Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/28/2009Two separate news stories tonight seem ominous when juxtaposed.

In the first, unemployment rate among Turkish youth has exceeded 25%, which is a guarantee of some form of street riots, revolution, etc.

Secondly, Turkey is responsible for a cryptographic device which will be used by NATO military communications.

There’s no real connection between these two stories, but still…

Oh, and also: Spain is experiencing a catastrophic decline in its real estate market, possibly worse than that of the United States.

Thanks to Aeneas, C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
California’s Jobless Rate Soars to 10.1%
Economy: Turkey May Soon Top the List of Unemployment Rate
ILO Forecasts Loss of Between 7 and 22 Million Asian Jobs in 2009
Indonesia: Economy Falters as Global Crisis Hits Exports
Italy: Record Drop in Retail Sales in 2008
Meet the D.C. Hypocrites
UK: MI5 Alert on Bank Riots
 
USA
“My Muslim President Obama” by Asma Gull Hasan
Radio Chip Coming Soon to Your Driver’s License?
Schwarzenegger Declares California Drought Emergency
Scientists to Stop Global Warming With 100,000 Square Mile Sun Shade
The Real Priority of Public Education
Warning Issued Over ‘Spirit of Adulation’ of President
Washington Socialists Need a Good Spanking
 
Canada
Canadian Warplanes Chased Russian Jet Before Obama Visit
 
Europe and the EU
Bishop Apologizes for Denying Holocaust
Calls for Brent Sharia Law Councillor to Resign
EU Puts Pressure on Swiss Over Tax Policy
EU: Leaders Strengthen Ties With ASEAN
Europe: Italy and France to Sign Nuclear Pact
France: Court, State Co-Responsible for Deportation of Jews
France: North Inundated by Calls From Morocco
Islam: France; Hairdressers in Paris for Veiled Women
Military to Use New Gel That Stops Bullets
Muslim Men, Women Segregated in Rotterdam Theatre
Real Estate: Spanish House Sales Plunge, -28.6%
Sweden Bans Tennis Spectators in ‘Gaza Protest’
UK: Award-Winning Artist’s Anti-War Mural is Scrubbed… for Fear of Violence
UK: Death-Drive Peer May Serve Just 18 Days of Jail Termby Mail on Sunday Reporter
UK: Hate Preacher Gets OK to Run Sharia Law Demo
 
Balkans
Kosovo: ICC, 15-22 Yrs Prison for Milutinovic Die-Hards
 
Mediterranean Union
Cooperation: Mozzarella in Libya With Italian Know How
UFM: a Step Towards Peace and Prosperity, EP Report Says
 
North Africa
Maghreb Union, 20 Years of Missed Opportunities
Morocco: More Than 10% of Weddings Involve Minors
Terrorism: Algeria, 3 Islamic Militants Killed in Tebessa
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: 436 Million Euros for Donors’ Conference From EU
Gaza: ‘Yes’ to Italian NGO Operation to Well Recuperation
Israel: Netanyahu-Livni Split, Right-Wing Executive Likely
Partners in Arms? Fatah and Hamas Say They’ll Unify
PNA: EC Funds Wind Energy System for Hebron Hospital
 
Middle East
Defence: Turkish Crypto to Store NATO’s Top-Secret Files
Dozens of Christian Families Go Back to Mosul
Emirates Ban Israeli Cartoon Accused of Mocking Muslims
Father Sues Turkish Education Ministry Over Armenian ‘Genocide’
Iran Says There Will be No Slowdown in Its Nuclear Plan and Urges US to ‘Face Reality’
Islam: UAE, Row Over Sex Within Marriage Book
Saudi Arabia: Critic Calls for Inquiry Into Shia Arrests
Turkey to Contribute to Construction of Mosque in Moscow
Turkey to Transit 1bln Cubic Metres of Iranian Gas to Europe
Turkey: Transsexual Candidate for District Representative
 
Russia
Hate Crimes in Russia
 
South Asia
Beijing Warns Kathmandu Against Pro-Tibet Rallies in Nepal
Kashmir: Young Converts From Islam Pray for Benedict XVI
 
Far East
Protesters Who Set Themselves on Fire in Beijing Are Uyghurs
Pyongyang Ready to Launch “Satellite”
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia Seeks Ways to Reduce Animal Gas Emissions
 
Immigration
Denmark: Politicians Plot to Deport Weapons Violators
Italy: Doctors Refuse to Report Illegal Immigrants, Survey Says
Italy: Govt ‘Planning to Triple’ Immigrant Detention Centre Capacity
Lampedusa: 190 Repatriations in a Month’s Time
Migration: Kouchner in Malta, When Illegal a Burden to Share
Switzerland: Rightwing Extremism on the Rise
Theatre: Illegal Immigrant Harlequin Opens Biennial Festival
UK: is the BNP Becoming Cumbria’s Cup of Tea?
 
Culture Wars
Atheists Launch Non-Prophet Bus Campaign
Lawmakers Declare Fetuses to be People, Too
Physicians: Obama Plan Will ‘Shut Down Hospitals’
 
General
Do These Mysterious Stones Mark the Site of the Garden of Eden?
OIC Secretary General Condemns Israeli TV’s Defamation of Prophet Muhammad

Financial Crisis


California’s Jobless Rate Soars to 10.1%

[Comments from JD: “Iceberg, what iceberg? Full speed ahead…” ]

California’s unemployment rate jumped to 10.1% in January, the highest since 1983, as employers in the nation’s most-populous state cut 79,000 jobs in the month.

[…]

The state is threatening to pass the 11% jobless rate of late 1982, the highest since the Great Depression. “All we need is another month like this,” Mr. Roth said.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said in a statement that economic-stimulus measures in the budget he signed last week will create jobs. “The number of Californians without jobs and a means to provide for their families is a sobering reminder that there is nothing more important than getting California’s economy back on track,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Economy: Turkey May Soon Top the List of Unemployment Rate

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 18 — Turkey’s official unemployment rate means the country ranks in the top three among the 52 most talked countries in global markets, according to the Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Unions, or TISK. Based on official data Turkey ranks third with its unemployment rate. “Unless preventive measures are launched rapidly, then Turkey is a candidate to top the list”, claimed TISK. The government should not remain indifferent to the country’s damaged economy, urged TISK, and quoted the Turkish Statistical Institute’s unemployment data for the November period. According to the data, Turkey’s estimated unemployment rate rose to 12.3% in October-December 2008 if compared to the same period of previous year. The number of unemployed increased by 645,000 to 2.300.000 million in the same period, the data showed. Non-agriculture unemployment rose to 15.4% from 12.3%, while unemployment among youth rose to 25.5% from 21.6% in urban areas. A total of 91,000 people lost their jobs in the construction industry, said TISK. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



ILO Forecasts Loss of Between 7 and 22 Million Asian Jobs in 2009

The group warns about the risk of social protests, and advises governments to save the jobs and provide for the needs of the most vulnerable. But many say that the estimate is too optimistic: in China’s Guangdong province alone, 20 million jobs were lost in the second quarter of 2008.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In 2009, Asia will have at least 7.2 million fewer jobs following the global crisis, according to a study published yesterday by the International Labour Group. In the worst-case scenario, the ILO says that 22.3 million jobs will be lost in 2009, and 50 million for the entire period of 2007-2009. It forecasts that in 2009, there will be between 97 and 113 million people unemployed in Asia.

Sachiko Yamamato, the regional director of the ILO, warns that this scenario means that the “prospect [of unrest] is a real one, and therefore social partners have to be included in policy discussions in order to make sure that the most vulnerable and most affected people are given the centre of attention in fiscal measures.” Governments’ so-called stimulus measures for the economy must also be aimed first of all at creating jobs.

Following the crisis, a number of countries, like Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand, have stop giving permits to foreign workers, which is causing more problems for other countries. It is estimated that a third of the Asian population is already “poor” (living on less than a dollar a day).

Experts nonetheless note the difficulty of obtaining precise current figures, in part because of the large numbers of people, especially migrants, who work in the underground economy. They observe that in Guangdong alone, the region with the largest concentration of economic production in China, official figures show that about 20 million jobs were lost in the second quarter of 2008, while the prospects for the immediate future are no better.

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



Indonesia: Economy Falters as Global Crisis Hits Exports

Jakarta, 18 Feb. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — The Indonesian economy grew at its slowest rate in two years in the fourth quarter of 2008 as the global economic slowdown slashed commodity prices and export demand.

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) reported on Monday that the economy expanded by 5.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 from a year earlier, slower than the annualised growth rate of 6.4 percent recorded in the previous quarter.

Worse still, on a quarterly basis, the economy contracted by 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter. But BPS head Rusman Heriawan said that a similar contraction had occurred in the same period in the past two years.

“This was not surprising as the economy usually contracts in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter, as industrial output slows and harvest time ends. But the crisis made the contraction (in 2008’s fourth quarter) deeper,” he said.

Indonesia’s exports have been hard hit by the global economic downturn, which started to hit in the last three to four months of 2008.

Economists also predicted that investment — another driver of economic growth — would start to fall this year amid a worldwide liquidity shortage.

However, the agency endorsed government predictions that economic growth this year would not fall below 4.5 percent. Despite the fourth quarter contraction, the economy expanded by 6.1 percent last year, while many countries suffered from recession.

“Indonesia was far better off than other countries that had stronger trade relations with the US, Japan, and Western European countries. Even Malaysia and Singapore had a deeper economic fall,” said Rusman.

With exports and foreign investment expected to be hit hard by the worsening global conditions, Indonesia’s economic growth will rely on how effectively the government implemented budget allocations.

“The economy will depend on effective government spending and private consumption,” Rusman said.

Of last years’ 6.1 percent economic growth, government spending contributed 0.8 percent to the growth in gross domestic product, and private consumption 3.1 percent.

However, Danareksa Research Institute chief researcher Purbaya Yudhi Sadewa warned that if the government repeated last year’s spending patterns, then the economy “would be in trouble”.

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



Italy: Record Drop in Retail Sales in 2008

Economy and spending not expected to recover until 2010

(ANSA) — Rome, February 25 — Retail sales in Italy last year fell by an average of 0.6%, representing the biggest drop in consumer spending since 1997, national statistics bureau Istat reported on Wednesday.

The 0.6% drop was an all-time record since Istat record began monitoring retail sales, beating the previous record of -0.4% set in 2004.

Major outlets saw their sales rise by 1% in 2008, but this failed to offset a 2% drop for small shops.

Retail food sales last year inched up by 0.7% while sales of non-food goods sank 1.6%.

Year-on-year sales in December, which included the crucial Christmas period, were down 1.9%, the result of a 0.8% dip in food sales and a 2.7% drop for non-food goods.

Istat’s confirmation that consumer spending shrunk last year led retailer groups to call for tax breaks for small businesses while consumer groups demanded an across-the-board cut in retail prices in order to boost buying.

According to the national retailers’ association Confcommercio, the real decline in consumer spending in 2008 was closer to 0.8% and represented the biggest drop in the past 40 years, with the exception of 1993.

Confcommercio claimed that the main problem was the slow growth of available family income, while the downturn in inflation had little effect on spending.

The retailer services association Confesercenti said that Istat data confirmed the need to help small businesses, which suffered the most from the decline in consumer spending.

Some 36,000 small businesses were forced to shut down last year, the group added, ‘‘and with GDP expected to fall another 2% this year, 2009 is poised to be devastating one for small businensses and employment’’. Confesercenti urged the government to ‘‘swiftly adopt tax breaks and initiatives to help small businesses and help restore business and consumer confidence’’.

Consumer group Codacons said that ‘‘the particularly steep drop in consumer spending was a direct result of excessive price increases in all sectors during the course of the year’’.

‘‘There is only one way to save the retail sector: cut prices by at least 20% and lift all restrictions on when and how to hold sales. Only this will entice consumers to buy and, at this point, save thousands of shops from shutting down,’’ Codacons said.

THINK TANK SEES SLOW RECOVER FOR ITALY.

Italy’s recovery from the current economic recession will be slow and GDP will not return to the black until 2010, according to the latest forecast from Italy’s Institute for Economic Study and Analysis (ISAE). The think tank said that GDP this year will fall by 2.5% to then inch up by 0.4% in 2010. Because of slower economic growth, Italy’s deficit this year will be 4% of GDP and 3.9% in 2010 and the public debt will climb to 110.3% of GDP in 2009 and 111.8% next year. In its latest report, ISAE said that consumer spending will slip by 0.8% this year to then rise by 0.4% in 2010, while inflation will fall to 0.9% in 2009 and then bounce back up to 2% next year. Italy’s employment rate will decline by 1% this year and then rise by 0.2% in 2010, while the unemployment rate will be 8.1% this year and 8.5% next year, ISAE said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Meet the D.C. Hypocrites

Democrats and three RINOs just spent nearly $800 billion to: 1) stimulate the economy; 2) create or save 3.5 million jobs; and 3) reduce dependence on foreign oil, according to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Neither Wall Street nor Main Street believes the massive expenditure will achieve the goals.

These goals could be achieved, however, with no new spending at all. In fact, a very simple policy change could achieve these desired goals and produce $2 trillion in new tax revenue as well.

Democrats could easily repeal the ban on domestic oil production and achieve all their stated goals with no new expenditures. A detailed study shows that by simply allowing access to offshore resources the economy could realize an $8 trillion shot in the arm. The economic stimulus that would come from opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has long been known. Democrats have blocked every effort to utilize these domestic resources.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: MI5 Alert on Bank Riots

TOP secret contingency plans have been drawn up to counter the threat posed by a “summer of ­ discontent” in Britain.

The “double-whammy” of the worst economic crisis in living memory and a motley crew of political extremists determined to stir up civil disorder has led to the ­extraordinary step of the Army being put on ­standby.

MI5 and Special Branch are targeting activists they fear could inflame anger over job losses and payouts to failed bankers. One of the most notorious anarchist websites, Class War, asks: “How to keep warm ­during the credit crunch? Burn a banker.”

Such remarks have rung alarm bells in Scotland Yard and the Ministry of Defence. Intelligence sources said the police, backed by MI5, are determined to stay on top of a situation that could spiral out of control as the recession bites deep.

The chilling prospect of soldiers being drafted on to the streets has not been discounted, although it is regarded as a last resort.

What worries emergency planners most is that the middle classes, now struggling to cope with unemployment and repossessions, may take to the streets with the disenfranchised.

The source said “this potent cocktail is reminiscent of the poll tax riots which fatally wounded Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1990”.

Last night Scotland Yard vowed it was ready to face any threat. A source said: “We do have a policing plan in place and we have riot police officers trained for such measures.”

But other senior police leaders fear the force will be unable to cope.

Were that to be the case, the ­Government has a contingency plan to deploy troops on the streets of Britain’s major cities.

A senior source said: “This is a very real, and very serious, problem. I can tell you there have been crisis talks in Whitehall about this.

“Half the senior officers in Britain have been warning the Home Secretary about the dangerous effects that reducing police manpower may have this summer, especially in the industrial heartlands.

“We are not just talking about the problems of immigration and British jobs for British worker. We are also talking about mass unemployment.

“In many of our industrial cities, this will not be measured in the hundreds, but in the thousands. With unemployment, comes the risk of increased crime. Some forces, such as South Wales, have publically ­stated they would be swamped.

“Others are keeping it quiet, but you can be sure they are trying to make the Home Secretary listen, ­before it’s too late.”

The “protest season” is due to ­begin on April 1 with the G20 Summit in London next month, followed by the 60th ­anniversary of Nato in Strasbourg a few days later. May Day is also ­potentially a flashpoint.

Ministers cannot afford to allow ­latent public anger at Government policy to get out of hand if they are to maintain credibility through what promises to be ­Gordon Brown’s most testing period as Prime Minister.

The Stop the War coalition, orchestrating the G20 protest, said: “The first week of April could be a week of world leaders will never forget.”

The British authorities want to avoid a repeat of the rioting that scarred British cities in the 1980s Then, as now, the country was in recession with rising unemployment and deep public hostility to perceived social divisions. Today that anger is focused on the banks, with their bonus culture surviving despite billions being paid in taxpayer bail-outs.

This has fomented in the outrage over news that senior executives will be rewarded for their failure.

