News Feed 20110507

Financial Crisis
» Asia: Commodity Prices Drop as Fears of a New Global Crisis Grow
» Euro Falls Sharply as Rumours Spread That Greece May Abandon Currency
» Glenn Beck: The Tipping Point
» Ireland’s Future Depends on Breaking Free From Bailout
» Obamacare Subsidies Won’t Keep Up With Premiums
» Reason-Rupe Poll: 96% Worry About Federal Debt, 74% Want Spending Cap…
» Understanding America’s Financial Crises, Part 1
 
USA
» Andrew Bostom: Did Naval Burial Ceremony for Bin Laden Curse Jews and Christians, And Confer Pardon and Paradise on the Muslim Mass Murderer?
» Castro and Che’s Foiled (And Forgotten) 9/11
» Feds Investigating Ga. Mosque Decision
» Madonna Splits From Her Muslim Toyboy, 24, After ‘Rows About Religion’
» Mexican-American Studies Problem in the Tucson Unified School District
» Ohio: Republicans Losing the PR War
» Package Found at Springfield PD Not Hazardous
» U. S. Airlines Prevent 3 Muslim Imams From Boarding Planes
» U.S. Probes Allegations of Harassment of Muslims at U.S.-Canada Border
» Zombie: SEIU Drops Mask, Goes Full Commie
 
Europe and the EU
» France: Racism in Multicultural Football
» Italy: Nero to Team Up With Tarantino for Spaghetti Westerns
» Italy: Three Life Terms Sought for WWII Atrocity
» Italy: Emergency in East Rome, 1000 Uncollected Tons of Garbage
» Italy: The Bishop Wears Armani
» Italy: Naples a Revolting City, Says Borghezio (Northern League)
» Protecting Muslim Girls From Rape is Now a Crime in Europe
» Scottish National Party Uses New-Found Power to Demand That David Cameron Grants Scotland More Financial Clout
» Spain: New Treasures From Moorish Age Found in Alhambra
» UK: ‘Your Tribe Need to Behave Like Proper English Children’: What BBC’s Mishal Husain Was Told by Shopper in Supermarket
» UK: Day Britain Stood Up for Democracy: Humiliation for Clegg as Cameron Wins Campaign to Keep First-Past-the-Post
» UK: Government to Crackdown on the ‘Mickey Mouse’ GCSEs Introduced by Labour
» UK: Special Investigation: Inside the Migrant Maternity Ward Where the NHS is Struggling to Cope
 
North Africa
» Ancient Roman Cemetery Discovered in Tunisia
» Libya’s Tribal Chiefs Call for Amnesty to All Fighters
» Tunisia: Police Forcefully Disperses Protest in Tunis
 
Middle East
» Are Al-Qaida and the Taliban Driven by the Desire to Help Others?
» Iran: Ahmadinejad Allies Charged With Sorcery
» NGO Reports Point to at Least 827 Syrian Casualties
» Syrian Tanks Move Into Baniyas to Quell Protests
» U.S. Drone Attack in Yemen Fails to Kill American-Born Cleric Tipped as Bin Laden’s Successor
» USA Drone Misses Al-Awlaki, Symbol of Al Qaeda in Yemen
 
Russia
» Catholic and Ortodox: A New Alliance Facing Secularism. Like Back in the Days of the USSR
 
South Asia
» Bin Laden: US Calls Pakistani Intelligence Boss
» Evidence at Bin Laden’s Home Raises Nuclear Concerns
» Indian Government Strengthens Control of NGOs and Foreign Donations
» Osama Kill Proves Pakistan is Core of World’s Terrorism
» Osama Bin Laden’s Squalid Hideaway in Pictures
» Pakistan: Evidence at Bin Laden’s Home Raises Nuclear Concerns
» Pakistan: CIA Agents Lived in Spy House Near Bin Laden’s Compound for Months in Most Intricate Operation in Agency’s History
» Was Bin Laden Betrayed by His Right-Hand Man? Al Qaeda’s Deputy Leader ‘Led U.S. Troops to Pakistan Hideaway’
 
Far East
» China: Torture? See How China Gets Its Way With Victims
 
Latin America
» Brazil Scuttles Democracy for Gay Marriage
» Hezbollah in Mexico
 
Immigration
» 842 Land on Lampedusa
» Boat Carrying 700 Immigrants Rescued in Channel of Sicily
» Fishing Boat Tows Migrant Vessel to Lampedusa Safety
» Maroni: War in Libya Must End or Migrants Will Keep Coming
» Migrant Vessel Sinks Off Tripoli Shores With 600 Onboard
» Tom Tancredo: Amnesty is Good for the Economy?!
 
General
» Muslims Ragefully Mourn Bin Laden

Financial Crisis


Asia: Commodity Prices Drop as Fears of a New Global Crisis Grow

Asian markets are down again, following recent losses, this despite some buyers taking advantage of lower prices. Fears over US economy are behind the sell-offs. If Washington does not reduce its debt, another global crisis is more likely.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — Commodity prices have fallen for a second day in early trading. Analysts say that investors sold off ahead of today’s US employment figures, which are expected to be negative, to avoid greater losses later. However, the real danger is that the longer the US economy is in the doldrums, the greater the risk for a global financial crisis.

Tokyo’s Nikkei tumbled 1.82 per cent, Hong Kong was off 1.18 per cent, Shanghai lost 0.85 per cent, and Seoul slumped 1.58 per cent. Commodities were the biggest losers.

This follows yesterday’s drop, the biggest since 2009. Today Brent crude fell 5.8 per cent to US$ 105.15 a barrel before rebounding to US$ 111.90 a barrel. The price of US sweet, light crude oil fell a further 5.5 per cent on Friday morning to US$ 94.63 a barrel, but then recovered to almost 100 against 110 a few days ago.

Copper futures were down a further 1.75 per cent, following a 6 per cent slide a day earlier. Equally, gold, silver, gasoline, coffee, rice and cotton prices all fell. Silver, which had jumped 175 per cent in less than a week, lost 12.9 per cent yesterday, 31 per cent in a week. Gold dropped 3.6 per cent.

In Asia, investors tried to profit from lower prices. This limited overall losses, sending some signals that recovery might be around the corner. In fact, some analysts noted that losses were not too bad and that markets could rebound rapidly, as they have done after similar corrections over the past year.

But the real problem remains Europe’s and especially the US’s troubled economy. Today the Department of Labor is set to release April unemployment figures, which could be worse than forecast, thus signalling that the much-vaunted recovery might not be happening.

“We are paying close attention to the domestic discussion in the U.S. on debt and deficits,” Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said. “We hope the U.S. can take effective measures toward fiscal reorganization just as President Obama suggested.”

Many in fact fear that the US debt is getting worse in the absence of a sound policy to cut it.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said that despite steps already taken the US can borrow until 2 August after reaching the US$ 14.29 trillion debt limit this month.

Matthew Zames, chairman of a Treasury advisory panel and a managing director at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said last week that failure to raise the ceiling could trigger “another catastrophic financial crisis” like the subprime crisis. Now Washington must find ways to cut its debt, through lower spending and higher taxes.

About 30 top Chinese officials travel to Washington for an annual meeting on economic and military cooperation. It is likely that Beijing, which holds US$ 1.150 trillion in US Treasuries, will want to know the health of US finances.

The US has to take deficit-reduction measures “in order to improve the U.S. fiscal condition and to build a solid fiscal foundation for the long term sustainable growth of the U.S. economy,” Zhu said today.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Euro Falls Sharply as Rumours Spread That Greece May Abandon Currency

The euro fell sharply in late trading last night amid rumours that Greece may try to exit the eurozone.

Investors sold stocks of the single currency after a report in the online edition of German publication Der Spiegel claimed the debt crisis in Greece had taken a dramatic twist.

It reported that finance ministers and European Commission representatives were holding secret crisis meetings in Luxembourg last night.

The claims were immediately denied by Greece and the EU.

However, European officials had denied the existence of bailouts that later materialised.

Greece was the first of three eurozone countries to have taken a bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund. Ireland and Portugal have since sought help.

The Spiegel website said: ‘Greece’s economic problems are massive, with protests against the government being held almost daily.

‘Now Prime Minister George Papandreou apparently feels he has no other option. Spiegel Online has obtained information from German government sources [with knowledge of the situation] in Athens indicating that [his] government is considering abandoning the euro and reintroducing its own currency.’

The report sent the euro tumbling to $1.4408, from $1.4530 on Thursday.

It had traded at $1.4942 on Wednesday, its highest level since December 2009.

In response, Greece’s finance ministry posted a statement saying: ‘The report about an impending exit of Greece from the eurozone is untrue.

‘Such reports … undermine the efforts of Greece and the euro and serve market speculation games.’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said a prearranged meeting was taking place in Luxembourg, and that it had nothing to do with the idea that Greece would leave the euro.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Glenn Beck: The Tipping Point

The average price of a gallon of gas is now nearly US four dollars a gallon. Sixty percent of Americans say that four dollars a gallon is just the tipping point. But, the tipping point of what? The dollar is continuing to fall and is now at a three year low. It has been falling so dramatically that the home of the peso, Mexico, is now buying 100 tons of gold… Even they are getting out of the dollar. If you have been watching the Glenn Beck Program for the last three years, this should come as no surprise to you.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Ireland’s Future Depends on Breaking Free From Bailout

Ireland is heading for bankruptcy, which would be catastrophic for a country that trades on its reputation as a safe place to do business, writes MORGAN KELLY

WITH THE Irish Government on track to owe a quarter of a trillion euro by 2014, a prolonged and chaotic national bankruptcy is becoming inevitable. By the time the dust settles, Ireland’s last remaining asset, its reputation as a safe place from which to conduct business, will have been destroyed.

Ireland is facing economic ruin.

While most people would trace our ruin to to the bank guarantee of September 2008, the real error was in sticking with the guarantee long after it had become clear that the bank losses were insupportable. Brian Lenihan’s original decision to guarantee most of the bonds of Irish banks was a mistake, but a mistake so obvious and so ridiculous that it could easily have been reversed. The ideal time to have reversed the bank guarantee was a few months later when Patrick Honohan was appointed governor of the Central Bank and assumed de facto control of Irish economic policy.

As a respected academic expert on banking crises, Honohan commanded the international authority to have announced that the guarantee had been made in haste and with poor information, and would be replaced by a restructuring where bonds in the banks would be swapped for shares.

Instead, Honohan seemed unperturbed by the possible scale of bank losses, repeatedly insisting that they were “manageable”. Like most Irish economists of his generation, he appeared to believe that Ireland was still the export-driven powerhouse of the 1990s, rather than the credit-fuelled Ponzi scheme it had become since 2000; and the banking crisis no worse than the, largely manufactured, government budget crisis of the late 1980s.

Rising dismay at Honohan’s judgment crystallised into outright scepticism after an extraordinary interview with Bloomberg business news on May 28th last year. Having overseen the Central Bank’s “quite aggressive” stress tests of the Irish banks, he assured them that he would have “the two big banks, fixed by the end of the year. I think it’s quite good news The banks are floating away from dependence on the State and will be free standing”.

Honohan’s miscalculation of the bank losses has turned out to be the costliest mistake ever made by an Irish person. Armed with Honohan’s assurances that the bank losses were manageable, the Irish government confidently rode into the Little Bighorn and repaid the bank bondholders, even those who had not been guaranteed under the original scheme. This suicidal policy culminated in the repayment of most of the outstanding bonds last September.

