News Feed 20110522

Financial Crisis
» Greece: 62% Opposed to Memorandum, Poll Says
» Greece Accuses Fitch of Following Press Rumours
» Spain: EU Demands Control Over Bank Chiefs’ Wages
» The Netherlands Pays €1bn Too Much to Europe: Minister
» What Happens When Greece Defaults
 
USA
» Conquering America
» End of the World
» Here is What Your Lib-Dems Have for Backbones and Guts — Union Slave-Masters
» Lawmakers Resist Obama’s Call to Offer $2b in Loan Assistance to Egypt
» Obama Demands Israel Downsize: This is the New Humbler Foreign Policy?
» Racebaiter Chicago Priest Reinstated by Spineless Cardinal
» Recipe for Revolution: Mobilizing for Social Transformation, Part 2
» The Constitution is Not What it Used to be
» USDA Fines Family Four Million Dollars for Selling Bunny Rabbits
» WikiLeaks: Evidence of North American Union, April 28, 2011; NAU-01
 
Europe and the EU
» Islamic “Shariah-Compliant” Banking Takes Root in Europe
» Italy: Gore Accuses Murdoch of Abusing His Power
» Italy: Amanda Knox Goes on Trial for Slandering Police
» Italy: Parmalat Investors Want 8% More From Lactalis
» Italy: Ex-Trainee Priest Arrested in Clerical Abuse Probe
» Italy: Number of Italian Weddings Down Sharply in Last Two Years
» Italy: Mafia ‘Eats Up’ 20% of GDP of Italian South
» Italy: Gore Says Murdoch Pulled Current to Please Berlusconi
» Obama and European Terror Policies
» Priest Charged With Pedophilia Says He is HIV Positive
» Sicilian Mafia Clans Had ‘Vast’ Interests in North
» Spain: Bulgarian Killer’s Gay Ex-Lover Claims Beheading Maniac’s Mind Was Poisoned by Drugs in Britain
» Switzerland: Ticino Residents May Vote on Burka Ban
» Switzerland: What Price a Future Without Nuclear Energy?
» UK: ‘Malcolm Was Poisoning Me From the Start of Our Marriage’, Says ‘Lucky’ Wife Who Survived Male Nurse’s Reign of Terror
» UK: Inside Blair’s Nest of Vipers: Tony Was Delusional and Prescott a Bully… But the Power of Cherie Was Not to be Underestimated, Reveals Former Labour MP
 
North Africa
» Al Qaeda: Emirate of Terror in Maghreb
» Algeria: Municipal Strike Creates Black Market for Documents
» Egyptian Woman Arrested Over Deadly Sectarian Violence
» Egypt: 4 Billion Dollars From Saudi Arabia to Aid Cairo
» Egyptian Marxists Unite
» Kidnapped Italian in Algeria ‘Well’
» Urgent UNICEF Funds Appeal for Libyan Women and Children
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Beware the Peacemaker
» ‘Gov’t May Free 20 Killers in Exchange for Gilad Schalit’
» Jerusalem Police Close Alleged Hamas Office
» PNA: Israeli-Palestinian Demographic Parity by 2014
» Progressives Urge Obama to Dump Israel
» What’s Wrong With Obama’s Israel Speech?
 
Middle East
» Iran Arrests 30 People Suspected of Spying for the U.S.
» Obama’s Reaction to ‘Arab Spring’ Greeted With Skepticism
» Obama: Syria: Same Strategy as Bush
» PM Erdogan Warns of Sectarian Clashes in Syria
» Saleh: Al-Qaeda to Take Over Yemen
» Saudi Arabia: I Drive: Women to Defy Ban
» Syria: Al Jazeera Reporter, My Prison Experience in Damascus
» Syria: Rasmussen: We Rule Out NATO Intervention
» Syria: Damascus Condemns US Sanctions Against Assad
» Turkey Advises US to Give Al-Assad More Time for Reforms
» Turkey: Minor Allegedly Raped, Forced Into Prostitution
» Turkey: Brussels: Concern Over Website Censorship
» Turkey Warns of ‘Necessary Response’ To Flotilla Violence
 
Russia
» Russia’s Top Diplomat Set for Talks With Hamas, Fatah Leaders in Moscow
 
South Asia
» Indonesia: Stop on Import of Mass Wine, Catholics Favour “Made in Indonesia”
» Pakistan: Punjab: Anti-Christian Violence: Nurses Sequestered, Families Evicted From Home
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Ivory Coast: Muslims to Christians: ‘We’re Coming for You’
 
Latin America
» Mel Zelaya’s Entourage and What’s Next?
 
Immigration
» Asylum in Holland for Turkish Judge
 
Culture Wars
» Netherlands: Supermarkets Refuse to Hand Out ‘Devils’ Tokens
» UK: GP Rapped for Talking About God With Patient’

Financial Crisis


Greece: 62% Opposed to Memorandum, Poll Says

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 19 — Some 62% of Greek respondents to an opinion poll conducted on behalf of private SKAI television by Public Issue were opposed to the Memorandum, ANA reports today. The poll, the results of which were presented Wednesday night on a SKAI television program, was conducted on the completion of one year since the signing of the Memorandum. According to the results, 62% of the respondents were against the Memorandum, just 15% were in favor, and 19% said it had neither benefited nor harmed the economy, while 3% expressed no opinion.

Asked to evaluate the Memorandum, 62% of the respondents said it had harmed the economy, 13% said it had benefited the economy, 18% said it had neither harmed nor benefited the economy, and 1% said it had somewhat benefited or somewhat hurt the economy, while 5% took no position. To a question on the necessity of the Memorandum, 69% of the respondents said the Memorandum was not the only solution, while 24% considered it the only option. The corresponding percentages from a similar opinion poll in April were 62% and 30% respectively.

Further, 33% of the respondents held the politicians responsible for the situation, 21% considered the Greek governments responsible, 13% held mismanagement to blame, another 13% put the blame on corruption, and 11% said that all the Greeks were to blame. Finally, 64% of the respondents considered Greece’s bankruptcy a possibility, while 32% said bankruptcy was not a possibility. The correspondent percentages from a similar poll in February 2010 were 38% and 59% respectively.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greece Accuses Fitch of Following Press Rumours

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 20 — The decision by Fitch to cut Greece’s rating was influenced by press rumours and does not take the Greek government’s fresh efforts to carry on with its planned deficit reductions and privatisations. This is the message coming from Greece’s Finance Minister in a communiqué cited by the Bloomberg agency, which stresses how Athens’ plans are focused on meeting its 2011 targets.

And just today, Greece’s Finance Minister, George Papaconstantinou, reaffirmed the need to speed up privatisations plans worth 50 billion euros — for which a 2015 deadline has been set — along with divestment of public assets.

Bloomberg cites Papaconstantinou as saying that the country has to move faster and more decisively in order to kick-start its economic motor and produce jobs, investment and wealth.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: EU Demands Control Over Bank Chiefs’ Wages

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 20 — The European Commission has issued an ultimatum to Spain, stating that the country must implement the European directive concerning the strengthening of capital of banks and a reduction in the wages of their leading figures. The move was reported yesterday by EU sources quoted by Europa Press. The deadline for adhering to the national regulations was January 1 this year. Brussels issued its ultimatum in the form of a legal warning, the second phase of the infringement procedure. If Madrid fails to rectify the situation in the next two months, the European executive will be entitled to take the case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The directive in question aims to guarantee the financial solvency of banks and investment companies, and to fight the “excessive and careless risk-taking in the banking sector, which is rewarded by poorly conceived remuneration that has led to the bankruptcy of a number of companies and brought problems to society as a whole”.

As well as Spain, infringement procedures have been launched against Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia. In a statement, the Spanish Ministry of Economy, led by the second Deputy Prime Minister Elena Salgado, said that Madrid had already transferred the entire European directive on capital and wages to its own legislation through law 2/2011 on sustainable economy, approved on March 4, and law 6/2011, approved on April 11. The government has also underlined that obligations on wages that feature in Spanish regulations apply retrospectively from January 1 2011, as established by the directive. The executive adds that the approval of draft legislation accepting the remaining technical and regulatory aspects of the directive is “imminent”. The statement says that the European directive “was approved largely as a result of Spain’s efforts during its presidency of the EU Council in 2010”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



The Netherlands Pays €1bn Too Much to Europe: Minister

The Netherlands would have to pay €1bn less to the EU if the contribution is calculated according to gross domestic product rather than a combination of GDP and customs duty, finance minister Jan Kees de Jager has told MPs.

The Netherlands is currently a net payer into the EU coffers because its contribution is boosted by tax income from Rotterdam port and other sources.

According to the Telegraaf, in 2009, the Dutch contribution was €5.5bn, while €1.85bn came back from Brussels in the form of grants and subsidies. The Netherlands has negotiated a €1bn refund on its EU payment but that deal is due to expire in 2014.

De Jager told MPs on Wednesday he is campaigning to reform the way contributions are calculated. In addition, he reiterated the Netherlands’ position that an increase in EU spending, as backed by the European parliament, is ‘not acceptable’.

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



What Happens When Greece Defaults

By Andrew Lilico

It is when, not if. Financial markets merely aren’t sure whether it’ll be tomorrow, a month’s time, a year’s time, or two years’ time (it won’t be longer than that). Given that the ECB has played the “final card” it employed to force a bailout upon the Irish — threatening to bankrupt the country’s banking sector — presumably we will now see either another Greek bailout or default within days.

What happens when Greece defaults. Here are a few things:…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA


Conquering America

“Problem Solving” is what the team of doctors do in each episode of “House.” They know that multiple components can, and most often do, relate. Looking at all of it together helps them define what’s really going on.

In fact, we employ this problem-solving strategy nearly everyday. Think of all the times you do this with your kids; piecing together related facts, issues and information to determine what’s really going on at school, with friends, when they’re sick, etc.

Now let’s problem-solve this set of related components to determine what’s really going on…

1. ACLU warns about legislation that could authorize military force within the U.S.;

2. Obama and Soros’ “Responsibility To Protect” doctrine is used against Libya under UN authority, which means it can be used by the UN against any country, including the U.S., for whatever they consider to be “humanitarian violations”;

3. The Soros-supported RAND Corporation devises a method to institute a Stability Police Force within the U.S. that gets around the constraints imposed by the Posse Comitatus Act;

4. The Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision which violates the 4th Amendment by allowing police to enter anyone’s home without a warrant;

5. Obama’s Executive Orders grant full immunity to International Police (Interpol) when on U.S. soil;

6.Obama enacts a DoD Directive and legislation to create Civilian Forces and Commissioned/Ready Reserve Corps;

7. Obama’s DHS defines patriotic Americans as terrorists.

Perhaps we need a little more information about each of the above items because it appears our own President — our own government — has laid the groundwork to attack Americans now or in the future and that just can’t possibly be the case, right? Here are brief descriptions of each with links:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



End of the World

The media has been having a prolonged belly laugh at a group that had the temerity to suggest that the world would end today. Of course it’s ridiculous when Harold Camping predicted that the world will be over today, but not when Al Gore predicted that the North Pole would melt in five years. True believers in Gore would say that’s the difference between science and eschatology. But when bogus science warns us of an apocalypse if we don’t follow the tenets of their ideology, then how much difference is there anyway?