Sir Fred Goodwin, former boss of RBS, has refused to hand back his £693,000-a-year-pension even as the ailing bank announced a £24billion loss last year, the single largest loss in British corporate history.

Early warnings of trouble ahead came from the furore over last months “British jobs for British workers” protest and wildcat strikes across the country.

This week Britain’s most senior police officer warned that the summer could bring a wave of protests orchestrated by extremists in which ordinary people, fired by their own anger and fear at the economic downturn — became “foot soldiers”.

Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Met’s public order branch, identified the G20 as the possible start of a “summer of rage”.

Murray Benham, head of campaigns at the UK-based World Development Movement, accused Supt Hartshorn of “scaremongering”.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

USA


“My Muslim President Obama” by Asma Gull Hasan

[Comments from JD: Comments to this article make for interesting reading.]

I know President Obama is not Muslim, but I am tempted nevertheless to think that he is, as are most Muslims I know. In a very unscientific oral poll, ranging from family members to Muslim acquaintances, many of us feel, just as African-Americans did for the non-black but culturally leaning African-American President Bill Clinton, that we have our first American Muslim president in Barack Hussein Obama.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Radio Chip Coming Soon to Your Driver’s License?

Homeland Security seeks next-generation REAL ID

Privacy advocates are issuing warnings about a new radio chip plan that ultimately could provide electronic identification for every adult in the U.S. and allow agents to compile attendance lists at anti-government rallies simply by walking through the assembly.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Schwarzenegger Declares California Drought Emergency

Federal water managers to cut off water this March to thousands of farms

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday because of three years of below-average rain and snowfall in California, a step that urges urban water agencies to reduce water use by 20%.

“This drought is having a devastating impact on our people, our communities, our economy and our environment, making today’s action absolutely necessary,” the Republican governor said in his statement.

Mandatory rationing is an option if the declaration and other measures are insufficient.

The drought has forced farmers to fallow their fields, put thousands of agricultural workers out of work and led to conservation measures in cities throughout the state, which is the nation’s top agricultural producer.

Agriculture losses could reach $2.8 billion this year and cost 95,000 jobs, said Lester Snow, the state water director.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Scientists to Stop Global Warming With 100,000 Square Mile Sun Shade

Scientists claim they can fight global warming by firing trillions of mirrors into space to deflect the sun’s rays forming a 100,000 square mile “sun shade”.

[Comments from JD: Another asinine “idea” from an “expert”. Such a plan would have grave repercussions for life on earth.]

According to astronomer Dr Roger Angel, at the University of Arizona, the trillions of mirrors would have to be fired one million miles above the earth using a huge cannon with a barrel of 0.6 miles across.

The gun would pack 100 times the power of conventional weapons and need an exclusion zone of several miles before being fired.

Despite the obvious obstacles — including an estimated $350 trillion (£244trn) price tag for the project — Dr Angel is confident of getting the project off the ground.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Real Priority of Public Education

Today, we spend more than $10,000 per year per student on public education in Oregon, and that’s not including capital expenditures for new buildings and school busses. Private schools, on the other hand, generally spend less than half that amount, typically in the $4,000 to $4,500 range and rarely ask parents for substantial increases in tuition. Go figure.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Warning Issued Over ‘Spirit of Adulation’ of President

Archbishop: ‘In democracies, we elect public servants, not messiahs’

One of the prominent and rising archbishops in the Catholic Church is warning against a “spirit of adulation” towards President Obama, who was portrayed repeatedly during his campaign with messianic images.

WND reported during the campaign on a website called Obamamessiah which still holds images portraying the president in a “transfiguration” pose, with various haloes around his head, and the cover of a book, “Barack Obama, Son of Promise, Child of Hope.”

But in a message at St. Basil’s Church in Toronto recently, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput warned against following blindly.

“President Obama is a man of intelligence and some remarkable gifts. He has a great ability to inspire. … But whatever his strengths, there’s no way to reinvent his record on abortion and related issues with rosy marketing about unity, hope and change,” Chaput said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Washington Socialists Need a Good Spanking

I was in a grocery store this week when I rounded an aisle and witnessed an interesting sight.

A boy who looked to be about 9 years old was grabbing a box of cereal off the shelf while his mother said, “No, Johnny. We’re not getting that.” Unfazed, the boy dropped the cereal in the cart. The mother took the box and replaced it on the shelf. The boy promptly let out a howl of protest, snatched the cereal box, and put it back in the cart. The mother shrugged and moved on.

My path crisscrossed with this woman several times as I did my shopping. I saw two or three other incidences of this brat defying his mother and his ineffectual mother letting him. At one point his tantrums knocked a shelf full of items to the floor. While the mother was distracted replacing everything, the boy gleefully grabbed some candy and threw it in the cart.

Welcome to the current administration. They’re acting just like kids in a candy store.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Canada


Canadian Warplanes Chased Russian Jet Before Obama Visit

On the eve of Barack Obama’s visit to Ottawa, a Russian jet approached Canada’s Arctic air space and had to be turned away by Canadian warplanes, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Friday at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

With Obama poised to leave American soil for the first time as U.S. president on Feb. 19, the joint Canada-U.S. aerospace command, Norad, detected the Russian plane. Two of Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept one Russian aircraft, MacKay confirmed.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Bishop Apologizes for Denying Holocaust

ROME — A Catholic news agency says that a British bishop who had denied the Holocaust has apologized for his remarks.

Bishop Richard Williamson was shown in a Swedish state TV interview saying historical evidence indicates there were no Nazi gas chambers and that a maximum of 300,000 people died in concentration camps in the Holocaust.

The remarks caused widespread outrage.

Pope Benedict XVI had lifted a 20-year-old excommunication decree imposed on Williamson and three other bishops who had been consecrated without Vatican approval.

The Zenit Catholic news agency said Thursday that Williamson expressed regret for the statements.

It quoted him as saying that to all who took offense, “before God I apologize.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Calls for Brent Sharia Law Councillor to Resign

Politicians in Brent are calling for the resignation of a councillor after he advocated the introduction of Sharia law for British Muslims on a website, including the death penalty for women who commit adultery.

The remarks were a response to The Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments made earlier this month in which he said the adoption of Sharia law in the UK seemed unavoidable.

Councillor Atiq Malik, (Democratic Conservative Group), wrote two blogs, one on the UK Polling Report website and one on the Conservative Home website. Both read: “If Muslims living in the UK are happy that disputes be decided by Sharia courts then what?

“The reason why male gets more share than women is that male members of the family have the responsibilty to provide living expenses to female members of the family.

“If an unmarried woman has an affair she is lashed 100 times. If a married woman has an affair she is stoned to death. What is wrong in it?”

But when the Observer contacted Mr Malik he backtracked on his original views and said he did not believe Sharia law should be introduced in the UK but that it was acceptable in Islamic states.

He said: “No I am not adovating Sharia Law in England. England is not a Muslim country. Sharia Law is the belief of Muslims and is part of Koran. In a Muslim majority country the Koran is the code of conduct. But it is not practical in England because it is not a Muslim country.

“Yes of course I believe in Sharia, it is our way of life. I don’t see any harm in Muslims believing what is in the Koran.”

But politicians from different parties have been outraged by the remarks and believe he should step down from his post.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]



EU Puts Pressure on Swiss Over Tax Policy

The European Union has called on Switzerland to apply the same rules on tax issues as it did earlier this month with the United States.

EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said Brussels expected Switzerland to ensure that banking secrecy did not protect any form of tax scam.

She was speaking after talks in the Belgian capital with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.

Last week Switzerland gave Washington details of up to 300 clients of the country’s largest bank, UBS, in what has been considered as violation of banking secrecy.

Swiss law distinguishes between tax evasion, a civil offence, and tax fraud. Banking secrecy is only lifted in cases of fraud.

Ferrero-Waldner also asked non EU-member Switzerland for further concessions in a row over preferential taxes for holding companies from the 27-nation bloc.

Calmy-Rey said dialogue on fiscal matters with Brussels would continue.

Thursday’s meeting also covered plans for a framework agreement aimed at facilitating the implementation of a series of bilateral treaties between the two sides.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



EU: Leaders Strengthen Ties With ASEAN

Jakarta, 12 Feb. (AKI) — The European Union has announced a series of measures aimed at deepening ties with members of the Association of South East Asian nations (ASEAN). Among the measures is the accreditation of EU ambassadors to ASEAN.

The British, French, German, and Czech ambassadors to Indonesia were formally appointed representatives to ASEAN from their respective countries in Jakarta on Thursday. The appointment of other EU ambassadors is expected to follow soon.

ASEAN is headquartered in the Indonesian capital. However, EU diplomatic representation to ASEAN will be conducted as part of a “EU Troika”, comprising the current EU presidency, the subsequent EU presidency and a delegation from the European Commission.

Individual EU member sates will maintain their own bilateral contacts.

The European Union delegation in Indonesia has increased staff numbers in Jakarta and the European Commission is due to spend more than 50 million euros on development cooperation with ASEAN in the next three years.

Since the adoption of the ASEAN charter in December, ASEAN took the next step in its process of regional cooperation and integration. The charter reflects the commitment of ASEAN’s ten member states to deepen their cooperation on political, economic and social affairs, along the lines of the EU.

ASEAN is comprised of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Cambodia.

As of 2006, the ASEAN region included a total population of about 560 million and a combined gross domestic product of almost 1,100 billion dollars.

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



Europe: Italy and France to Sign Nuclear Pact

Rome, 23 Feb. (AKI) — Italy and France are to sign an historic agreement on nuclear cooperation when the country’s leaders meet in Rome on Tuesday. Italian industry minister Claudio Scajola said on Monday that the agreement would be signed during a meeting in the Italian capital between prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and visiting French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Scajola said the agreement, to be signed in Rome by the leaders of the two nations, would include all aspects of nuclear power, from cooperation at the European level to security, technological cooperation, training, and industrial cooperation in other countries.

Ministers from eight different ministries — foreign affairs, defence, finance, economic development, transport, education, culture and community affairs — were expected to join their country’s leaders.

While Scajola’s statement offered no substantial details, the nuclear agreement is expected to provide a basis for which Italy’s major utility, Enel, can increase its participation in France’s nuclear power industry.

“Italy has taken a major step forward towards a new energy strategy for the country,” said Scajola.

“This involves greater security in regard to obtaining supply, through the diversification of sources and their geographic location and greater environmental protection,” he said.

According to media reports, Enel is expected to acquire a 12.5 percent stake in France’s second next-generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) nuclear reactor after the cooperation agreement is endorsed.

Enel already owns a 12.5 percent stake in France’s first EPR, which is being built at Flamanville in northwest France and will be operated by French power giant EDF.

At the weekend Enel agreed to buy a 25 percent stake in the Spanish builder Acciona in Endesa, Spain’s largest hydropower generator.

EDF is the world’s biggest operator of nuclear power plants. It may propose a joint venture to build a nuclear plant with Enel in Italy.

Italy shut down its four nuclear power plants after a referendum held the year after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

There is a moratorium on the construction of new plants but the Berlusconi government has flagged the possibility of new nuclear plants because of Italy’s dependence on energy imports.

Italy has been paying for the referendum decision with energy costs higher than most other European nations. Italy also imports a substantial part of its electricity from France where nuclear power is one of the main sources of energy.

Many French nuclear power plants are located near the Italian borders, making Italy vulnerable to nuclear disasters, even though none are present on its soil.

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



France: Court, State Co-Responsible for Deportation of Jews

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 17 — France’s Council of State , the country’s highest administrative institution, has ruled that the State shares responsibility for the deportation of French Jews to Nazi concentration camps during World War II, although restricting possible future claims for compensation. Yesterday the Council recognised — a first for a French court — “the error and responsibility of the State” in the deportations to Nazi concentration camps of around 76 thousand French Jews between 1942 and 1944, only 3 thousand of whom survived. Former President Jacques Chirac was the first French leader to admit responsibility for the deportations in a speech he gave in 1995, breaking with the tradition of dissociating France form the collaborationist Vichy regime. Chirac’s statement opened the way for many victims’ families to issue claims for damages. France has paid out hundreds of millions of euros since then. The Court also established that “the various reparation measures have compensated for the losses suffered due to the State as far as possible”. Minor courts can therefore assess possible claims for damages, but — the Court warns — they should take into account that Paris has fulfilled its duties and the European regulations regarding compensation payments. Serge Klarsfeld, a well-known French Nazi hunter, has welcomed the verdict: “It is satisfying” he told ‘Le Figaro’. “France is foremost among nations in dealing with its past”. The claims for damages “are no longer the main issue, those making them today have already received something in the past” Klarsfeld said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



France: North Inundated by Calls From Morocco

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 19 — For about a week, hundreds of telephone subscribers in the Valenciennes region in northern France have been swamped with calls from Morocco, especially Rabat. Day and night, according to La Voix du Nord, Arab and French-speaking interlocutors with Oriental music playing in the background and voices heard in the distance have engaged in conversation which at times end in marriage proposals, at times in insults or death threats. Many elderly people who have fallen victims to this sort of unexplained mobbing have been traumatized by it. The daily paper said that no one had been spared, neither those on the pink list (reserved) nor administration offices or police stations. Hundreds of subscribers have reported the matter to police and many have taken Orange agencies by assault, afraid their bills would rise. The matter is being taken seriously by the police and magistrature, so much so that the central offices of the anti-crime department dealing with IT and communications offenses may be getting hold of the dossier to find out the reason behind this tidal wave of calls, which began in the Denain region to then spread to Valenciennes and south of the Lilla dé partement. The question most are asking is whether it is some sort of joke or a technical problem. The upcoming transition of Morocco to a new numbering system is one of the possible answers, and the head offices of France Telecom seem to be supporting the hypothesis of a technical problem of a Moroccan operator, ruling out any reasons related to fraud. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islam: France; Hairdressers in Paris for Veiled Women

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 19 — A thick, coloured blind is cancelling out the debate in France over integration and secularism. It is hanging up in a unisex hairdresser in Suresnes on the outskirts of Paris ‘to protect the modesty of Muslim women’’, in other words from the indiscreet stares of men having their hair and beards trimmed on the other side of the salon. ‘Room reserved for veiled women’’ reads the leaflet advertising the salon in Marrakesh, which is on the ground floor of a council block, and ‘for the veiled woman who does not want men to look at her, there is a corner just for her’’. Four sofas have been placed in the area which takes up half the salon, where Muslim women can remove their veils and place themselves in the expert hands of the hairdressers and colourists who are also of course women. The owner, who opened the salon last summer and wishes to remain anonymous, confirms in embarrassment that the idea came from the previous owner, although the new telephone number is included in the new leaflets. The whole affair is a bolt from the blue for the City council of Suresnes, who only yesterday learnt of the existence of the salon, which was discovered by the daily newspaper Le Parisien; the National Council of Hairdressers, the main union for the sector, is no less surprised by the initiative. ‘While we talk about integration and above all about secularism, it is truly incredible’’ says Secretary General Michéle Duval, ‘but in the end everyone is free to find the formula they want, and it may just be a case of finding a way of attracting a certain type of customer in the current crisis’’. President of the Coordination of Islam and Society Abdel Ghani expressed a similar attitude, saying that it is a case of ‘the law of supply and demand’’. Even though the more strict Muslim husbands will like the idea of finding a guarantee over the moral integrity of their wives, it is worrying for French citizens of foreign origins like those belonging to the Zy’va association of Nanterre: ‘we are fighting against discrimination and at the same time we are discriminating against ourselves’’ complained its president Hafid Ramouni, annoyed by certain ‘unsocial behavior in a secular society’’ including women-only swimming pools. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Military to Use New Gel That Stops Bullets

A new “bullet-busting” shock-absorbent gel is set to save the lives of British soldiers by substantially reinforcing their helmets.

The Ministry of Defence has awarded £100,000 to a small company that has developed a special substance that hardens immediately on impact.

It is hoped that the shock-absorbing substance will soon be fitted onto the inside of soldiers’ helmets reducing in half the kinetic energy of a bullet or piece of shrapnel and hopefully making them impenetrable.

The gel, called d3O locks instantly into a solidified form when it is hit at high impact.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Muslim Men, Women Segregated in Rotterdam Theatre

ROTTERDAM, 28/02/09 — On Friday night, a Muslim stand-up comedian was scheduled to give a show in a Rotterdam theatre with segregated seating for the men and women in his audience.

