length operas in a hospital; music festivals; an orchestra and Indian dancers in residence; and workshops by actors, singers, poets and puppeteers. Performances were free and, in public areas, open to all. I hung 2,000 original works of art in the vast spaces of the stunning atrial building, on anaesthetic-room ceilings, in treatment and changing rooms - everywhere a picture could take patients' minds off medical procedures. The sound of music was introduced to make chemotherapy endurable, if not pleasurable.
Her proof that it works:
In 1996 I instigated groundbreaking scientific, clinical research, funded by the King's Fund, which proved categorically that art and music improve patient outcomes - including significant reductions in the need for medication, in stress and anxiety levels, and in length of hospital stay. The study also found that art and music measurably improved staff recruitment and retention.
How could the world have overlooked this saint. The Nobel selection committee has been notified.

One problem, though. Presumably the people with the most to gain from the healing power of Indian dancers, etc., are found in places like cancer wards and ICUs--all far away from the open public areas the art was occurring in. Maybe we need a study that correlates art's healing powers to distance (let's hope it is an inverse correlation).

There may be evidence that exposure to art helps healing. If so, she should have presented at least some of it. A Pubmed search of her revealed two articles. One was her piece on art in a hospital with this evidentiary quote from an elderly patient: 'It makes me feel I'm on Ecstasy'. The other was a comment and reply that demonstrated her sublime ability to completely misunderstand the tenor of an article.

Other searches turned up poorly planned studies with little to offer by way of proof. That said, I do believe that a pleasant hospital atmosphere helps reduce stress; that it can significantly alter patient outcomes? No way.

Schroeder's attempted coup

Seems that ex German chancellor Schroeder really, really, reall, wanted to stay in power (remember his incredible claims ofter his party's defeat that he was still entitled to remain chancellor?).

Der Spiegel online has some details:
Schröder is claimed to have approached the chairman of Bavaria's Christian Social Union, Edmund Stoiber, with a clandestine proposal to oust would-be chancellor Merkel, the head of the CSU's larger sister party, the Christian Democratic Union. The weekly news magazine Stern reported on Thursday that Schröder approached Stoiber at a televised debate between Germany's party leaders on the eve of the election, saying only that they "needed to talk." Shortly afterwards, Stoiber received a phone call from a middleman who apparently was not involved in politics. Citing anonymous sources in Stoiber's inner circle, Stern claims Stoiber then received Schröder's emissary in Munich three days later, on September 21.

The mysterious emissary made what Stoiber is said to have described as an "indecent proposal." He wanted nothing less than a coup d'état against chancellor-elect Angela Merkel. Stoiber would enter Schröder's coalition cabinet as "the [Christian] Union's top man," and the CDU/CSU would overthrow Merkel and elect a new party leader.

Sources close to Stoiber say he refused the offer, according to reports in Stern and the Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. Although the CSU has so far refused to comment on the affair, both Stern and the Süddeutsche claim to have spoken to party officials who said Stoiber affirmed Merkel as the Union's candidate.

Schröder, unsurprisingly, denies the reports. He says he did not have any direct contact with Stoiber on the eve of the election, nor did he send an emissary to Munich in the days which followed.

Just to thicken the plot, the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper offered a slightly different account of events in its Thursday edition. The paper says Schröder offered Stoiber the chancellorship (the Bavarian politician had been the CDU/CSU's candidate for chancellor in 2002, but had lost to Schröder). Stoiber reportedly discussed the offer with the CSU's General Secretary, Markus Söder, and four other party representatives. However he is reported to have ultimately rejected the proposal because he didn't want to split up the longstanding CDU/CSU alliance.

Whatever the true story is, any coup attempts by Schröder clearly did not succeed -- Angela Merkel is now chancellor of Germany and head of its grand coalition government. Sources close to the Social Democratic Party told the Süddeutsche Zeitung [a reliable Social Democratic Party organ--P] on Wednesday that the CSU's version of events are likely a "tit-for-tat response" to Schröder's scathing characterization of Stoiber in his memoirs. Perhaps the revelations will prompt Schröder to include a new chapter in his memoirs, should he choose to revise 'Decisions'.
It's not hard to give credence to such a story. Schroeder was clearly shocked at the prospect of being ousted. If ever there was a politician that sought power and influence, he was it; look at how he has become Putin's apologist in Europe.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Guardian: Media is a superpower, needs to wage war by speaking truth to power