Of course no one expects MSNBC to do sneering reports of global warming activists freezing at a protest or Al Gore being forced to watch a count down of a solidly frozen North Pole. Such mockery is only directed at people who believe in more unpopular forms of apocalypses. At least unpopular at the broadcasting studios of Manhattan. Camping is ridiculous, but Al Gore is right on the money.

The only real difference between Harold Camping and Al Gore, is that Harold Camping believes what he’s saying, while Al Gore preaches one thing to his followers, but lives a lifestyle in direct contraction of it. The Vice President turned Prophet of Gaia lectures on watching our carbon footprint and then flies on jet fueled carbon wings to another concert on behalf of the planet. Other aspiring prophets like Prince Charles, who admires poverty, but lives in privilege, are no better.

[…]

Science requires objectivity. Combine science with ideology and you get a mandatory belief in absurdity. Everyone who self-righteously insists that global warming is science misses the point. The scientific orthodoxy of every generation has embraced ridiculous and wrongheaded theories. Science is not a pure form of revealed truth, it is the trial and error process by which we crawl toward a better understanding. A less flawed picture of the universe. Turn the scientific orthodoxy of any era into a mandatory ideology and you have killed the science and left only another belief system.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Here is What Your Lib-Dems Have for Backbones and Guts — Union Slave-Masters

At a National Press Club gathering on May 20, 2011, Head Shakedown Boss Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO informed the liberal Democrats all over this country of his threat that they had better get in line or suffer from the penalties that would be dished out if the corrupt legislators deigned to think that their constituents should come first before the unions with loss of union support.

To be so out in the open with such threats only more positively points to the muscle these power mad goons exert on their feeble and supplicant union members who become dependent on them for more crumbs from the employers. The order of the day is to bleed more and more out of the employers to satisfy the insatiable greed of these task-masters with the pitiful and wimpish cry of trying to make the employee’s life better.

Hogwash! What they’re doing is using the employee as the pitying point for more increases in dues for themselves. What doesn’t go for buying votes for the politicians goes into their well padded bank accounts and luxury accommodations for softer work conditions for them.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Lawmakers Resist Obama’s Call to Offer $2b in Loan Assistance to Egypt

President Obama’s call for $2 billion in loan assistance to Egypt has left many political figures scratching their heads as they try to figure out why a debt-ridden U.S. would commit that much money to a country whose new government may not end up friendly to America.

[…]

“Considering our own national debt, we cannot afford to forgive up to $1 billion of Egypt’s debt,” said Rep. Elena Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I am deeply concerned that the president did not rule out providing aid to Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood is part of the government,” she said. “The U.S. should only provide assistance to Egypt after we know that Egypt’s new government will not include the Muslim Brotherhood and will be democratic, pro-American and committed to abiding by peace agreements with Israel.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Demands Israel Downsize: This is the New Humbler Foreign Policy?

Is it an illusion, or does Obama specialize in constant, shape-changing contradictions? He’s thrilled over his own “epic achievements,” daily shattering campaign promises. For example, Obama’s idea of “helping” our ally Israel is demanding they unilaterally surrender massive areas of territory to quiet their enemies, despite being bordered on every side by mortal foes. Have we mentioned these countries already invaded Israel multiple times without cause? But such appeasement will lead to “peace” — of course! Imagine an analogy — an undersized boy is ordered by his stepfather to “stop lifting weights” to get stronger to fight back against a bully, since once he gives up training the bully will logically lose interest! Make sense?

How can any still believe in Barack’s “genius”? He’s so disgustingly predicable when he intercedes in the Israeli-Palestinian fray to blithely carve the Jewish state to ribbons. That Obama would subjectively and unilaterally demand the Jews shrink their borders without any qualms astounds the educated thinker. It illustrates the dangers of hiring an inexperienced, doctrinaire professor to run a democracy.

The willful stupidity of Barack’s actions is jaw-dropping. First, Israel is a sovereign country. All the US aid in the world doesn’t change that fact. Hello? Second, how exactly does tiny Israel hemorrhaging huge sections of land in a region already dominated by armed and hostile Muslims help make them, and the region — more secure? Third, if this move is not pro-Muslim at Jewish expense, how else can it be described? Stopping Barack’s nonsensical Israeli policy to stabilize the region and stave off potential world war is the topic of this essay.

I. History of Israel

The oldest habitation in the world, Jericho (9,000 BC) is found in the region of Israel, as well as many other like ancient cities. After a storied history, the end of the original Old Testament the Jewish state occurred after the bloody Bar Kokba rebellion. In 135 AD they were ejected from Jerusalem by the Roman army. Herod’s Temple (the Second Temple), was destroyed. The Bible records some of this contemporaneously.

After two thousand years being chased from country to country; robbed, beaten and slaughtered indiscriminately, the Jews finally found relief in the 1917 British Balfour agreement, returning their ancestral homeland. Yet, one day after the Jews declared independence in 1947 after the Holocaust and WWII, they were attacked by the Arabs. On Nov. 29, 1947, Jamal Husseini of the Arab Higher Committee informed the UN after they voted to partition, Arabs would drench “the soil of our beloved country with the last drop of blood . . . .”

Consider the history of modern Israel, with many wars unjustly launched by Muslim states:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Racebaiter Chicago Priest Reinstated by Spineless Cardinal

Father Michael Pfleger, one of the most hateful and divisive priests on the American Catholic scene, has been temporarily given back his position as pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church on Chicago’s South Side by Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George.

In a new statement posted on the website of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Father Pfleger apologizes for threats to leave the Church that he made in a radio interview last month saying he feared that his comments were hurting the Church — something he claimed he didn’t intend.

With public apology in hand, Cardinal George has reinstated this hatemonger to his former role as pastor of St. Sabina Church in order to allow him to help find a new pastor and help with that transition. Apparently he has until December to make the arrangements.

This is quite a shame. He does not deserve the consideration. Pfleger has a long, long history of extremist rhetoric, racist statements, personal attacks on citizens and politicians both, and hardcore, left-wing political activism. He has also stood strongly against many tenets of the Catholic Church like ordination for women and the Church’s stance on gays and gay marriage, to name just a few.

Not only is Michael Pfleger not a very good priest, he’s not even a very good Catholic. It is a shame that Church leaders are letting this man continue to despoil the Church even temporarily.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Recipe for Revolution: Mobilizing for Social Transformation, Part 2

A child of the revolutionary sixties, I witnessed firsthand the unprecedented social upheaval of that turbulent decade. Especially on college campuses, the counterculture gained momentum as more and more students “turned on, tuned in, and dropped out.”[1] Along with other nations, the U.S. pushed hard for center-left social reform; and its impact was lasting.

Just ask Curtis Bower. Decades later in 1992, Bower was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley at a time when the Communist Party of America divided. Upon slipping in undercover to one of their meetings, Bowers learned of a highly developed agenda to infiltrate institutions so that, in the end, American families would be destroyed (via cohabitation, hijacked public education, the feminist movement); businesses would falter (via radical environmentalism); and our culture of religion and morality would collapse (via militant gay rights and hate-crimes legislation).[2]

Though the 1992 cast was new, the script was not. In 1921, leading American socialist Norman Thomas gave voice to the plan’s underbelly. “Under the name of liberalism,” he explained, the American people will “adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without knowing how it happened.”[3] Far from crushed, America’s flourishing Communist Party of 1992 honed Thomas’ strategy by exploiting the obliging aftermath of the sixties revolution.

At its core, communism upholds damaging credos of rulers “from the grave” such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx, whose notions —”God is dead”; “man is animal” and “lives for the State,” respectively—serve to justify violence. Non-party members, called “useful idiots,” do the dirty work for party elitists and, once used to the full, these socialist “comrades” are likewise rubbed out. Genius strategy, don’t you think?

Bower thought so. Some fifteen years later, as Idaho State Representative, Bower recalled the Berkley meeting and observed that the agenda was advancing, as planned. Over time, both major political parties had moved left of center. Punishing the middle class, expanding racial justice to favor minorities, trumping the U.S. Constitution with international “soft law,” and demanding justice for the planet (ostensibly worthy of human apology and even worship) all had served to advance Thomas’ strategy.[4]

Aware that when a country goes down, others—be it China, Russia, the EU, or radical Islamists — are poised to fill the gap, Bowers further understood that, if America fails economically, she’ll also go down militarily. And this will mark the end of global freedom for a very long time. In letters to newspapers, Representative Bowers sounded the alarm.[4]

Well-informed Americans get it that communism bears responsibility for more mass murders than the combined number of deaths tallied in all modern wars. This alone renders the term unsavory. In response, savvy strategists work word-craft magic by replacing the Marxist lexicon with kinder, gentler euphemisms, more appropriately called “weasel words.”

As is the case with most small omnivores, weasels are known for cunning. Weasel words share this attribute—e.g., use of “saving the planet” (for earth servitude), “commonism” (for communism), “social justice” (for Cultural Marxism), and “the greater good” (for blatant nepotism).

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Constitution is Not What it Used to be

When James Madison wrote “…nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation” into the Constitution, he really meant “for public use.” Over the years, the courts redefined “public use” to mean “whatever government wants to do with your land.” The Kelo v. New London decision drove the final nail into the idea of sacred private property. Another Founder, John Adams, said:

“Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty…The moment that the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of god, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot exist. “

Private property is no longer sacred. Government can take your land and give or sell it to another private individual. Government can assume control of your land — which is the defining power of ownership — by simply declaring that a wetland exists, or that an endangered or threatened species may wish to use your land. Government may prevent you from using your private property by simply drawing lines on a map and declaring that your land is in a “conservation” zone.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution is not what it used to be. But then neither is the Fourth Amendment, which says quite clearly that:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Indiana Supreme Court doesn’t understand this clear language. Writing for the court, Justice Steven David said:

“We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,”

What on earth is “modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence” that completely upends the clear language and meaning for the Fourth Amendment?

Modern jurisprudence must mean that courts are no longer bound by the Constitution or the law, and can redefine the words to mean whatever the court wants them to mean at the moment. This disease is not limited to the courts, however. It has spread to the White House and to Congress.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



USDA Fines Family Four Million Dollars for Selling Bunny Rabbits

When the Dollarhite family of Nixa, Mo., first started raising and selling bunnies as part of a lesson to teach their teenage son about responsibility and hard work, they had no idea they would eventually meet the heavy hand of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to a recent article covered in Breitbart’s Big Government, the USDA recently ordered the Dollarhite family to pay more than $90,000 in fines because they sold more than $500 worth of rabbits in a year — and if they fail to pay the fine by Monday, May 23, the fine will multiply to nearly $4 million.

It all started back in 2006 when John Dollarhite and his wife Judy rescued two rabbits that ended up breeding. The family cared for and raised the new rabbits, and eventually began to sell them to neighbors, friends, and others for $10 or $15 each. Having started by first selling the animals for meat, and later for show, the Dollarhites carefully and humanely raised the small creatures on their three-acre homestead, all while teaching their son honest values in a business environment similar to running a small lemonade stand.

Eventually, the Dollarhites developed such a highly-respected reputation across Missouri that the popular Branson, Mo., theme park Silver Dollar City, and even a local pet store, Petland, began purchasing bunnies from the family in 2009. And according to John, individuals from both Silver Dollar City and Petland, as well as a rabbit competition judge, told him that the family’s bunnies were among the best they had ever seen — healthy, beautiful, and very well-cared for.