Moroccan-born writer and TV producer Salaheddine Benchikhi was to make his debut as a stand-up comedian at Theater Zuidplein in Rotterdam. At his request, the theatre said it would offer female audience members the option of sitting apart from the men, as Algemeen Dagblad reported several hours before the show on Friday.

According to the newspaper, 50 of the 590 seats had been reserved for women who object to sitting beside a man due to their Islamic faith. As an extra ‘service’, the orthodox ladies may sit in the first rows of the balcony.

“Whether the option will actually be utilised remains to be seen”, Joyce van Dongen of Theater Zuidplein stated. “Fifty is an estimate made by Salaheddine’s management. Since the show is an opening night, we have no previous shows to serve as an example”. If called for, a larger number of separate seats would be arranged, according to Van Dongen.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Real Estate: Spanish House Sales Plunge, -28.6%

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 16 — The National Institute of Statistics has said today that the real estate sector in Spain ended 2008 on a very bad note indeed, with sales dropping by 28.6% on the previous year, -39.3% for non-newly constructed homes. As for all 2008 deals, those regarding unoccupied homes dropped by 28.9% while transactions for council housing slid by 25.5%. Market paralysis led to the accumulation of a great deal of unsold housing stock, between 600,000 and 900,000 finished homes, depending on the source. At the same time housing prices fell by 3.2% according to the Housing Ministry and by 10% according to the tax company Tinsa. According to the forecast of the latter, 2009 will end with a drop in real estate prices by 20%, going back to the levels seen before the real estate speculative bubble which burst in 2007, when, in one year, Spain built as many houses as Germany, France and Italy together. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden Bans Tennis Spectators in ‘Gaza Protest’

A Swedish town has banned spectators from a Davis Cup match with Israel in an apparent protest at the invasion of Gaza.

The decision to lock people out of three-day tennis tournament in Malmo followed a local campaign to ban the event in protest at the recent military operation.

The event takes place between March 6 and 8.

Malmo’s municipal recreation committee justified the move by saying the event could pose a risk to the public because of anti-Israel demonstrations being planned. The local police however, had reportedly given their go-ahead to let fans into the area.

Yaron Michaeli, spokesman for the Israel Tennis Association, said: “It’s too bad that this is the situation and that is what they have decided. But we cannot tell them how to behave. But we will go and we will win and come back.”

Andy David, a foreign ministry spokesperson said the decision was a “shallow understanding of the situation.”

He said: “There are all kinds of elements trying to use naïve people for their political gains and trying to portray a complex picture in black and white.”

The row follows a dispute earlier this month when Israeli Shahar Peer was refused entry to the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai organisers said they feared a threat to the player’s safety because of public opinion on the Gaza conflict.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]



UK: Award-Winning Artist’s Anti-War Mural is Scrubbed… for Fear of Violence

His award-winning graffiti was praised by South Bank Show judges for ‘creating messages of peace, unity and hope’.

But it seems police saw Birmingham-born artist Mohammed Ali’s work rather differently, after they removed one of his murals, apparently for fear it would trigger racial violence.

Last night, Mr Ali accused officers of ‘wanton censorship’ after they removed the mural, which protested against Israeli attacks in Gaza.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Death-Drive Peer May Serve Just 18 Days of Jail Termby Mail on Sunday Reporter

The Labour peer jailed for dangerous driving after sending texts on the M1 before a fatal crash could be freed just 18 days into his 12-week sentence.

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Britain’s first Muslim peer, was sent to Doncaster Prison last week but his lawyer believes he could be released early.

If so, he would have to wear an electronic tag confining him to his home between 8pm and 6am.

Lord Ahmed would be eligible for parole after six weeks, but his solicitor Steve Smith said: ‘Lord Ahmed is clearly no danger to the public and in these circumstances the prison authorities can consider early release. He has to serve a minimum of 18 days.’

Lord Ahmed admitting sending texts minutes before his Jaguar hit a stationary Audi near Rotherham on Christmas Day 2007, killing its driver, Martyn Gombar, 28. The prosecution did not link the texting to the crash.

‘The prison governor will have to decide whether he is a suitable candidate for release and I think he is,’ said Mr Smith. ‘They know he will not try to escape.

‘His life and career have been wrecked for the sake of 18 days in prison. It is pathetic.’

Mr Gombar’s 36-year-old widow Monica — who is already planning to appeal against the original sentence in the European courts — said: ‘I would not be happy with a decision to release Lord Ahmed on a tag. It is one rule for Lords and another for everyone else.’

The Ministry of Justice refused to comment on individual cases.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Hate Preacher Gets OK to Run Sharia Law Demo

HATE preacher Anjem Choudary will march in London today calling for Britain to adopt Islamic Sharia law.

The startling move comes just days after processions celebrating St George were banned for being racist.

Choudary was given the green light yesterday despite a previous demonstration in which some of his supporters chanted: “Bomb the UK”.

Publicity for the march, in the East End, carries 41-year-old Choudary’s personal mobile number and says the aim of the campaign is to “emulate the Prophet and his companions, by calling for Islam and speaking out against the oppression of man-made law”.

It says that Britain is full of “disbelievers” who are involved in prostitution, gambling, alcoholism and worshipping other gods.

The publicity says women are welcome to join the march but they must walk at the back of the procession as “strict segregation will be enforced”.

The demo comes 18 months after three of Choudary’s supporters were jailed for soliciting murder in a London protest against cartoons of the prophet Mohammed published in Denmark.

That was when some demonstrators chanted “Bomb the UK” and “Europe, you will pay with your blood”. Organiser Choudary was fined.

Today’s march won permission after a council withdrew funding for a St George’s Day parade in the Midlands — on the grounds that it was “racist”.

Parade founder Mark Cowles, 40, of West Bromwich, said yesterday: “I can’t believe Choudary’s event can go ahead.

“The British establishment is trying to take away the British voice but other cultures choose to force their way of life on us.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Kosovo: ICC, 15-22 Yrs Prison for Milutinovic Die-Hards

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 26 — The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague has passed sentences of between 15-22 years for 5 co-defendants standing trial alongside former Serb President Milan Milutinovic. The five co-defendants are the former Yugoslavian Premier Nikola Sainovic, former Chief of Staff, General Dragoljub Ojdanic, former Commander of the 3rd Army Corps Nebojsa Pavkovic, former Drill Ground Commander of Pristina Vladimir Lazarevic, and former Chief of Federal Police in Kosovo, Sreten Lukic. They were also accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their part in attempting to drive Albanians out of Kosovo through “a systematic campaign of terror and violence” in the period 1998-1999. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Cooperation: Mozzarella in Libya With Italian Know How

(by Francesca Spinola) (ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 23 — Thanks to Italian cooperation, by this summer, mozzarella will be produced in Libya, according to an announcement by the project coordinator, veterinarian Andrea Dominici who, with Carmine Nutolo, the head of the Office of Cooperation in Tripoli, has already developed two experiments in the zootechnics field in Sirte and agricultural field in Tobruk. “Today we already supply some of the markets in Sirte with our products, mostly ricotta, primo sale (a Sicilian cheese), and goat cheese”, explained Dominici, underlining that the project’s objective, including 5 Libyan experts and 10 workers, “is to train and supply technology”. The Centre for Applied Research and Experimentation of Zootechnics and Agriculture in Sirte is not just a productive unit, it is also connected to the universities of Florence, Sirte, and Al Beida, where there is an exchange of applied know how to zootechnics. “The aim is didactical, and we will give support until the end of the year when the two centres must work on their own and we hope that other similar projects are developed in Libya”, explained Nutolo. The projects have been financed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the General Direction for Cooperation and Development, and realized with the Overseas Agronomics Institute of Florence with whom several scholarship holders and university professors have been exchanged. The project in Sirte, developed in an area that was cleared after the war and chosen by Gaddafi in person, cost 4.2 million euro, and has the aim of promoting the dairy industry using water from the Great Manmade River in Libya. “The 40 hectares cultivated with forage make the company self-sufficient, and with the sale of its products it also finances itself”, explained the veterinarian of the centre, which recently hosted dissertation students from the University of Florence. The centre in Tobruk, which cost 3.5 million euro, is an agricultural research centre mainly made up of laboratories that study the geography of the area, analysing the areas where “shaded areas” have been created to allow some types of plants to grow better in a pre-desert environment. Here the connection between the university and the exchange of technological information in the agricultural sector is strong. Both the Centre of Tobruk and the Dairy Farm of Sirte were built by Italian company Edilbono, present in Libya for 20 years, which in 2003 won an international bid opened by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), which then was financed by Foreign Affairs Ministry to begin the first phase of these projects. “Today we are in the third phase — explained Nutolo — and thanks to a memorandum agreement with the national veterinarian service, shortly we will import bull sperm and embryos from local cows to be implanted in Libya”. The truck to transport the mozzarella to Tripoli has already been purchased using Italian cooperation funds. Italians living in Libya and Libyans with a passion for this famous Italian cheese will only have to wait until the summer to taste fresh mozzarella every day. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UFM: a Step Towards Peace and Prosperity, EP Report Says

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 19 — Opening up the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) to countries not involved in the partnership “increases the likelihood of establishing parity in relations between the EU and the Mediterranean partner countries and of tackling the problems of the region in a comprehensive way”, says a European Parliament (EP) report adopted with 521 votes in favour, 44 against and 13 abstentions. It says that provided the proposal for a UfM “delivers its promises and yields concrete and visible results” it contributes towards peace and prosperity and constitutes “a step towards economic and regional integration as well as ecological and climatic co-operation between the Mediterranean countries”. The report, according to an EP press release, also welcomes the decision of the UfM Ministers for Foreign Affairs to include the League of Arab States as a participant at all meetings. The EP calls for the UfM Secretariat to be brought into operation as a matter of urgency and considers it necessary that the strategic value of Euro-Mediterranean relations and the Barcelona Process, including the involvement of civil society, be reaffirmed. Regarding funds, it says projects financed within the framework of the UfM should be supported from the Community, from partner states and from private financing. It calls on the Council and Commission to specify the role and strengthen the initiatives of the Facility for Euro Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP). It also reiterates its support for the creation of a Euro Mediterranean Investment Bank.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Maghreb Union, 20 Years of Missed Opportunities

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 20 — The lack of cooperation will cost countries in North Africa a hundred billion dollars per year in the coming six years, the result of an ambitious project that never took shape. The project started twenty years ago: on February 17, 1989 the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) was founded in Marrakesh by Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia and has remained a project on paper since then. Based on the model of the European Union, the AMU had to open its borders by 2000 and form a joint market of 90 million consumers. However trade between the five countries has stayed at 3.3% due to mutual mistrust and the conflict between Morocco and Algeria on the Western Sahara which has blocked the borders between the two countries since 1994. “Progress has been made, but the unexplored potential is still very high” said Tunisian Development Minister Mohamed Nouri Jouini during a expert meeting in Tunis on the 20th anniversary of the AMU. “More trade would raise each country’s GDP by two points allowing to lower unemployment among young North Africans who now are tempted to escape to Europe”. “Our economies are complementary, we have 3% of global oil reserves, 4% of gas and 50% of phosphates” said Mabrouk Bahri, president of the Maghreb Farmers Union, who warned AMU countries for the risk of facing the international economic crisis, food insecurity the lack of water and climate change in loose array. The president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, agrees. In November he pointed out in Tripoli that the Maghreb countries have to step up their economic integration. AMU secretary Habib Ben Yahia urged his ‘partners’ to compare the pitiful 3.3% of their commercial exchange to the 21% of Asean, the 19% of Mercosur and the 10.7 of Cedeao. In 2006 the World Bank calculated that full integration would have led to a significant increase of GDP for Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria between 2005 and 2015: respectively 24, 27 and 34%. The economic recession in the West may speed up the formation of a joint Maghrebi market, but at the moment the necessary instruments are weak or non-existent, there are customs barriers, bureaucracies are invasive, there is no competition between banks and the non-integrated infrastructures weigh for 25% on the cost of products, not to mention the problem that trade between Algeria and Morocco often passes through Europe due to the Western Sahara problem. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Morocco: More Than 10% of Weddings Involve Minors

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, FEBRUARY 18 — In spite of the new family law promulgated in Morocco in 2004, setting the lawful age for getting married at 18 years, the number of underage girls getting married is rising. Out of the 33,710 marriage requests involving underage girls made in 2007, the courts granted 33,560, or 94%. In the same year the total number of weddings involving minors was 10.3% of the total. Morocco’s Justice Minister Abdelwahed Radi considers the figures a positive sign. To the House of Representatives he said that “the fact that a certain number of them is refused (6%) shows that not all are approved automatically”. Radi quoted figures to support his case, saying that in 2007 the courts granted wedding requests for 1,900 girls of 15 years and 156 of the age of 14. “In these last cases” the minister said “the requests were accepted due to the particular social circumstances”. Associations of women’s rights are less optimistic than the minister. According to the Democratic League of Women’s Rights “the context of the investigation by the judges does not allow the girls to freely express their opinion before their family and fiancé”. According to Rabia Naciri, president of the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, men who marry a second woman circumvent the law through a widely accepted religious wedding and the court therefore has no choice but to bless the wedding. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Terrorism: Algeria, 3 Islamic Militants Killed in Tebessa

(ANSAmed) ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 18 — At least three members of Algerian, Islamist-oriented armed groups have been killed by security forces in Stah Guentis in the Tebessa region, which had been hit by several terrorist attacks this week. The news was from the APS agency, citing security sources. The three men, APS reports, were part of a group of terrorists which has been surrounded. The Algerian army began a huge round-up operation in the region after attacks in recent days left 11 dead and many injured. On Sunday at least four soldiers died and five were injured when a bomb exploded on the road to Gherab, close to Tebessa (600km south- east of Algiers). In the same area, seven people — including two women and a new-born baby — died on Thursday in a double bomb attack. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Terrorism: Algeria, Bomb Explodes as Train Passes by

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — The Algerian press has reported that a bomb went off yesterday as a train filled with goods was passing near El Hoecinia, near Ain Defla in western Algeria. However, authorities have not yet confirmed the reports. El Watan reported that the bomb had been hidden along the tracks and allegedly injured 4, as well as damaging numerous carriages of the train headed for Algiers. According to other newspapers, the explosion caused 4 carriages carrying diesel fuel to be derailed but did not result in any victims. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Gaza: Czech Minister to Attend Donor Conference

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 25 — On 2nd March, president of the Eu General affairs and external relations council, Karel Schwarzenberg, will attend the international conference in support of the Palestinian economy and reconstruction of Gaza. The conference will be held in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt and it will be presided by Egypt together with Norway. The conference will also be supported by the Eu, Un, Italy, France and several Arab countries. Presentation of the consequences of the Gaza blockade and the military intervention in Gaza and the recovery plan is expected from the Palestine National Authority. Among the invited guests are Ministers of approximately 80 countries (among others, all Eu Member States, all Arab states, Usa, Canada, Russia, Japan, China) and representatives of the Eu, the Un, the African Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: 436 Million Euros for Donors’ Conference From EU

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 27 — The European Union will allocate 436 million euro for the reconstruction of Gaza during the upcoming Donors’ Conference, which will take place on March 2 in Sharm el Sheikh, announced the EU Commission in a statement. The Gaza Donors’ Conference is sponsored by Brussels and co-chaired by Egypt and Norway. “Our priority today is to adequately respond to humanitarian disaster in Gaza, and by offering a substantial aid package we confirm our commitment to the Palestinians”, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations, said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: ‘Yes’ to Italian NGO Operation to Well Recuperation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 27 — The Italian NGO, GVC, reported to having obtained, after more than a year and a half of waiting, the authorisation for entrance into the Gaza Strip of three containers carrying everything necessary for the installation of a desalination plant at the Al Bureij camp. Thanks to this operation, a statement reads, 22,000 people will finally have drinking water. The well, which will be re-enabled and connected to the plant, currently provides water with a chloride concentration four times more than the limits recommended by the WHO, the World Health Organisation. The NGO’s programme, as well as the plant’s installation, also provides for quality control on the water supplied by the municipal network and private sources. “Through the strengthening of dialogue between local water committees and the institutions that manage the services, the project”, the statement goes on to say, “aims at guaranteeing a more equal distribution of water resources, contributing to a reduction in the frequent service interruptions”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Netanyahu-Livni Split, Right-Wing Executive Likely