Timothy Ash of The Guardian decides that the media is powerful, and that's a good thing as far as he's concerned. He is especially pleased that al-Jazeera is making strides. While Fox news is guilty of crude propoganda, al-Jazeera--which admits seeking to shape the news--is a breath of fresh, minty air.
[...] The growth in media power is one of the central facts of our time. Traditionally, journalists have thought of themselves as a check on power, whether political, military or economic. Now, journalists have more power than many of the traditional powerholders. Revisiting his famous Anatomy of Britain 40 years after its first publication in 1962, the journalist Anthony Sampson concluded that "no sector [has] increased its power in Britain more rapidly than the media". And not just in Britain. Across the world, governments, terrorists, corporations and NGOs give top priority to pushing their message through the media. [...]

The engine of this growth in media power, as in military firepower, is technological change. In journalism, as in war, new technologies produce unprecedented chances - and equally big risks. When I started reporting from a divided Berlin nearly 30 years ago, I had a pen, a notebook and a manual typewriter. To file my copy, I had to drive to a telex office, punch a physical telex tape, and then feed it through a chugging machine. The possibilities of delay, miscommunication and local censorship were legion. Today, the new multi-media reporters of the Guardian or the BBC can send uncensored digital video footage almost instantaneously from the heights of the Hindu Kush, via laptop and satellite phone - almost straight to your screen. There are possibilities for immediate, accurate frontline reporting of which earlier foreign correspondents could only dream. [...]

At noon yesterday I sat down to watch the first hour of news reporting from al-Jazeera's new English-language channel, called al-Jazeera English. [...]

This first meal was appetising. Al-Jazeera's stated ambition to "set the news agenda" was expressed in the choice and ordering of news stories rather than in a biased treatment of them: first, the Gaza Strip; second, Darfur; third Iran; fourth, Zimbabwe. In other words, our attention is to be drawn systematically to the suffering and experiences of the developing world, and especially of the Middle East. The style was more BBC World than Fox News, let alone any cruder propaganda. [...]
He clearly was impressed, but thinks al-Jazeera warrants further scrutiny before any apotheosis. Of course, this is just a method to demonstrate his dispassionate journalistic nature. He is clearly thrilled by al-Jazeera, and won't hesitate to promote it. Know why? Because it epitomizes what he feels journalists should be doing:
As an academic and a journalist, I believe that journalists should continue to see it as an important part of their mission to "speak truth to power". But when journalism itself has become such a power, it also needs truth spoken to it. The surest way to find that truth is to combine the best of what journalists and academics do. And then al-Jazeera can come and tell us what it thinks we're doing wrong.
No objective reporting for him, he wants biased reporters like a child wants Christmas. He earlier mentioned that today's media offers unparalled opportunities for "accurate frontline reporting". He seems to equate accuracy with opinionated. So long as your opinion matches that of the reporter accuracy is implied.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Climate change smackdown

Earlier this week the Guardian ran an article by George Monbiot, which criticized a recent series of articles by Christopher Monckton claiming to show global warming as caused by humans was highly exaggerated.

Now Monckton responds. And the gloves are off.

Read Monbiot's article first. You can see he makes several points that Monckton doesn't address. Does his silence indicate acceptance of the criticism?

For a better overview of Monckton's claims (part 1, part 2), try this RealClimate post.

Like Monckton and many others, I accept that global warming has occured. What part of it is due to human activity remains unclear, as are what the consequences of warming will be--which is by far the more important question. Nevertheless, Monckton does not make a convincing argument, especially as he leaves out any discussion of how the climate equilibrates over time.

Verdict: Monbiot.

Bush's visit to Indonesia

With President Bush due to soon visit Indonesia (expect serious demonstrations as the Islamists wish to show how well they can mobilize the population), the english language daily Jakarta Post has an interesting editorial on their priorities:
[...]A democratic and economically advanced Indonesia is a crucial element of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia. The U.S. government admits that as the largest member of ASEAN, Indonesia plays an important role in maintaining the stability and security of the region. Indonesia's unique position as a model of compatibility between Islam and democracy is of particular importance for the U.S. government.
That model is under increasing pressure from Islamists. In a sort of devolution of power, Jakarta has turned over some areas to local Islamist rule. By constantly pushing, the Islamists are steadily expanding their influence. Unless that policy stops, Indonesia will see a return to the three "B"s beloved of Islamists: Burkhas, beheadings, and bombings.
Notwithstanding the insistence of the two governments in strengthening bilateral ties, they still need to deal with some thorny issues that may negatively affect their long-term common interests.