Disaster followed within weeks. Nobody would lend to Irish banks, so that the maturing bonds were repaid largely by emergency borrowing from the European Central Bank: by November the Irish banks already owed more than €60 billion. Despite aggressive cuts in government spending, the certainty that bank losses would far exceed Honohan’s estimates led financial markets to stop lending to Ireland.

On November 16th, European finance ministers urged Lenihan to accept a bailout to stop the panic spreading to Spain and Portugal, but he refused, arguing that the Irish government was funded until the following summer. Although attacked by the Irish media for this seemingly delusional behaviour, Lenihan, for once, was doing precisely the right thing. Behind Lenihan’s refusal lay the thinly veiled threat that, unless given suitably generous terms, Ireland could hold happily its breath for long enough that Spain and Portugal, who needed to borrow every month, would drown.

At this stage, with Lenihan looking set to exploit his strong negotiating position to seek a bailout of the banks only, Honohan intervened. As well as being Ireland’s chief economic adviser, he also plays for the opposing team as a member of the council of the European Central Bank, whose decisions he is bound to carry out. In Frankfurt for the monthly meeting of the ECB on November 18th, Honohan announced on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland that Ireland would need a bailout of “tens of billions”.

Rarely has a finance minister been so deftly sliced off at the ankles by his central bank governor. And so the Honohan Doctrine that bank losses could and should be repaid by Irish taxpayers ran its predictable course with the financial collapse and international bailout of the Irish State…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Obamacare Subsidies Won’t Keep Up With Premiums

If the health care law survives the current legal and political attacks, it will soon come up against the law of economics.

Initially, individuals buying insurance via exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) will get subsidies that rise in line with premium cost growth.

But, starting in 2019, individuals would have to shoulder an ever-greater share of premiums as cost curbs kick in if subsidies top 0.5% of GDP, as the Congressional Budget Office projects.

The law’s shift of premium costs to individuals “may be diffi cult to sustain,” CBO director Doug Elmendorf recently testified.

“Difficult” is putting it mildly.

Consider a single 42-year-old earning 250% of the poverty level in 2014, or $28,750. Imagine that worker gets a 3.3% raise every year, outpacing inflation by 1 percentage point. Good news, right?

Not so much. Plugging in an optimistic assumption that premium costs grow just 4.3% a year (2% above inflation), rising premium payments would gradually eat 75 cents of every extra dollar in real income earned over the next two decades, IBD’s analysis shows. This reflects the law’s curbs on subsidies and its sliding scale that cuts subsidies as income rises.

Add in similar growth in out-of-pocket payments for utilizing medical services, and health costs would eat 90% of real wage gains — before payroll taxes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Reason-Rupe Poll: 96% Worry About Federal Debt, 74% Want Spending Cap…

And 80% would consider independent/third party candidate in 2012

Los Angeles (May 3, 2011) — As the federal government rapidly approaches the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, 96 percent of Americans say it is important to reduce the national debt, according to a new Reason Foundation-Rupe poll. Of those surveyed, 69 percent believe reducing the national debt is “very important.”

With the debt piling up, it is also clear that taxpayers do not trust the federal government to live within its means. In fact, the Reason-Rupe survey finds 74 percent of Americans support implementing a spending cap that would prohibit the government from spending more money than it takes in during a fiscal year. Only 19 percent oppose a government spending cap.

The most popular policy prescription for reducing the national debt is spending cuts: 45 percent of people say Congress should bring down the debt by reducing spending without raising taxes. Another 16 percent favor reducing the debt primarily through spending cuts, but are open to some tax increases; 14 percent prefer an equal emphasis on spending cuts and tax increases; 8 percent want to reduce the debt primarily through higher taxes with some spending cuts; 4 percent say current spending levels should be maintained and taxes should be raised as needed; and 1 percent of Americans say we shouldn’t do anything about the debt.

           — Hat tip: DS [Return to headlines]



Understanding America’s Financial Crises, Part 1

[Part 1 of a 4 part series.]

There is no good definition for hyperinflation. It occurs when inflation goes out of control and reaches very high levels; say greater than 25 percent/year. An example is the Weimar Republic (Germany) following World War I. The harsh reparation payments imposed on Germany following the war, in combination with promised increased wages, reduced hours, expanded education and a slew of new social programs (sound familiar?) created the conditions for hyperinflation.

In 1919 the German mark was worth about 3 marks per dollar. In 1921 the German mark had slid to 75 marks per U.S. dollar. By 1922 it was worth 400 marks to the dollar and in 1923 it plunged to 7000 marks per dollar. As bad as that was, it was the “good ‘ol days.” By November of 1923 it took about 4 billion marks per dollar.[1]

[…]

Historically, budget deficits have been relatively small and the national debt has grown slowly. For decades the deficits and borrowing was constrained by the fact America was on the gold standard. However, when President Nixon took the United States off of the gold standard in the 1970s, politicians saw a bonanza and deficits increased dramatically. When our deficits increased, so did our national debt. There was a brief reprieve in the 1990s to the growing debt as a Republican Congress and President Clinton brought deficits down. However, following 911 and the initiation of the War on Terror, deficits skyrocketed.

Here’s where most people’s eyes glaze over. Force your eyes to focus and your mind to be engaged for a few more moments. The spending policies of Presidents G.W. Bush and Obama have more than doubled the U.S. national debt from $5.7 trillion in 2000 to $14.3 trillion in mid-2011. The deficit is projected to be a whopping $1.65 trillion for 2011 alone. Interest on the National Debt is expected to top $430 billion for 2011.

Today, the debt has risen to an incomprehensible $14.29 trillion dollars. Your share of it is $46,030. Your spouse and child also owe $46,030 each. For a family of four it’s $184,000. Uncle Sam will demand you, your children and your children’s children repay the debt they created. The interest alone is 4 billion a day or over $5,000 a day!

But that’s not the worst of it. Social Security, Medicare and Prescription Drug unfunded liabilities total $113.6 trillion! Liabilities include those legal debts that must be paid in the future. Unfunded liabilities are legal debts in which promised payments are not budgeted and exceed all defined ability to pay them. The U.S. unfunded liabilities equal one million dollars per taxpayer! That money has to be somehow raised in future undefined revenues. It is the single biggest problem we are facing as a nation.

There’s more. State unfunded liabilities for public sector pension plans could reach $3 trillion. Unlike the federal government, these states can’t print more money. They must balance the books or go bankrupt.

But wait, it gets much worse. In the two and a half years he has been in office, President Obama has racked up a deficit that nearly equals the combined debt created by all the presidents up to G.W. Bush. His initial 2012 budget continued piling up debt at rates that will double the debt to $26 trillion in 10 years.

Are you ready to pull your hair out? You should be. But there is still more. Along with this incomprehensible debt, the Federal Reserve (Fed) is printing money out of thin air. It’s called Quantitative Easing 1 and 2 (QE1 & QE2). The U.S. dollar is deliberately being made worthless. High inflation, perhaps even hyperinflation, is inevitable unless drastic actions are taken now. Four years ago economist and business consultant John Williams estimated hyperinflation and the total collapse of the dollar was likely by 2018. However, two and a half years of Obama’s reckless spending along with QE1 and QE2 have pushed that estimate to 2012, or even earlier.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Andrew Bostom: Did Naval Burial Ceremony for Bin Laden Curse Jews and Christians, And Confer Pardon and Paradise on the Muslim Mass Murderer?

Anneke Green has a disturbing analysis [1] in the Washington Times which indicates the very likely specifics of the burial ceremony aboard the USS Carl Vinson—repeatedly noted by witless counter-terrorism czar John Brennan to be in strict “conformance to Islamic requirements”—for pious Muslim jihadist Osama Bin Laden, orchestrator of the mass murder of Americans on 9/11/2001.

As Green reports, “NavyMilitary Funerals [2], (pp. 34-35)” a protocol developed by the Navy, describes in explicit detail what transpires during a Muslim sea burial:

The body must have been washed and wrapped “as required for the bodies of Muslims,” which refers to ceremonial cleanings that must be done by another Muslim. Those who have gathered to pray at the burial—ostensibly crewmembers since family is not allowed at sea burials—must face Mecca.

But the most shocking details Green [1] has uncovered concern the formal funeral prayers which must be uttered—as specified by the Navy—during the segment of the burial ceremony in which supplication for the Muslim decedent is made. The requisite prayer includes the following statements:

“O Allah, forgive him, have mercy on him, pardon him, grant him security, provide him a nice place and spacious lodgings, wash him (off from his sins) with water, snow and ice, purify him from his sins as a white garment is cleansed from dirt, replace his present abode with a better one, replace his present family with a better one, replace his present partner with a better one, make him enter paradise and save him from the trials of grave [sic] and the punishment of hell.”

But what Green’s discussion omits is that before this supplication, the required prayer service (see p. 34 [2]) includes the opening sura (chapter) of the Koran, or “Fatiha”. As copiously documented by the most authoritative Muslim Koranic commentaries—past and present—verse 1.7 [3] from this sura includes an eternal curse upon Jews and Christians, as noted in this official modern Koranic translation by Drs. Muhammad al-Hilali and Muhammad Khan (p.12 [4]):

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]



Castro and Che’s Foiled (And Forgotten) 9/11

Castro’s agents had targeted Macy’s, Gimbels, Bloomingdales, and Manhattan’s Grand Central Station with a dozen incendiary devices and 500 kilos of TNT

“I’m proud of the path of Osama bin Laden,” gushed Ilich Ramírez Sánchez from a French prison in 2002. Ramirez was also known during the 1970’s as “Carlos the Jackal,” and “The World’s Most Wanted Terrorist.” In 1967 Ramirez-Sanchez was an eager recruit into Cuba’s “guerrilla” (terror) training camps started by Che Guevara in 1959. “Bin Laden has followed a trail I myself blazed,” he continued during an interview with the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. “I followed news of the September 11 attacks on the United States non-stop from the beginning. I can’t describe that wonderful feeling of relief!”

“We will bring the war to the imperialist enemies’ very home,” raved Carlos the Jackal’s idol and spiritual mentor (Che Guevara) in his Message to the Tri-Continental Conference in 1966, “to his places of work and recreation. The imperialist enemy must feel like a hunted animal wherever he moves. Thus we’ll destroy him! These hyenas are fit only for extermination. We must keep our hatred (against the U.S.) alive and fan it to paroxysm!”

Fortunately, on Nov. 17 1962, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI foiled the “war” Castro and Che had planned for us “hyenas,” in some of our favorite “places of recreation.” On Saturday morning, November 17th, 1962, FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. took on “all the trappings of a military command post,” according to historian William Breuer.

As well it might have. The night before an intelligence puzzle had finally come together. The resulting picture staggered the FBI men. And these had served at their posts during WWII and the height of the Cold War. They’d seen plenty. Now they had mere days to foil a crime against their nation to rival Hideki Tojo’s.

[Return to headlines]



Feds Investigating Ga. Mosque Decision

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The Justice Department said it is investigating whether the city of Alpharetta violated federal law last year when it denied a zoning request last year from a mosque that is seeking to expand.

A Justice Department spokesman said Friday the agency is investigating whether the north Atlanta suburb violated a 2000 law designed to protect religious groups involved in land disputes when it rejected a request by the Islamic Center of North Georgia to expand its facility.

The city officials declined to comment on Friday.

The Alpharetta City Council voted 6-0 in May 2010 to reject plans by the center to tear down its worship house and construct two new buildings. The decision has prompted legal complaints from the Islamic Center and its supporters.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]



Madonna Splits From Her Muslim Toyboy, 24, After ‘Rows About Religion’

He’s 24, but she is older than his mother. He’s a strict Muslim, she has fervent Kabbalah beliefs.