(by Aldo Baquis) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — The Likud party is heading towards the formation of a solidly right-wing coalition government, propped up by religious parties, after another meeting between premier-designate Benyamin Netanyahu and the leader of Kadima, Tzipi Livni, ended in failure today. Talks lasting approximately one hour, held in a top Tel Aviv hotel, ended with the two politicians going to separate press de-briefings in which each accused the other of displaying a lack of the kind of flexibility needed to get a broad coalition government on its feet — the task the pair were charged with by head of State Shimon Peres last week. Neither Netanyahu nor Livni, however, explicitly ruled out having yet another meeting. But the tones of irritation in their voices, together with the contents of their statements, have given rise to a general conviction that any rapprochement between Likud and Kadima with the aim of forming a unity government has truly run aground by now. The origins of this political tangle can be traced to the results of the general election held on February 10. Kadima came out of the vote as the party with the highest absolute majority (with one seat more than Likud), but without the mathematical possibility of obtaining a majority in Parliament. The prospect of a Palestinian state would appear to have been the principal bone of contention in the talks between Netanyahu and Livni (the second to be held this week). For the Likud leader, a Palestinian state would represent a potential threat to Israeli security in the light of the strong political gains made by Hamas (a pro-Iranian movement eager for the destruction of the Zionist state) and the parallel decline of the pragmatic forces represented by the PLO and al-Fatah. For Livni, the opposite is true: it would be precisely the creation of a Palestinian state neighbouring Israel that would give rise to confidence. This is partly because, in her opinion, this is the only way to guarantee that Israel can preserve its predominantly Hebrew character in the future and not be transformed into a bi-national entity. During the morning, a prominent figure in Likud, Benny Begin (son of the party’s founder, Menachem Begin) had expressed the fear that Livni was grasping at any excuse she could in order to get out of joining a broad-coalition government, something he believes is desirable for any prospect of making progress on institutional reform and tackling the global economic crisis. ‘‘The formula of two states for two peoples,’’ Livni replied following her meeting with Netanyahu, ‘‘is far from being an empty slogan. It is a matter of principle, of substance — not an expedient’’. It would appear, on the other hand, that Netanyahu is willing to go no further than continue with the peace process: a vague formula in Kadima’s eyes, which risks isolating Israel in the face of the Quartet (USA, EU, Russia, UN). For his part, Netanyahu has implicitly accused Kadima of behaving irresponsibly ‘‘while Israel is going through a particularly critical period’’. The Likud leader listed a range of steps he had taken to ease the formation of a broad-based government: ‘‘But from Ms Livni,’’ he bemoaned, ‘‘I was greeted with a dead refusal’’. So now Likud is getting down to the task of reaching coalition agreements with the right-wing radicals of Israel Beitenu, with the orthodox Jews of Shas and the Torah Front, and with the nationalists of Hebrew Home and the National Union. This would result in a complicated six-party coalition totalling 65 MPs out of a total of 120 seats. ‘‘Israel is in need of a government and she shall have one soon’’, Netanyahu promised. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Partners in Arms? Fatah and Hamas Say They’ll Unify

Fatah and Hamas leaders have announced an “agreement in principle” that would lead to a joint Fatah-Hamas led Palestinian Authority, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency. The two groups plan to form a joint transitional government that would operate until elections can be held. In addition, they agreed to a prisoner exchange between them.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



PNA: EC Funds Wind Energy System for Hebron Hospital

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 25 — The European Commission has signed an agreement with the Patient’s Friend Society Al Ahli hospital in the West Bank city of Hebron, to finance a cutting-edge wind energy production system that will provide over 40% of the hospital’s energy needs. This will be the first institution in Pna to generate its electricity from wind power. The EU contribution to this project is EUR 1,3 million equivalent to 80% of the total cost of the action. The project will include the installment of a wind turbine that can produce up to 700 KW of energy. Hebron, which is the largest city in the West Bank, is also one of the largest electricity consuming areas. Located at the highest point in the West Bank it is ideally suited for a wind energy plant as there is wind almost every day of the year.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Defence: Turkish Crypto to Store NATO’s Top-Secret Files

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 23 — The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) researchers developed a cryptographic key loading device to store confidential data and information among NATO-member States, Anatolia news reports. The device developed by the National Research Institute of Electronics and Cryptology (UEKAE), an affiliate of the TUBITAK, was approved by the Alliance for use within NATO and the allied countries for communications with all security classification levels. Koray Arikan, one of electronics and communication engineers at the Institute, said that “600 devices would be sent to NATO in the coming days to be used to provide security in data transmission and communication among the allied countries”. “We have succeeded in developing such a portable device. It is the first of its kind in the world”, Arikan added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Dozens of Christian Families Go Back to Mosul

Over the past two months, 81 families have returned to the city. Sources for AsiaNews in Mosul say there is a climate of “hope and fear.” The central government is paying more attention to the conditions of refugees. The Iraqi deputy minister criticizes European governments for “inciting families to flee.”

Mosul (AsiaNews) — Over the past two months, dozens of Iraqi Christian families have returned to Mosul. In the local community, there is a climate of “hope and fear”; in Baghdad, the government seems to be paying more attention to the conditions of refugees.

Today, authorities in Mosul announced the return of a substantial group of Christian families to the city. One official confirms that “between January and February, 81 families returned to their homes.” According to the department for immigration and refugees, there are still 10,000 families of refugees in Al-Hamadaniya, a district 30 kilometers east of Mosul.

From Baghdad, there are signs of interest in the condition of refugees. The government says it is “taking care of the Christians,” and the “concrete problems” of the people are beginning to be discussed. “This aspect,” a local source confirms for AsiaNews, “is evident also in the results of the elections for the renewal of the provincial councils. Slogans of a religious nature were banned, and concrete questions were discussed: the shortage of electricity, of running water, of hospitals and health care, of telephone and postal communications, of roads and infrastructure.”

Yesterday, Asghar al-Moussaoui, Iraq’s deputy minister for immigration and refugees, criticized European nations for “inciting Christian families to flee Iraq.” “This statement is hardly credible,” the source says, “especially at the present time: it seems more an individual position than that of the government, and sounds like quite a stretch.” There are still many families of refugees in Jordan who are waiting for expatriate visas, and it is “difficult” for them to return to Iraq.

For the Christians in Kurdistan, the situation is different: “These families,” the source concludes, “hope to return to Mosul for two reasons. They want to take possession of their homes, their businesses, their property. Also, it is expensive to rent apartments in the Kurdish area, and often families are not able to afford them.”

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



Emirates Ban Israeli Cartoon Accused of Mocking Muslims

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, 26 FEB — The United Arab Emirates have blocked an Israeli cartoon on the video sharing website YouTube due to content that mocks Muslims and insults the Uae, as reported today by Al Arabiya website. The controversial cartoon, called Ahmed and Salim, is a set of satirical skits that center on the title characters who are more interested in Western pop culture than their father’s aspirations of having them die as martyrs by carrying out terrorist attacks on ‘filthy Jews or Americans,’ which the boys continue to fail at. The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said the decision to block the animated movie came after the organization received several complaints about the content that was deemed to be extremely insulting to Islam. “We informed the two UAE internet service providers Etisalat and Du of the decision and they blocked the movie,” a TRA spokesman told AlArabiya.net. “Now users who try to see it will get an ‘access denied’ message.” The skits are spoken in gibberish but are subtitled in Hebrew and English and a laughing audience can be heard in the background. One of the two young boys is dressed in traditional Gulf attire and the other wears a balaclava covering his face. The UAE flag is shown in several scenes and in one of the scenes the boys are tasked with blowing up an Israeli bus but decide to get some ice-cream instead, when they return they mistakenly plant a bomb on a UAE-flagged bus. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Father Sues Turkish Education Ministry Over Armenian ‘Genocide’

A father is suing the Turkish Education Ministry for forcing his 11-year-old daughter to watch a “racist” and “disturbing” film countering claims that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in 1915 with graphic allegations of Armenian atrocities against Turks.

The landmark case takes on what human rights activists have called the State’s militarist policy of brainwashing Turkey’s schoolchildren to the point of racist paranoia, aiming to preserve a nationalist status quo criticised by the European Union, which Turkey is keen to join.

“My daughter was very disturbed and frightened by the documentary and kept asking me if the Armenians had cut us up,” said Serdar Kaya, an ethnic Turkish doctor, who is suing the ministry and the child’s school for inciting racial hatred.

“There are many mass graves, bones and skulls in the DVD. They have interviewed old grandads who inspire confidence and compassion. When they say things like ‘They cut off his head’ and ‘They used it instead of firewood’, that is bound to stay with the children,” Serdar Degirmencioglu, a psychologist, told the Armenian newspaper Agos when news first broke that the documentary was being shown to primary school children — including ethnic Armenian Turks.

The Education Ministry says that it has stopped the distribution of the documentary, Sari Gelin (Blonde Bride), named after an Armenian folk song. But it has apparently not recalled it and critics say that it remains part of the curriculum.

Some MPs are bringing up the case in Parliament. The education union Egitim-Sen has condemned the film, and the History Foundation has dismissed it as baseless propaganda…

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]



Iran Says There Will be No Slowdown in Its Nuclear Plan and Urges US to ‘Face Reality’

Iran yesterday denied having slowed down its nuclear activities and said it planned to install 50,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium over the next five years after staging a dummy run of its Bushehr reactor, built with Russian help.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, dismissed claims by the UN nuclear agency that Iran had slowed the expansion of its controversial uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.

“America should face reality and accept living with a nuclear Iran,” Aghazadeh said, adding that a new nuclear achievement would be announced in April. There are currently 6000 centrifuges operating at Natanz, up from 5000 last November.

Aghazadeh was speaking at Bushehr, on Iran’s Gulf coast, site of the country’s first nuclear power plant. Iran said it had carried out successful tests that had taken it a step closer to its launch.

“Our plan to install and run centrifuges is not based on political conditions,” Aghazadeh told reporters. “We have a plan and we will go ahead with it.”

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]



Iran’s Hegemonic Venture

Iranian claims on the Gulf state of Bahrain are the latest example of Tehran’s growing hunger for power and influence

Last week, the Arab Gulf countries took a deep sigh. In a speech reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s expansionist appetite, Nateq Nouri, the Iranian supreme leader’s adviser, bluntly stated that Bahrain, home to the US fifth fleet, was his country’s 14th province until the shah lost it in 1970.

What followed was intense, for the former British colony has a history of internal tensions between the Sunni ruling family and the Shia majority, many of whom have Iranian roots. The Jordanian king, Abdullah II, made a swift solidarity visit to Bahrain, while the support calls poured in from many Arab countries, including a one from Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and Iran’s foremost ally in the Arab world.

In the Arabic media, editorials condemned “Iranian irredentism” and drew comparisons with Saddam’s ambitions and their catastrophic end.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]



Islam: UAE, Row Over Sex Within Marriage Book

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 26 — Fierce controversy has erupted in the Emirates over a book about the secrets of sex within marriage written by Wedad Lootah, a female lawyer who works on matrimonial cases at the court in Dubai. The book which came out about a month ago, includes several chapters on marriage within Islam, Islamic law on the issues of co-habiting and sex, and possible solutions to sexual problems. Arab News reports that it is mainly men who are against the book, maintaining that issues of this nature should not be discussed publicly. Some of the detractors have even gone so far as to accuse the author of being an infidel and sinner for writing the book. Supporters however say that there is a great need for published information on the issues and that until know Arab society has not wanted to recognize problems arising from ignorance in sexual matters. Lootah, who wears the Muslim veil, does not seem too surprised by the criticisms, and maintains that she based the book on Islamic sources, stressing that it was even approved by the mufti of Dubai. The book was suggested by her own six years of experience working on divorce cases, and from the knowledge that many of these cases come about because of a lack of preparation for couples in the matter. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Saudi Arabia: Critic Calls for Inquiry Into Shia Arrests

Riyadh, 25 Feb. (AKI) — A prominent Saudi intellectual has asked the government to hold an inquiry into the behaviour of religious police after nine Shia pilgrims were arrested during clashes in the holy city of Medina. Tawfiq al-Sayf called for probe because he believed the pilgrims’ arrests occurred for no reason.

Saudi authorities reportedly arrested at least nine Shia pilgrims after three days of violent clashes in the holy city. The first protest occurred on Friday and the last protest took place on Tuesday.

Jaafar al-Shaib, a leading figure among minority Saudi Shias, said the clashes occurred between Shia pilgrims and religious police near a mosque that houses the tomb of Prophet Mohammed.

“Some 1,500 Shia pilgrims gathered near the mosque for the commemoration of Prophet Mohammed’s death,” Jaafar told the media.

“We came here to celebrate the birth of Mohammed and the religious police charged at us. While we were in front of the mosque, plainclothes police charged at us with batons to disperse us.”

Religious police often prevent pilgrims venerating tombs, seen as idolatry under the strict Saudi version of Islam.

According to Arab daily, al-Quds al-Arabi, there were as many as 1,500 pilgrims outside the mosque where they held a demonstration, shouting slogans against the government and accusing authorities of discrimination.

Some pilgrims were injured in a stampede after police fired into the air to disperse the crowd, Jaafar said.

He also said some shops owned by Shias were attacked.

An interior ministry spokesman for security affairs described the incident as “a quarrel between visitors and worshippers”.

Relations are tense between Saudi Arabia’s majority Sunnis and the Shia, who are a minority of the country’s 22 million people.

The Shia are regarded as infidels under the fundamentalist Wahabi interpretation of Islam followed in Saudi Arabia and often complain of discrimination.

Many Shia critics have been jailed, and others claim to have been banned from jobs in the religious police and teaching religion

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



Turkey to Contribute to Construction of Mosque in Moscow

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 18 — Turkey will financially contribute to the construction of the Central Mosque in Moscow, Anatolia news agency reports. According to the website of the Russian Union of Muftis, the topic of Turkey’s would be contribution came up during Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s talks with the chairperson of the Russian Union of Muftis, Ravil Gaynuddin, as part of Gul’s state visit to Russia recently. A part of the Central Mosque will be built by Turkish architects. Gaynuddin touched on the relationship between Russian and Turkish Muslims while talking with Gul and pointed out that a protocol signed last November would develop relations among the Muslim populations of both countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey to Transit 1bln Cubic Metres of Iranian Gas to Europe

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 23 — National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC) and a Turkish company signed a letter of agreement in Tehran to export up to 991 million cubic meters Iran’s natural gas to Europe via Turkey per year, Hurriyet Daily News reported quoting daily Tehran Times. The name of the Turkish entity was not released in the report. NIGEC Managing Director, Seyyed Reza Kassaizadeh, said that “the company has required the Turkish side to receive their government’s permission for the transfer of up to 35 billion cubic feet (991 million cubic meters) of gas per year”. A new joint company will be established in this regard and NIGEC will have 50% of the shares. Iran has the largest natural gas reserves in the world after Russia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Transsexual Candidate for District Representative

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 26 — The days of the local elections on 29 March are dwindling and political debate is growing, but, for the first time in the history of modern Turkey, a transsexual woman decided to put his candidacy as Istanbul district representative, daily Sabah reported. “As a transsexual woman, I believe I will be able to secularly fulfill my duties. I plan to determine the problems, present and solve them with the public. There are two men also up for this position, but I believe I am going to win”, Belgin Celik, the transsexual candidate said. Celik is a candidate for representative of the district neighborhood located between Cihangir and Istiklal Caddesi and, despite this district being a historical one, there has never been a female district representative candidate never mind a women ever serving in the position. This neighborhood, which 50 years ago was inhabited entirely by non-Muslims, is projecting Celik’s success in the elections as a sure thing. Celik has been a neighborhood resident for 30 years, and states: “I know everyone here and have acquaintances and friendships with everyone”. Celik, a human rights activist has also worked for the UN Refugee High Committee and International Amnesty. In addition, she is also one of the founders of the homosexual initiative, Lambda in Istanbul. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


Hate Crimes in Russia

Africans arriving in the Russian capital these days to work or study are provided with an unusal set of instructions.