Never before has the visit of a U.S. President to Indonesia invited such a widespread public protest here. The primacy of a militaristic approach in his war on terror policies has made Bush very unpopular, not only in the Islamic world but also within the U.S.

This will create a dilemma for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla. On the one hand, they need the continuous support of the U.S. government but on the other, domestic Islamist constituents will demand some tough talk at the meeting.

The U.S. government seems to realize that it has to broaden its view of Indonesia. U.S. Ambassador Lynn B. Pascoe has made it clear to the Indonesian public that the objective of the current U.S. President's visit to Indonesia is not just confined to issues of terrorism but also covers other non-security issues like education, health and poverty.

The U.S. is now convinced Indonesia will continue to take tough policy measures against terrorist groups with or without American support. It also needs to create a balance in its overall policy so that the anti-terror objective will not undermine the presence of its economic interests in Indonesia.

With the victory of the Democratic Party in the U.S. legislative election, a liberal human rights agenda will become a priority in U.S. foreign policy involving developing nations [don't count on it; the democrats want a stable Indonesia, not a perfect one--P]. [...] It remains to be seen how the Indonesian government will respond to any pressure from the U.S. Congress.

America-Indonesia ties have many dimensions and it is a pity the media coverage of President George W. Bush's visit has so far only focused on his unpopularity and controversial war on terror. While one should respect the right of individual citizens and groups to protest against foreign governments and leaders whose policies they believe are unacceptable, the public also needs to realize there are smarter ways to raise the dignity of our nation in the eyes of foreign governments.

Regardless of our anger and hatred, as a superpower the U.S. will continue to increase its economic and military might in a response to the rise of global contenders like China, Japan, the European Union, and India. In the long run, Indonesia has to follow the steps of these other powers, some of which manage to challenge American domination in different fields. Otherwise Indonesia will continue to be a weak and dependent nation whose voice will be ignored by other nations.
Clearly Indonesia is going to play China off against America. It can do nothing else. As far as being a dependent nation, Indonesia will not have to choose whether to change its security partners anytime soon. At the moment, it faces no outside threats, with only the looming power of China on the horizon.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chirac and the Arabs: the farce is over

A take-down of Chirac cum book review ($) by the excellent John Vinocur in today's IHT deals with Chirac's abject failure in foreign policy, specifically viv a vis the Arab world. Little remains for Jacques than to slink off to the prison cell awaiting him. There will be no Nobel Peace Prize, do not pass Go.

France under Chirac attempted to regain lost influence among the Arabs, where his pandering could be expected to translate into political and commercial gains for France. Not quite the way it turned out:
[...] [T]he writers [Éric Aeschimann and Christophe Boltanski] [...] offer a forthright description of what has motivated Chirac's policy and the extent of its failure. They assert that for France under Chirac the Arab world represented "a zone to reconquer against American rivals." They also insist that "Chirac saw the Palestinian issue solely through Yasser Arafat's eyes."

At the book's most novel juncture, particularly in terms of choosing a new president with some understanding of France's ineffectualness in the Middle East, it attacks the myth that Chirac's opposition to the Americans in the Iraq war created indelible French bona fides among the Arabs.

To the contrary, it says, "The attitude in Arab capitals during the Iraq crisis left Chirac with a bitter taste in his mouth. Officially hostile to the war so as not to clash with their public opinion at home, these Arab leaders reproached France for having gone too far in its opposition."

Bravely, the writers even point toward France and the Arab world having common difficulties in accepting modernization, although they use the phrase "nourishing the shared hope of escaping from the world's uniformity."

This is where, in France's case, at least, choice and a presidential election come in.

Today, because his Arab policy has visibly come up empty, Chirac has moved in the United States' direction in trying maintain Lebanon's independence from Syria. At the same time, as if to compensate for this obvious tilt from familiar doctrine, his foreign minister has met with Iranian officials in Beirut and, praised Iran for "its stabilizing role" in the region.