All seemed well until a USDA inspector showed up at the family’s home in the fall of 2009, and asked to do a “spot inspection” of the rabbitry. The inspector made no indication that anything was amiss, but only that she wished to see the facility. After meandering the premises, the inspector claimed that a few very insignificant aspects of the raising facility were in violation of USDA standards, even though the Dollarhites were not USDA certified, nor were they required to be. She then asked if the Dollarhites wished to be part of the voluntary USDA certification system, upon which they told her they would look into it.

After the inspector left, the Dollarhites heard nothing more from the USDA until January 2010 when a Kansas City-based USDA inspector called the family and said he needed to have a meeting with them because they sold more than $500 worth of rabbits in a single year. When the Dollarhites asked why this was a problem and what law this violated, the man refused to offer an explanation over the phone.

Upon meeting in person, the inspector said he was only there to investigate the rabbitry and take notes for a report, upon which he instructed the family to contact another USDA office if they failed to hear anything further from the USDA after six weeks. As the eighth week arrived without any communication, John called the office and was redirected to the Washington, DC, office where a lady shockingly and bluntly explained to him that she had his report, and that the USDA planned to prosecute him and his family “to the maximum that we can” in order to “make an example” out of him.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



WikiLeaks: Evidence of North American Union, April 28, 2011; NAU-01

Gulag Bound will be logging a number of entries about the facts (and any potential opinions) of plans for “North American Integration,” also called “North American Union.”

Over the last few years, researchers and whistleblowers of attempts to integrate the nations of Canada, Mexico and the United States of America have been overwhelmingly ridiculed. Some of that ridicule has been all but invited, by extravagant claims made without documentation or citation and much of it continues to be suspect.

But now we do have documentation and citations to make. Gulag Bound will number our entries. Our first designation is NAU-01.

The failure of the news media (including conservative media, blogs not exempted) to report on the following leaked cable speaks loudly in its silence. However, the John Birch Society, much more often right than wrong, as the unfolding of recent history demonstrates, have not failed. An article, “WikiLeaks Exposes North American Integration Plot,” in their New American reported the April 28th news on May 2nd.

This unrefuted memo, from George W. Bush appointed U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, demonstrates an agenda far beyond favored trading status between the three nations. Rather, it is a short essay on incrementalism vs. a “big deal” approach aimed at thorough political “integration” (to the extent of making “union” synonymous). Since it was drafted by our ambassador to Canada, it tends to emphasize the U.S.-Canadian relationship, but even where it does, it refers to the overall North American goal.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Islamic “Shariah-Compliant” Banking Takes Root in Europe

By Soeren Kern

The European Union is emerging as a major center of Islamic finance, based on Islamic Shariah law, and which critics say amounts to “financial Jihad” by Islamists intent on Islamifying the West.

The spectacular growth prospects for the Islamic financial services industry in many European countries is being fuelled by Muslim mass immigration; despite a difficult economic climate on the continent, Islamic banking is growing faster in Britain, France and Germany than it is in many Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia.

The key role that Europe is playing in establishing Islamic finance in the West was the central theme of the 8th Islamic Financial Services Board Summit, an annual conference that promotes Islamic banking around the world. Hosted by the Central Bank of Luxembourg from May 10-13, 2011, it was the first time the event was held in a European country.

Proponents of Islamic finance depict the Islamic banking system as a morally superior alternative to the Western banking model. Structured around a strict code of ethics and based on the Koran and Islamic Shariah law, Islamic banking is (in theory) supposed to make it possible for Muslims to conduct financial transactions while observing Islamic prohibitions against charging interest (riba), risk or uncertainty (gharar) and/or investing in forbidden (haram) products and activities such as alcohol, entertainment and gambling.

Critics of Islamic finance, however, point out that although there are some practices in conventional capitalist finance that do not involve charging interest (for example, venture capital or investing in stocks) or risk or uncertainty (for example, investing in government bonds), it is impossible to have a financial and banking system that avoids both. As a result, much of contemporary Islamic banking is shrouded in a variety of deceptive legal fictions and subterfuges (hiyal) that enable Muslims to engage in business transactions that circumvent and evade Shariah prohibitions on interest.

Because of this, critics say the expansion of Islamic finance to the West is primarily a political strategy, one that has a highly ominous objective: It is designed to legitimate and institutionalize Shariah law (a religious legal code that is diametrically opposed to Western values) in the West. One of the main aims is to shield Muslim communities in the West from mainstream society, and to create Islamic parallel societies controlled by Shariah in Western countries, as well as to attract ever greater revenues with which to promote the expansion of Islam. (…)

           — Hat tip: AA [Return to headlines]



Italy: Gore Accuses Murdoch of Abusing His Power

Rome, 20 May (AKI) — Former US vice-president Al Gore said his Current TV channel was dropped by Sky’s Italian network because it hired left-leaning American news commentator Keith Olbermann.

Gore appeared late Thursday on a political chat show aired by an Italian state television channel and accused Sky owner Rubert Murdoch of abusing its power by forcing Sky Italia to drop Current TV’s Italian programme.

“News Corp.… seeks political power in every nation it operates. It wields that power to shut down voices that disagree with the agenda of Rupert Murdoch,” Gore said.

Sky countered by saying Current TV was removed because of it didn’t make business sense to continue its broadcast. It said Current TV’s fee was too high.

Keith Olbermann was hired by Current TV after he left MSNBC — the cable unit of American broadcaster NBC — three months after his suspension for making campaign donations to the US Democratic Party. His departure sparked speculation that the outspoken liberal was forced to resign.

His show had MSNBC’s highest ratings.

He previously had a show on Murdoch’s Fox Network, which ran from 1998 and 2001.

Murdoch was asked on Fox Business if he’d consider employing Olbermann again.

“No, we fired him once, we don’t believe in firing people twice,” he responded.

Olbermann’s new show—which, like his MSNBC show, will be called “Countdown” starts on June 20.

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



Italy: Amanda Knox Goes on Trial for Slandering Police

Perugia, 17 May (AKI) — American college student and convicted murderer Amanda Knox went on trial in the central Italian city of Perugia Tuesday for slandering police officers.

Knox, wore dark trousers and a white top chose to attend the brief pre-trial hearing, which was adjourned until November. Twelve Perugia police officers brought the case after Knox claimed during her trial for British student Meredith Kercher’s 2007 murder that she had been”beaten” by police in Perugia during questioning.

Knox will be back in court on Saturday for a hearing in her and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito’s appeal against their convictions for murdering Kercher in what judges said was a “brutal” and “orgiastic” attack in Knox and Kercher’s shared cottage in Perugia in November 2007.

Knox was jailed for 26 years and Sollecito for 25 years for their roles in the murder, while African immigrant Rudy Guede, who opted for a separate fast-track trial, is serving a 16-year prison sentence for his part in Kercher’s killing.

Knox and Sollecito claim Guede killed Kercher alone and they had no part in the murder and were convicted on faulty forensic evidence.

The pair recently obtained a full review of the forensic evidence used to convict them, including disputed traces of DNA found on a knife allegedly used in the murder and on the clasp of Kercher’s bra.

But Italy’s Supreme Court in February said that Kercher was killed by more than one person in the attack.

In its explanation of its December ruling rejecting Guede’s appeal against his jail term, the court stressed that it had only been called to assess the guilt of Guede.

Nevertheless, observers say the ruling is bound to affect Knox and Sollecito’s claim that Guede was the sole perpetrator of the crime.

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



Italy: Parmalat Investors Want 8% More From Lactalis

Milan, 19 May (AKI/Bloomberg) — Parmalat investors are holding out for at least 8 percent more from Groupe Lactalis of France in a takeover that would value Italy’s biggest dairy at 3.65 billion euros.

Parmalat shares have closed above the 2.60 euro-a-share offer every day since 5 May on expectations that Lactalis will have to raise its bid in order to succeed. The Laval, France- based company, the country’s biggest cheese-maker, has made the offer conditional on 55 percent of investors accepting it.

“Why would anyone tender to a 2.60 offer when they’ve been able to sell it above that level for several weeks now?” said Ben Rolfe, head of special situations at Tavira Securities in Monaco. “Unless they waive the acceptance condition or increase the bid, it is doomed.”

Parmalat’s board said Tuesday that the Lactalis bid is too low and that it won’t recommend it to shareholders. Lactalis in March paid a group of activist investors 2.80 euros-a-share for a 15 percent stake in Collecchio, Italy-based Parmalat, raising its holding to 29 percent. On 26 April, the Laval, France-based company announced a bid for the rest.

“We are in favor of the deal, but believe that Lactalis needs to offer at least 2.80,” said Todd Bassion, who helps manage more than 1 billion dollars in assets at Delaware Investments in Boston. Parmalat is among Delaware’s 10 biggest holdings.

Lactalis’s bid values Parmalat at 16 times net income, which would be the lowest in the industry for an acquisition exceeding 500 million dollars, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The takeover of Parmalat, which has the most cash of any dairy company in the world, would also be the second-cheapest to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Lactalis said this week that its offer is almost 10 percent higher than the 2.37-euro average price target of analysts from before the bid. The average price estimate is now 2.50 euros. A spokeswoman declined to comment beyond that statement.

The offer “does not include a control premium,” said David Abraham, director in event driven strategies at BTIG in London.

At 2.60 euros-a-share, Parmalat’s enterprise value, or the sum of its stock and debt minus cash, would equal 8.8 times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization over the last 12 months, Abraham said. Comparable transactions in the dairy products industry have been conducted at a multiple of about 12 times, he said.

“I am better off keeping my position in Parmalat,” said Philippe Denef at Degroof Fund Management in Brussels. “Looking at the relative value of Parmalat compared to other food companies, I have no incentive to sell at 2.6 euros.”

Combining Lactalis and Parmalat would create the world’s largest dairy company with annual revenue of about 14 billion euros. Chief executive officer Enrico Bondi had built up 1.4 billion euros in cash by winning settlements from the company’s former creditors following Parmalat’s bankruptcy, Italy’s biggest.

“Lactalis needs to offer at least 2.8 euros, for equal treatment between the funds and minority investors, said Daniele Demartis, who helps manage 150 million euros at Rome-based Agora Investment, including Parmalat shares. “It’s an unspoken, but fair rule. I will wait patiently for them to relaunch their offer.”

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



Italy: Ex-Trainee Priest Arrested in Clerical Abuse Probe

Genoa, 20 May (AKI) — Police were due Friday to question the alleged accomplice of a priest accused of sexually abusing young boys who was arrested late Thursday in the northern port city of Genoa.

Police nabbed 41-year-old Emanuele Alfano, a former trainee priest as he was boarding a cruise ship to take up a job in its casino.

Alfano allegedly paid a boy for sex and had sex with another boy and acted as a pimp for disgraced Genoa parish priest Riccardo Seppia, procuring him numerous boys for sex.

The Vatican suspended Seppia after police arrested him last week for suspected sexual violence against a 16-year-old altar boy and sex abuse of other youths, as well as supplying cocaine.

Investigators opted to arrest Seppia last Saturday following surveillance of his mobile phone and obscene text messages allegedly sent to teenage boys, including a 15-year-old with whom he had arranged a sexual encounter later that day.

Investigators believe Seppia abused “at least five” teenage boys in his parish.

Alfano was arrested after investigators intercepted a phone call made to Seppia in which the priest told him he had kissed the altar boy.