The list includes the following:

  • Avoid moving around the city alone
  • Know your destination and walk quickly and directly towards it
  • In buses, trams and trains sit close to the driver
  • Avoid travelling for four hours before and after soccer and hockey games

At first glance, the instructions may appear overly cautious, perhaps even patronizing. But increasingly, people who aren’t Russian, or people who don’t look Russian, are being attacked by neo-Nazis and skinhead groups.

Jessica Golloher reports from Moscow that the attacks aren’t simply increasing in frequency, but in intensity as well. The last year for which there are official statistics is 2007. In that year, 653 people were victims of hate crimes. Of those, 73 died as a result of their injuries.

Police indifference

As Jessica found out, hate crimes are treated with indifference by police. And in some cases, assaults have taken place directly in front of police officers, who do nothing to help.

There is one ray of hope. Jessica went to a clinic run by American missionaries, which was set up specifically to help treat those who’ve been assaulted in hate crimes. There she spoke with a few men, from Ghana and Nigeria. One man, Manuel Thomas, told her how he’d been beaten by eight men who left him for dead.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Beijing Warns Kathmandu Against Pro-Tibet Rallies in Nepal

China’s deputy foreign minister visits Nepal, tells Nepalis about his country’s concerns over protests to mark the 50th anniversary of Tibet uprising. Bilateral deals are signed. China will help Nepal build a hydroelectric plant. Nepali prime minister plans to visit Beijing to sign a new friendship treaty.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — Beijing is concerned about anti-Chinese rallies in Nepal to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tibet uprising against Chinese occupation and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama to India. It has called on Nepali authorities to keep a lid on the situation. A Chinese delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue met Nepali officials during a visit yesterday and today.

In his talks with Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and other Nepali security officials, China’s envoy stressed that 2009 was “a sensitive year” for his country, renewing concerns expressed by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in his visit to Nepal back in December.

On Wednesday self-styled activists hung a Tibet flag on the wall of the Chinese Embassy’s visa office, spray-painting ‘Free Tibet’ on the latter’s gate.

Following the talks Nepali Prime Minister’s Press Advisor Om Sharma reiterated his government’ intention to control anti-China activities (protests last August pictured).

Nepal’s defence minister said that Nepal would tighten controls on the border to prevent Dalai Lama supporters from entering Nepal.

Minister Thapa noted that “this is more than a bilateral issue between Nepal and China. The issue of Tibet is a tripartite issue between Nepal, India and China.”

At the end of his trip, China’s envoy said the meeting held in the Nepali capital were part of a “regular and normal exchange of visits,” adding that the two sides “discussed the need to work together in many areas.” He said the Chinese government is going to increase its assistance to Nepal in various fields.

One field is economic and technical cooperation. Agreements were signed, especially concerning Chinese funding for the Narsinghgad Hydropower Project in Jajarkot, in western Nepal.

Nepali officials also announced that Prime Minister Dahal and Foreign Minister Thapa will visit Beijing at the end of the April and mid-May.

The Nepali government spokesman said that the trips will allow the parties to finalise a peace and friendship treaty that will define relations between the two countries.

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



Kashmir: Young Converts From Islam Pray for Benedict XVI

After a group of Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East, young converts from Kashmir join in the prayers for the pope launched by AsiaNews for this Lent. The three converts are offering their suffering and marginalization, together with the sacrifice of their father Bashir, murdered by Muslim extremists because he had converted to Christianity. There is also participation from Italy, where the humiliations suffered by John Paul II are also being remembered.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — Some young former Muslims who converted to Catholicism are joining in the prayers for the Pope this Lent. Shabnam (21), Saira (17), and Adil (16), together with their mother Ameena, who still lives in Kashmir, want Benedict XVI to know that they are praying for him and offering their sufferings and humiliations for his mission. “We pray that he may be strong,” Shabnam he says, “and may continue to be the beacon of truth and love for the whole world.”

The three young people and their mother are participating in the proposal made by AsiaNews yesterday, that during Lent Christians should pray for the pontiff, who is at the center of a media “war” against his ministry. The proposal originated from a suggestion sent to AsiaNews by a group of several hundred former Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East, who have launched prayer novenas for the pope, whom they see as a “sign of Jesus’ love and a defender of the weak.”

Adil, the youngest son, who this year will take his final year school exams, sees a profound unity between the sufferings and humiliations of converts from Islam, and the humiliations suffered by the pope: “I was baptized when I was very young, and it has always been very difficult: criticism, sarcasm, threats, discrimination, and social ostracism have caused us great suffering. But every suffering teaches us something, and our faith is strengthened, we rely on Christ and it is he who guides us in difficult times.

“Holy and beloved Father, never lose sight of your mission, do not forget the reason why God chose you, guide the generations to truth, and may God always be with you.”

Bashir Ahmad Tantray, the father of Shabnam, Saira, and Adil, was killed by Islamic militants in November of 2006, in broad daylight. He had converted to Christianity in 1995, and had fled from his village after being threatened by Islamic extremist groups. Years later, he had gone back there to care for his dying father, and was killed.

Bashir was an engineer for the J&K Power Development Dept, and regional coordinator of the Global Council of Indian Christians in Kashmir. “Ever since the death of our father,” Shabnam recounts, “it has been horrible. Few can understand our suffering and sense of abandonment. We fled to Mumbai, but our mother is still in Kashmir. We see her only during vacations. For her, every day is a constant struggle and a constant suffering.”

Among the expressions of support for the proposal to pray for Benedict XVI sent to AsiaNews is one from an Italian woman, Paola.

“I join the initiative without reservation,” Paola writes, “I will pray for the pope, as I have always done since 1978.”

And she recalls that John Paul II was also frequently attacked (and still is today, even after his death): “In order to proclaim to humanity that it is only in Christ that man rediscovers himself, in order to seek unity among Christians, Pope Wojtyla did not hesitate, even at the last limits of his strength, to confront exhausting journeys, almost impossible encounters, even criticisms on the part of those who were close to him. Did we ever ask ourselves how much pain he felt in the face of the accusations from Küng, or from the Lefebvrists? And what can be said about the radical attacks and his isolation amid his countless appeals against war, against abortion, against the dangers of a humanity without God?”

“Yes,” she concludes, “I will pray for Pope Benedict XVI; even more than this, I will entrust him the intercession of his ‘little-great predecessor’, but I also urge more fervent prayers that the appeal of ‘Santo subito’ [the immediate canonization of John Paul II] may come to fruition.”

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

Far East


Protesters Who Set Themselves on Fire in Beijing Are Uyghurs

They had come to present a petition. Today the group “Tiananmen Mothers” asked the government to reveal whether 127 people who disappeared in the massacre on June 4, 1989, are alive or dead. Experts: the government is not resolving the problems, and there are more and more protests, some of them with extreme actions.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The three Chinese who set themselves on fire in a car when the police stopped them in downtown Beijing were Uyghurs. Experts expect numerous protests this year, because the government is preaching social harmony, but is not resolving the problems. The police are responding by patrolling Beijing with helicopters.

It appears that the three, who were members of the same family, had come to the capital to present a petition about a property dispute. The parents are still being treated in the hospital for their burns, but there is no information about their son, who was taken away by the police. The reason behind their action is unknown; it may have been an extreme protest against a situation of injustice.

Next week, the annual session of the National People’s Assembly begins, and for the occasion many Chinese go to Beijing to present petitions, asking for justice. Today the group “Tiananmen Mothers” presented a petition to find out what happened to 127 people who disappeared during the massacre on June 4, 1989, when the army brought in tanks and fired on thousands of unarmed demonstrators who were occupying Tiananmen Square and calling for democratic reforms. 20 years later, it is still unknown whether these 127 people are dead or in prison.

The group, which unites the parents of young people who died or disappeared that June 4, is asking the government to verify all of the deaths, compensate families, and punish “those responsible for the killings.” According to Human Rights in China, the petition claims that “China has become like an airtight iron chamber and all the demands of the people about June 4, all the anguish, lament and moaning of the victims’ relatives and the wounded have been sealed off.” The request for official recognition of the killings has long been headed by Ding Zilin,a retired professor whose 17-year-old son died in the square. At the time, China limited itself to describing the demonstrators as “counterrevolutionaries,” and still speaks of it as a period of “political tumult,” avoiding further comments.

Another protest took place yesterday, when, in front of more than 100 journalists, in front of the press office of the State Council, a man climbed a street sign, shouting “give back my political rights” and displaying a placard (in the photo). Finally, the police forced him down.

This year, there are many anniversaries of questions that are still open, and the police have begun to patrol Beijing with helicopters ahead of next week’s session, to better control the situation.

The analyst Zhang Dajun observes that last year, the Beijing Olympics drew Chinese public opinion, but he expects that this year there will be many public protests, because “people’s problems have not been solved. When people become desperate, they try extreme measures, like the burning incident in Beijing, to have their voices heard.”

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



Pyongyang Ready to Launch “Satellite”

The communist government claims it is “rocket for spatial communications”. Analysts do not exclude the possibility it is a missile capable of carrying a nuclear war head. The South Korean foreign minister in Beijing to discuss the North’s nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang has increased its military spending, but the population continues to starve.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) — North Korea says it is preparing to launch a telecommunications satellite on one of its rockets, which analysts have said could actually be a test-launch of its longest-range missile Taepodong-2. The satellite would be capable of containing atomic warheads and could reach Alaska or the US western seaboard.

The launch may take place on March 8th next from Donghae, North Hamgyong province, to mark the renewal of the North Korean National Parliament.

Fresh rumours of another imminent missile launch by Pyongyang are alarming the international community and regional neighbours. Japan says it is ready to face an ‘emergency’ situation. Today the South Korean foreign minister travelled to Beijing to meet his Chinese counterpart and discuss the North Korean issue.

Yesterday Seoul also published its white paper report on Defence, which defines North Korean regime a “direct and serious” threat. Its military had grown to 1.19 million, an increase of 20,000 from 2006, while the number of its lightly equipped special forces trained to swiftly infiltrate South Korea had increased 50%; it reiterated a 2006 assessment that North Korea possesses 2,500 to 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons. Military expenditure decided by Pyongyang weighs heavily on the North Korean population, which continues to starve and the children continue to be exploited as a “working force”.

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

Australia — Pacific


Australia Seeks Ways to Reduce Animal Gas Emissions

In its ongoing quest to reduce the emissions of gases blamed for climate change — and placate grumbling green activists — the Australian government has earmarked $17 million for research into how to prevent the country’s 120 million farm animals from emitting so much methane.

The project, launched this week by Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, will fund 18 areas of research, including dietary changes, genetic manipulation and ways to control stomach bacteria to reduce methane production.

As the animals chew, belch and pass wind, they release methane, while nitrous oxide is released from their waste. Both are “greenhouse gases” and are, scientists say, considerably more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas that gets most attention from global warming proponents.

[Return to headlines]

Immigration


Denmark: Politicians Plot to Deport Weapons Violators

The integration minister plans to propose a legal change that would allow foreign criminals convicted of weapons violations to be deported

Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech wants to table a proposal that would tighten weapons laws and allow for the deportation of foreign criminals who have been convicted of weapons’ crime.

‘We must do everything to make it clear that we simply won’t stand for this. Those [criminals who have broken weapons laws] who do not need be in the country, have to know that they are at risk of being deported,’ said Hornbech to DR News.

Both the Conservatives and the Danish People’s Party (DF) have already backed the plan, which would signal a parliamentary majority backing for the change.

‘If someone is not a Danish citizen and has committed a crime then they should be deported, no matter how long they have been in Denmark,’ said DF legal spokesman Peter Skaarup. ‘We should not accept that Denmark is becoming a playground for criminal activities.’

Khalid Alsubeihi has worked for many years with immigrant youths in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen and warned against introducing legislation that would punish one group more than another.

‘It’s sending the wrong signal to young people. Criminality should be heavily punished, but it should be equally so for everyone,’ said Alsubeihi.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Italy: Non-EU Workers Earn 7.000 Euro Less

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 20 — The average annual retribution per capita for non-EUs who work in Italy is 11,712 euros. In the north this figure reaches 12,200-12,300 euros while in the south it goes down to less than 9,000. Compared to Italian workers, foreigners earn about 7,000 euros less per year, a report presented today from CNEL on immigrant immigration shows. The difference in retribution between the north and south, among non-EU workers, is on average 3,000 euros, but has become 5,000 in the first region (Friuli with 13,000 euros) and the last (Molise with 8,400). In the comparison with Italians, non-EUs earn over 7,000 euros less, which in some contexts become up to 10,000 less. This is the case in Rome (11,000 euros less) and in Milan (13,000 less). The differences are less accentuated in the south. The CNEL report highlights that 87,983 immigrants are employed in high qualified positions (managers and employees, workers and apprentices excluded) while the total number of immigrants is 5 million (37.4% of the total number of company employees). Sardinia, Sicily and Lazio occupy the first places with the highest percentages (12-15%) while the last are the central northern regions. In Cagliari, qualified immigrants number about 20%, in Rome and Naples 13%. The rate of foreign entrepreneurship averages 4.35% (there were 13,000 in 2006, becoming 165,000 in June 2008); it is superior in Sardinia and Calabria (in Cantazaro and Cagliari it is 17%) than in northern regions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Doctors Refuse to Report Illegal Immigrants, Survey Says

Rome, 25 Feb. (AKI) — A survey of Italian doctors shows 85 percent of them have rejected a move by the Berlusconi government allowing them to report illegal immigrants to authorities when they seek medical care. The survey, released on Wednesday, sought the doctors’ reaction to the measure contained in a series of tough security laws recently approved by the Italian Senate or upper house of parliament.

The survey was conducted by Quotivadis, an online daily produced by the medical and scientific organisation, Univadis.

Despite the measure, 21 percent of doctors said they would “continue to act in the same way”.

Research by Adnkronos found there has been a decline of 10 to 15 percent in the number of immigrants using hospital services in Italy since the measure was approved, however.

Allowing doctors and medical staff to report illegal immigrants reverses a previous prohibition that dated to 1998.

An emergency decree issued by the government last Friday also allows authorities to detain immigrants for up to six months, instead of two months, as they try to identify them and process asylum requests.

The decree also sets a mandatory life sentence for the rape of minors or attacks where the victim is killed, and establishes rules for citizen street patrols to be conducted by unarmed and unpaid volunteers.

The conservative government led by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi passed the measures after a recent spate of rape attacks allegedly committed by Romanian immigrants.

Racial tension and attacks against Romanians and other immigrants are on the rise throughout Italy.

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



Italy: Govt ‘Planning to Triple’ Immigrant Detention Centre Capacity

Rome, 25 Feb. (AKI) — The conservative Italian government is planning to more than triple the 1,200 illegal immigrants that can currently be held in the country’s 11 detention centres, unnamed officials have told Adnkronos.

Ministers were due to meet on Thursday to identify sites where the new centres could be located to hold 4,000-4,500 immigrants within the next few months.

Feasibility studies are being carried out this week and the new centres are likely to be housed in former military barracks and military facilities, as well as disused prisons.

Closeness to airports and non-proximity to residential areas will be factors in locating the new detention centres. The government wants to have one such centre in every Italian region.

Sites under consideration include the southern city of Caserta, the northern towns of Boscomantico and Tessera in the Veneto region, Grosseto and Campi Bisenzio in Italy’s central Tuscany region and Falconara, close to the Adriatic port city of Ancona in the Marche region.

Detailed costings for the new immigrant detention centres are not yet available, but it is estimated they will cost tens of millions of euros to build.

The move follows an increase in the period of time illegal immigrants can be held in Italian detention centres from two to six months as part of measures contained in a tough new emergency security decree issued by the government last Friday.

The government says the new detention centres will enable Italian authorities to more efficiently identify illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers, and expel those who are not entitled to remain in Italy.