If this is incoherence, so is Chirac's decision, largely for personal reasons, not to talk to Syria. France does not speak with Hamas either, but refuses to regard Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. As commander until January of UN interposition forces in Lebanon, the French will not act directly to stop arms being smuggled across the Syria-Lebanon border to Hezbollah's nonterrorists - but voted to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council over the weekend (alone with Greece among European members) for its deadly response to terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza.

This incoherence, this insistence on maintaining a virtual, video game policy on the Middle East in a world recognizing its explosive futility, is now penetrating the French political debate.

The presidency will be won next year by a candidate who can best offer reasonable arbitrage between France's instincts for no change and the necessity for doing something new in a country difficult to lead from its multiple same-old-thing ruts. The way it looks now, and for the first time in years, that acknowledged zone of renewal includes finding a French position with a link to reality that makes more sense on the Middle East. [....]

Ancient Crash, Epic Wave

I'm not a believer that asteroids were the main cause of the mass extinction 65 million years ago that swept the dinos away, but I do find much of interest in this early research into asteroid-caused giant tsunamis, which may occur fairly frequently.
At the southern end of Madagascar lie four enormous wedge-shaped sediment deposits, called chevrons, that are composed of material from the ocean floor. Each covers twice the area of Manhattan with sediment as deep as the Chrysler Building is high.

On close inspection, the chevron deposits contain deep ocean microfossils that are fused with a medley of metals typically formed by cosmic impacts. And all of them point in the same direction — toward the middle of the Indian Ocean where a newly discovered crater, 18 miles in diameter, lies 12,500 feet below the surface.

The explanation is obvious to some scientists. A large asteroid or comet, the kind that could kill a quarter of the world’s population, smashed into the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago, producing a tsunami at least 600 feet high, about 13 times as big as the one that inundated Indonesia nearly two years ago. The wave carried the huge deposits of sediment to land. [...]

Deposits from mega-tsunamis contain unusual rocks with marine oyster shells, which cannot be explained by wind erosion, storm waves, volcanoes or other natural processes, Dr. Bryant [a geomorphologist] said.

“We’re not talking about any tsunami you’re ever seen,” Dr. Bryant said. “Aceh was a dimple. No tsunami in the modern world could have made these features. End-of-the-world movies do not capture the size of these waves. Submarine landslides can cause major tsunamis, but they are localized. These are deposited along whole coastlines.”

For example, Dr. Bryant identified two chevrons found over four miles inland near Carpentaria in north central Australia. Both point north. When Dr. Abbott [a scientist driving the research] visited a year ago, he asked her to find the craters.

To locate craters, Dr. Abbott uses sea surface altimetry data. Satellites scan the ocean surface and log the exact height of it. Underwater mountain ranges, trenches and holes in the ground disturb the Earth’s gravitational field, causing sea surface heights to vary by fractions of an inch. Within 24 hours of searching the shallow water north of the two chevrons, Dr. Abbott found two craters.

Not all depressions in the ocean are impact craters, Dr. Abbott said. They can be sink holes, faults or remnant volcanoes. A check is needed. So she obtained samples from deep sea sediment cores taken in the area by the Australian Geological Survey.

The cores contain melted rocks and magnetic spheres with fractures and textures characteristic of a cosmic impact. “The rock was pulverized, like it was hit with a hammer,” Dr. Abbott said. “We found diatoms fused to tektites,” a glassy substance formed by meteors. The molten glass and shattered rocks could not be produced by anything other than an impact, she said. “We think these two craters are 1,200 years old,” Dr. Abbott said. The chevrons are well preserved and date to about the same time.

Dr. Abbott and her colleagues have located chevrons in the Caribbean, Scotland, Vietnam and North Korea, and several in the North Sea.

Heather Hill State Park on Long Island has a chevron whose front edge points to a crater in Long Island Sound, Dr. Abbott said. There is another, very faint chevron in Connecticut, and it points in a different direction.

Marie-Agnès Courty, a soil scientist at the European Center for Prehistoric Research in Tautavel, France, is studying the worldwide distribution of cosmogenic particles from what she suspects was a major impact 4,800 years ago.

But Madagascar provides the smoking gun for geologically recent impacts. In August, Dr. Abbott, Dr. Bryant and Slava Gusiakov, from the Novosibirsk Tsunami Laboratory in Russia, visited the four huge chevrons to scoop up samples.