He and Seppia are being held in Marassi prison. Seppia has already been quizzed by police but it is not known what line of defence he is taking.

In an unusual move, the archbishop of Genoa, cardinal Angelo Bagnasco attended a mass last Saturday at Seppia’s church in the Sestri Ponente district, where he expressed his “shame” for Seppia’s alleged behaviour.

In another address on Thursday in Genoa, Bagnasco went further. Referring to Seppia solely as “our brother” he said that if the allegations against him proved to true “they disfigure the beauty of the soul, scandalise and wound the image of the Church.”

Bagnasco’s swift, hands-on reaction was a marked departure from the Vatican’s long-held habit of defending members of their ranks.

The clerical sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic church in several countries has only recently emerged in Italy, where the Vatican is politically influential and citizens are often deferential towards priests.

Two priests have this year been jailed for sexual offences against children in Italy.

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



Italy: Number of Italian Weddings Down Sharply in Last Two Years

6% fall compared to 1.2% average over last 20 years

(ANSA) — Rome, May 18 — The number of weddings in Italy fell 6% in the two years from 2009 to 2010, Istat said Wednesday.

The decline was a marked increase on the 1.2% average drop seen over the last 20 years, the statistics agency noted.

Lazio, the region around Rome, saw a 9.4% fall while Lombardy, the region around Milan, had an 8% decrease.

Weddings in Tuscany were 6.7% down and those in Piedmont, the region around Turin, and Campania, the region around Naples, were both 6.4% down.

Istat said more young adults were living together without getting married and more of them were finding it hard to get jobs and homes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Mafia ‘Eats Up’ 20% of GDP of Italian South

‘Increasingly intermingled’ with Mezzogiorno’s legal economy

(ANSA) — Rome, May 17 — Italy’s four main mafias “eat up” the equivalent of “15-20%” of the GDP of the southern regions they infest, ex-interior minister Beppe Pisanu said Tuesday.

Pisanu, a top Senator for Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, said “mafia investments and speculation have spread to every economic sector in the Mezzogiorno and are increasingly intermingled with the legal economy”.

The former minister was citing details from the latest report from the parliamentary anti-mafia commission on Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the Camorra in Naples, ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria and the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Gore Says Murdoch Pulled Current to Please Berlusconi

Nobel winner calls on Italians to protest

(ANSA) — Rome, May 20 — Al Gore has accused Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp of pulling his independent liberal TV channel Current from Sky Italia to ingratiate itself with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

The Nobel Peace Laureate and former United States vice president suggested the dropping of a channel that has broadcast documentaries critical of Berlusconi and his government was dictated by News Corp’s ambitions to enter the digital TV market in Italy.

At the moment, Sky Italia broadcasts on a satellite platform here.

He said News Corp’s attitude to Current had changed after the melting of the friction between Murdoch and Berlusconi following Sky Italia’s arrival on an Italian market previously dominated by the premier’s Mediaset empire and state broadcaster RAI.

“In the past Berlusconi’s men pressured Sky to stop Current transmitting uncomfortable programmes (for the premier) and Sky defended us,” Gore, who narrowly lost the 2000 US presidential election to George W. Bush, said on RAI.

“Since there has been talk of new contracts, the pair (Murdoch and Berlusconi) have become closer and this was a factor that led to us being closed down”.

Sky Italia denied this, saying the decision was caused by Current doubling its carriage fee.

Current responded that it had asked for an increase of about 33% in line with higher ratings.

Gore called on Italian viewers to protest.

“There are 14 TV channels in the Sky bouquet (in Italy) that have lower audiences and are given more money than us and they have not been closed,” he said.

“The Italian people must make themselves heard. Call Sky and send emails threatening to cancel your subscriptions if they do not go back on their decision”. Gore claimed that Current’s decision to hire liberal TV anchor Keith Olbermann, who has had a long-running dispute with News Corp’s Fox News, also contributed to the channel being pulled.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Obama and European Terror Policies

By Bat Yeor

President Obama’s speech brimmed over with empathy, enthusiasm, and admiration for the Arab-Muslim rebels of the Middle East and North Africa, in concordance with his previous Cairo speech. He nevertheless recognized that terrorism and hostage taking necessitated a change in America policy to avoid “a deepening spiral of division between the United Sates and Muslim communities.” This means surrendering to the jihadist terror war, at least in the way that European leaders have done so since the 1970s. There are many similarities between the two cases.

The request for “a sense of humility,” coupled with the lavish distribution of billions taken from American taxpayers, leaves one with the conviction that dhimmitude is extending its dark night over this American Munich.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Priest Charged With Pedophilia Says He is HIV Positive

(AGI)Genoa — Genoa Prosecutor Stefano Puppo has been questioning Don Seppia for 3 hours. The priest, who was arrested 8 days ago on charges of child abuse and drugs, had asked to be heard by the Prosecutor’s office. It seems that in the form he was asked to fill upon his transfer into the city’s prison, Don Seppia wrote he is HIV positive and has a cocaine addiction.

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



Sicilian Mafia Clans Had ‘Vast’ Interests in North

63 arrests in sweep in Sicily, Lombardy, Liguria

(ANSA) — Caltanissetta, May 18 — An Italian police operation on Wednesday exposed the “vast” interests of Mafia clans from the central Sicilian city of Gela in various parts of northern Italy, judicial sources said.

Prosecutors issued 63 arrest warrants in a sweep across Sicily and the northern regions of Lombardy and Liguria.

The alleged mafiosi are suspected of extortion, international drug trafficking, arson and illegal arms possession, judicial sources said.

Apartments, villas and construction companies worth more than 10 million euros were seized.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Bulgarian Killer’s Gay Ex-Lover Claims Beheading Maniac’s Mind Was Poisoned by Drugs in Britain

A Bulgarian who beheaded a grandmother in Tenerife became hooked on heroin on the streets of Britain, according to new claims.

As well as smoking cannabis on a daily basis, Deyan Deyanov injected the Class A drug, making his behaviour dangerously erratic.

The 28-year-old drifter funded his drug habit by joining a gang of muggers and stealing from friends.

He trawled gay bars in search of men while also sleeping with women.

The claims, which shed new light on the Bulgarian’s apparently erratic state of mind, have been made by Stuart Crosbie, a Scottish construction worker who says he was one of Deyanov’s lovers.

Mr Crosbie said: ‘I can’t believe Deyan could ever have done such a truly terrible and evil thing.

‘He caused a lot of distress and trouble during his time in Scotland. I’m ashamed to have known him.’

[…]

It has also been revealed that Deyanov’s family in Bulgaria had been relatively affluent under the Communist regime but fell into poverty after it collapsed.

But Elin, Deyanov’s brother, blamed him for the family’s struggles.

He said: ‘He destroyed our family. My father went bankrupt because of him and left us because of him. The final break-up came when my mother became so crazy she had to be sent to a mental hospital and Deyan stole the last of my father’s money [£3,500] and wasted the cash on drugs and gambling. I just wish he was dead.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Ticino Residents May Vote on Burka Ban

Citizens of canton Ticino may be the first in Switzerland to vote on a proposal to ban women from wearing burkas in public.

A committee there has gathered the 10,000 petition signatures required to launch an initiative that could forbid the wearing of burkas and other veils that hide the face.

The group delivered the signatures to cantonal authorities in Bellinzona on Thursday, saying it had collected well over 10,000. Civil servants will formally inspect and count the signatures next week.

The initiative is directed at burka- and niqab-wearers in particular, but would also ban face coverings worn by hooligans and demonstrators. A similar ban came into effect in France on April 11.

Rightwing political circles have tapped into fears of a growing Islamisation in Switzerland. In November 2009, nearly 58 per cent of Swiss voters approved an initiative banning the construction of minarets.

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



Switzerland: What Price a Future Without Nuclear Energy?

The idea of giving up nuclear power is gaining ground in the debate on energy policy, but business groups disagree about how to best meet Switzerland’s energy needs.

Five francs a year — that would be the cost to Swiss families of quitting nuclear power, according to a coalition of environmental organisations.

The group says giving up atomic energy — which accounts for 40 per cent of Swiss electricity supply — and changing to a new system of based on green energies would be “the best guarantee at the lowest prices”.

But business lobby group economiesuisse warns that a move away from nuclear power would negatively impact Swiss industry.

Last week WWF, Greenpeace, Pro Natura, the Swiss Association for Traffic and Environment and the Swiss Energy Foundation released a plan which put the cost of a kilowatt hour of green electricity at SFr0.1cent more per household.

By presenting concrete figures on the costs, the environmental organisations recognise that the discussion on energy policy — which will really heat up with the parliamentary debate in June — is not solely an ideological one. Financial and economic considerations are likely to make all the difference.

economiesuisse, the umbrella organisation for Swiss business, considers a premature abandonment of atomic energy “irresponsible”. Without valid alternatives, economiesuisse warns, abandoning the nuclear option will have serious consequences for Swiss industry.

Excessive dependence

Private industry uses 60 per cent of the electricity consumed in Switzerland. For economiesuisse it is therefore crucial that the country be able to guarantee a secure and independent energy supply.

“We are not against renewable energies, but we believe that, on their own, they will not be able to deal with the energy picture that is now shaping up,” Urs Näf, head of energy affairs at economiesuisse, told swissinfo.ch.

“The German government’s decision to close nuclear power plants and the European Union’s intention to carry out stress tests on plants are going to have repercussions on imports of electricity to Switzerland. How are we to supply ourselves during the winter, at a reasonable cost?”

Näf points out that since 2001 Switzerland has imported energy to satisfy its needs in winter.

Switzerland does not belong to the European Union, emphasises the leader of economiesuisse in French-speaking Switzerland, Cristina Gaggini, in an article in the Tribune de Genève.

“We will therefore not be the first served. Or else we will have to pay the higher price.”

A new future

The increase in the price of electricity — which Heinz Karrer, the CEO of energy utility AXPO, puts at 30% — will have a negative impact on transport and industry in Switzerland, says Urs Näf. Even clean-tech businesses will feel the effects.

“Swiss jobs and the competitiveness of the Swiss marketplace are going to take a hit.”

According to Hans Püttgen, director of the Energy Centre at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and increase in the price of electricity can be sustained by households, but will be disastrous for businesses.

“Some will move abroad, others will have to shut down,” Püttgen said.

If the building of new nuclear power plants (a process which was suspended in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan) is not given the green light, the only alternative will be to build plants using combined-cycle gas, according to economiesuisse.

But these will be plants emit CO2 and would contradict the objective of reducing emissions put forward by Parliament…

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



UK: ‘Malcolm Was Poisoning Me From the Start of Our Marriage’, Says ‘Lucky’ Wife Who Survived Male Nurse’s Reign of Terror

The second wife of a murderer who killed his first bride to pocket a £200,000 life insurance policy said last night: ‘I’m lucky to be alive.’

Felicity Drumm has described in chilling detail how the man many described as a ‘polite charmer’ tried to kill her several times over a number of years and began drugging her as soon as they started their honeymoon.

Her chilling account comes after her husband Malcolm Webster was last week finally convicted of murder, attempted murder, theft and fraud — more than 17 years after his initial crime.

‘He was a psychopath’: Ms Drumm married Webster in 1997 in Auckland. He soon persuaded her to add his name to her bank account

Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, Felicity told how Webster experimented with sedatives which left her unconscious for 36 hours and poisoned her food while she was pregnant with their son.