So it was hardly likely to last. Madonna, 52, has split from her lover Brahim Zaibat, a hip-hop dancer, after nine months, the Daily Mail has learned.

Last night a close friend of Zaibat’s said sarcastically: ‘Who’s Madonna?’

The friend added: ‘Brahim has been home and he’s a single guy.

‘He’s no longer an item with Madonna. He’s very happy. There’s nothing more to say.’

He is believed to be lying low at his family’s home in Lyon in France.

But Madonna was happy to be pictured stepping out alone at the Annual Costume Institute gala in New York this week. She sparkled in a floor-length blue gown adorned with stars down its back and designed by her friend Stella McCartney.

Referring to Madonna’s devotion to Kabbalah, a mystical branch of Judaism, a source close to Zaibat added: ‘Brahim’s family had told him they did not want him going to Kabbalah meetings and wanted him to stick to his Muslim beliefs, which caused some rows.

‘Things started to turn sour and they were hardly seeing each other.’

The couple met in September last year and had been spotted at some of London’s most exclusive restaurants.

Last year Zaibat’s mother Patricia Vidal told how she received a call from her son, who was in New York, when he revealed: ‘I’ve got a new girlfriend.’

The mother of four was unperturbed when he mentioned an age gap of eight years. She said: ‘You’ve always been mature for your age — it will be good to spend some time with a girl who’s a bit older than you.’

But he replied: ‘No, she’s eight years older than you, mum — and her name is Madonna.’

Mrs Vidal said: ‘My mouth fell open. Madonna was already a big star when I was a schoolgirl, let alone when Brahim was growing up. The whole situation is very strange indeed — surreal even.

Last night a spokesman for Madonna said: ‘We never comment on Madonna’s private life.’

Madonna, a mother of four, divorced film director Guy Ritchie in 2008 after eight years of marriage.

She dated Brazilian model Jesus Luz — who like Zaibat was 28 years her junior — for a year until February 2010.

She has a 14-year-old daughter, Lourdes, with former boyfriend Carlos Leon and a son, Rocco, ten, with Ritchie.

Madonna then adopted David Banda from a Malawian orphanage in October 2006 — with Ritchie — and later adopted a little girl called Mercy James from Malawi by herself.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Mexican-American Studies Problem in the Tucson Unified School District

It used to be known as La Raza Studies. Mexican-American Studies as it is taught in the Tucson Unified School District is not your average “Ethnics Study.” That’s what former Community Organizer Loretta Hunnicutt discovered. She started TU4SD.com to bring awareness to issues ta the district and recruit good School Board Candidates. Little did she know that as a Democrat who cares about kids she would be called to stand against fellow Democrats and against a program that TU4SD.com organizers believe indoctrinates students and intimidates critics. This 8 minute story only scratches the surface of what is going on in Tucson. It’s no wonder that families are fleeing the district. (at least the ones who can)

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Ohio: Republicans Losing the PR War

In Columbus, a Republican-dominated legislature this spring delivered to Republican Gov. John Kasich a bill that limits public-sector union collective-bargaining liberties in an effort to close an $8 billion state budget shortfall. The Ohio legislation closely mirrored the effort earlier this year in Wisconsin, though Ohio’s bill is actually more extensive in its rollback of public-sector union negotiating powers.

Kasich apparently assumed that he and the Republicans in the General Assembly had weathered a ferocious storm of union protests that, like in Wisconsin, lasted several weeks, spilling from statehouse lawns into legislative committee hearing rooms, but that were ultimately ineffective in derailing the reform bill.

After the Ohio legislation, known as Senate Bill 5, was signed by Kasich, he almost immediately turned his attention to other matters related to a larger, broad-based reform of state government. Meanwhile, those same union activists who protested at the statehouse before Senate Bill 5 was passed have kept the issue alive by launching an initiative petition drive to repeal it. They have organized almost daily events in many of the local television markets around the state to gather sympathetic news coverage from a mostly passive press corps.

[…]

My polling also suggests that Democrats and the unions have found an effective message and are using it effectively. They have morphed this issue from a sensible solution to solve a state budget crisis into an underhanded effort by Republicans to attack the “civil rights” of unionized state workers. How a public employee’s civil rights are tied to their ability to negotiate long vacations, full health benefits with no co-pays, generous sick-pay arrangements and fully paid retirement plans is a question no one — especially Kasich — is asking, to his political detriment.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Package Found at Springfield PD Not Hazardous

Package contained herbs & spices

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) — Investigators have determined a package found outside the Springfield Police Department Friday night is not hazardous.

Springfield Fire Department Spokesman Dennis Leger told 22News the regional hazardous material team was called to police headquarters on Pearl Street around 5:30 Friday night after a woman walked into the police station with a package filled with powder.

The woman was Somalian and did not speak english.

Police became suspicious after the woman ran out of the police department and dropped the package.

Leger says they were erring on the side of caution.

“There’s been a lot of powder incidents in the last week or two across the state. There’s been a few in Boston. I think there might have been another one today. Because of the location here, this is being taken a little more seriously than sometimes powder, you know, in another location,” Leger told 22News.

Springfield Police Lt. John Bobianski says the woman received the package in the mail and brought it to the police department.

Tests show the powder turned out to be herbs and spices.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]



U. S. Airlines Prevent 3 Muslim Imams From Boarding Planes

(AGI) Washington — New claims of islamophobia in the US after 3 Muslim imams were prevented from boarding domestic flights. The three imams, one of whom is an American citizen, were not allowed to board domestic flights operated by two US airlines.

Two of them were pulled from an Atlantic South Airlines (ASA) plane in Memphis bound for Charlotte, in North Carolina, while the third one, Al-Amin Abdul-Latif, of Long Island, was not allowed to board an American Airlines flight from New York to Charlotte.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



U.S. Probes Allegations of Harassment of Muslims at U.S.-Canada Border

DETROIT The Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into whether Muslims are harassed, body searched, and detained by federal agents at the Detroit-Windsor border because of their appearance or religious background.

In a letter sent this week to a local Muslim group, the department’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties said it has received information “concerning repeated handcuffing, brandishing of weapons, prolonged detentions, invasive and humiliating body searches at the border, and inappropriate questioning that pertains to religion and religious practices by” federal agents at the border with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The head of the civil rights office, Margo Schlanger, also said in the letter that the department “has received a number of complaints like yours.” Schlanger talked about the investigation at a meeting Wednesday in Dearborn Heights, Mich., of federal law enforcement officials and Arab-Americans.

Muslims, Arab-Americans, South Asians and other minorities have expressed concerns in recent years about the way they’re treated at border crossings. In March, the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations documented about 10 cases of Muslims who said they were harassed while crossing the border, including the imam of a large mosque in Canton, Mich.

Federal agents have “pointed firearms at them, detained and handcuffed them without predication of crimes or charges, and questioned them about their worship habits,” said Dawud Walid, head of the council.

Walid said that some of the agents asked questions like: How many times a day do you pray? Do you pray your morning prayer in the mosque? Who else prays in your mosque?

Lena Masri, an attorney with the council, said she welcomes the federal investigation into what she called “these disturbing allegations of civil rights violations and ethnic and religious profiling.”

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]



Zombie: SEIU Drops Mask, Goes Full Commie

A May Day rally in Los Angeles, co-sponsored by the SEIU and various communist groups, as well as other unions, reflected yet another step in the normalization of self-identified communist and socialist ideologies in the Obama era. Not only did the SEIU help to organize the rally in conjunction with communists, they marched side-by-side with communists, while union members carried communist flags, communists carried union signs, and altogether there was no real way to tell the two apart.

Southern California citizen journalist and photographer “Ringo” was on hand to record the day’s events, and posted a full-length photo essay on his site Ringo’s Pictures. To bring this important photo essay to a wider audience, I present here a small selection of Ringo’s May Day pictures; visit his site to see dozens more photos from the rally.

When I tell people that public political rallies are more and more being led by communists and socialists, most folks simply don’t believe me. Aw, come on, you’re just giving decent protesters an extreme label, they say. No, actually, I’m not: The communists freely and proudly declare their affiliation.

And the SEIU has no problem marching arm-in-arm with them.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


France: Racism in Multicultural Football

Libération, 6 May 2011

The question increasingly being asked has made it onto the front page of Libération: “Is French football racist?” This comes a week after the Mediapart news web site published revelations that the national coach, Laurent Blanc, and the national football federation directorate appeared to be seeking to “limit the number of French players of African and North African origin” by drawing up discriminatory quotas for bi-national players at training centres. The case, which shakes up the image of the 1998 world champion team of black-blanc-beur [beur = Arab], has become a political and social issue. “The controversy is justified,” writes Libération, publishing an appeal launched by neighborhood coaches denouncing “the denigration of blacks and Arabs by the French Football Federation.” “If the controversy has blown up like this, it’s because — beyond bringing in the symbol that is the national team of the most popular sport there is — it hits the nail on the head, right there where France is hurting: the failure of its integration model and the social and urban segregation in which millions of citizens of immigrant origin have been kept for three generations now.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Italy: Nero to Team Up With Tarantino for Spaghetti Westerns

Italian veteran to appear in revamp of Django

(ANSA) — Rome, May 4 — Veteran Italian actor Franco Nero has said he is teaming up with Quentin Tarantino for two spaghetti westerns, including the American director’s revamp of Django, the 1966 hit that made Nero’s career.

Nero said he learned Tarantino wanted him for his latest project, entitled Django Unchained, from an unnamed producer at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

The 69-year-old added that he has also convinced Pulp Fiction’s maker to play a part in a new genre film directed by Enzo G. Castellari that will be a tribute to late Italian spaghetti western master Sergio Leone. “Tarantino has signed a letter committing him to act in another spaghetti western, The Angel, The Ugly and The Wise,” Nero told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

“I’ll be the angel and I’ll co-produce it. Last year in Los Angeles I asked him if he wanted to play a bandit. He wanted to know just one thing — how would I kill him? “I said with a sawn-off shotgun loaded with golden coins and he said ‘great”‘. Tarantino is a big fan of Italian B movies.

Indeed, Castellari’s 1977 Inglorious Bastards (Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato) provided the inspiration for the American’s last film, Inglorious Basterds (2009), which took over $300 million worldwide. Tarantino also organized events at the Venice Film Festival devoted to Italian Bs in 2004 and 2007, the latter specifically on spaghetti westerns. The filmmaker’s agent recently confirmed he would be making a movie called Django Unchained after a photo of the script found its way on to the Internet via Twitter.

Inglorious Basterds star Christoph Waltz is tipped to feature in it.

It will be inspired by Sergio Corbucci’s Django, in which a hunky young blue-eyed Nero played the title role of a drifter who is at odds with a gang of bandits and drags a machine gun around in a coffin. When it came out, it was considered one of the most violent films ever released and an ear-severing scene it features is thought to have inspired a similar stomach-turning part of Tarantino’s first movie, Reservoir Dogs.

Tarantino has already paid a tribute to the film, by playing a cameo role in the 2007 remake by Japanese director Takashi Miike, called Sukiyaki Western Django.

The original launched Nero’s long career in which he went on to play several similar characters.

“I owe everything to that film,” Nero said. “Just think that when we started shooting it, we didn’t even have a script. A Fistful of Dollars had just come out and everyone wanted to get into spaghetti westerns,” he said, adding that he considered the B movie term “derogatory”. “People forget that the worldwide revenues from B movies saved our cinema and made it possible to produce art-house cinema”. Aside from Django, Nero is best known to international audiences for playing Lancelot in Camelot (1967), where he met his future wife Vanessa Redgrave, and appearances in Force 10 from Navarone (1978) and Die Hard 2 (1990).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Three Life Terms Sought for WWII Atrocity

German ex-soldiers ‘killed 184 civilians’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 4 — A Rome military prosecutor on Wednesday asked for life terms for three German former soldiers accused of killing 184 Italian civilians in a WWII reprisal in Tuscany.