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



Lampedusa: Entry Denied to Euromed Mission

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 27 — “Agrigento’s prefecture denied us entrance to the Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) in Lampedusa. So we couldn’t check with our own eyes the condition in which Tunisian citizens who have been held in the CIE illegally for over a month are living”. This criticism comes from the representatives of the delegation sent by the Euro-Mediterranean network for Human Rights (EUROMED) on February 25 and 26, including the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LTDH) and the Tunisian Federation for a Two-Shore Citizenship (FTRC), along with the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR). “We came back from Lampedusa last night”, said Mokhtar Trifi, President of LTDH, ‘where hundreds of Tunisians held in the centre live isolated from the world, without being able to have contacts with those outside, without even being allowed to recharge their mobile phones as there are no electrical sockets. Even the most basic protection and the rights guaranteed by Italian law and by international law have been called off’’. The reasons for the denial by Agrigento authorities weren’t yet clear. The Interior Ministry will have to give us an explanation for this refusal, they say at CIR. What is certain, the members of the Euromed network mission say, is that out of some 800 Tunisians on the island at least 39 have applied for asylum. “They shouldn’t be there, but they should already have been transferred to the various Reception Centres for Asylum Seekers (CARA) around the peninsula”, said CIR’s head Christopher Hein. “No one — he said — has really tried to understand why those North African citizens held in the CIE have applied for asylum”. Most of the applicants — the mission members claim — come form the Redeyef mining area, where the riots of the past months led the Tunisian government to react with heavy-handed repression. “They fled from an intolerable situation to live in an awful situation such as the one at CIE”, LTDH’s president Triffi said, “The fact that an official delegation of the Tunisian government managed to enter the Centre in the past few days while our association cannot manage to get the permits is a very serious one”. “We want the CIE to be closed down and that only the CPA, the Centre for Early Reception, to remain open, and attention to be paid to asylum seekers”, Omaya Essedick, of FTRC, said. “Behind the recent agreement concluded by Italy’s Interior Minister Maroni and his Tunisian counterpart Kacem — under which, among other things, 500 Tunisians are to be repatriated by the end of March — there are undoubtedly economical advantages for Tunis”, Essedick said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lampedusa: 190 Repatriations in a Month’s Time

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 27 — Over the course of the week, 57 illegal non-EU’s, mostly Tunisians and Algerians who landed in Lampedusa, were repatriated, reported the Interior Ministry. Next week another 80 Tunisian citizens, already identified, will be transferred from Lampedusa to be repatriated after a technical stop-over in the Centre for Identification and Expulsion at Ponte Galeria in Rome. The total number of repatriations for February is 190 illegal foreigners. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Migration: Kouchner in Malta, When Illegal a Burden to Share

(ANSAmed) — LA VALLETTA, 27 FEB — French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner this afternoon spoke on the need for burden sharing in the problem of illegal migration to be spread from the south of the EU to the north. Addressing a news conference with Foreign Minister Tonio Borg, Mr Kouchner referred to a ceremony at the university in the morning during which he was awarded a doctorate honoris causa saying it had been a very moving ceremony. He said that Malta was facing a huge burden with regards to illegal migration and the EU needed to share the burden with the country. France, he said, had already promised to take 80 immigrants but this was not enough. Dr Borg said that besides irregular migration, he and his French counterpart discussed about the office of the Union for the Mediterranean. Dr Borg thanked France for its gesture in accepting 80 immigrants from Malta — the highest number ever taken by a European country so far. Discussions between Malta and France, he said, would continue at an EU and a bilateral level. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Rightwing Extremism on the Rise

Skinheads and other extremists are a small but growing group in Switzerland, where researchers say one in three people is xenophobic and one in five anti-Semitic.

But the far right remains fractured and weak, with just 1,200 active members, according to the national research programme findings.

Overall, that’s about on par with Germany and the rest of Europe.

“Although extremism is on the rise, it is not at a level where it would be an immediate threat to democratic society,” said Marcel Niggli, president of NRP40+, which presented the findings in Bern on Tuesday.

Niggli was one of four researchers who discussed the results of 13 studies commissioned by the government after neo-Nazis disrupted a festival on August 1, 2000 marking the founding of the Swiss confederation.

The SFr4-million ($3.45-million) project is the first to take a comprehensive look at the social profiles of members of rightwing groups, their victims and the role the media plays in how society responds to these acts.

The researchers also wanted to put Switzerland’s rightwing extremists into an international context for comparison. Recommendations on how to combat the problem, however, could prove to be difficult.

“There isn’t a measure you can do to say tomorrow it will no longer exist,” said Sandro Cattacin, a project leader.

Skinhead history

Rightwing extremism has changed throughout the years in Switzerland from a limited underground movement at the end of the Second World War into a larger subculture today, according to Damir Skenderovic, author of one of the 13 studies.

Skenderovic says that the transformation accelerated during the mid-1980s during the “Small Springtime of Fronts” when young skinheads took more public roles. Some groups were highly organised propagandists that rallied around a single leader while others were little more than gangs that drank at the same bar.

But their impacts were clear. Statistics show that between 1988 and 1993 members of the extreme right committed 378 violent acts, assaulting immigrants, burning asylum seekers’ lodgings and threatening opponents. Fourteen people were killed and 145 people were injured.

“Given the size of the population, the number of deaths in Switzerland has been far higher, proportionately, than in Germany,” Skenderovic wrote.

Today the situation has grown considerably worse. Police figures estimate there are about 1,200 active rightwing extremists in Switzerland, a 30 per cent increase since 2000 and a 336 per cent leap since 1997. They have committed more than 990 violent acts between 1997 and 2007.

“In a more globalised society like we have today, that isn’t really surprising,” Niggli said. “But it is nevertheless valuable to know that there is a rather important group that does not accept one of the foundations of democracy, the equality of men.”

Family violence

Starting around 1985 the media began to report more frequently on random acts of violence committed by skinheads and hooligans. Today that trend continues.

Some researchers said the media had become “hysterical” with such stories — as with the recent case of a Brazilian woman who falsely claimed to have been attacked by Neo-Nazis in Zurich. That kind of reporting can be dangerous because emotions hinder rational dialogue and can lead to more violence, they said.

The presenters were reluctant to speculate on the reasons why extremism is on the rise in Switzerland because the studies presented on Tuesday were the first comprehensive body of work for the country on the subject. Instead, the project was intended to provide a snapshot of the situation now.

Thomas Gabriel, a project leader from Zurich University, looked at the relationship between extremists and their upbringing.

“There are several influences and life circumstances that have to come together,” he said. “What we found was a link to conservative or rightwing attitudes and violence within the family. Another development path is a juvenile trying to get attention.”

Contrary to some opinions, Gabriel said such youths and their families have not been left out of modern society and that social marginalisation plays only a minor role in the evolution of a skinhead. Rather, it’s the social network and family itself that influences their development.

Of 26 cases his group looked at, 77 per cent of the extremists were male with an average age of 18, though half were under 20. More than 50 per cent belonged to a political organisation, like the Swiss Hammerskins or the Party of Nationally Oriented Swiss (PNOS).

Islamophobia

While far-right activities may be proportionate with the rest of Europe, Switzerland does breed its own variety of extremist.

According to a survey of 3,056 people from three of the country’s language regions, nearly one in three Swiss are Islamophobes. More shocking is sexism, where 40 per cent of the population does not agree entirely with gender equality. Seven per cent believes violence can solve problems.

But extreme rightwingers are in no position to hurt Switzerland’s democracy because those groups tend to be marginalised and not in government, said Cattacin, who looked at monitoring extremist attitudes. Switzerland’s biggest political group, the Swiss People’s Party, is considered rightwing but it is hardly extreme.

Nevertheless that party helps to vent at least some steam for other, far more radical groups by championing conservative stances on immigration and asylum, for example. Giving a voice to everyone is critical to a democracy, he added.

“Switzerland has to work on the public space to give all positions a way to express themselves,” Cattacin said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Theatre: Illegal Immigrant Harlequin Opens Biennial Festival

(by Paolo Petroni). (ANSAmed) — VENICE, FEBRUARY 23 — The Biennial Theatre Festival has opened in the name of Goldoni, which following the Mediterranean project conceived by Maurizio Scaparro brings characters and situations from the African shore to the Venice lagoon in upcoming days. The ‘Servant of Two Masters’, the classic text made famous with a live version by Giorgio Strehler, already shows the signs of a changing world and becomes Argelino, a poor illegal immigrant arriving by boat, who because of hunger, becomes exploited as a labourer by a gay couple and falls in love with another immigrant who marries his master in order to obtain a stay permit. This is the rereading and rewriting of the Goldonian outline presented in Mestre, the inland part of Venice, by Spanish director Andres Lima with the Animalario company, who said: “What interested me about Harlequin was not the mask, but his great hunger, at a time when immigration to Europe creates communication and understanding problems and mainly, new slavery”. The Harlequin proposed many years ago by the Teatro delle Albe, with a black actor as e Senegalian street merchant, comes to mind. But here the choice becomes extreme and played not with the classical Goldonian games and ambiguities, but harsh relationships, exploitation, and love-sexual interests. If anything Fassbinder’s rewriting of the “Bottega del caffe” comes to mind, with this being a less expressionist version, more Mediterranean in its black atmosphere. Other more exemplary stories surround the protagonists, like a father who wants to force his daughter to marry for interests and money, or the young Smeraldina, a South American girl with a master, Pantaleone who beats and abuses her, while she does not stop defending her humiliated femininity and dreams of a society where she can live better, with respect as a woman, but also as a foreigner and as a worker. The various characters take the stage crossing through the audience trying to sell the public small useless lighted gadgets, like the vendors on the street or at restaurants. The acting, body language, the invention of jokes with an echo that recalls the African speech and life of Morocco. A group of relationships based on the abuse of power that exploits the extreme need and impossibility to defend one another, all with a little bit of excess, until an emblematic simplification, which lives thanks only to the irony, impetuousness, humiliation, and personality of the Argelin of Jvier Gutierrez, with his perpetual, obsessive search for something to eat. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: is the BNP Becoming Cumbria’s Cup of Tea?

The far-right party is on its best behaviour in the North-west — and may win its first seat in the European Parliament. But scratch the surface, says Paul Vallely, and the familiar anti-immigrant message shines through…

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Atheists Launch Non-Prophet Bus Campaign

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” That message, on British buses for just over a month, is coming to Switzerland.

The Swiss freethinkers’ association launched a campaign on Monday to collect donations to “give a voice to those people who feel plagued by the missionary slogans” plastered around the country.

“We did it because so many people asked us to do it,” Reta Caspar, spokeswoman for the association, told swissinfo.

“We hadn’t planned it — we had our own campaign last October in which we invited people to ‘out’ themselves on our website, saying they were non-religious and why.”

Caspar said one of the aims of that campaign was to give faces to the 11 per cent of Swiss who are non-religious.

“When we saw what happened in London and how people were so happy to have a campaign like this and how much support they got, we said we had to do it.”

The Swiss freethinkers’ association, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, guarantees that all donations will be used only for the bus campaign.

“People called us and emailed us saying ‘finally — someone is standing up for non-religious people. We’re so fed up with religious advertising in Switzerland everywhere’,” Caspar said.

As an example she cites the biblical quotations on walls and newspapers in Switzerland paid for by the Christian organisation Agentur C.

International success

The Atheist Bus Campaign, which has spread to the United States, was launched by British journalist Ariane Sherine on October 21 in response to a Christian bus advertisement which led people to an internet link saying non-Christians would spend “all eternity in torment in hell”, burning in “a lake of fire”.

The campaign’s original goal was to raise £5,500 (SFr9,150) to run its own counter slogan on 30 buses across London for four weeks. Within three days more than £100,000 had flooded in.

The first “atheist buses” started running on January 6 and 800 ended up getting stuck in traffic jams around Britain for four weeks. Future plans include placing 1,000 adverts on the London Underground featuring quotations from famous atheists.

In response, three Christian groups launched counter campaigns with slogans including “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God”.

” People called us and emailed us saying ‘finally — someone is standing up for non-religious people’. “

Reta Caspar Fed up

Caspar says their initial target is Fr50,000 ($43,000) — “actually I think we could make SFr100,000” — and explains it would cost about SFr5,000 to take out one advert on a tram or bus for one year in a city. It’s a bit cheaper in the countryside.

“With the money starting to come in, we can see where it’s coming from. That will influence our decision on where to spend it,” she said.

But she adds that it’s not actually their aim to make as much money as possible.

“We want to show that there really are a lot of people, internationally, fed up with not only religious advertising but also the religious speak of politicians,” she said.

“What made us really angry was when the Swiss president [Hans-Rudolf Merz] ended his New Year address with the sentence ‘relying on our mutual beliefs we are going to meet the challenges of the New Year’. We wrote to him asking what ‘our mutual beliefs’ were. He confirmed receipt of our letter but hasn’t replied. He said he’s working on it.”

Counter campaign

Reactions to the campaign in Switzerland have been mixed.

The main national churches didn’t want to comment and the centre-right Christian Democratic Party said it only took a stance on political matters not religious ones.

The Protestant Party on the other hand said it was considering a counter campaign.

Simon Weber, spokesman for the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, told swissinfo: “You could also say the opposite: there probably is a God — don’t worry, enjoy your life.”

He added: “Preaching about God and salvation is the church’s mission and it’s been doing that for 2,000 years. If someone says something different, that’s nothing new — although it’s new in this form. The campaign in Britain didn’t trouble us.”

Positive

Caspar points out that their campaign, Geniess das Leben! (Enjoy Life!), is positive. She adds that the subtitle — “für religiöse Abrüstung” — is a call for religious disarmament.

“The Reformed Protestant church in Basel has launched a tram that is covered with all sorts of statements about the church for one year. They’re trying to get back the 2,000 or so people who left the church over the past couple of years.”

This, she says, is a type of “arming”, with everyone starting to fight for members and power in society.

“We think this is really counterproductive and it has to stop.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lawmakers Declare Fetuses to be People, Too

States vote on measures that extend full ‘personhood’ rights to pre-born

Legislative bodies in two states voted this month to define the beginning of human life — and human rights — at conception.

On Feb. 17, North Dakota’s House of Representatives voted 51-41 to approve a bill that declares “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” — even one not yet born — is a person protected by rights under the state’s constitution.

Yesterday, the Montana Senate voted 26-24 to approve S.B. 406, a constitutional Personhood Amendment that states, “All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. … Person means a human being at all stages of human development of life, including the state of fertilization or conception, regardless of age, health, level of functioning or condition of dependency.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Physicians: Obama Plan Will ‘Shut Down Hospitals’

‘Radically pro-abortion agenda’ would remove conscience protections

Doctors are forecasting the closure of hospitals and clinics across America and a mass migration of physicians and their assistances to other careers should the Obama administration succeed in its attempt to overrule their rights of conscience.

“Thousands of conscientious and compassionate physicians, nurses, hospitals and clinics currently serve poor women and those who live in medically underserved areas,” said David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association today.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


Do These Mysterious Stones Mark the Site of the Garden of Eden?

The first is its staggering age. Carbon-dating shows that the complex is at least 12,000 years old, maybe even 13,000 years old.

That means it was built around 10,000BC. By comparison, Stonehenge was built in 3,000 BC and the pyramids of Giza in 2,500 BC.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



OIC Secretary General Condemns Israeli TV’s Defamation of Prophet Muhammad

The Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, vehemently condemned the Tenth Israeli TV channel’s defamation of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), hurting thus the feelings of Muslims and slurring their faith. He emphasizes that the calumnious program bears testimony to the truly racist character of the Israeli Establishment and its steadfast endeavors to trigger dissension and stir up conflicts particularly that this condemnable act unfolds a few days after the broadcast of a program with offensive material against Prophet Jesus and his Mother Mary (peace be upon them).

The feelings of Muslims throughout the Muslim world have been hurt by the unceasing and malignant campaign against Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The campaign has shamelessly targeted all sacred beliefs and symbols, persistently slandering Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and disparaging a tolerant religion embraced by more than a billion and a half people.

Hence, the OIC emphatically reaffirms that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a red line for the Muslim Ummah [nation] and reiterates the call for the creation of an international alliance to combat the defamation of religions and scared faiths and oppose any insults against religious symbols.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

An Economy Stuck on Stupid

The information in this post is from late August of last year. In other words, before the election. However, the issue is still being hotly debated, so this may be even more germane than it was back then.