She said Webster, 52, from Guildford, Surrey, also attempted to get rid of her by staging a series of bizarre house fires and suspicious car accidents.

It was only after she uncovered his plans that she discovered he had cheated her out of £200,000 of her savings and left her in financial ruin. He had secretly insured her life for £750,000.

[…]

When Felicity first met Webster in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May 1996, he had already murdered his first wife Claire Morris. In 1994 he had drugged his new bride in Aberdeenshire and deliberately crashed their car before setting light to it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Inside Blair’s Nest of Vipers: Tony Was Delusional and Prescott a Bully… But the Power of Cherie Was Not to be Underestimated, Reveals Former Labour MP

My invitation to 10 Downing Street arrived shortly after New Labour’s General Election triumph in 1997.

As one of the new intake of MPs, I was among the first group to be welcomed by the Blairs into their new home.

The invitation came with an instruction that I should phone ‘for directions’. I took this to be a helpful offer to new MPs representing, for instance, Aberystwyth, who had no knowledge of the where-abouts of Downing Street.

I declined the offer of directions and duly proceeded to the party. After a short while, I found myself in the company of the Prime Minister’s wife, Cherie, whom I knew slightly from the Bar.

Without a single pleasantry, she fixed me with a beady eye and enquired acidly: ‘Where is your wife?’

I answered cheerfully: ‘Not invited.’

‘Not invited?’ hissed my hostess. ‘Not invited? Didn’t you get the directions?’

I confessed I had not applied for the directions which, presumably, had included instructions to bring my wife.

Cherie’s lips set in something approaching a bloodline before she said: ‘You will go to the bottom of the list.’

There was something in the way she said ‘bottom’ which left no doubt that no living thing, however pestilential or foul, would be likely to inhabit the space beneath that to which I had been consigned.

Cherie uttered a sound that would have sent primitive man scuttling to his cave, turned on her heel and disappeared. No one, I realised, should underestimate the power of the Prime Minister’s wife.

As the newly elected MP for Medway, it was an early lesson in New Labour’s instinct for authoritarian control and intolerance of dissent. It was a lesson that would be repeated throughout my 13 years in the Commons.

[…]

We evolved a dangerous presidential form of government without any checks and balances.

This failing had consequences in the nature of the legislation that we passed, the capacity of Government to drift into authoritarian control and, of course, in the awful consequences of the Iraq War.

I was not naive when I entered Parliament. It was on October 19, 1996 that I first formed the view (which I still hold) that Blair was dangerously delusional. It was at the Labour Party Conference and he was making the Leader’s speech.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Al Qaeda: Emirate of Terror in Maghreb

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 20 — A strategy, and not improvised actions, perfectly planned, comprising not only actions on the field but also a patient effort of networking, especially with those who, because of their personal history and past choices, could be functional to the plan to create an emirate of terror.

This is Al Qaeda in Maghreb (Aqim), whose affiliation to the “parent company” was blessed by Osama Bin Laden himself, who perhaps had understood the massive subversive potential of having its own cell on the Mediterranean, on Europe’s doorstep. A book by journalist and writer Atmane Tazaghart, parts of which were published today by Algerian newspaper al Watan, which redesigns the profile of Aqim in terms of its military as well as diplomatic capabilities, crediting it with relations that are the result of a specific plan.

The recent events that shook Tunisia (the armed clash with a terrorist group, the seizing of weapons and explosive belts) are but the last piece of a puzzle started time ago and which, according to Tazaghart, also includes two events in recent months. One is known (the murder in February of a polish priest, quickly classified as a robbery that went sour), but the other is rather new to most (a raid in the streets of the Tunis medina that are traditionally the turf of prostitutes). To confirm Aqim’s long term plans, the writer reveals that at the end of December, when the winds of revolt were already blowing in Tunisia, the intelligence services of the Countries of the area had noticed “unexpected movements of armed groups of Al Qaeda in Maghreb” (dozens of jihadists, mostly Tunisian, part of the group led by emir Abdelhamid Abou Zeid) from the Sahel towards the border areas between Algeria and Tunisia. Activities that did not go unnoticed by the western secret services, which interpreted them as a manoeuvre which, in light of the imminent fall of Ben Ali, should lead to the creation of an Aqim “subsidiary” in Tunisia, a new bridgehead in the desert region of R’mel el Abiadh, on the border between Libya and Algeria.

But the terrorists also tried to take advantage of the chaos in Libya, setting up relations (weapons traded for the chance to set up a training camp) with certain Berber tribes in Northern Libya that have always been opposed by Gaddafi. The book claims that all of the above aims to achieve Bin Laden’s dream: a “new Afghanistan” in the Sahara, to set off for the conquest of the Maghreb and lay a trap for Europe. Matters that gave yet another push to the cooperation between the Countries of the Sahel (Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania), today more than ever allied in terms of anti-terrorism, which in those areas means exactly al Qaeda, which Abdelkader Messahel, the Algerian minister in charge of Maghreb Affairs, flatly defined “a scourge”. In Bamako ministers of the four Countries met, once again, after only a few weeks, to draw up a common line of action, with the support of the United States, “our very important partner in the fight against terrorism, just like the rest of the EU Countries”, according to Messahel. To certify that the fight against terrorism can affect a single State, but is a problem that must be solved thanks to international cooperation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Algeria: Municipal Strike Creates Black Market for Documents

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 19 — What to do when you urgently need a document and the institution that has to issue it has been on strike for a month? People in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, seem to have found the most obvious solution: they have organised a black market, the newspaper Le Temps d’Algerie reports. Several employees of the municipality have created a kind of ‘virtual counter’. They are officially on strike, but issue the required document, obviously in exchange for money. The documents that are requested most are the most frequently used: birth, family certificate, residence. Each one has a price, ranging from 1,00 to 5,000 dinars (around 10 to almost 50 euros), certainly not cheap for Algerian standards. The drastic decision taken by the head of the administrative division of the Municipality of Tizi Ouzou to close the archives in an attempt to stop the phenomenon has apparently not had the desired effect. Le Temps d’Algerie explains that several forward-thinking employees had decided to take and hide blank documents before the strike, which they now fill out and sell.

The applicant only needs to have an old and expired certificate.

These transactions are clearly not made in clear daylight.

But with some patience and skill everything can be solved. For example, said one citizen, people make an appointment in a public place, often a bar, and the exchange is made there. One of the employees has accepted to talk to the newspaper and his explanation could fit right into an old Italian comedy: this is not corruption, but only a service we provide.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egyptian Woman Arrested Over Deadly Sectarian Violence

A young Egyptian woman whose complicated love life led to Muslim-Christian clashes that killed 15 people in Cairo was arrested on Thursday and charged with polyandry, a judicial source told AFP.

Abeer Talaat Fakhry, 26, was living with her Christian husband in the southern city of Assiut when she ran away from home, converted to Islam and “married” Muslim Yassin Thabet, the source said.

Hundreds of ultra-conservative Muslims known as “Salafists” attacked a church in the poor Cairo district of Imbaba on Saturday, spurred on by rumors that Fakhry had converted to Islam and was being held there against her will. Salafism is a strain of thought in Islam that seeks to interpret religion through the prism of Islam’s “Salaf,” or forefathers.

In subsequent clashes with Christians, 15 people died and more than 200 others were injured.

But the source said Fakhry was actually with her new “husband” in a house next door to the church and had fled when the clashes began.

The largest Christian community in Egypt is that of the Copts, in whose church divorce is extremely difficult to obtain.

There have been a number of cases, in which unhappy women have left their husbands, converted to Islam and “married” Muslims, but those marriages are not recognized by law, hence, the charge that Fakhry committed polyandry, or had more than one husband.

Claims that Christian women, who had converted to Islam, were kidnapped and being held in churches or monasteries have soured relations between the two communities for months.

Islam allows non-Muslim women to marry into the faith, but prohibits Muslim women from marrying outside of it.

Copts account for up to 10 percent of the country’s 80 million people. They complain of discrimination, and have been the targets of fairly regular sectarian attacks.

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



Egypt: 4 Billion Dollars From Saudi Arabia to Aid Cairo

(AGI) Cairo- Saudi Arabia will send 4 billion dollars in aid to Egypt to fill in the 10-12 billion dollar ‘hole’ in the treasury. The news was reported by Egypt’s official news agency Mena.

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



Egyptian Marxists Unite

This is an huge surprize. Not!

Five Egyptian political parties and movements unite to form the Coalition of Socialist Forces, they announced in a meeting on May 10, 2011. The newly formed coalition is made up of the Social Party of Egypt, the Democratic Labour Party, the Popular Socialist Coalition Party, Egypt Communist Party and the Revolutionary Socialists. It aims to include under its umbrella other socialist movements in Egypt, which are considered fragmented. “We [social political activists] are optimistic that the Coalition of Socialist Forces will bring a stronger socialist presence onto Egypt’s political scene”, said Gigi Ibrahim, a political activist.

The Egyptian revolution did not bring “democracy”. It brought radical Islam and Marxism.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Kidnapped Italian in Algeria ‘Well’

Maria Sandra Mariani ‘in good health’ says tourism minister

(ANSA) — Algiers, May 19 — An Italian tourist kidnapped in southern Algeria in February is “alive and in good health,” Algerian Tourism Minister Smail Mimoune said Thursday.

The minister told a local daily he had received the information on Maria Sandra Mariani “a few days ago”.

Mariani, 53, was taken hostage on February 2 by an Al Qaeda-affiliated group.

She has since broken radio silence and said she was in the hands of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which seized her in the Algerian Sahara near the border with Niger. The Italian foreign ministry has been closely following the case, under tight reporting restrictions, with Algerian authorities. AQIM, who have staged several kidnappings in the area between Mali, Mauritania and Niger in the last three years, have so far not issued any demands for Mariani’s release. The kidnapping was the first in Algeria since 2003, when 32 Western tourists were taken hostage. Mariani is not believed to have been the initial target of the AQIM group that came into a tourist camp at Alidena, 2,000 km south of Algiers, reportedly looking for a party of Westerners. Mariani, from Tuscany, had been going to the Djanet oasis city for five years, for spells of one or two months. She is believed to have been taken across the border into Niger.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Urgent UNICEF Funds Appeal for Libyan Women and Children

(AGI) Rome — UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa Regional director has launched an urgent appeal for aid for women and children. Twenty million dollars are urgently needed to ease the situation of women and children in Libya, and others who have fled the country. Shahida Azfar said “the longer the Libyan crisis goes on, the more pressing the humanitarian plight of women and children becomes.” .

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

Israel and the Palestinians


Beware the Peacemaker

I watched in horror Obama’s speech yesterday where he literally threw Israel to the Middle Eastern wolves encircling her. Brazenly traitorous, smug and arrogant, the evil of this man is now fully on display. I say to you now, beware the peacemaker. In the name of peace, he will bring war, misery and death. In the name of an enforced peace plan — Responsibility to Protect (R2P), he will attempt to bring about the destruction of Israel — he will lead the ungodly armies of the Middle East to the borders of the holy land and Obama will be damned for doing so. And I mean what I say here.