Last month, Dee Breger, director of microscopy at Drexel University in Philadelphia, looked at the samples under a scanning electron microscope and found benthic foraminifera, tiny fossils from the ocean floor, sprinkled throughout. Her close-ups revealed splashes of iron, nickel and chrome fused to the fossils.

When a chondritic meteor, the most common kind, vaporizes upon impact in the ocean, those three metals are formed in the same relative proportions as seen in the microfossils, Dr. Abbott said.

Ms. Breger said the microfossils appear to have melded with the condensing metals as both were lofted up out of the sea and carried long distances.

About 900 miles southeast from the Madagascar chevrons, in deep ocean, is Burckle crater, which Dr. Abbott discovered last year. Although its sediments have not been directly sampled, cores from the area contain high levels of nickel and magnetic components associated with impact ejecta.

Burckle crater has not been dated, but Dr. Abbott estimates that it is 4,500 to 5,000 years old.
I suspect correlating--with a high degree of certainty--a crater to a landform perhaps thousands of kilometers away will be exceedingly difficult. Nevertheless, the thinking behind the theory is impressive.

Iran seeking partnership with al-Qaeda

This is alarming. While the West seems to be on a "plan of the week to engage Iran", the Telegraph reports that the Mullahs make steady progress in filling their quiver with weapons to be used against us. An al-Qaeda willing to do Iran's dirty work in response to painful sanctions or an attack on its nuclear facilities is greatly to be feared--but not nearly as much as a nuclear armed Iran with al-qaeda for a partner.
Iran is trying to form an unholy alliance with al-Qa'eda by grooming a new generation of leaders to take over from Osama bin Laden, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

Western intelligence officials say the Iranians are determined to take advantage of bin Laden's declining health to promote senior officials who are known to be friendly to Teheran.

The revelation will deal a major blow to Tony Blair's hopes of establishing a "new partnership" with Teheran.

Addressing the Lord Mayor's banquet in London last night — an occasion traditionally used by the Prime Minister to set out the Government's foreign policy — Mr Blair said he wanted to launch a diplomatic initiative to secure peace in Iraq by establishing dialogue with Iran and ending threats of military force against the regime.

He confirmed that a major rethink of strategy was under way on both sides of the Atlantic as he offered Iran a partnership rather than isolation if it stopped supporting terrorism in Lebanon or Iraq and halted attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

With the British and American governments looking for an exit strategy from Iraq, the Prime Minister admitted that they needed Iran's co-operation to prevent the country descending into civil war and to secure an overall Middle East peace settlement.

But the revelation that Iran is working hard to establish a closer relationship with bin Laden's fanatics, who provoked the war against terrorism with the attacks on September 11 2001, is likely to undermine severely Downing Street's attempts to effect a rapprochement. Iran is also suspected of arming insurgent groups in southern Iraq – many of which have links to al-Qa'eda – that have been responsible for many of the roadside bomb attacks against British troops.

But intelligence officials have been most alarmed by reports from Iran that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is trying to persuade al-Qa'eda to promote a pro-Iranian activist to a senior position within its leadership.

The Iranians want Saif al-Adel, a 46-year-old former colonel in Egypt's special forces, to be the organisation's number three.

Al-Adel was formerly bin Laden's head of security, and was named on the FBI's 22 most wanted list after September 11 for his alleged involvement in terror attacks against US targets in Somalia and Africa in the 1990s. He has been living in a Revolutionary Guard guest house in Teheran since fleeing from Afghanistan in late 2001.

Alarm over al-Qa'eda deepened yesterday with a Foreign Office warning that the group was determined to acquire the technology to carry out a nuclear attack on the West.

A senior Foreign Office official said that the terrorists were trawling the world for the materials and know-how to mount an attack using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.The official said: "We know that the aspiration is there, we know attempts to gather materials are there, we know that attempts to gather technologies are there." [....]
Through even a loose alliance with Iran, al-Qaeda will have access to an ungodly amount of nasty weapons, while Iran will have a proxy with global reach--something it currently lacks. The synergies are perfect for both parties. This would truly be a match made in hell: Sunni and Shi'a working together to destroy the West.