Prosecutor Marco De Paolis accused former Wehrmacht captain Ernst Pinstor, 91, ex-warrant officer Fritz Jauss, 94, and former sergeant Johan Robert Riss of executing 94 mostly elderly men, 63 women and 27 children including some newborn babies “in cold blood, looking the innocent in the eyes”.

A WWII historian, Paolo Pezzino, told the court that the house-to-house sweep in the village of Padule di Fucecchio between Florence and Pistoia was “not a reprisal but an operation of total desertification”.

The three, who live in Germany , have “never expressed remorse”, De Paolis said.

A fourth defendant, ex-lieutenant Gherard Deissmann, died during the trial.

The massacre on August 23 1944 took place a day after an SS division killed 560 people including 116 children in nearby Sant’Anna di Stazzema, the backdrop to Spike Lee’s 2008 film Miracle at St Anna.

Three former SS officers were sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia for that atrocity in 2007.

Only three former Nazis have ever been jailed in Italy for war crimes.

Erich Priebke, 97, was extradited from Argentina in 1995 and sentenced to life for his part in a 1944 reprisal outside Rome that killed 335 men and boys including many Jews; his ex-commander Karl Hass, arrested after coming from Switzerland to Priebke’s trial with witness immunity, died in prison aged 92 in 2004; and ‘Butcher of Bolzano’ Michael Seifert, found guilty of 18 murders, was extradited from Canada to serve life in 2008 and died in jail aged 86 last November.

Priebke is now under house arrest in Rome. He had a work permit revoked in 2007 after an outcry from the city’s Jewish community Italian prosecutors have issued European arrest warrants for 15 other German former soldiers without success.

Under the terms of a postwar settlement, Germany is not required to extradite alleged war criminals to Italy.

The two countries agreed in 2008 to review outstanding wartime issues including the compensation for victims.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Emergency in East Rome, 1000 Uncollected Tons of Garbage

(AGI) Rome — Garbage emergency in Rome. Garbage has not been collected in via Prestina, via Casilina, Pigneto and Torpignattara, and trash is piling up down the streets. AMA (collection agency) says that in the eastern side of the city there 1000 uncollected tons of garbage and that the situation will go back to normal in about 3 or 4 days.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Italy: The Bishop Wears Armani

Vestments designed by stylist worn for inauguration of church parvis on Pantelleria

TRAPANI — The devil may wear Prada, as the popular film asserts, but the bishop prefers Armani. In this case, however, it’s not a screenplay. This morning, Mgr Domenico Mogavero, bishop of Mazara del Vallo, was actually wearing for the first time the vestments Giorgio Armani designed and gave him…

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Italy: Naples a Revolting City, Says Borghezio (Northern League)

(AGI) Rome — “Let’s throw Naples away. We must steer clear of that revolting city. I wonder whether the conditions of the city justify our will to break off and give independence to the north. Naples and Neapolitans are not part of a civilised Europe. We must keep away from that filth….We want to be free from this Naples, which stinks of rubbish and cammorra mob.

“ What we need is a radical cleansing”. Northern League EuroMP Mario Borghezio said so, speaking on YouTube channel ‘KlausCondicio’.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Protecting Muslim Girls From Rape is Now a Crime in Europe

by Phyllis Chesler

Freedom of speech and women’s rights just took a major hit in Denmark earlier today when the public prosecutor found Lars Hedegaard, the President of the Danish (and International) Free Press Society, guilty of “hate speech” under section 266b of the Danish penal code.

Hedegaard’s crime was to note “the great number of family rapes in areas dominated by Muslim culture in Denmark.”

The prosecutor’s crime is far greater. Now, courtesy of this prosecution, it is officially “racist” to tell the truth about sexual violence against women in Denmark, at least when that violence is perpetrated by Muslim fathers, uncles, or cousins.

When feminists first brought rape and incest out of the closet, we were accused of being “strident man haters,” and “crazy” as well. We learned to say: Not all men rape but all rapists are men. To our horror, we eventually discovered that women sometimes rape or sexually abuse children. They rarely rape other adults or force unwanted sex on other women outside of a prison setting.

Islam is not a race. Muslims come in every conceivable color. The Danes, the Scandinavians, all Europe has critiqued and exposed the real and imaginary sins and crimes of both Judaism and Christianity. Now, suddenly, Islam alone is to be spared such treatment.

Hedegaard has just published a book, “Muhammed’s Girls: Violence, Murder and Rape in the House of Islam”. I was told that my work appears throughout. Will my work someday also be considered “hate speech” or “racism”?

[…]

[Return to headlines]



Scottish National Party Uses New-Found Power to Demand That David Cameron Grants Scotland More Financial Clout

The Scottish National Party is already flexing its new-found muscle by asking Prime Minister David Cameron to give Scotland more financial clout.

The party had huge success in the Scottish elections, winning 69 of the 129 seats, which gives them a working majority.

John Swinney, the Nationalist’s finance spokesman, has said that SNP leader Alex Salmond has already pressed home the need for reform to the Tory leader.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: ‘The first minister made clear yesterday his intention to discuss with the prime minister the importance of recognising the difference that yesterday’s result produces for Scotland.

‘The people of Scotland have made it very clear that they want to see progress made on the questions of economic opportunity in Scotland, and on constitutional progress.

‘The short-term opportunity to do that is by improving and strengthening the Scotland Bill, currently going through the UK parliament, and that is the message that the first minister gave to the prime minister.’

The historic victory of Alex Salmond’s nationalists in Scotland, meanwhile, makes the break-up of the United Kingdom more likely than at any time in the past 250 years, experts warned last night.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Spain: New Treasures From Moorish Age Found in Alhambra

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 5 — The Alhambra in Granada, the fortress that is seen as the eighth world wonder and one of the most important examples of medieval Islamic architecture in Europe, hosts new treasures that have remained hidden up to now: 80 drawings made by artisans who worked on the building’s decorations. The drawings were hidden behind the wood and plaster of the Mirador of Lindaraja, and were discovered during restoration works in the palace, whose construction started in 1238 by Muhammad Ibn Nasr, founder of the Nasridi dynasty. “The Alhambra has been changed and restored many times. But these drawings have remained hidden and they are still in their original state, all authentic and very valuable”, explained the director of the Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife, Maria del Mar Villafranca, to newspaper El Pais. There are drawings of flowers and plants, of fantasy animals, Koran verses and instructions for the artisans, partly translated. A real goldmine for experts in Moorish art or ‘nazar’, as it is called in Spain. The finds include a perfectly conserved drawing of a anthropomorphic figure, a man with a white beard and turban, with the body of an animal, possibly a cat or dog. According to the head of the Alhambra’s restoration department, Elena Correa, the drawings could be spontaneous creations made for fun by the artisans who were responsible for the marvellous decorations of the Alhambra. The presence of a human figure, banned in most Muslim art, makes the find even more interesting. “It shows that there were artists in Moorish times who defied the ban and created pictures of animals and people”, Villafranca explained. According to the expert the drawings could be a way of practicing their art for the artisans, since they were destined to remain hidden and there is no link between the found images and the pieces that were hiding them. But they could also be “spiteful tricks”, artists pulling pranks challenging the bans. The Koran says that there can be no images of Mohammed or God and, most importantly, no artist can compete with divinity in representations of real beings. This explains why representations of the human body were forbidden and why most decorations were geometric shapes, in which symmetric abstract forms could in theory be repeated endlessly. The only exception were ornaments designed for private rooms. The drawings found in the Alhambra, according to Elena Correa, look like they have been made spontaneously and in a hurry, which suggests that they have been drawn illegally. Some of the paintings, contrary to the traditions of Muslim art, are signed by their makers. “The craftsmen usually didn’t sign their work, they worked anonymously”. These drawings “were not made later by the Christians, but by the people who decorated this palace”. As early as 1959, during the restoration of the Alhambra’s Comares Palace, unsigned paintings were found behind the woodwork that covered the roof. They were probably drawings made by artisans to arrange the wedges that had to be fixed to the ceiling. The most recent find will be studied by the Department of antiquities and restoration of the Alhambra, to carry out a scientific dating of this new treasure that has been conserved by the inexhaustible treasure trunk the Alhambra represents.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Your Tribe Need to Behave Like Proper English Children’: What BBC’s Mishal Husain Was Told by Shopper in Supermarket

The children of BBC news presenter Mishal Husain were the target of racist abuse while on a supermarket shopping trip when a man told them to behave ‘like proper English children’.

Ms Husain’s three sons were accosted by the man at a branch of Waitrose near the family’s London home shortly before she flew out to Pakistan to report on the death of Osama Bin Laden.

British-born Ms Husain, whose parents are from Pakistan, is said to have called for the manager and asked for the man to be confronted following the incident last Sunday.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Day Britain Stood Up for Democracy: Humiliation for Clegg as Cameron Wins Campaign to Keep First-Past-the-Post

Results latest: 6,152,607 voted yes for AV and 13,013,123 against

Britain has delivered a humiliating ‘No’ vote to Nick Clegg’s dreams of tearing up the traditional electoral system.

Voters rejected a change to the Alternative Vote by an emphatic 70 per cent to 30 per cent.

As the results flooded in last night, the ‘No’ votes swept past the 12million mark and it became clear that a mere handful of the 440 counts polled had returned a majority in favour of the switch to AV.

The two-to-one rout, coupled with the Liberal Democrats’ worst local election showing for 30 years, plunged the party into crisis and the Coalition into bitter infighting.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Government to Crackdown on the ‘Mickey Mouse’ GCSEs Introduced by Labour

Hundreds of worthless qualifications face the axe under a Government shake-up of vocational education.

Ministers believe too many ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses are failing teenagers as they do not lead to higher education or stable jobs.

In a major crackdown, ministers are expected to implement the findings of a review which found that up to a third of the non-academic GCSE courses introduced under Labour were pointless.

Many of these ‘soft’ courses will be banned from counting towards schools’ GCSE league table positions, while others will fail to be accredited in the first place.

The Government is set to urge regulator Ofqual to take a tougher stance and oversee a fall in the number of poor-quality, non-academic courses being accredited in schools and colleges.

This will free more funding for work-based tuition, including apprenticeships.

The Government will announce plans to compile detailed guidance about which vocational qualifications will be allowed to count in school league tables. Many will no longer contribute towards the traditional five A* to C measure of GCSE performance — leading to their demise as schools start to shun them.

The overhaul comes amid an astonishing 3,800 per cent increase in uptake of non-academic GCSE-equivalent courses under Labour. Numbers soared to 575,000 last year — from just 15,000 in 2005.

This helped fuel a damaging collapse in the number of children taking academic courses, and enabled schools to ‘play the system’ by pushing pupils on to ‘soft’ courses that helped boost league rankings.

An independent review in March found up to a third of the soft, non-academic courses introduced under Labour and taken by up to 400,000 16 to 19-year-olds were pointless.

They fail to lead directly to a job or other, more advanced courses at college or university, the report said.

One, the level two Certificate in Personal Effectiveness, worth a GCSE, was taken by 10,843 pupils last year.

A sample paper asks students to ‘find out what benefits you are entitled to if you are unemployed’.

It also asks students to ‘show you can obtain information on a topic you are interested in’ using telephones, the internet, radio or TV and newspapers.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Special Investigation: Inside the Migrant Maternity Ward Where the NHS is Struggling to Cope

Walk into Ealing Hospital and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a foreign land. Looking around the maternity unit, the vast majority of mothers with newborns are from abroad. Most are Indian or Polish.