Our President has betrayed our largest, closest and last real ally — Israel. He is calling for a return to the 1967 borders, which would be suicide for Israel. It would leave one strip of land only 8 miles wide with their airport absolutely vulnerable to attack. Israel’s enemies would literally be able to drive her into the sea as they have threatened for so long. Obama sided with the Palestinians, but Americans don’t and they don’t side with their President. We are sickened by his weakness and by his treachery.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



‘Gov’t May Free 20 Killers in Exchange for Gilad Schalit’

A prisoner swap for Gilad Schalit may be closer than ever, several Israeli media outlets reported Saturday.

According to a report in the Arabic-language London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Israel has agreed to release 20 Palestinian murderers with blood on their hands as part of a prisoner exchange for the captive soldier. As part of the potential agreement, the released prisoners would not be allowed to remain in the Palestinian territories after their release.

No deal has yet been signed, but the report stressed that negotiations were in final stages.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Jerusalem Police Close Alleged Hamas Office

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Jerusalem police said on Sunday that they had closed an office suspected of having links to the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza and expected to make arrests.

Police spokeswoman Luba Simmari said detectives closed the premises of the Heritage Committee in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi Joz after it breached an existing closure order.

“It is the intention of the police to arrest suspects responsible for reopening it,” she told AFP. “It was run by Hamas… Hamas is forbidden to work in east Jerusalem.”

Neighbours said that the two-storey building was also used for prayers.

An eyewitness said that police welded its doors shut.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]



PNA: Israeli-Palestinian Demographic Parity by 2014

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, MAY 13 — Within three years, there will be demographic parity between Palestinians and Israeli Jews in the area between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, including the Gaza Strip. The total population of the area will be 6.1 million people, according to the Palestinian statistics office, which has released a report to co-incide with the 63rd anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel (known to Palestinians as the “naqba”, or the “disaster”).

The figures show that there are 11 million Palestinians in the world today (against 1.4 million in 1948). The Palestinian statistics office adds that there are currently 1.36 million Arabs in Israel. If the inhabitants of the West Bank (2 and a half million) and Gaza (1.6 million) are added, there is a total of around 5.5 million Palestinians living between the Jordan and the sea. The institute says that there are also 5.7 million Jews on the same stretch of land, mostly in Israel, with some in the West Bank. The statistics show that the rate of demographic growth among Palestinians is higher than that of Israeli Jews, with Palestinians set to “surpass” their counterparts after 2014. The Palestinian population is also reported to be very young, with 40% under the age of 15.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Progressives Urge Obama to Dump Israel

Unofficial Obama adviser Medea Benjamin, founder of Code Pink, organized a small demonstration in Washington, D.C. this week to demand that the U.S. terminate military aid to Israel. “Not one nickel. Not one dime. We won’t pay for Israel’s crimes,” Benjamin led the demonstration in the anti-Israel chants. One protester from the Washington, D.C. Green Party said the U.S. and Israel were terrorist governments.

Benjamin, a member of the International Solidarity Movement which is allied with enemies of the U.S. and Israel, is known for her pink outfits. She announced in 2009 that she was going to deliver a letter to Obama from the deputy foreign minister of Hamas. “In the letter,” reported Benjamin, “Hamas urged Obama to visit ‘our ground Zero’ in Gaza and bring about a ‘paradigm shift’ in the Israel-Palestine conflict based on enlightened world opinion and international law.

This appears to be what Obama did in his Thursday speech urging Israel to return to its vulnerable 1967 borders with the Arab states.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



What’s Wrong With Obama’s Israel Speech?

While Obama’s apologists claim his 1967 border statement added no new substance, we know that in negotiations, especially those involving international brinksmanship and especially in the Middle East, nuance and impression are substantive. If other presidents had the same starting point to a peace deal (and that is not entirely clear), they did not say so. Because Obama did, he sent a clear signal that the ‘67 borders were the gold standard for any peace deal. It is not unlike the settlement issue. For 15 years, Palestinian leaders continued to negotiate with Israel while building went on unchecked. It only became an issue for talks when Obama made it one. As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, “President Obama stated in Cairo that Israel must stop all construction activities in the settlements. Could we demand less than that?”

So too, with the 1967 borders, that no matter how people now parse Obama’s words, the notion of the 67 borders as the basis for a peace agreement is clearly implanted in the international mind. Another Obama gaffe, of course, is that they are not and never were borders recognized by anyone. The so-called borders are merely armistice lines drawn for a temporary truce based on troop positions after several Arab states attempted to destroy the newborn Jewish State in 1948. After Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Abbas called “on Obama to further press Israel to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders,” according to Al Jazeera. No matter how Obama parses his words, the idea has now become part of the Middle East narrative.

[…]

But that is not all Obama changed. In 2004, the United States gave Israel written assurances that it “is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state…and the settling of Palestinian refugees [in a Palestinian state], rather than in Israel.” On the basis of that and other assurances, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip. But now, Obama has reneged on them by saying that the refugee issue remains to be resolved. Nor did he even mention the US position on the issue. Yet, every Palestinian leader from the most moderate to the most radical has said they would not give up their alleged right of return, calling it “sacred.” Hamas’s number two man said it in 2006; Fatah and the PLO also said it could not be relinquished. Less than a week before Obama’s speech, Abbas himself said that they “will never neglect the ‘right of return’“ for Palestinians to their original home.” The day after Obama’s speech, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking about the matter, told Obama, “Palestinian refugees cannot come to Israel… It’s not going to happen.” The refugee issue is a red herring for two reasons. First, there are an equal or greater number of Jewish refugees who fled Arab lands, making the entire matter a wash. Second, opening the floodgates of millions of Palestinian Arabs is suicide for Israel as Israel. But considering the new realities Obama just created, Israel likely will be told it has no choice but to accept them by the same advocates for its Auschwitz borders.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Iran Arrests 30 People Suspected of Spying for the U.S.

Washington has had no diplomatic presence in Iran since the 1979 revolution; arrests come two days after Obama made a speech reiterating that the U.S. views Tehran as a sponsor of terrorism.

Iran has arrested 30 people it said were spying for the United States, official media reported on Saturday.

“The Intelligence Ministry’s active and pious forces, in their ardent confrontations with the agents of the CIA … arrested 30 people who were spies for America,” state television’s lunchtime news announced.

According to the semi-official Fars news agency, the suspects had passed information to U.S. officials at embassies and consulates in third countries, including Malaysia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

It said Iran had identified 42 U.S. intelligence officers in such countries, saying: “they engage in collection of information regarding Iran’s nuclear, aerospace defense and bio-technology fields,” among other areas of interest.

Spying in Iran can carry the death penalty.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama’s Reaction to ‘Arab Spring’ Greeted With Skepticism

(AGI) Rome — Two years after his speech in Cairo on relations with Islam, President Barack Obama seems to have lost his appeal with the Arab media. His new speech on the “Arab Spring” and the peace process in the Middle East was greeted with a certain skepticism and there has been no end od criticism. An editorial in the Arab language Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir accused the American president of double standards in judging the Arab uprisings. “Obama,” Al-Safir says, “has bought the Arab revolts with money,” bitterly criticizing Assad and Gheddafi, having issues with Iran, but says nothing about Saudi Arabia. What really surprises the writer is that Obama considers Iraq an “applicable democratic model” for the rest of the Arab world, ignoring that the American war in Iraq has been a source of instability for the whole region.

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



Obama: Syria: Same Strategy as Bush

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 20 — Barack Obama is like George W. Bush, according to Syrian authorities, who claim that “it is clear from the U.S. President’s speech that the United Sates’ attitude toward the Middle East has not changed between 2005 and now”. Yesterday for the first time Syrian state TV showed the U.S. president’s speech live and unedited, with simultaneous interpretation into Arabic and an unseen person commenting on the speech’s main aspects for the viewers’ benefit. An official Syrian source was quoted this morning by traditionally pro-Damascus regime Lebanese publication’ As Safir’ as saying that “there has been nothing new in the Western and American approach from 2005 until today, from former President Bush to the current one, Obama”. On Wednesday the United States announced it will be imposing unilateral sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al Assad, six other members of his regime and two officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, whom Washington accuses of having supported Damascus in repressing protests which have been underway for over two months.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



PM Erdogan Warns of Sectarian Clashes in Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed concern that Syria might split along sectarian lines as tensions continue to grow in Turkey’s southern neighbor.

“We have concerns that sectarian clashes might erupt in Syria that could split the country. We do not want to see such a thing,” Erdogan told reporters during a visit to the governor’s office in the Black Sea province of Rize, Anatolia News Agency reported on Saturday.

Erdogan said the last time he talked to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was nearly 10 days ago, adding however that the Turkish ambassador in Damascus was in continuous contact with the Syrian government.

“Syria is like a domestic issue for us because we have an 850-kilometer border as well as strong ties of kinship. I hope that Syria will overcome these dire times quickly,” Erdogan said, repeating previous statements he has made on the issue.

Earlier the prime minister said it was premature to say whether al-Assad should quit. Erdogan, in an interview aired on the U.S. television channel Bloomberg late Thursday, described al-Assad as a “good friend” and said Ankara had begun applying pressure for reform even before a wave of uprisings began in Arab countries.

Turkey, whose ties with Syria have flourished in recent years, has said that it opposes foreign intervention in its southern neighbor and that the unrest-stricken country should solve its own problems. Last month, Turkish envoys held talks with al-Assad in Damascus as part of Ankara’s efforts to cajole him into reform.

Up to 850 people have been killed and at least 8,000 arrested since the protests started in mid-March, human rights groups say. The regime has blamed the deadly violence on “armed terrorist gangs” and kept the foreign media out, Agence France-Presse reported.

An editorial with the headline “Game Over” appeared in the government newspaper Tishrin on Sunday, declaring that it was clear the revolt was losing steam.

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



Saleh: Al-Qaeda to Take Over Yemen

Embattled Yemeni president warns Global Jihad to take over should he step down

The Yemeni president has condemned a US-backed proposal by Gulf Arab nations that he step down, calling it “a coup over legitimacy,” and warning of an al-Qaeda takeover if he leaves office.

Notably, in recent years Yemen has become the world’s second most important Global Jihad hotbed.

In a televised speech Saturday, Ali Abdullah Saleh lashed out at so-called “world superpowers” as well as Yemen’s Arab Gulf neighbors, accusing them of funneling cash to youth protesters to hold sit-ins and challenge his rule.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Saudi Arabia: I Drive: Women to Defy Ban

(by Elisa Pinna) (ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 19 — “I’ll drive”‘: this is the slogan on the social networks of a group of Saudi women who invite all women in the country to go out for a drive on June 17. This invitation may seem almost folkloristic at first sight. But it is in fact a very serious defiance with complicated political implications, because women in Saudi Arabia are still not allowed to have a driving licence (or to vote, to be self-employed or to choose their own husband), though many women already drive in the desert areas, outside the cities. They do run the risk of being arrested however. The initiative is spreading rapidly on the internet and the organisers of ‘Women2drivecampaign’ count on a massive participation. “This is 2011 and we are still discussing this insignificant right”, complains Manal, one of the organisers of the Facebook group, who prefers to give her first name only for safety reasons. The problem, another women observes on Twitter, is that Saudi Arabia is “a slippery ground: it starts with women driving, and then they also want to vote or marry who they want”. “What I like about the June 17 protest is, that if the government decides to repress it, the whole world will consider that choice unreasonable and harsh. If on the other hand they will allow women to drive, women will lose their fear and will challenge other bans”, someone else adds. The protest of Saudi women drivers would probably have been unthinkable without the uprisings in the Arab world seen in the past months. “Organising themselves and acting as a movement is something Saudi women have learned from recent events”, confirms human rights activist in the country Wajeeha al-Howeider.