Does anyone still have doubts that Iran's nuclear aims must be thwarted? Through military means if necessary.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Airbus: The making of a jumbo problem

How Airbus went bad. What a topic. It wasn't the decision to make the superjumbo A380. Had it been delivered on time Airbus would be in the catbird seat. No, to find the flaw in Airbus, we must go back to the company's formation, where original sin (political interference) damned Airbus to serve two masters, shareholders and French politicians.

The shareholders wanted profit and long term stability. Presumably, so did the French politicians. The two camps just had different ideas of how to achieve it. Obviously, the political camp won out. With Airbus seen as the ultimate European champion--showcasing European values in action: able to compete with the best in the world, high wages and benefits, no sending jobs offshore; in short, Europe transcendant. With these goals, political meddling was a given.

The Economist has the Machiavellian goodness:
[...] The tale is a sorry one: of a Socialist government selling off a state company—Aérospatiale (a leading partner in Airbus)—at a bargain-basement price to a firm belonging to an influential entrepreneur; of his protégés spending more time fighting each other than attacking Airbus's rival, Boeing; and of the new owner baling out at a vast profit, in part by selling shares back to the government, just before the scale of the mismanagement was made public.

The deal that doomed Airbus has its origins in the late 1990s. Back then a series of American aerospace mergers left the fragmented European aerospace industry looking outgunned. Rationalisation was badly needed. There was growing pressure to convert Airbus into a fully-fledged private company.

Airbus's German partner, DaimlerChrysler, and its British one, BAE Systems, were listed companies. They had no wish to merge their aircraft interests with Aérospatiale. The state-run French company's most valuable asset was its 37.9% share in the Airbus consortium. If the British and German firms were to merge, as they once planned to, France would end up as a junior partner in Airbus, an enterprise which is synonymous with French national pride. So Aérospatiale, which had been the French partner in the Concorde supersonic passenger jet and was the maker of Exocet missiles, had to come under private control.

Enter the Lagardère group, which has diverse businesses from magazines to missiles. It was founded by Jean-Luc Lagardère, who died in 2003. He was an astute entrepreneur who built a business empire with the help of his talent for hiring bright, well-connected civil servants. One of these was Mr Forgeard, a former adviser to Jacques Chirac in his time as prime minister before he became France's president. Mr Forgeard joined Matra, a defence firm, in 1987. Another useful attribute of the group was a media business that included the Europe 1 radio station, France's only Sunday national paper and Paris-Match. This ensured Mr Lagardère was courted by politicians, which put him in a powerful position when the government contemplated how to privatise Aérospatiale.

[...] Lagardère got 31.5% of Aérospatiale in return for folding into the company its defence-aerospace business, Matra Hautes Technologies (MHT). Lagardère would own one-third of the merged firm and have management control. The understanding was that Lagardère would always be the principal French private shareholder; the idea was to secure the group's future with a strong core shareholder—what the French called a noyau dur. The government would reduce its two-thirds share to 48% by selling 17% of the shares to the public. The terms were generous to Lagardère: Aérospatiale was by any measure (sales, assets, employees) at least three times bigger than MHT, a comparative minnow. [...]

One leading Paris analyst, Jean Gatty, put a value on MHT in the range of €750m-1.4 billion. After the first day of dealing in the shares of Aérospatiale Matra, the one-third stake that Lagardère got in return for MHT was worth €2.8 billion. No wonder that at a recent aviation conference in Monte Carlo, attended by the legendary former Airbus boss, Jean Pierson, an Aérospatiale man to the core and whom Mr Forgeard replaced shortly before the deal, Airbus alumni were calling it “the hold-up of the century”. Airbus veterans are bitter at what “the Lagardère boys”, as they are known within the aircraft-maker, have done to the organisation they built up to take on Boeing.

Several months after its creation, Aérospatiale Matra announced a merger with the aerospace arm of DaimlerChrysler to form EADS (a Spanish government body owns a 5.5% share and BAE Systems has since sold its Airbus stake back to EADS). Lagardère's right to control the management of Aérospatiale Matra translated into the right to nominate the four French directors of the Franco-German company. The two-headed nature of the firm meant it had to have a French and a German chairman as well as two chief executives, one from each country.