One woman who recently gave birth at the hospital told me: ‘I was practically the only British woman there. Some of the others didn’t speak a word of English.’

Hardly surprising, given that last week new figures revealed that 80 per cent of the children born at the West London hospital over the previous year were to foreign nationals.

Of the 3,289 children delivered, an extraordinary 2,655 babies were born to non-British mothers. The statistics also showed that the maternity unit last year dealt with women from a total of 104 different nationalities — an astounding figure. As a result, a team of translators, funded by the taxpayer, has to be on hand around the clock.

The children born to foreign women include 537 babies by Indian mothers — the largest minority ethnic group — 389 Poles, 270 Sri Lankans, 260 Somalis, 200 Afghans and 208 Pakistanis.

In contrast, there were 634 babies with British mothers, including just three from Wales and six from Scotland.

Maternity services at the hospital are under increasing pressure, with a 20 per cent rise in births over the past five years, almost twice the national average — partly due to the fact that foreign-born women generally have more children than their British counterparts. As a result, the hospital has had to take on 32 extra midwives to cope with the boom.

The revelations have inevitably sparked criticism of Britain’s immigration policies, and renewed concern that the NHS is being overwhelmed by an influx of foreign mothers keen to take advantage of free healthcare.

A Daily Mail investigation reveals that births to mothers born outside the UK last year rose to the highest figure since records began in 1969.

They accounted for nearly a quarter — 24.7 per cent — of all live births in 2009. This has increased since 2008, when it was 24.1 per cent.

In 2009, there were 174,174 live births in England and Wales to mothers born outside the UK, compared with 170,834 in 2008.

This means that nationally, one baby in four is born in the UK to a foreign mother — twice the level of 1997, when New Labour came to power. In 1990, it was just under 12 per cent.

The latest Office for National Statistics figures show that in 2009, the three countries which produced the highest number of births here to mothers from outside the UK were Pakistan, Poland and India.

Of the local authorities in England, the London borough of Newham recorded the highest percentage of births to mothers born outside the UK in 2009, at 75.7 per cent.

Outside London, Slough — which has seen a considerable influx from Eastern Europe — leads the field, with 57 per cent of births to foreign mothers, followed closely by Luton, which has a large Asian population.

Areas such as Peterborough, too, have seen a huge increase in births from Eastern Europeans. There were just three such babies born there in 2000, but almost 200 in 2006.

But it is at Ealing Hospital that truly extraordinary figures have been witnessed. Women who have given birth there in recent times paint a disturbing picture of chaos and squalor.

Beezy Marsh, a 38-year-old former Daily Mail health correspondent, says: ‘I gave birth to my son Bryn at Ealing four years ago.

‘My acute medical care was good. I had a life-threatening condition [major placenta praevia, which can require an emergency Caesarean] and the doctors there basically saved my life. But I was shocked by some of the things I saw.

‘The services were overstretched, with the midwives struggling every day. I monitored the progress of a bloodstained nightgown over the course of five days, hanging forlornly over a shower rail.

‘The cleaners ignored it. The staff never bothered to look. In the end, I donned a pair of surgical gloves and took it to the ward’s dirty linen basket.

‘The post-natal care was dreadful — once you were out of physical danger, the staff didn’t want to know, they had to put all their resources in at the sharp end.

‘The majority of women were not white Caucasian because Ealing hospital is the nearest NHS hospital to Southall, which has a large Asian community, and Ealing is also home to many Poles. You could see the strain of coping with such a diverse population — the curry menu at the hospital was fantastic, far better than the English food on offer.’

Staff clearly encountered difficulties with some patients’ cultural norms. Beezy witnessed a Somali man insist his wife — who had already had two children by Caesarean section — should go home to have a ‘natural’ birth because it was ‘woman’s work’.

Like most maternity units now, it was locked to ensure the safety of newborns, and there were limited visiting hours to ensure mothers got rest and privacy to breastfeed.

Yet Beezy recalls: ‘Many relatives were not happy with this, and a rowdy rabble frequently congregated outside the ward doors, pressing the buzzer repeatedly and demanding to come in.

‘On one occasion, approaching midnight, as mums-to-be waddled up and down the ward in their nightwear, I heard a male voice at one end of the ward.

‘A woman was trying to conceal her husband in her bed overnight. When a security guard came to escort him out, the man answered in an Eastern European accent that he did not understand and had wanted to stay the night. Officially, though, no one will say a word against this sort of behaviour.’

Another British mother who experienced the maternity unit at Ealing reiterates the point that because the number of women giving birth there has increased so much — by 20 per cent in five years, remember — that the staff are increasingly unable to care properly for their patients.

Writing on the Mumsnet website, she said: ‘The postnatal care was rubbish. Far too few midwives, I was left in an unchanged bed for hours, no one fed me for hours, I wasn’t given a cot for the baby. If my mum hadn’t been there to fight for me and hold the baby it would have been awful.’

It appears that Ealing is only the thin end of the wedge. The Royal College of Midwives recently warned that maternity units across the country were ‘teetering on the brink’ under the pressure of rising birth rates.

Last year, it emerged that pregnant women were being forced to travel up to 99 miles in order to give birth after being turned away by overstretched maternity units.

And almost a quarter of mothers were left alone and frightened during labour because midwives do not have the time to provide one-to-one care.

In 2007, Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot had to close for two months so that midwives from there could be moved to Slough, where they were needed to deliver an extra 150 babies to foreign-born mothers over a short period. This had knock-on effects for British mothers at local hospitals.

Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, warns that maternity units are at ‘breaking point’.

She says that nurses had told her that ‘the service they are giving to women and babies is deteriorating, and that safety is too often being compromised’.

‘The service is teetering; the cracks are beginning to appear. Maternity services are under assault. Midwives cannot carry on working like this day in and day out, often without breaks, and continue to practise safely.’

Warwick blames the rising birth rate for the pressures on NHS maternity services. A key factor is that foreign women tend to have larger families — an average of 2.5 babies compared with 1.84 for UK nationals.

‘All women deserve and should get, safe, high-quality care from the NHS. This is why we are campaigning to ensure that this Government invests in more midwives and puts resources into maternity services.

‘The issue here is not about immigration, it is about resourcing our maternity services to meet the needs of the women it serves.’

It is universally recognised that NHS resources are not infinite, however. When New Labour came to power, the nation spent £1?billion a year on maternity services. Ten years later, that had risen to £1.6?billion.

Some believe the answer lies not in spending more money, but in limiting immigration. The Conservative MP James Clappison, whose constituency is in Hertfordshire, says: ‘The Labour Government has left us with significant challenges after an unprecedented wave of inward migration. The pressures, I’m sure, are being felt all over the place, including in the NHS. I fully support the present Government’s proposals to cap migration.’

Of course no responsible person wishes to stir up xenophobia. Nevertheless, it is surely reasonable to question how Britain will cope with a seemingly ever-increasing number of mothers from other countries using its maternity units.

Despite the burgeoning birth rates, Ealing Hospital denies that its maternity services are under strain.

In 2008, watchdogs at the Healthcare Commission rated its maternity unit as one of the weakest in the country. However, the service has improved in recent years, according to the new health regulator, the Care Quality Commission.

At the end of 2010, it rated Ealing’s maternity unit 7.8 out of 10, on a par with most NHS Trusts.

A spokesman for Ealing Hospital NHS Trust says: ‘As with the rest of the UK, the Trust has seen a steady increase in the birth rate during the past few years. The maternity services at Ealing Hospital NHS Trust are not under strain and the Trust has achieved and maintains good staff-to-mother ratios in the maternity department.’

‘We can’t do anything about our diverse population — that is a fact of life in Ealing, as it is in the rest of London, and we have boosted our translator service to help with cultural and language difficulties.’

Ealing mothers confirm that the influx of foreign women is contributing to a decline towards Third World standards in British maternity care — poor hygiene, over-stretched staff, and chaotic care.

Gallingly, one local community leader says that maternity provision is now better in some of the foreign women’s home countries than at Ealing.

A Catholic priest at the Polish Catholic Community Centre in the borough said he had spoken to many new mothers who were unhappy about their experience at Ealing Hospital.

He said: ‘Some women from Eastern Europe say it is not very good and that the service they would receive in Poland would be better.

‘Doctors are involved much earlier in a woman’s pregnancy in Poland, and the service is more complex and detailed.’

Of course, many Polish families are now returning to their homeland as the recession here makes it difficult to find work. In Poland, they will no doubt avail themselves of a service under less pressure than here.

But what a sad state of affairs they leave behind for the local women of Ealing.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Ancient Roman Cemetery Discovered in Tunisia

‘Only one’ in North African country, say experts

(ANSA) — Tunis, May 5 — An ancient Roman cemetery has been uncovered by archeologists in Tunisia south of the capital, Tunis.

The cemetery was found in Lamta, near the coastal town of Monastir, 160 km south of the capital, and is believed to be the only one of its kind discovered in the North African country.

Tunisia has a rich history that dates back to the 12th century BC and until recent political unrest the country’s ancient ruins from the Punic era and the Roman Empire attracted tourists from all over the world. Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno on Thursday pledged to promote the country’s tourism and support its fledgling democracy after the overthrow of the country’s president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali during political upheaval in January.

“We should do everything possible to support the economy and tourism and the push for democracy in Tunisia,” Alemanno said.

The latest archeological treasure was discovered by a team of experts led by Ne’jib Belazreg, director of archeological sites at Lamta and Bekalta.

The cemetery was found near funerary rooms linked to the Punic civilisation based in the Tunisian city of Carthage which was conquered by the Romans in the Punic Wars that ended in 146 BC.

The find confirmed previous studies that showed that Romans preferred cremation until the third century A.D and preserved the ashes in terracotta urns. Tunisia has a number of ancient Roman sites including Dougga in the country’s north. In 1997 Dougga was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO who described it as “the best-preserved small Roman town in North Africa”.

Mayor Alemanno met representatives from the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) at the Town Hall in the Italian capital.

Luigi Scardaone, from the Italian Workers Union accompanied the Tunisian officials.

“As Europeans we must take action to save Tunisia’s tourism which represents more than 60% of the country’s GDP and supports 400,000 families,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Libya’s Tribal Chiefs Call for Amnesty to All Fighters

(AGI) Tripoli — Libya’s tribal chiefs meeting in Tripoli urged a “general amnesty” for all the fighters involved in the nation’s civil war. The National Conference for Libyan tribes organized by the regime said they were clearly for Muammar Gaddafi. In a statement the tribal chiefs called the rebels “traitor” and announced they will “not abandon” the colonel.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Police Forcefully Disperses Protest in Tunis

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 6 — Police cracked down on the anti-government protest which was underway in avenue Bourghiba in Tunis, the capital’s main thoroughfare, with the use of tear gas, among other things. The protesters, who were in the hundreds according to AFP news agency, were shouting anti-transitional government slogans, asking it to step down and hoping for a “new revolution” in the country. Agents intervened when the protesters tried to access the Interior Ministry, which is still, in the wake of the revolt, surrounded with barbed wire and under surveillance by armoured vehicles. The agents, many of whom were wearing a balaclava, bore down on the protesters, most of whom were young, alarming passers-by who sought refuge in nearby stores and malls (avenue Bourghiba is the city’s “well-to-do” area) which have been equipped with metal detectors since the street became protesters’ favourite haunt. Motorcycle-riding agents were used to disperse the crowd of protesters. The AFP claims that one of its photographers was attacked by police, who seized two of his cameras and a laptop.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Are Al-Qaida and the Taliban Driven by the Desire to Help Others?