In 1990, when the American troops used the Kingdom as operational base in the Kuwait conflict, women could be seen driving on the Saudi roads for the first time: U.S. women soldiers, but also Kuwaiti women fleeing their country. Several Saudi women decided to imitate them, to exercise what they saw as a right, but they were arrested. Today, a generation later, their daughters try again. Meanwhile Manal tells on Facebook that she already regularly drives in the city, at least four days per week. So far she has never been arrested. “I do it because I am frustrated, angry and mad”, she explains, waiting for others to follow her example. She is already a hero on the internet, and someone has called her the Saudi ‘Rosa Parks’, in memory of the African-American woman who in 1955 refused to get up for a white man in a bus in Montgomery, USA. Her decision triggered the battle for racial equality.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Syria: Al Jazeera Reporter, My Prison Experience in Damascus

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, MAY 19 — Al Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz, who was liberated after 19 days in prison, has spoken about the details of her imprisonment in Syria and Iran. “Initially, I had the impression that they were going to stop me at the airport under suspicion of being an American spy hired by the Israelis, but then it was clear that it was my work for Al Jazeera that was the problem,” said the journalist during an interview with the Qatar-based network. Dorothy Parvaz described her days in prison in Syria as scary: “You could hear violent beatings. First I was detained in a cell with a 19-year-old girl who was trembling with fear and crying, asking to be able to talk with her parents. She was taken into custody while she was walking the street and imprisoned without knowing why. But not everyone was arrested because they were believed to be protestors. I was in prison with a 24-year-old girl who had high-heel shoes on. If you are going to a protest, you certainly don’t go with high heels. Many people did not even know what they were supposed to confess.” After three days of imprisonment in Syria, Dorothy Parvez — who according to reports was travelling with Iranian, American and Canadian passports, some of which were expired — was deported to Iran. “I was dragged onto the plan, I was struggling and shouting. They told me that they were bringing me to Qatar, but in reality they lied and I was deported to Iran,” explained the journalist. Dorothy Parvaz said that she was treated respectfully and according to the law in Iran. “I did not have any idea about the media campaign initiated by Al Jazeera. It was only when I arrived to Iran that during questioning they told me that people were asking where I was,” she added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Syria: Rasmussen: We Rule Out NATO Intervention

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 20 — “NATO has no intention of intervening in Syria”. This is according to the organisation’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has been speaking to ANSA. “NATO has no intention of intervening in Syria. Obviously we strongly condemn the brutality of the Syrian security forces and the iron fist being used against civilians,” Rasmussen said, when asked about the possibility of an allied intervention in the country. “The only way forward for the country is to meet the legitimate demands of the Syrian people and to allow a peaceful transition towards democracy”.

“There is an obvious difference between Syria and Libya,” Rasmussen said. “In Libya, NATO operates on the basis of a UN mandate and receives great support from the region. Neither of these conditions are met in Syria”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Syria: Damascus Condemns US Sanctions Against Assad

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 19 — On the eve of the tenth consecutive Friday of protests in Syria called by dissidents and opponents, the Damascus regime has today condemned American sanctions decided in the last few hours against President Bashar Al Assad, saying that they “serve the interests of Israel”. Meanwhile, the army offensive in two towns close to the country’s border with Lebanon has continued for a fifth day. Activists claim that 40 civilians have been killed there in the last four days.

Media sources loyal to the Damascus government say that the border towns of Arida and Tall Kalakh are “hideouts for terrorists coming from Lebanon” and have explicitly accused the party of the outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, which is close to Saudi Arabia and the United States, of having ushered “300 armed men” into the country from the Wadi Khaled region “to carry out hostile acts against Syria”. During the evening, witnesses in the border area reported that army tanks had withdrawn from Tall Kalakh, while on the Lebanese side, the correspondent for BBC’s Arabic service this morning reported heavy military operations against Tall Kalakh and Arida. Nada Abdessamad said that she had seen civilian homes set ablaze after being hit by heavy shells fired from armoured vehicles, which had been positioned all around the two majority Sunni towns, where protest marches were held last Friday against the regime, which has been in power for almost half a century.

The Lebanese army has strengthened its presence on its side of the porous border in order to avoid “infiltrations” by refugees through certain illegal crossings.

Meanwhile, ahead of the American President Barack Obama’s “Middle East” speech, Damascus has today responded to the sanctions against Assad and six other regime figures announced in Washington yesterday, saying that the measures only show America’s desire to weaken Syria and the anti-Israeli resistance front. “The sanctions serve only the interests of Israel,” said a statement released by the Foreign Ministry in Damascus.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey Advises US to Give Al-Assad More Time for Reforms

Despite growing international pressure on the Syrian leadership, Turkey believes Bashar al-Assad’s regime should be given more time to make reforms, giving a clear message to the United States that any untimely intervention would be unwelcome.

“We want a smooth transformation and an orderly transition,” a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday, after a meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone.

The meeting came a day after a senior American military official held talks in Ankara and in Izmir with top Turkish generals.

Syria was the key issue discussed during the meeting between Ricciardone and Erdogan, according to Turkish diplomatic sources, who said the envoy conveyed messages to Erdogan from U.S. President Barack Obama.

“The number-one issue was Syria, but all the regional developments were discussed,” a Turkish diplomat told the Daily News on Tuesday. The diplomat refused to give more information on the content of the Erdogan-Ricciardone meeting, which took place at a heliport in Ankara, but said Erdogan also dispatched his messages to Obama.

The Ankara-Washington dialogue has coincided with growing concerns over regional stability in the wake of the growing uprising in Syria and the recent tension on Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon, where operations during protests to mark the anniversary of Israel’s founding claimed the lives of nearly a dozen people.

Damascus became the focal points of criticism by the international community amid the ongoing “Arab Spring” when it opted to suppress mass protests through excessive use of force that has left more than 1,000 people dead. Turkey has been advising Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s government to immediately implement reforms to calm the situation, but has become frustrated at its recalcitrance.

The international community has voiced its intention to impose more pressure on Syria through financial sanctions. U.S. President Obama is also expected to outline his country’s new Middle East strategy in the coming days.

“Turkey’s, and in particular the prime minister’s, initiatives in the region are always very important for us. That’s why we are following them very closely. That’s why I came here [to meet],” Ricciardone told reporters after his meeting with Erdogan.

Military demands on the table

The importance of the Ricciardone-Erdogan meeting was heightened by the fact that it came just a day after U.S. Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Turkey. Cartwright held talks with Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Isik Kosaner and visited the NATO Command in Izmir.

According to a diplomat, the primary focus of the talks was the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but the military officials discussed various matters of common interest, including the NATO operation in Libya and general developments in the Middle East.

“Terrorism is a problem of the region [the Middle East]. We have talked in this frame,” Ricciardone said, adding that Turkey and the United States are allies and are frequently holding similar talks to exchange views.

The U.S. ambassador has rebuffed Ankara’s criticisms that Washington was not backing Turkey’s fight against PKK terrorism at the same level as Turkey supported the U.S.’s global fight against al-Qaeda.

“Absolutely this [claim] is nonsense. This is disinformation, a myth, a lie. If there is any country that does more than we do to help Turkey in its fight against terror, I’d like to know [about it],” Ricciardone told the Anatolia news agency last week. He added that the financial cost of U.S. intelligence assistance to Turkey was nearly $400 million annually.

NATO operation

Both Cartwright and Ricciardone are also likely to have discussed with their Turkish counterparts Turkey’s active participation in the NATO military operation against Libya. Though Turkey is part of the NATO operation, it has rejected striking Libyan targets.

Apart from the Libya operation, Turkish and American officials are believed to have discussed NATO’s missile defense project, which envisions the deployment of a radar system on Turkish soil. Though Turkey has not ruled out such a deployment, it is continuing to negotiate its technicalities. The matter will be reviewed during a summit of NATO defense ministers in early June.

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



Turkey: Minor Allegedly Raped, Forced Into Prostitution

A bureaucrat employed in the Governor’s Office in Turkey’s northern province of Amasya was apprehended along with seven other people on charges of raping a minor who claimed to have been forced into prostitution by her neighbor. Identified only as D.K., the girl was also allegedly raped by her uncle some two years ago.

“Zinah persuaded me to [sleep] with men in exchange for money for some eight or nine months. She took 50 Turkish Liras from the men and sometimes gave me 20 or 30 liras, too. When my mother asked about the money, I told her Zinah gave it to me. Zinah called the men by cell phone. If they are found, I can identify them,” said D.K.

Some six people between the ages of 45 and 62 were identified through phone records and called to the police station on May 14. Once confirmed by D.K., the six men were taken into custody. Five of the men were businessmen, while one of them was a bureaucrat in charge of state aid in the Governor’s Office. The bureaucrat claimed Zinah and D.K. were slandering him because he turned down an earlier request from them for aid.

The incident came to light after Zinah A.F., an Iraqi national, called D.K. to her home so she could sleep with two businessmen, H.Ö. and M.Ö., on March 21. Meanwhile, Zinah’s husband came home and stabbed both his wife and one of the two businessmen, thinking they were cheating on him. Both men claimed they thought D.K. was 19 years old but were apprehended nonetheless following a lawsuit on the next day.

“My uncle H.A. who is currently doing his military service raped me some one and a half to two years ago when my parents were out. I yelled but could not get anyone to hear my voice. I did not say anything to anyone because I was scared,” testified D.K. to the police on March 21.

The girl was removed from her parents’ care on grounds of negligence and taken under protection. D.K.’s father said he had no idea about what was going on, while her mother refused to comment.

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



Turkey: Brussels: Concern Over Website Censorship

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 17 — After the protests in Turkey on last Sunday, today the European Commission reiterated its “concern over the frequent bans on websites, excessive regarding their goal and length”, which are implemented in the EU accession candidate. The statement was made today in Brussels by Natasha Butler, the spokeswoman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, responding to questions from journalists. In particular, Turkish Internet law “restricts the right of citizens to gain access to information”, specified the spokeswoman. As for a new law expected to introduce several limitations for Internet use in Turkey, “we are closely following the situation”, explained Butler, “and we are stressing that blocking web contents should be targeted and proportionate, and should be the result of a judicial procedure”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey Warns of ‘Necessary Response’ To Flotilla Violence

Turkey issued a warning to Israel on Saturday “not to repeat the human tragedy it caused last year” during the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a television interview, “It should be known that Turkey will give the necessary response to any repeated act of provocation by Israel on the high seas,” AFP reported.

Asked about his government’s efforts to prevent the flotilla from taking place, Davutoglu repeated a statement he made last week, asserting that while Ankara has “never encouraged any convoy,” it “cannot give instructions to civil society” not to embark on the attempt to bust Israel’s blockade, according to the report.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Russia


Russia’s Top Diplomat Set for Talks With Hamas, Fatah Leaders in Moscow

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on Monday with the leaders of the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas movements to discuss plans for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on Monday with the leaders of the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas movements to discuss plans for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

The leaders of Fatah, Hamas, the People’s and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the head of the Palestinian People’s Party, Al-Shaab, arrived in Moscow last Friday.