This cumbersome structure was bad enough, but longstanding rivalry between Mr Forgeard as chief executive of Airbus and another Lagardère boy, Philippe Camus, his superior as initial French chief executive of EADS, made it progressively dysfunctional. Tensions grew not only between the French and the Germans but also between the parent company and its Airbus subsidiary (which accounted for four-fifths of its profits).

By the time Mr Forgeard had taken the reins at Airbus in 1998, its A320 and A330 models were flying off the shelves. Its new super-jumbo, the A380, was already being developed and the company was beginning to catch up with Boeing. Mr Camus had become the most senior figure in the Lagardère group next to its founder and chairman. On his way up the corporate ladder, Mr Camus used to report to Mr Forgeard, when the latter was running Matra Défense before leaving Lagardère to become boss of Airbus. But the Franco-German merger propelled Mr Camus to the top EADS job, and the tables were turned. Knowing that Mr Camus and his German counterpart had five-year contracts, due to expire in 2005, Mr Forgeard started to manoeuvre to replace Mr Camus. Not only that, he wanted to be the sole chief executive—which antagonised the Germans, always nervous about French attempts to dominate both EADS and Airbus.
Perhaps this explains why the bad news on the A380 was made public so late:
Mr Forgeard's main claims to the top job would be Airbus's achievement under him of overtaking Boeing and the successful launch of the A380. The last thing he needed was any bad news about this ambitious project. By the time a six-month delay became public, he had already been named as the French chief executive of EADS. He had to share with a German, but he managed to hold on to oversight of Airbus. Arnaud Lagardère, son of the group's founder and by then its boss, had a preference for keeping Mr Camus. But Mr Forgeard had a more powerful mentor, his old boss, now the president of the republic. According to a recently published biography the young Lagardère's hand was forced by a threat to cause inheritance-tax problems over his late father's estate. The head of the then finance minister's private office told the author of the biography the pressure put on Arnaud Lagardère came at the express wish of Mr Chirac.

So a diktat from a right-wing president of the republic provided a dramatic twist to the tale. Mr Forgeard, who was fired last summer as mounting problems rocked the company, sold 162,000 EADS shares and members of his family a further 128,000 last March, only weeks before news about delays to the Airbus A380 became public. They pocketed a profit after tax of €2.5m on the transactions. Investigators are concerned that Mr Forgeard might have been aware that further delays to the programme, which was already running six months late, would soon be announced.

In early April the Lagardère group agreed to sell half its 15% stake in EADS for €2 billion ($2.5 billion), or the equivalent of €32.60 a share. It was a week before more delays to the Airbus A380 became known to the board of EADS, according to Mr Forgeard. The programme was already running six months late. Lagardère had been looking to reduce its holding for three years. Questioned about the sale, Arnaud Lagardère said: “I have the choice of appearing dishonest or incompetent...I plead the latter.” Since the full extent of the delays has emerged, EADS shares have fallen to €21. The ensuing cash-flow loss is now reckoned to be €6 billion over the next four years.

A French state-owned bank, CDC, signed up for nearly one-third of the shares that Lagardère was selling. This purchase was intended to keep the French stake (the government owns 15%) superior to Germany's share of EADS. Because of the slump in EADS's share price, the French bank is now sitting on a loss of €200m on the stake it agreed to buy for €600m. This, and the earlier privatisation, mean that the French taxpayer has twice got the worse of a deal with Lagardère. [...]

One consequence of the mess at Airbus could be that the French, German and Spanish governments may even end up increasing their stakes as DaimlerChrysler and Lagardère sell further shares. If so, it would mean privatisation and re-nationalisation in less than a decade, which may not do Airbus any good at all.
A classic Socialist response: more oversight, rather than less. They are running a top-flight company into the ground. Or at least they would be doing so if not for the ever present public teat.

Fatally compromised at birth, Airbus is reaping the rewards of French political meddling. It wasn't enought that France thrust her way into the original deal, she had to continue mucking things up. France has no peers in the world of bureaucratic judo.

RINO round-up posted at Enrevanche

Barry at Enrevanche has the latest collection of posts from the RINO community. Many of them deal with how we viewed the recent midterm elections.

The post is cleverly written and presented. Do yourself a favor and read what he's written.