The question concerns who should be defined as “rich”. Our President says any couple making $250,000.00 or more annually falls into that category. Fortunately (or not, depending on your point of view) our income is so far below these lofty heights that the question is academic for our family.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a compelling question for many others, people with mortgages, debt, or children in college. From CNBC’s site “By the Numbers”:

Barack Obama wants to raise taxes on Americans making over $250,000 per year. That may seem like a lot of money, but it depends a lot on where you live.

Someone with an income of $250,000 in Paducah, Ky., for instance, would need to make $586,000 in New York City to maintain the same lifestyle. So, maybe Uncle Sam needs to work in a cost-of-living component to the tax code.

Using a cost of living calculator from Bankrate.com, we compared what $250,000 translates to in various parts of the country. Here’s is a sample of what we found…

- – - - – - – - -

Cost of living


Theoretically, the idea of pulling up stakes and moving some place cheaper might sound like a good solution. But dislocation is hard on families and it takes several years to establish again a “sense of place”, the feeling that one belongs. And to have to do so simply because of an onerous tax burden will substantially increase the resentment level in this country.

What if you love where you live, despite the expensive housing and cost of living? What if you can’t leave because you have no sure job offer elsewhere, yet you feel you’re stuck in a situation where you’re in over your head, past the limit where you can survive financially? How do you survive yet another new tax burden?

Some people have said they’ll make sure their income is just under the limit. In other words, our national productivity will decline just in order to meet an arbitrary line drawn in the sand.

It is indeed “the economy stupid”. In fact, the ignorance surrounding the economic novelties coming out of our new administration is sad evidence of a lack in understanding basic market principles.

That’s what we get when lawyers and politicians are in charge. An economy stuck on stupid.

The 10th Amendment in Virginia? Get My Smelling Salts, Belle!

I have read this a couple of times and I still don’t believe it.

Earlier in the month, I wrote about the rising number of state legislatures which are writing or considering resolutions that will be delivered to the federal government asserting the 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution.

And (either in a comment or email) I also asserted that the Virginia House of Delegates would never bring forward such legislation, given the symbiotic relationship between northern Virginia (NOVA) and Washington, D.C. The District’s boundaries are contiguous with both Virginia and Maryland. In other words, our Commonwealth and the state of Maryland would no doubt ignore this movement given the amounts of money we receive from the feds, and the number of federal government jobs held by Virginians and Marylanders.

I was wrong.
- – - - – - – - -
I knew the MSM wasn’t going to let on to a wider world what was happening, so I googled the 10th Amendment to pass the information on to a European. I was gob smacked by an entry near the top of the first site I tried, here.

This is the text of the full resolution currently in the House of Delegates. I don’t know if it has made it out of committee yet, or even what committee would be responsible (definitely need to do more research on this). Nontheless, read the carefully crafted language equally carefully. These are not happy campers:

HOUSE RESOLUTION NO. 61 Offered February 26, 2009 [my emphasis -- D] Honoring state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

—-Patrons- Peace, Fralin, Byron, Cline, Cole, Gilbert, Landes, Lingamfelter, Marshall, R.G., Morgan, Ware, R.L. and Wright

—- Referred to Committee on Rules —-WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads as follows: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”; and

WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment defines the total scope of federal power as being that specifically granted by the Constitution of the United States and no more; and

WHEREAS, the scope of power defined by the Tenth Amendment means that the federal government was created by the states specifically to be an agent of the states; and

WHEREAS, the states today are demonstrably treated as agents of the federal government; and

WHEREAS, many federal laws are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment assures that we, the people of the United States of America and each sovereign state of the United States, now have, and have always had, rights the federal government may not usurp; and

WHEREAS, Article IV, Section 4 says that “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a Republican form of government,” and the Ninth Amendment states that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144 (1992), that Congress may not simply commandeer the legislative and regulatory processes of the states; and

WHEREAS, a number of proposals from previous administrations, and other proposals that may be anticipated, may further violate the Constitution of the United States; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, That the Congress of the United States be urged to honor state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The Commonwealth of Virginia hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States. The Commonwealth by this resolution serves notice to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers. Further, the Commonwealth urges that all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding shall be prohibited or repealed.

Here’s the money quote:

Further, the Commonwealth urges that all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding shall be prohibited or repealed.

For anyone who has ever worked in local government, non-profit agencies which receive federal funding, social service agencies, etc., this heart of the resolution speaks to their frustration with unfunded mandates. They are a manifestation of political evil.

Read the information at the link regarding this serious breach of responsibility by our Imperial Congress. It lays out several cases in which the interference by Washington – all hat and no cattle – seriously impedes local and state governments from functioning well.

Here’s a small example from my own experience, which demonstrates how difficult it can be to comply with these ignorant federal rules. This dates back to my job as a foster care social worker.

One of the federal rules was that home visits to foster care children must be made at a minimum of every three months. Generally speaking, that’s a good rule to ensure oversight of the foster care family and to ascertain that the foster child is doing well.

However, in this situation, I had a caseload full of dysfunctional teenagers who belonged in institutional care. Their parents were the ones needing foster care, as these big adolescent slugs often physically attacked their parents, sometimes causing physical damage. The stupid and short-sighted judicial decision was to put these “children” in foster care.

Why? Because it was cheaper than providing therapeutic institutional care – which is what these “children” needed. But that solution could run anywhere from thirty to sixty thousand dollars per kid per annum. And each kid needed a few years to get back on track. There were no quick fixes.

Instead, these teenagers were put in my “care” and it was left to me to find a foster home to take them in. Some folks were good at handling troublesome teenagers, but we hadn’t nearly enough of those brave souls. And group homes took one look at their record and said, “no thanks, they will disrupt a fragile group” – they knew from experience not to take on a Sisyphean task.

I had one girl, a real hell-raiser, who was about 15 at the time she ran away from her third placement. After she found a place in Harlem in New York City, she let us know where she was. I was in Virginia while my foster care white southern sassy hellion was living it up in Harlem. I prayed for her survival. Even as mean as she was, taking on a whole gang might prove more than she could handle. She might have to learn painfully that a big mouth could mean big trouble.

My supervisor announced one day that I’d have to travel to Harlem and do a “home visit” with this “child”. I looked at her a long time and finally replied “do you want me to refuse right now or do you want my resignation? Ain’t no way I am taking my lily white little self to Harlem. I don’t care what the feds want. Ain’t going there. Let them put me in jail; I can catch up on my reading. Fire me, I can collect unemployment”.

I never went to Harlem. My little angel returned from her adventure many months later, with diamond studs in her gums and corn rows in her orange hued hair. She was fat and happy…and glory be, she wasn’t pregnant.

I didn’t get fired, but I did burn out eventually and left the job. It was the first time I’d ever left one job without having another lined up, but the Baron assured me that if I left an oppressive, crazy-making job without waiting for any guarantees, I’d never be oppressed by a job again. And he was right.

So you see the nature of unfunded mandates. Some of them are impossible commands from a lazy national Congress, many of whose members don’t like the onerous task of having to actually read the legislation for which they vote. Thus, the states which grab the pork coming out of this newest Stimulating Evil are going to find they’ve stuck a bargain with the devil. Make no mistake, that mess has more potholes than a street in Argentina.



The Commonwealth of Virginia has a history of talking back to the Federal Government. Here, from the Tenth Amendment site, is part of the first sass-back, well over two hundred years ago:

The following resolution was adopted by the Virginia Senate on December 24, 1798, as a protest against the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by Congress. It was authored by James Madison, in collaboration with Thomas Jefferson, who authored a set of resolutions for Kentucky.

RESOLVED, That the General Assembly of Virginia, doth unequivocally express a firm resolution to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of this State, against every aggression either foreign or domestic, and that they will support the government of the United States in all measures warranted by the former.

That this assembly most solemnly declares a warm attachment to the Union of the States, to maintain which it pledges all its powers; and that for this end, it is their duty to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles which constitute the only basis of that Union, because a faithful observance of them, can alone secure it’s existence and the public happiness.

That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them…

The resolution continues on this page and it is worth reading in its entirety. There’s not a relativistic equivocation in the whole document.

It had to come down to this sooner or later. The burdens laid on the backs of states and municipalities are akin to what the Romans did to their outlying provinces. And we know what happened to Rome.

That the rebellion of the states – civil and polite so far- has begun now because of a constellation of events, the center of which is the global financial meltdown. The states are saying, in essence, that they can’t afford to belong to Washington anymore.

It remains to be seen what will come of this movement and what repercussions it will have. No one can say. There are too many unknowns, too many unprecedented events in play.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on the Tenth Amendment in your state legislature. I, for one, thought it couldn’t happen in Virginia…and perhaps the resolution won’t pass the first time around. But it will be back.

As the Baron would say, it’s steam engine time.

Hell’s Angels in the Jungles of Nørrebro

I reported last fall on the clashes between immigrant gangs and the Danish chapter of Hell’s Angels. Since then the situation has escalated further, with violent and sometimes fatal encounters between the bikers and the immigrants becoming more frequent.

The discontinuity described by El Inglés in “The Danish Civil War” seems to have moved that much closer. Here’s the latest report from Thursday’s Berlingske Tidende, as translated by our Danish correspondent Kepiblanc.

By the way — you’ll notice that in this media age, even biker gangs issue press releases:

Hell’s Angels: We will no longer sit on our hands while facing terror

By Kasper Krogh, Thursday, Feb. 26. 2009 — Berlingske Tidende

Hell’s Angels DenmarkHell’s Angels place the responsibility for the many shoot-outs in Copenhagen on the immigrant gangs. And for the first time the club acknowledges that it has “chosen to react” to the frequent attacks on its members and club venues.

In a recent press release the bikers from Hell’s Angels blame the immigrant gangs of Nørrebro [downtown ramshackle district of Copenhagen — translator] for the ongoing conflict, and have chosen “not to sit idle any longer.”

It is not the first time the club has commented on the conflict between bikers and gangs. As in previous releases Hell’s Angels disclaim responsibility for the events, but at the same time warn their opponents against stepping over the line.

Hell’s Angels write that they have nothing to do with the shootings marring Copenhagen since last summer, but that the police and immigrant gangs in unison have succeeded in describing the situation as if “Hell’s Angels MC Denmark is at war with all ‘New Danes’.”

“Since then things have accelerated,” as Hell’s Angels dryly notes, “and we have seen a host of assassination attempts on bikers and biker strongholds. And such things will have consequences,” write the bikers:

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“That we some time ago decided to react and no longer tolerate harassments and terror against our loved ones has, of course, contributed to the escalation,” write Hell’s Angels in what is to date the closest recognition of conflict with the foreigners.

But — once again — the main responsibility for escalation lies not with the club, but with others:

“Other and more important reasons have been police propaganda and society’s fear of said persons!” write the bikers.

Nørrebro is a jungle

Hell’s Angels very clearly reject that they ‘have some beef’ with anyone in the drug trafficking market:

“The present turmoil and unrest has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with ‘fighting over criminal market share’, at least not on Hell’s Angels MC’s part, but the perpetual smear campaigns in the press about ‘the fight over the cannabis market’ has probably convinced said persons [the immigrant gangs, — translator] and others that this is true,” write the bikers.

They also warn people against believing that Nørrebro will become a better place, if it is to be ruled by immigrant gangs:

“Nørrebro is a jungle and here opposing views meet for real. If anyone believes that this jungle will be more passable without Hell’s Angels MC present, then they’re naïve beyond imagination!” the bikers write.

Kepiblanc adds this note:

Meanwhile, as I’m translating this, a new showdown is taking place.

A man sitting in a car in Nørrebro has been gunned down by two or three bypassing men on bicycles. He is on the operating table just now and his condition is critical. The man is Danish, no description of the gunmen yet.

The Muslim who was killed last night may be innocent — insofar the police claim that he isn’t connected to ‘the immigrant gangs’, only known by the cops for ‘minor’ offenses.

So, if he really is that innocent the ‘Muslim community’ might very well react by gunning down innocent, random Danes. In that case, the war is on.



Hat tip: TB.

Groveling at the Altar of Cultural Marxism

Several people have emailed us with a tip about this news story, but Conservative Swede has the most interesting take on the topic:

Now that America has elected Obama, his supporters expect America to be loved across the world. Well, the European Left still hates America to the core, and we even see an increase of the stakes.

He was referring to an article from The Local:

Security Police Probe Södertälje Fires

Three supermarkets were destroyed and a fourth damaged as a wave of arson attacks hit Södertälje in central Sweden in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Security police (Säpo) have been called in to investigate a connection between the attacks and an anti-US extreme left wing group.

“We have classified them all as arson and are working on the theory that they were started deliberately,” said Kia Samrell at Södertälje police.

[…]

An extreme left wing group calling itself Global Intifada claimed responsibility for the December fires and according to reports in the Expressen newspaper, the two Willys stores destroyed on Thursday morning also received warnings from the group.

- – - - – - – - -

“We have not been able to confirm that the group were behind the December fires. But the investigation is not yet completed,” underlined Kia Samrell.

Global Intifada, according to a Sveriges Radio report, has been responsible for dealing out leaflets in Södertälje encouraging the public to make Molotov Cocktails and use them on shops selling American products.

This threat, as yet unverified, has been communicated to the US Embassy in Sweden which considered it of sufficient importance to issue a statement confirming that it had been in contact with Södertälje police. The US authorities advised “caution while shopping and be attentive to suspicious behaviour”.

The US Embassy was refusing to comment on Wednesday’s attacks.

Conservative Swede continues with this analysis:

Three supermarkets set on fire by the “Global Intifada” in Södertälje. The motivation for this is that they are selling American products. We have seen a lot in Sweden, but this is a huge increase of the stakes of anti-Americanism. And just one month after the inauguration of Obama.

The ideological hatred of America (for her post-WWII “crimes”) has been translated into hatred of ethnic Americans, no matter what they do. Much as the ideological hatred of Germany in WWII is translated into ethnic hatred of Germans no matter what they do. And the ideological hatred of the Soviet Union in the Cold War is translated into ethnic hatred of Russians no matter what they do.

This is what the mental map of the West looks like. There’s a lot of hate going around, and there’s no shift in the minds of the haters. And the unalterable hate is not reserved for the groups that are real threats, but for the ones that should be friends or allies.

Mutual euthanasia, in addition to civilizational suicide, that is. And the stronger the “permitted” nationalisms grow, the stronger this ethnic hatred becomes, too.

At some point the American left and center will realize that, Obama or not, they are still equally hated and despised by the European Left. How will they react when they realize this? Will they grovel even more at the altar of Cultural Marxism in hope of receiving love?

CS is right, but I must point out that the Americans he refers to form only one facet of the American character.

Our Europhiles are the runny-brie-and-dry-chablis crowd, the metrosexuals, the sandal-wearing lentil-gobblers, the tree-hugging Volvo-driving denim-and-granola one-worlders. They’re the ones whose legs tingle and hearts melt in adoration over Obama. The Europe that they love is not France or Germany or Denmark or Portugal, but the European Union, the prototype for the coming World Government — the endgame of history from the Left’s point of view.

However, there’s another type of American who holds Europe in lower esteem — assuming that he pays attention to it at all: the Jacksonian. He views the Europeans as limp-wristed pansies — much the same way he views the elites of the East Coast liberal establishment — and takes no interest in Europe’s opinion of America.

The Jacksonians have been quiet in recent years, because times have been good. But when trouble comes to America the Jacksonians emerge — well-armed — and start asserting themselves in public affairs.

The elite Euro-lovers who run the federal government would do well to remember that the Jacksonians considerably outnumber them.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


One notable thing about the Södertälje firebombing is the claim of responsibility by a group called “Global Intifada”. The hard-left anarchist types have appropriated the Arabic term for their own purposes, presumably because of its trendy anti-American cachet.

To the Left, “intifada” means “violent resistance to American and Israeli hegemony”. But that’s not what the Palestinians and the Arabs mean by the term (pdf source):

[The] Palestinian Intifadah [is] seen as a prelude to the great war of liberation and liquidation…

The Intifada is the Beginning of Liberation, Annihilation and Purification

“The Intifada of the people in Palestine is but the beginning of a liberation movement for the annihilation of that evil Zionist colonialism.”

“Our people wanted the Intifada to go on as an enlightening torch… and they shall not withhold their pure blood until the land of peace is purified of the filth of the usurper.”

That is, the intifada is about the annihilation of the Jews and the purification of the lands of the Muslims. It is about the triumph of Islam.