Fatah and Hamas signed a peace deal in Cairo on May 4, ending a four-year split between the two factions that opened when Hamas ousted Fatah forces from Gaza in 2007.

According to the agreement, Hamas and Fatah will form a technocratic government to unify national institutions on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and prepare for national elections within a year.

Israeli authorities denounced the peace deal between Hamas and Fatah and threatened sanctions, calling on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to choose between peace with the “terrorist organization,” Hamas, or Israel.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Indonesia: Stop on Import of Mass Wine, Catholics Favour “Made in Indonesia”

For centuries, the archipelago has turned abroad to find the right wine for religious services. Agronomists, religious and lay people together to promote local production. Search for area suitable for cultivation. The initiative has been welcomed enthusiastically by the Bishop of Purwokerto and supported by Catholic universities.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Making special wine for masses in Indonesia, putting an end to total dependence on foreign imports. This is an ambitious project sponsored by the Catholic Church in Indonesia, started in first person by Msgr. Julianus Sunarko SJ, Bishop of Purwokerto (Java island), who says he is “enthusiastic” about the initiative, in collaboration with priests, agronomists, university students and a Trappist nun. The first vineyard should be planted just in front of the monastery, perched on a hill in Central Java.

The project for Mass wine production in Indonesia intends to stop dependence on imports. A recent workshop sponsored by the Jesuit University Sanata Dharma University (USD), Yogyakarta, outlined the first steps in the grafting of vines and vineyards, able to withstand the hot and humid climate of the archipelago. Hosted by Fr P. Wirjono SJ, dean of the institute, the initiative has the support of Msgr. Sunarko, Bishop of Purwokerto and was attended by dozens of academics, agronomists, theologians, priests, nuns and businessmen. All gathered for one purpose: to produce wine “made in Indonesia.”

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr. Sunarko says he has been thrilled with the participation of “dozens of university students” in the meeting and by the “optimism expressed by all participants.” The bishop confirmed that key factors are “about to be launched” “such as “the chosen area for the planting of the vine, the system of cultivation and production.” The bishop will report on developments in person to the Indonesian Conference of Bishops (KWI) and is convinced that “my colleagues in the Kwi will not object to the project, which is supported by several NGOs and the association which brings together the Indonesian Catholic Universities (Aptik ).

Specific material from Australia will be used for the fermentation process and entrusted to the care of Indonesian farmers, to encourage local production. The project also involves a Trappist Indonesian religious, Sister Martha, from the monastery of Gedono in Salatiga, on the hills of Mount Merbabu. In this area of Central Java, according to experts with the collaboration of Austrian winemakers the first vines for wine production in Indonesia may be planted.

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



Pakistan: Punjab: Anti-Christian Violence: Nurses Sequestered, Families Evicted From Home

A Muslim colleague steals mobile phone and cash, then accuses two nurses of theft. The women, held in solitary confinement for nine hours, were subjected to physical violence. Muslims raid homes of two families in Gujrat. The episode ordered by a former lawmaker who wants to take possession of the land. Muslim doctors refuse treatment to Christian policeman.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — In the province of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous area, new cases of anti-Christian violence are emerging. Two nurses at the Fatima Memorial Hospital, Lahore, were attacked and abducted for several hours by a fellow Muslim. The man also charged them with theft after stealing their mobile phone and a sum of money. In a second incident, a group of Muslims — at the behest of a former MP of the area — attacked the houses of two Christians, to force the owners to abandon them and transfer the land ownership over to him.

Nusrat Bibi and Muneeran Bibi are two Christian nurses at Fatima Memorial Hospital in Lahore. A hospital source reports that in recent days the two women were attacked and abducted by a Muslim doctor, who works in the same building. He allegedly stole Nusrat ‘s mobile phone, a sum of money from Muneeran and when the girl put up resistance he attacked her. Then it was Nusrat’s turn to suffer, as the doctor beat her repeatedly with a wooden stick reducing her clothing to tatters.

The source speaking on condition of anonymity, added that the nurses “were segregated for more than nine hours.” The hospital administration contends that the two Christian women are guilty of theft, although they were not found in possession of any object. Fr. Joseph Xavier, priest and local activist, speaks of a “brutal act” against two workers who “did not steal anything” and whose only crime is “being Christian” and “victims of brutality.”

The second incident occurred on May 18 in Jattan Jalal, a town in the Gujrat district. A group of Muslims, hired by a former local lawmaker, invaded the homes of two Christian families to seize the buildings and surrounding farmland. Local priest Fr. Naveed Dominic confirms that the politician “‘has set his sights on the land” belonging to Christians, who in the past “have received threats from various groups “ but have never wanted to “leave their property. “

The group of Muslims threw furniture out of the house and property of the Christian families, attacking the women present at the time of the raid. Some local residents tried to contact the police, but officers refused to intervene. Fr. Dominic adds: “The church has received threats not to meddle in the affair.” The priest confirms that “the authorities are turning a deaf ear, because cases of persecution and anti-Christian violence reported” do not seem to interest them. “

The climate of indifference, marginalization and violence against the religious minority is confirmed by a third episode. On 18 May the health care workers of the General Hospital in Lahore refused to treat a policeman wounded in a shooting earlier, because of his Christian faith. The ER chief doctor delayed his admittance on discovering that police agent Mushtaq Shaukat Masih was of Christian faith. Even a doctor who intervened later supported his colleague’s decision.

Wounded and exasperated by the situation, the policeman pulled the service weapon striking the doctor with the butt of his gun. He did not, however, noticed that it was loaded and, in the collision, a shot was fired wounding a person present at the time. The Christian policemand was taken to another facility where he received appropriate medical care. Doctors at the first hospital have filed a complaint against him, but from the earliest records, judges seem to be willing to drop the charges because the victim was provoked.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa


Ivory Coast: Muslims to Christians: ‘We’re Coming for You’

Missionary says plight desperate after political unrest in Ivory Coast

“Once we take control we’re coming for you.”

That’s the message Christians in the Ivory Coast got from Muslims during a long-fought dispute over the nation’s presidency, an election late last year apparently won by a Christian candidate when the government found voter fraud in Muslim regions. But that result was overturned following intervention by the United Nations and the United States, who insisted that the Muslim candidate be given the office.

Which puts Muslims now in “control.”

A missionary who asked to be called only Pastor Andrew serves in the Ivory Coast and says that the administration of newly inaugurated president Alessane Ouattara, a Muslim, has shut off the Internet and now likely is tapping the Christians’ telephones.

“Just before (the civil war), they were warning the Christians that when we get in power, the first we’re going to do is come against the church. We’re coming to get you,” Andrew revealed.

[Comments: see url for audio interview.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Mel Zelaya’s Entourage and What’s Next?

Juan Barahona, sub-coordinator of the FNRP (Resistance movement), has announced that former president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya will return to Tegucigalpa, Honduras at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 28. Accompanying Mel will be Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Nicolás Maduro, Foreign Minister of Venezuela and Chávez’ right-hand man. Both men are strong XXIst century socialists and strongly anti-US, a country which they refer to as the imperialists, blaming imperialism for all the woes of Latin America.

Also accompanying Mel will be one or more unnamed former Zelaya cabinet members — or “all of the exiles” according to Barahona [in Spanish]. Most, if not all, of the ‘auto-exiles’ have corruption and abuse of authority charges pending against them. But what is good for the goose, is good for the gander… despite Honduran President Lobo’s election day promise that “all corruptos will go to jail, en punto!”, he seems willing to make any deal with anyone in the name of ‘reconciliation’. I saw him on television tonight and I have to say that he looked more stressed than I have ever seen him.

My guess is that the distinguished foreign visitors will not only be around to up the ante for the ‘Mel show’ but will also be meeting with Pepe Lobo to enforce whatever agreements Lobo has made in secret with Zelaya and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. I’m pretty sure that we soon will be hearing an announcement of Honduras joining Chávez’ Petrocaribe and perhaps even talk of Chávez’ ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) not being such a bad thing after all.

The Resistance has promised a massive turnout of people to welcome back Mel and the show won’t be complete without showing the world “repression by the golpista security forces”. My guess is that there will be orchestrated lawlessness and violence to provoke action on the part of the police, complete with video cameras at the ready to capture only the second half of the action. Lobo has promised to provide protection for Zelaya.

Juan Barahona is a union leader, member of the former Honduran Communist Party and long time “revolutionary” who recently returned from a visit with Castro in Cuba. This interview, translated to English, tells how the four conditions (which were not mentioned by Lobo or Chávez or even Zelaya after the Lobo-Chávez meeting) came about.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Asylum in Holland for Turkish Judge

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 20 — The Dutch authorities have granted political asylum to a young Turkish judge who last year left his country after claiming to have been persecuted both for his Kurdish and Armenian origins and for comments he made on the massacres of Kurds and Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. This is according to the Cypriot RNW network.

Cagatay Cetin, a 32-year old judge, arrived in Holland on January 15 last year with a fake Bulgarian passport and immediately demanded asylum. In the meantime, legal proceedings were launched against him back home, and ended in February when he was sentenced in absentia to 17 years behind bars for forging documents, affront to a judge and slander.

Cetin told the Dutch authorities that he was persecuted in Turkey because of his beliefs and that his life and the safety of his family were at risk.

Last March, upon the request of the Turkish authorities, a judge from the Dutch city of Lelystad interrogated Cetin on his violations of Turkish law, in particular his “attack on the Turkish nation and on Turkishness”. A Dutch deputy, the socialist Harry van Bommel, strongly condemned the judge and fellow Dutchman, saying that the fact that an individual demanding asylum in the Netherlands could be interrogated about the accusations that he was fleeing was “extremely threatening and intimidating”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Netherlands: Supermarkets Refuse to Hand Out ‘Devils’ Tokens

Seven branches of the Plus supermarket chain have refused to take part in a nationwide scheme to hand out music tokens to people spending more than €15 on groceries out of religious principles, the AD reports on Tuesday.

The music on offer includes songs by K3, a girl group popular with the under 10s, super hero Mega Mindy and Dutch singer Jeroen van den Boom.

‘This does not fit in with my personal identity,’ Pel ‘t Lam, who owns two Plus supermarkets in the Bible belt, told the paper. ‘Lots of pop music conflicts with the contents of the Bible.’

A spokesman for the supermarket chain said owners are free to decide whether or not to take part. ‘They know their customers best,’ he told the AD.

Last year a sales promotion involving stickers featuring supernatural characters ran into trouble at C1000 supermarkets following protests from Christian groups.

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



UK: GP Rapped for Talking About God With Patient’

A family doctor, Dr Richard Scott, fears losing his job after he was reprimanded by the General Medical Council for talking to a patient about God.

The committed Christian, was accused of “harassment” and told by the medical regulator that he risked bringing the profession into disrepute by discussing his religious beliefs.

The Cambridge-educated doctor has refused to accept a formal warning on his record, and is instead taking legal action to fight the censure.

[…]

He argues that he acted within official guidelines, having asked if he could talk about his Christian beliefs to the patient, who is of a different faith, and having ended the conversation as soon as he was asked to.

The conversation only turned to religious matters after they had fully explored the medical options, according to Dr Scott.

“He viewed his problem as purely medical issue and I said it might be more than that,” he said.

“It was a consensual discussion between two adults.”

After receiving the complaint, the GMC told Dr Scott that it was taking the matter seriously, and last month it sent a letter warning him over his conduct.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

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