Friday, November 10, 2006

More on European Islamist terrorists

Following on the previous post, with its alarming numbers of potential Islamist plots against Britain, comes this by now common assesment of what drives European Muslims to terror. Nevertheless, it underscores the fight Western Europe faces from within:

How to confront this unprecedented challenge to security must now be the priority not just for MI5 and the Government, but for employers, schools, faith leaders and the Muslim community itself. The Security Service has had to move fast. Its caseload has gone up 80 per cent since January. A 2,800-strong workforce has had an increase of almost 50 per cent since 9/11, a quarter of them under 30 — but only 6 per cent from ethnic minorities, a figure which will need to rise substantially given the need for special language abilities. The budget may need further increases. But recent proposals to create a more streamlined anti-terror organisation, similar to the US Department of Homeland Security, will help.

As important, however, is a better understanding of the causes of extremism. Dame Eliza mentioned a few, and rightly underlined that British foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan is indeed, despite official attempts to play this down, seen by many as anti-Muslim. She also identified the pernicious influence of a few preachers and people of influence promoting an extreme and minority interpretation of Islam. But other factors must be acknowledged. One is the heterogeneous nature of Islam in Britain, where adherents come from many different countries, traditions, sects and ethnic groups. In the absence of any religious hierarchy, primacy is achieved by a national profile that depends on how zealously and noisily Islamic credentials can be established. There are no rewards for moderation, seen often as compromise with the Establishment and secular society.

Another clear motivation is the alienation of young Muslims — low educational and economic achievement, a sense of exclusion and a growing generation gap. But the recent torrent of criticism of Islam, some of it provocative and distorted, has heightened fears and a sense of persecution. That must not mean silence on difficult issues of public concern, such as Jack Straw’s remarks on the veil. It does make more urgent the need for constant engagement, at all levels, in building bridges, seeking shared values and countering extremism. Otherwise, as Dame Eliza said, al-Qaeda will recruit here for years to come.

Let's see. Europe's Muslim birthrate far outstrips that of traditional Europeans, and European Muslims are becoming increasingly radicalized. This is a losing equation for Europe.

An effective and quick manuever to counter Islamist influence would be to significantly raise the pressure on moderate Muslims to step forward and denounce, denounce, and denounce again the version of Islam the terrorists propogate. Judging from the imans's timidity, it appears that having influence among Muslims is a higher priority than preaching God's will--unless of course they feel that jihad as practiced by the terrorists is acceptable. Which is what one must suspect given the foot dragging one sees in the Muslim community.

Britain's MI5: 30 terror plots being planned in UK

Holy Religion of Peace, Batman! Islamist terror seems to be the growth industry of the decade. European domestic intelligence professionals are getting a workout these days. Unfortunately, no matter how good the intelligence, at least some plots will be completed.

From The Guardian:
MI5 has identified 30 major terrorist plots being planned in Britain and is targeting more than 1,600 individuals actively engaged in promoting attacks here and abroad, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of the agency, warns today.

The 30 plots are the most serious of many more planned by some 200 British-based "networks" involved in terrorism, she said in a speech seen by the Guardian. In a gloomy assessment of the home-grown terrorist threat, MI5 says most of those involved are British-born, and most are connected with al-Qaida.

Dame Eliza described the extent of the threat MI5 says Britain faces in a rare public speech in which she expressed concern about the scale and speed of those being radicalised and indoctrinated and how young teenagers were being "groomed to be suicide bombers". [...]

The Guardian revealed last month that counter-terrorist officials have warned that Britain has become the main target for a resurgent al-Qaida. But this is the first time MI5 has provided figures to illustrate its assertions. "We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and to damage our economy," said Dame Eliza. She added: "What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? No, nearer 30 ... that we know of." These plots, she said, "often have links back to al-Qaida in Pakistan and through those links al-Qaida gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale".

If opinion polls were broadly accurate, more than 100,000 British citizens considered the July 2005 attacks on London were justified, Dame Eliza said.

Some of those MI5 says it has identified are involved in financial support and fraud, according to counter-terrorism officials. Dame Eliza said yesterday at the extreme end were "resilient networks, some directed from al-Qaida in Pakistan, some more loosely inspired by it, planning attacks including mass casualty suicide attacks in the UK". Tomorrow's threat "may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials, and even nuclear technology", she said.

She added: "More and more people are moving from passive sympathy towards active terrorism through being radicalised or indoctrinated by friends, families, in organised training events here and overseas, by images on television, through chatrooms and websites on the internet."