It seems hard to countenance, but could academics be right in thinking that Islamist terrorists are driven by ‘basically altruistic’ thoughts?

by Aditya Chakrabortty

Osama bin Laden was the most famous terrorist in the world; he also served as the single biggest distraction from a serious analysis of the roots of terrorism. With his murderous version of Muslim piety and references to a 7th-century caliphate, the al-Qaida head helped define Islamist extremism as ideological, apocalyptic and imperialist. That story bore as much relation to the truth as a skinny man’s reflection in a hall of mirrors — but it’s the one that US and British politicians bought. Judging by yesterday’s comments from US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and defence secretary Liam Fox, it’s the version they still believe. Not only is that account wrong; some of the best academic research suggests that following it does little to tackle terrorism.

The conventional view of Islamist terrorism is the one set out by Clinton yesterday, of a “violent ideology that holds no value for human life”: evil, inexplicable, and irreconcilable with any civilised values. Yet analysis from social scientists suggests the opposite.

However odd it may seem to use these terms of would-be jihadists and suicide bombers, some researchers describe Islamist terrorists as in the main rational, desperate figures operating in wrecked countries. Over the decades, two academics working in separate disciplines have come up with a particularly compelling, heavily researched account both of what Islamist terrorists are not, and of what drives them on.

The first is Ariel Merari, a psychologist who fought in the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 and has spent the past three decades studying the attitudes of terrorists. Some of his most notable work is on Palestinian suicide bombers. He has spoken to friends and families of suicide bombers, and even to would-be attackers who failed to detonate their explosive belts before being captured.

His first conclusion is that Palestinian suicide bombers are usually not suicidal. They aren’t depressed, or otherwise mentally ill, nor do they tend to be drug or alcohol abusers. What’s more, these supposed Islamic warriors aren’t especially religious. By and large, they didn’t suggest religion as their primary motivation, nor was there much hope of a glorious afterlife.

That fits with what we know of suicide bombers elsewhere. The organisation that carried out most suicide attacks in the late 20th century was the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, nominally a neo-Marxist, atheist organisation. The PKK in Turkey is also secular and leftwing, but has encouraged members into suicide attacks.

What Merari’s research shows is “a large pool of psychologically healthy, basically altruistic suicide attackers”. That description comes from Eli Berman, at the University of California, San Diego. His use of the term “basically altruistic” is surely intended to be provocative, but what the economist means is that terrorists are often acting out of a desire to help others in their group. His work is full of other such terms that will raise hackles. But as someone who has spent years studying the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah and even the Mahdi Army in Iraq, he is someone you have to read to understand what drives terrorists.

A former Israeli soldier in the 1982 Lebanon war, what Berman stresses is that Islamic terrorist groups survive by providing vital infrastructure and social services. The breakthrough moment for the Taliban came in the mid-90s, when they were able to run a secure toll road from Kandahar in southern Afghanistan to Herat in the west of the country. In a notoriously unsafe country overrun by rival warlords, the Taliban showed they could provide a public utility, and that its militiamen could make a living from the tollroad business…

           — Hat tip: Derius [Return to headlines]



Iran: Ahmadinejad Allies Charged With Sorcery

Iranian power struggle between president and supreme leader sees arrests and claims of undue influence of chief of staff

Close allies of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been accused of using supernatural powers to further his policies amid an increasingly bitter power struggle between him and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being “magicians” and invoking djinns (spirits).

Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as “a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds”.

The arrests come amid a growing rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei which has prompted several MPs to call for the president to be impeached.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad returned to his office after an 11-day walkout in an apparent protest over Khamenei’s reinstatement of the intelligence minister, who the president had initiallyasked to resign.

Ahmadinejad’s unprecedented disobedience prompted harsh criticism from conservatives who warned that he might face the fate of Abdulhassan Banisadr, Iran’s first post-revolution president who was impeached and exiled for allegedly attempting to undermine clerical power.

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a hardline cleric close to Khamenei, warned that disobeying the supreme leader — who has the ultimate power in Iran — is equivalent to “apostasy from God”.

Ahmadinejad has so far declined to officially back Khamenei’s ruling over Heydar Moslehi, the minister at the centre of the row. In the first cabinet meeting since the president returned, Moslehi was absent.

Khamenei’s supporters believe that the top-level confrontation stems from the increasing influence of Mashaei, an opponent of greater involvement of clerics in politics, who is being groomed by Ahmadinejad as a possible successor.

But the feud has taken a metaphysical turn following the release of an Iranian documentary alleging the imminent return of the Hidden Imam Mahdi — the revered saviour of Shia Islam, whose reappearance is anticipated by believers in a manner comparable to that with which Christian fundamentalists anticipate the second coming of Jesus.

Conservative clerics, who say that the Mahdi’s return cannot be predicted, have accused a “deviant current” within the president’s inner circle, including Mashaei, of being responsible for the film.

Ahmadinejad’s obsession with the hidden imam is well known. He often refers to him in his speeches and in 2009 said that he had documentary evidence that the US was trying to prevent Mahdi’s return.

Since Ahmadinejad’s return this week, at least 25 people, who are believed to be close to Mashaei, have been arrested. Among them is Abbas Amirifar, head of the government’s cultural committee and some journalists of Mashaei’s recently launched newspaper, Haft-e-Sobh.

On Saturday, Mojtaba Zolnour, Khamenei’s deputy representative in the powerful Revolutionary Guard, said: “Today Mashaei is the actual president. Mr Ahmadinejad has held on to a decaying rope by relying on Mashaei.”

           — Hat tip: Egghead [Return to headlines]



NGO Reports Point to at Least 827 Syrian Casualties

(AGI) Damascus — Casualties caused by Syrian security forces’ repression of Friday protests rise to 827. The figure was reported by human rights NGO Sawasia. At least 8,000 arrests are also reported. According to the NGO’s latest report the Assad regime is arresting an average 500 persons per day and that the majority of casualties occurred in Deraa (recently placed under siege by govt security forces). The army also entered Banias with tanks during the early hours of the morning.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Syrian Tanks Move Into Baniyas to Quell Protests

The population creates human cordons to stop the army. There are fears of a siege, killings and arrests. Yesterday at least 21 people were killed in Homs and Hama. The concerns of Christians.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Syrian army troops and tanks this morning entered some parts of the coastal city of Banias in the north-west of the country, one of the cities were protests against the Assad regime have broken out in recent weeks.

Militants and activists argue that the communications and electricity were cut. There is no independent confirmation of the news or further reports. The militants say the tanks are heading towards the south of the city, the centre of protests. The crowd has formed human cordons to prevent the tanks advance into the area.

Since mid-March, there have been demonstrations demanding greater democracy and an end to the Assad dictatorship in power from the 70s in several Syrian cities. The government has promised to meet the demands of the activists, but has also unleashed a wave of arrests and violent clashes against the demonstrators. It is estimated that so far the police have killed at least 500 and arrested 2 thousand others. Yesterday, Friday, in a new “day of rage,” another 21 people were killed in several cities, including Homs and Hama.

Campaigners fear what happened in Deraa could be repeated in Banyias. Deraa the city that gave birth to the protest movement suffered siege, arrests and killings from April 25 until May 5.

Christians in Syria are looking with concern developments in the situation. In recent days, the Patriarch of Antioch, Gregory III Laham told AsiaNews that the protesters “are young people frustrated, but many say that among them are criminals and even fundamentalist Muslims who cry for jihad. For this we fear that giving way to violence will lead only to chaos “(see Syria: Melkite Patriarch on fears of a future of chaos and fundamentalism).

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



U.S. Drone Attack in Yemen Fails to Kill American-Born Cleric Tipped as Bin Laden’s Successor

The U.S. drone attack that killed two Al Qaeda militants in Yemen on Thursday was targeting the man tipped to be Bin Laden’s successor.

Officials confirmed that Anwar al-Awlaki survived the missile attack on a car in southern Yemen that killed two mid-level Al Qaeda operatives.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry identified them as brothers Musa’id and Abdullah Mubarak al-Daghari.

U.S. born radical al-Awlaki is widely believed to be the mastermind behind a number of terror atrocities and the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

AQAP is estimated to number about 300 militants with strongholds in a number of remote mountain regions.

It is thought to be behind numerous attacks on government targets and is said to have inspired attacks by Muslims inside the United States — including the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings in which an Army psychiatrist is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32.

It’s also thought the group has twice smuggled explosives aboard aircraft headed to the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



USA Drone Misses Al-Awlaki, Symbol of Al Qaeda in Yemen

(AGI) Washington — After having eliminated Osama bin Laden, the US barely missed another target in Yemen: Imam Anwal al-Awlaki.

The American-born Imam of Yemeni descent is one of the figureheads of Al Qaeda in the region and the source of inspiration for several attacks in the USA. If Thursday’s raid had succeeded, the United States would have killed two of the world’s most wanted terrorists in only one week.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Russia


Catholic and Ortodox: A New Alliance Facing Secularism. Like Back in the Days of the USSR

We speak to the Director of the Library of the Spirit in Moscow, an example of dialogue and encounter between the two churches: the climate has improved not only at the diplomatic level, but also in the field. But now we need a new message of common witness.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — “Secularism, like back in the days of the Soviet Union”, requires a new alliance with Orthodox Christians and to address common challenges. The signs that this collaboration is strengthening “can be seen at the diplomatic level, but also in the field”, says Jean François Thiry, 44, one of the protagonists of the renewed climate of relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and Catholic Church. Dutch, but by now adopted by Russia, Thiry speaks to AsiaNews about the fruits of an adventure that began almost 20 years ago in a small apartment on the outskirts of the Russian capital, where the publishing house ‘Library of the Spirit’-of which he is director — began to first print religious books, and then transferred to down town Moscow, to the ‘Pokrovkskye Vorota’ cultural centre, becoming a model for fruitful encounter between faith and society even for the Moscow Patriarchate.

“Since 1993 we strive to create opportunities to bring Catholics and Orthodox together — Thiry says — but in recent years the leaders desire to work together has become clearer, bringing better results”. What has clearly changed, continues Thiry, is how the orthodox receive the messages from the Vatican. “Just look at how what Benedict XVI says is accepted today with a great affection and a positive attitude from the outset.” Something that was unthinkable with John Paul II, who “was neither read nor understood in Russia, perhaps because of our own limits as Catholics, because of prejudice or maybe the timing wasn’t right”.

The absence of cultural and religious prejudice and barriers is the most characteristic feature of the Library of the Spirit, which matured “with those who understood the importance of creating through culture, a bridge between Catholics and Orthodox” groups and individuals in Russia and abroad, foundations such as ‘Aid to the Church in Need’, ‘Christian Russia’, ‘Lights on the east’. The publications are about 12 per year and the distribution is about 300 thousand books. The same center ‘Pokrovkye Vorota’ (Protection of the Virgin) — which employs 21 people of which only four Catholics and the rest orthodox — is “a neutral stage, where an Orthodox, a Catholic, just as an atheist or “no” global”, can be at ease. At a rate of 12 thousand visitors for 250 meetings each year including debates, concerts and a film club, the opportunities for discussion and ecumenical dialogue are numerous: “It is not unique to the Church or religion in the strict sense, but we discuss universal themes, ranging from the meaning of life to the desire for truth, “says Thiry. Among the regular appointments of last winter, for example, the course of an Orthodox priest on family psychology generated a great following, with an average of 60 participants per evening.

But the centre’s work of creating a platform for dialogue between the two churches is not limited within the walls of ‘Pakrovky Vorota’ “Invited by the Patriarchate of Moscow, we have participated in conferences on work, society, secularism and education, we travel and export an amount of activities through the presentation of books and exhibitions by Voronesh, Novosibirsk until Estan,” he adds.

The cultural and educational sector is “the most fruitful area of collaboration, but at the same time most sensitive,” said the director of the canter of worship, the board of which includes the archbishop of the Mother of God in Moscow, Mgr. Paolo Pezzi and the Metropolitan of Minsk, Filaret. Thiry says that when dealing with children we must move more cautiously: “People are still reflecting on this area and very often the Patriarchate calls for its supervision and claims a privileged pace, motivated by the fact that Russia is an Orthodox country” . Thus, “despite the rich tradition of education, the Catholic Church must think twice before carrying out activities with children, such as orphanages, of which there are now about four in Russia.”

Despite the persistence of mistrust in this area, we can say however that at least the vexed question of the alleged Catholic proselytism “has been exceeded.” The joint Catholic-Orthodox working group of which Thiry is part was useful in this area. Established in 2004 by the then Patriarch Alexy II and Card. Walter Kasper, is composed of six people who meet twice a year to discuss problems and solutions in ‘ecumenical cooperation’. On the table there is the law on the restitution of church property, as well as cooperation in education and family support. Thiry recalled that in Soviet times it was almost obligatory work: “There was a common enemy that was the power and this had united the two Churches. Then when freedom came, we were forced to manage it, thinking about it in a fraternal manner, but everyone retreated to their own side. “ Now in front of secularism and materialism, which has become endemic in Russia, “the Church has a new and different message to announce and we must do it together, where possible, this is the goal today. On the one hand, therefore, there is a requirement desired by external conditions, but the other we can not forget the commandment of the Lord who told us to be united. “

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Bin Laden: US Calls Pakistani Intelligence Boss

(AGI) Islamabad — Ahmed Shuja Pasha, chief of the Pakistani intelligence (ISI) has flown to the US to meet CIA top executives. Western intelligence sources reported so, claiming that Pasha was apparently called by the US government with reference to the possible accords between some ISI agents and Osama bin Laden, who was gunned down by US special forces six days ago in Abbottabad, a few km from the capital, Islamabad.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Evidence at Bin Laden’s Home Raises Nuclear Concerns

Pakistani government links suspected

By Eli Lake

Intelligence analysts are sifting through phone numbers and email addresses found at Osama bin Laden’s compound to determine potential links to Pakistani government and military officials while U.S. officials and analysts raise concerns about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear materials.

According to three U.S. intelligence officials, the race is on to identify what President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, has called bin Laden’s “support system” inside Pakistan. These sources sought anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.

“My concern now is that we cannot exclude the possibility that officers in the Pakistani military and the intelligence service were helping to harbor or aware of the location of bin Laden,” said Olli Heinonen, who served as the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 2005 to 2010.

“What is to say they would not help al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to gain access to sensitive nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium?”

The U.S. has worried quietly about the infiltration of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and military for years. Those concerns heightened in recent months when the CIA learned that bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad was a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s military academy.

Politico first reported this week that CIA Director Leon E. Panetta told members of Congress that bin Laden’s clothing had two phone numbers sewn into it at the time of the raid. Those numbers and other contacts found at the compound are key clues in an effort to determine what elements of Pakistan’s national security establishment provided support to bin Laden and al Qaeda.

“I can tell you that concern about al Qaeda and other terrorists’ infiltration into the ISI is not new on the part of the Congress or the [George W.] Bush and Obama administrations,” said Rep. Steve Rothman, a New Jersey Democrat who serves on two House Appropriations subcommittees that fund defense and foreign aid.

Mr. Rothman has attended top-secret briefings on the Abbottabad raid and the impact of the raid on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“As a matter of course, and for good reason, the materials that were removed from bin Laden’s home in Pakistan are being run down for leads that could assist the United States in apprehending individuals or entities who have sought to harm Americans or who have enabled others to harm Americans,” he said.

Another U.S. intelligence official told The Washington Times that other phone numbers and emails were recovered in the raid.

Mr. Rothman said al Qaeda operatives in 2009 “came within 60 kilometers of what is believed to have been Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal,” though he could not elaborate on the incident.

“Two years ago, al Qaeda came close, too close for comfort,” Mr. Rothman said. “That resulted … in new safeguards and new measures taken by the United States and Pakistan and others to minimize any possibility of anyone acquiring the Pakistani nuclear weapons or material.”

Pakistan is neither a member of the IAEA nor a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nonetheless, it has agreed to some IAEA safeguards on its civil nuclear program, but nothing comprehensive.

Analysts estimate Pakistan to have more than 100 nuclear weapons. The latest estimate by Princeton University’s International Panel on Fissile Materials, which takes account of the world’s nuclear material, estimates that Pakistan possesses between 1.6 tons and 3.8 tons of weapons-grade uranium and between 132 pounds and 286 pounds of plutonium.

“Up to now, the Pakistanis have said the nuclear material is under military and ISI control and particularly the plutonium and highly enriched uranium,” Mr. Heinonen said. “These are from facilities that are not under IAEA control at all.”

A Feb. 19, 2009, cable from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said the nuclear arsenal is “under the control of the secular military, which has implemented extensive physical, personnel and command and control safeguards.”

“Our major concern has not been that an Islamic militant could steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in [Pakistani government] facilities could gradually smuggle enough fissile material out to eventually make a weapon and the vulnerability of weapons in transit,” said the cable…

           — Hat tip: DS [Return to headlines]



Indian Government Strengthens Control of NGOs and Foreign Donations

The amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regolation Act are active from 1st May. The new terms reduce the freedom of action of NGOs and Catholic organizations.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — From 1st May, the new amendment to the Law on Control of donations from abroad (Foreign Contribution Regolation Act — FCRA 2010), as reported in the official gazette. For Father Cedric Prakash, director of Prashant, a Jesuit center for human rights, justice and peace, in Ahmedabad the change is bound to have repercussions in the long-term for NGOs, especially those who work to empower the poor like Dalits, Adivasis, minorities and other vulnerable sectors of society. “

In fact, the reform of the law increases government control on the economy that revolves around non-profit organizations, including Catholic organizations. In particular:

1.   Concept of ‘permanent’ registration done away with; A five-year registration is provided so that dormant organisations do not continue. All existing registered organisations are deemed to be on a five-year validity from now.
2.   ‘person’ has been defined in a broader sense
3.   ‘Organisations of political nature’ cannot receive foreign funds.
4.   Ceiling on administrative expenses has been prescribed.
5.   Procedure for suspension and cancellation of registration has been Prescribed.
6.   Statutory role provided for banking sector in regulation.
7.   Time limits have been provided for accountability of officials
8.   To deal with bona fide mistakes of NGOs, provision has been made for ‘compounding’ of offences.

Fr. Prakash says that now the government control will be greater due to the lack of clarity in the terms, subject to easy misinterpretation. The Jesuit gives the example of point # 2, which prohibits any NGO, of a political nature, or participating in political activities, from receiving foreign donations. He explains: “ This particular clause can give rise to a whole range of interpretations. For example, if the Public Distribution System in a particular town or village is not functioning, can the NGO concerned be involved in organizing the people and getting for them their legitimate rights?

Further, if communal riots break out, can a NGO take a stand against those who foment the trouble or criticize the role of the Government, the law and order mechanism and political leaders for not taking a stand? “.

According to Father Prakash, the transfer of funds from a foreign currency account to another [foreign currency account] will have a major impact on the work of many organizations: “This will greatly impede serious development work when several organizations collaborate for a particular project but there is only one major recipient and the FC money has to be transferred to other partners “

The former National Democratic Alliance, led by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), started the campaign to amend the existing law in 2000. According to the BJP, NGOs and nonprofit organizations are using foreign funding to engage in unlawful activities against the state. Among these activities “religious conversion” and “proselytism” are cited.

The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act came into force in 1976 at the initiative of Indira Gandhi — then prime minister — who feared that her opponent, J. P. Narayan, used foreign funds to build opposition to the government. (NC)

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Osama Kill Proves Pakistan is Core of World’s Terrorism

Analysts: Bin Laden death reason for countries to heighten defenses

The U.S. assassination of Osama bin Laden in the middle of Pakistan has shown the world that Pakistan remains the heart of serious terrorist groups, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Analysts differ on this question, but one thing is clear: The Pakistani government-backed proxy terrorist groups have become more institutionalized and have developed beyond a local entity and now have more of an international capability.

In addition, they represent a new crop of militants that are more violent and less conducive to political solutions than their predecessors, analysts say.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Osama Bin Laden’s Squalid Hideaway in Pictures

As American forces desperately hunted high and low for Osama Bin Laden, the terror chief was sitting on the floor of a compound in Pakistan — watching footage of President Barack Obama on the news.

These astonishing home videos, seized by Navy SEALs after Bin Laden was killed on Sunday and released today, show the Al Qaeda head watching coverage of the the man who would eventually give the order that resulted in his death.

The five movies also show the terror leader watching himself on television as, even from behind the walls of the compound, he continued to manipulate his image.

[…]

Officials said the clips shown to reporters were just part of the largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever collected.

The evidence seized during the raid also includes phone numbers and documents that officials hope will help break the back of the organisation behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

[…]

Information collected in the haul also suggests that top al Qaeda commanders and other key insurgents are scattered throughout Pakistan, not just in the rugged border areas as previously though, and are being supported and given sanctuary by Pakistanis.

Despite protests from Pakistan, defeating al Qaeda and taking out its senior leaders in Pakistan remains a top U.S. priority, demonstrated by the failed attempt to take out the man tipped to replace Bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen on Thursday.

The U.S. remains defiant despite complaints from Islamabad that the raid on Bin Laden’s compound violated the country’s sovereignty, an anonymous senior defence official said yesterday.

[…]

U.S. administration leaders have been careful not to directly accuse the Pakistani government of being complicit in the existence of sanctuaries that have cloaked Bin Laden and his lieutenants.

But it strains credibility that the most wanted man in the world could have been hiding there in a large compound without Pakistani officials knowing.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Evidence at Bin Laden’s Home Raises Nuclear Concerns

Pakistani government links suspected

Intelligence analysts are sifting through phone numbers and email addresses found at Osama bin Laden’s compound to determine potential links to Pakistani government and military officials while U.S. officials and analysts raise concerns about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear materials.

According to three U.S. intelligence officials, the race is on to identify what President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, has called bin Laden’s “support system” inside Pakistan. These sources sought anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.

“My concern now is that we cannot exclude the possibility that officers in the Pakistani military and the intelligence service were helping to harbor or aware of the location of bin Laden,” said Olli Heinonen, who served as the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 2005 to 2010.

“What is to say they would not help al Qaeda or other terrorist groups to gain access to sensitive nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: CIA Agents Lived in Spy House Near Bin Laden’s Compound for Months in Most Intricate Operation in Agency’s History

The CIA spied on Osama bin Laden for months from its own top-secret safehouse in Abbottabad, it has been revealed.

In one of the most intricate intelligence operations in CIA history, spies moved in to a property next door to Bin Laden’s fortified compound to establish his ‘pattern of life’.

The surveillance operation was so extensive that the CIA was forced to go cap in hand to Congress in December to ask for tens of millions of dollars more funding, which was met by creaming money from a variety of other agency budgets.

U.S officials refused to reveal how many agents were part of the close-quarters surveillance team but were at pains to stress the remarkable levels of care required because Bin Laden would flee the moment suspicions were aroused.

They used every possible means to gather information, including Pakistani informants, satellite images, telephoto lenses and listening devices in an attempt to record Bin Laden and his cohorts.

However, Bin Laden was so adept at hiding that the CIA admit to admiring his commitment, having rejected the suspicious-looking trappings of bodyguards and vehicles.

According to Pakistan security officials, the al Qaeda leader spent the last five years living in the same room of his mansion where he was shot and killed by U.S. forces.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Was Bin Laden Betrayed by His Right-Hand Man? Al Qaeda’s Deputy Leader ‘Led U.S. Troops to Pakistan Hideaway’

Osama Bin Laden’s deputy led U.S. troops to the Al Qaeda leader’s hideout so he could take over the terrorist group, it was claimed today.

Egyptian Ayman Al Zawahiri, who has been touted widely as the man who will succeed Bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda, turned his back on his terrorist leader following a prolonged power struggle, according to a Saudi newspaper.

The plot to get rid of Bin Laden began when Zawahiri’s faction persuaded bin Laden to leave the protection of the tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Instead, they convinced him to set up home in Abbottabad, where he was finally killed by U.S. Navy SEALS earlier this week, a regional source told the Al-Watan newspaper.

Zawahiri’s Egyptian ally Saif Al Adel is said to have moved to Pakistan last autumn as Al Qaeda’s ‘chief of staff’ after a period of house arrest in Iran.

With his return, Al Qaeda’s Egyptian faction then hatched a plan to dispose of Saudi-born Bin Laden after irresolvable divisions developed between the terrorist group’s top two men.

‘The Egyptian faction of Al Qaeda is defacto running the organisation now and since he was taken ill in 2004 they have been trying to take full control,’ the paper wrote on Thursday.

The courier who led U.S. forces to Bin Laden was a Pakistani national working for Zawahiri, according to the source.

The man is said to have known he was being followed by American troops and to have intentionally led them to their target.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Far East


China: Torture? See How China Gets Its Way With Victims

Video of last ‘suspect’ used to coerce ‘confessions’

[WARNING: Extremely graphic content.]

It’s a new high-tech torture, officials say. In China, officials severely tortured Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng with the camera running and then coerced a tax evasion “confession” from artist and dissident Ai Weiwei by showing him the Gao video, and warning him that’s what could be coming.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Brazil Scuttles Democracy for Gay Marriage

This week has seen the final gasp of Brazil’s feeble democracy. By 10 votes to none, Brazil’s Marxist Supreme Court (STF) has instituted gay marriage in the country. Whatever our position regarding the issue, the Constitution is very clear when defining a family:

Art #226 — The family, the basis of society, has special protection from the State.

Paragraph #3 — The familial entity is recognized as the stable union of a man and a woman, and the law shall facilitate its conversion into marriage.

In order to change the Constitution, it would take two rounds of votes, with a majority of 3/5 of the House. As democracy requires, this would probably result in some debate and there is a huge probability that the bill would not pass. Therefore, in typical deceitful Marxist logic, they used a gay couples’ lawsuit as an excuse. They said they had to protect a minority as soon as possible, and the debate would be a hindrance.

What is amazing is that lawsuits in Brazil usually take ten or twenty years to be judged. When Lula’s party was caught in a mafia scheme to bribe Congressman with dirty money, he cynically said he was not worried, because the judgment would take 50 years.

This last month, the leader of the mafia (Delubio Soares) was re-instituted in the Party, with a huge party. He was already lobbying for a R$ 200 MM project.

Lula, the chief thief, has already made US$ 1 million in fees for lectures around the world. Since he is practically illiterate, a person who says he gets sleepy when reading a book, it is easy to see these are payoffs for helping large companies win contracts with the State. The judges do absolutely nothing about it and the leftist press is quiet.

This action recalls the infamous NKVD Troikas, Stalinist judges who sent hundreds of thousands to death with mock trials. In Brazil, judges are untouchable, make US$ 220,000 a year, have extended vacations and total security at work. They don’t even have to have graduate studies (a law degree is a 4 year undergraduate one).

The world is going gaga after Brazil, the seventh largest economy of the world and future site of the Olympics and the World Cup. What people don’t know is that this prosperity is false.

It was caused by the raise in commodities price and specially by demand from China for food and minerals. The State is broken and in debt, inflation is coming back at 7% a year; we have the highest interest rate in the whole world (credit cards charge 238% a year); 44% of Brazilians don’t have basic sewage and most are functionally illiterate.

Meanwhile, private banks are among the most profitable in the whole world. Last week, the former murderer and terrorist president Dilma issued a law stating that works for the World Cup (already very late) will not need a budget. It is free time for corruption.

[Return to headlines]



Hezbollah in Mexico

A terrorist organization whose home base is in the Middle East has established another home base across the border in Mexico.

“They are recognized by many experts as the ‘A’ team of Muslim terrorist organizations,” a former U.S. intelligence agent told 10News.

“We are looking at 15 or 20 years that Hezbollah has been setting up shop in Mexico,” the agent told 10News.

[…]

Now, the group is blending into Shi’a Muslim communities in Mexico, including Tijuana. Other pockets along the U.S.-Mexico border region remain largely unidentified as U.S. intelligence agencies are focused on the drug trade.

“They have had clandestine training in how to live in foreign hostile territories,” the agent said.

The agent, who has spent years deep undercover in Mexico, said Hezbollah is partnering with drug organizations, but which ones is not clear at this time.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Immigration


842 Land on Lampedusa

(AGI) Lampedusa — Maxi night landings on Lampedusa. Some 842 migrants arrived in two boats. The first carried 187 passengers, among whom there were 19 women and one child. The second vessel transported 655 non-UE migrants, including 82 women and 21 children. All of them are sub-Saharan natives who crossed from Libya. Another vessel, carrying about one hundred migrants, has been stopped in Tunisia national waters and returned to that country by Tunisian patrol boats.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Boat Carrying 700 Immigrants Rescued in Channel of Sicily

(AGI) Palermo — A boat carrying about 700 immigrants was sighted in the Channel of Sicily, 35 miles off southern Lampedusa. It was announced by sources of the port authorities.

Three patrol boats of the Coast Guard, two vessels of the financial police and one helicopter were sent to its rescue. So far, no major risks have been reported. Another boat with 250 people on board, sighted 50 miles off the island this afternoon, is currently heading to Malta and is being monitored by a trawler.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Fishing Boat Tows Migrant Vessel to Lampedusa Safety

(AGI) Lampedusa — The island of Lampedusa is being reached by yet another migrant boat. Total landings stand at 842 in 48 hours. According to coast guard sources, the 15-metre vessel, spotted 50 miles off the island by, is being helped to shore by a Mazara del Vallo fishing boat. Strong northerly winds are hindering tow operations but the boat is deemed safe. The boat is estimated as carrying 250-300 sub-Saharan migrants.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Maroni: War in Libya Must End or Migrants Will Keep Coming

(AGI) Cermenate — Italian Interior minister Roberto Maroni spoke straightforwardly about the immigration situation. “The war in Libya must end as soon as possible — he said, calling for a solution, “otherwise refugees from that country will keep on coming to Italy on a daily basis”. He said so speaking on the sidelines of an event for the donation of assets seized from the ‘ndrangheta mod in Cermenate, in the province of Como.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Migrant Vessel Sinks Off Tripoli Shores With 600 Onboard

(AGI) Roma — According to UNHCR a boat carrying 600 migrants sunk just off the coast of Tripoli owing to its excessive cargo. The news was reported by the UN agency’s Laura Boldrini.

“Unfortunately this confirms that the Libyan government has no problem putting its people at risk, on dangerous vessels, just to put pressure on destination countries. These people are just being sent to their deaths”, Boldrini says.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Tom Tancredo: Amnesty is Good for the Economy?!

A week or so ago, President Obama held a highly publicized White House “dialogue” about immigration. Its real purpose was to find a new strategy for amnesty legislation, which is to say, it was about his 2012 election campaign.

The “new strategy” is in truth a repackaging of the old strategy, but you would not know that from the news commentaries following the event. The participants in the White House meeting were the usual suspects — businesses that employ illegal aliens, sanctuary-city mayors from San Antonio and Atlanta, open-borders activists from the National Council of La Raza, a sprinkling of academics, Hollywood stars and a token number of Republicans.

The latest word is that Obama will make a major speech next week to launch the new amnesty campaign. Evidently, he plans to spend the political capital earned by the Navy SEALs’ killing of Osama bin Laden to wage this battle. Unless the leader of Navy SEAL Team Six is miraculously a child of illegal-alien parents, I doubt he can make any connection between the two topics.

What is their new strategy for amnesty legislation? Obama and the amnesty lobby have decided to sell amnesty as good for the economy. That will be about as easy as selling voodoo dolls at the Vatican, but what do they have to lose? The old arguments have all failed, and the House is now controlled by conservative Republicans. The so-called humanitarian arguments used to promote the “Dream Act” failed, and no one really believes that the border is secure.

[…]

So, for this strategy to succeed, the race card must be used insistently against opponents. They must be painted into a corner so that a vote for amnesty becomes the only way to rescue the Republican Party from “disaster at the polls.” That argument by slander will not work with most Republicans, but it has neutralized some Republican leaders who think the issue is not important enough to risk an “electoral backlash.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


Muslims Ragefully Mourn Bin Laden

Had the execution of Bin Laden happened on Bush’s watch, there would be a vocal display of nauseated anger, condemnations of American barbarity and a few amateur art exhibits or two featuring Bush biting off the head of Bin Laden or some such thing. But it’s Obama, and they don’t quite know what to do with him. They aren’t about to peg him into the cartoon monster that Bush was turned into. They recognize that Obama is pandering ahead of an election to what they see as the baser instincts. And they feel that what happened reflects more on Americans, than on Obama.

But Obama has pandered far more to the sensibilities of Muslims. Getting Bin Laden was an act of political necessity, but pandering to his co-religionists is another matter. From the burial to the refusal to release the photos, the concern over what Muslims will think has dominated much of the decision making.

[…]

In London, there was also outrage over Bin Laden’s untimely bullet derived demise

In London, about 100 members of the radical Islamist group, Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), staged a protest and “funeral prayers” in honor of Osama bin Laden outside the U.S. Embassy.

The group shouted slogans such as “Freedom burn in hell” and “USA will pay” while waving banners stating “Jihad against crusaders” and “Sharia law for UK.”

Anjem Choudary, one of the leading MAC figures, said they were protesting against “injustices” committed by the United States: “The latest injustice is the assassination of an old man in his home in front of his family, Sheikh Osama bin Laden.”

He warned of future revenge attacks by militants.

“I believe al Qaeda will take revenge. The next operation I believe will be called ‘Operation bin Laden’ and will match the magnitude and character of the past.

“The philosophy of al Qaeda is to take the war to the enemy on their own homeland, so it will be in the West.”

The MAC protesters were confronted by about 50 members of the right-wing, anti-Islamist organization the English Defense League (EDL), with police having to keep the two chanting groups apart, amid minor scuffles.

Incidentally members of the EDL are in jail, but Choudary is a free man. It’s not like he’s a bigot inciting violence… not like those mean EDL people. Why can’t they and the Navy SEALS just leave Muslims like Bin Laden and Choudary alone?

The bin Laden supporters waved banners reading “US govt are the real terrorists” and US leaders were branded “murderers” by the radicals, who warned revenge attacks were “guaranteed”.

“It is only a matter of time before another atrocity—the West is the enemy,” Abu Muaz, 28, from east London, said.

Luckily law enforcement jumped into action and…

Officers confiscated an effigy of bin Laden being waved by the EDL supporters but police said they had no immediate reports of any arrests at the ongoing demonstration.

Well there problem solved.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

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