It is not about the triumph of Socialism.

However, there is one goal that the Muslim intifada shares with the Left: the establishment of a single world government. The entire world will submit to Allah. It will constitute a single unified Ummah, and be one nation under Sharia… forever.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/27/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/27/2009This news feed is clogged up with some of the late tips from last night, and also I haven’t done all of today’s stories.

The most important news item is that the US has withdrawn from Durban II.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Insubria, Islam in Action, JD, KGS, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

Financial Crisis
Crisis: Tunisia, Outlook Good for Call-Centres
What’s Wrong With the Stimulus?
 
USA
Al-Arabiya: US Senator Screens Anti-Islam Film ‘Fitna’
Chorus of ‘Fairness Doctrine’ Fans Adds Another
Defense Budget Under Tighter Scrutiny
EPA Says Farm Dust Requires Regulation
Ex-CAIR Leader Starts New Front Group
Join Nearly 40 Nationwide Tea Parties Across U.S.
Likely Intel Pick: Muslims Were Here First
Likely Intel Pick Works for Chinese
Major General Says President’s Eligibility Needs Proof
Mr. Wilders Goes to Washington
Obama Wants to Raise Money Via Pollution Caps: Reports
Psychiatrist: Obama Corrupting America With Socialism
Race Baiter Eric Holder
U.S. Pulling Out of ‘Durban II’ Conference
 
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Nørrebro ‘Too Dangerous’ for Safety Volunteers
Denmark: Applause Marks Soldiers’ Return
Finland: Disputes Over Scarves Split Employers
Finland: Survey Indicates Half of Helsinki Residents Believe the City’s Security Situation Has Deteriorated
Greece: Escapes and Ladders by Paschos Mandravelis
Greece: Anarchists Target Newspaper Offices
Italy: Migrants and Sex Offenders Face Tough New Measures
Italy: Atheists Get Original Message Out
Netherlands: List of Most Problem Neighbourhoods Made Public
Norway: Latest Poll: New Gains for the Progress Party
Swiss Soldiers Face Loss of Right to Store Guns at Home
Terrorism: ‘New Al-Qaeda Video’ Targets Germany
UK: Fanatics Are on Rise and Labour Has Let it Happen
UK: How Did Britain Get Into This Tortured Position?
UK: Some British Christians Feel Oppressed in the Public Square
What’s in a Name: Crime Suspects and the Swedish Press
Why the CIA Has to Spy on Britain
 
Balkans
Croatia: Full Support for EU Adhesion From Paris
EU: Commissioner Rehn, Croatia Risks 2010 Adhesion
Kosovo: ICC, Former Serbian President Acquitted of War Crimes
Kosovo: Serbian Population Repeats “No” to Independence
Serbia: War Crimes; Arrest Orders for 19 Bosnians
Serbia: Talks on Customs-Free Export of Cars to Russia
 
North Africa
Algeria: 3 Mln Euro From France for Secondary School Reform
Egypt — Ayman Nur: I Will No Longer Lead Party
Egypt: Islamic Lawyers Urge Death Sentence for Convert
OECD: Morocco Becomes Member Development Centre
 
Israel and the Palestinians
EU’s Solana on First Visit to Gaza Since 2007
Gaza Truce: Shalit as Condition for Crossings
Gaza Truce: Arab League Criticises Truce-Shalit Link
Gaza Truce: Arab League Criticises Truce-Shalit Link
Gaza: EU Parliament, Extend Aid and Guarantee Supply
Gaza: EU Fundend Project on Deaf Children Launched
Gaza: Italy and Britain for Palestinian Marshall Plan
Gaza: EU Project for Women Against Poverty NGO Underway
Gaza: PNA to Ask Donor Conference for 2.8bln Dollars
Gaza: Italy to Make Further 10 Million Euro Donation
Israel: a Documentary Exposé of Christian Persecution
Italy Sees West Bank Airport
 
Middle East
Kuwaiti Prof: 330, 000 Dead From 4 Pounds of Anthrax
Turkey-Iran: Turkish President Gul in Tehran March 10
UAE Bans Anti-Islam Israeli Cartoon on Youtube
 
South Asia
Army is Fighting British Jihadists in Afghanistan
Bangladesh: Dhaka, Shoot Out in Border Guard’s Headquarters
Malaysia Allows Catholic Paper to Use “Allah”
Pakistan: Justice and Peace: Sharia in Swat Valley is a Defeat for Entire Country
Pakistan: Discovering the Bible to Bring the Christian Message to Everyone
Pakistan: Swat Peace Deal Threatens Human Rights Says Amnesty
The Pakistani Time Bomb
 
Far East
Japan’s Boffins: Global Warming Isn’t Man-Made
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Boxer Seeks to Ratify U.N. Treaty That May Erode U.S. Rights
 
Immigration
Demography: Italy, More Than 60 Mln Inhabitants in 2008
Denmark: Forced Integration at City Schools Possible
Denmark: Government Stands Its Ground Against EU Residency Changes
Denmark: Politicians Plot to Deport Weapons Violators
EU Immigrant Numbers Grow Steadily
EU Interior Ministers’ Mediterranean Proposal
Finland: Timo Kalli Tries to Explain Immigration Comment
Immigrant Integration Better in Emilia Romagna
Immigration: ACLU Signs Add to Washington State’s Immigration Storm
Italy: Immigrant Population Close to Four Million
Maroni: Joint Proposal on EU Agenda
 
Culture Wars
Court: State Trashed Church’s 1st Amendment Rights
 
General
Energy: Khelil Says OPEC Likely to Cut Output Again

Financial Crisis


Crisis: Tunisia, Outlook Good for Call-Centres

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 18 — The international financial crisis will favour the setting up of new call-centres in Tunisia, according to experts. The President of the Professional Union of French call-centres made the claim on the basis that the cost of workers in Tunisia, with the same professional qualifications as those in France, is on average a third less. There are currently around ten thousand workers in these centres, most of them young professionals. France holds first place for the number of call-centres set up in Tunisia, followed by Italy and Germany. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



What’s Wrong With the Stimulus?

There are three big problems with the Pelosi/Reid stimulus plan Mr. Obama has now signed into law:

1. the Keynesian macro economic ideas underlying the stimulus part of the bill do not fit the problem and will not work; 2. the bill is heavily loaded with unreviewed and undiscussed agenda spending; and, 3. there has been no significant discussion of alternatives on either the agenda or the economic policy issues.

At this point, of course, it would take a miracle to stop implementation of the bill — so that’s what this article is about: proposing an alternative and then discussing two ways of getting it accepted in place of this bill.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Al-Arabiya: US Senator Screens Anti-Islam Film ‘Fitna’

A Republican Senator was to hold a private screening of the controversial anti-Islam film ‘Fitna’ Thursday for congressional staff and invited guests, including the filmmaker Geert Wilders, who was recently deported from Britain and faces prosecution for incitement in Holland.

Arizona Senator Jon Kyle reserved the congressional room for the event sponsored by Wilder’s International Free Press Society and the Washington-based Center for Security Policy (CPS). Wilder, a member of parliament, lives under 24-hour police protection and is facing prosecution for “incitement to hatred and discrimination” because of his anti-Islam film.

The 17-minute film accuses the Quran of inciting violence, juxtaposing verses of the Quran with violent images of terrorism, the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and virulent speeches by Muslim imams in a montage that links the Islamic faith to support for terrorism.

Dutch television refused to air ‘Fitna’ as it was released online in March 2008 where it generated intense anger among Muslim communities and attempts by several governments to censor the film. Al-Qaeda even issued a fatwa against Wilders,

One of the co-sponsors of Thursday’s screenings refused to comment on the accusation that the film is anti-Islamic and equates Islam with terrorism, suggesting that people should decide for themselves if the film incited hatred.

“The best answer to any question about the film is to watch the film yourself,” Christine Brim, senior vice-president of CPS, told AlArabiya.net.

Wilders was prevented to from entering Britain earlier this month, where he hoped to show his film in the British parliament, because British authorities said his presence in would pose a “genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society.”

The Center for Security Policy headed by a former advisor to Ronald Reagan, Frank Gaffney, and advocates an American foreign policy of “Peace through Strength” with a primary goal combating the ideology of Islamist extremism.

CAIR reaction

The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on Kyl to invite Muslim representatives to offer a balancing perspective to the screening.

“It seems that Senator Kyl is oblivious to the fact that there are Muslims in his own state who will take offense at this cheap anti-Islam publicity stunt designed to promote a person who is under indictment for inciting religious hatred,” said CAIR-AZ Executive Director Ahmad Daniels.

“Geert Wilders is just one of many self-promoting Islamophobes traveling the world in search of attention for their hate-filled views. We ask that Americans of all faiths ignore Mr. Wilders, thereby depriving him of the attention he so desperately seeks. Wilders has the right to spew his hate, but he does not have the right to a taxpayer-funded platform in the United States Congress.”

Wilders was in Washington for the screening and to promote a new initiative by IFPS, which he heads, “to protect free speech from laws that criminalize any criticisms of Islam or the doctrines of Sharia,” to be launched Friday at the National Press Club.

“It’s not our position that people should be kept out of the country for

their views but it doesn’t mean you have to give them a platform, paid for by the taxpayers,” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, told AlArabiya.net, adding that the closed-door screening meant no media or public access to the event.

“Why do they have to hide it if they’re so proud it?” he added.

Several attempts by AlArabiya.net to seek comment from the Senator’s office went unanswered.

Senator Keith Ellison, the only Muslim member of congress, refused requests from AlArabiya.net for comment on whether he would attend the screening and what he thought about the film.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Chorus of ‘Fairness Doctrine’ Fans Adds Another

Ohio senator supports ‘goals underlying’ government speech rules

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has joined up with other influential Democrats, including President Bill Clinton, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, in calling for a resurrection of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Defense Budget Under Tighter Scrutiny

Lawmakers in the Senate and House are pushing initiatives to curb — and in some cases drastically reduce — defense spending, as the tough economic climate brings increased scrutiny to the massive Pentagon budget.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday introduced a bill seeking to reform the way the Pentagon buys weapons systems. The ultimate goal of the bill is to rein in the ballooning costs of high-tech weapons and, eventually, to establish fixed-price contracts for most weapons systems, according to Levin.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



EPA Says Farm Dust Requires Regulation

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Nothing says summer in Iowa like a cloud of dust behind a combine.

But what may be a fact of life for farmers is a cause for concern to federal regulators, who are refusing to exempt growers from new environmental regulations.

It’s left some farmers feeling bemused and more than a little frustrated.

“It’s such a non-commonsense idea that you can keep dust within a property line when the wind blows,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee who still farms in northeast Iowa.

Under rules imposed in 2006, rural areas would be kept to the same standards as urban areas for what the Environmental Protection Agency calls “coarse particulate matter” in the air.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council had petitioned the government to provide an exemption to farmers. They argued that evidence of harm caused by dust in rural areas hasn’t been determined.

But the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington ruled Tuesday that the EPA had already provided the evidence necessary to determine farm dust “likely is not safe.”

Michael Formica, a lawyer for the pork council, said this means farmers now face the daunting task of proving a negative — that the dust is not harmful.

Formica said his and other groups will consider a further appeal.

Farmers said they will be hard-pressed to meet the standards.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the EPA, Grassley wrote that compliance would be impossible because of the dust produced in farmers’ day-to-day activities.

Grassley also has noted that because many rural roads are not paved, particulate readings could be affected by wind gusts that constantly change.

“After all, God decides when the wind blows, not Chuck Grassley,” he said.

But the EPA said the regulation was overdue.

Every five years, the Clean Air Act requires the agency to review the newest scientific information and recommend changes to its standards.

In 2006, the EPA determined larger particles in the air than previously thought were a danger to the public. The increased threshold covered air mixes that occur in rural areas.

EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn said the changes are not just a matter of regulating dust. They serve the public’s well-being and, regardless of whether someone lives in a rural or urban area, the threshold for unsafe levels of dust in the air must remain consistent nationally.

“It’s health-based,” she said. “We don’t look at a particular industry. The goal is to protect public health.”

When counties reach “non-attainment” levels, it becomes a state’s responsibility to bring the county back into acceptable levels.

Milbourn said various options exist for states, such as retrofitting buses that run on diesel engines.

But farmers insist the regulation will affect their operations and eventually their bottom lines. And they said unlike fixing a bus, they have few options for limiting dust from their fields and roads.

Roger Zylstra, a director with the Iowa Corngrowers Association, said if left alone, farmers can compete worldwide. But regulation could impede their success.

He said there seems to be a disconnect between farmers and policymakers.

“Many of the people that are making the rules, it feels like they really don’t know what (farming) issues are,” said Zylstra, a Lynnville resident who has worked on a farm for 35 years.

Zylstra said it’s hard not to get frustrated.

“We think we’ve met the demands that have been put upon us and lo and behold, we have new and even more stringent demands. It seems really unrealistic.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Ex-CAIR Leader Starts New Front Group

Ahemd Bedier who last year had “stepped down” as the Executive Director of the Tampa Bay office of The Council on American Islamic Relations, has now started up a new front group called The United Voices of America to help advance his Islamic agenda…

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action [Return to headlines]



Join Nearly 40 Nationwide Tea Parties Across U.S.

Americans say ‘enough is enough,’ unite to protest spending

Americans are saying enough is enough to extravagant government spending and throwing nearly 40 tea parties across the nation to protest.

Kellen Giuda, a laid-off architect, is organizing his own New York City tea party. He has invited several prominent guest speakers, including politicians, elected officials, an author, blogger, a bond trader and a former contestant on “America’s Next Top Model” to speak out against excessive government spending.

“I saw Rick Santelli’s rant, live, and thought it was awesome,” he told WND. “All of this fiscal irresponsibility is absurd.”

He continued, “Then I started hearing about tea parties, and I decided to do it. It’s really exciting. There are a lot of people getting involved now.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Likely Intel Pick: Muslims Were Here First

Pushed Saudi-funded textbook that wildly fabricates history

The Obama administration’s reported pick for a top intelligence post once peddled a book to U.S. public schools that falsely claims Muslims inhabited North America far before European explorers.

The book, funded by Saudi Arabia, also contains widely inaccurate anti-Israel Arab propaganda.

Charles “Chas” Freeman, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, is slated to head the National Intelligence Council, according to multiple reports. Yesterday, it came to light Freeman has financial ties to the infamous bin Laden family — including dealings he defended after Sept. 11, 2001.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Likely Intel Pick Works for Chinese

Company’s deals were seen as attempt to expand communist nation’s influence

The Obama administration’s reported pick for a top intelligence post sits on the board of a major oil company owned by the Chinese government that is widely seen as conducting business deals meant to expand China’s influence worldwide, WND has learned.

Charles “Chas” Freeman, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, is slated to head the U.S. National Intelligence Council, according to multiple reports. The NIC is a crucial component of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, serving as the center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking within the American intelligence community. It provides intelligence briefs for Obama and key U.S. agencies and produces reports that help determine American policy on crucial issues, such as Iran’s nuclear program.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Major General Says President’s Eligibility Needs Proof

‘Most important, what I really want is the truth’

On the heels of two active duty members of the U.S. military serving in Iraq calling for President Obama to prove his eligibility to be president, a retired major general has agreed to join the case, saying he just wants “the truth.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Mr. Wilders Goes to Washington

Mr. Wilders has said that the film is meant to demonstrate how verses from the Koran push Muslims toward violence. Mr. Wilders has defended the film and his positions by saying in interviews, “I don’t hate Muslims — I hate Islam.”

In an interview with the conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck on Tuesday, Mr. Wilders said:

“I have nothing against Muslims. But my point is, that the Islam is a totalitarian ideology that should be compared not so much with other religions but with other totalitarian ideologies — like communism or fascism.”

Mr. Wilders’ appearance on the Beck program was one of several stops on a media tour of conservative outlets in the United States. He has posted video of that interview and links to many blog posts and Web site articles about him on his own blog.

At least one congressman has publicly opposed his visit to Washington. Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who is Muslim, compared the screening of “Fitna” on Capitol Hill to showing the infamously racist film “The Birth of a Nation” at the White House. In a statement, Mr. Ellison said the movie compares Islam to Nazism, and added that he was disappointed by Sen. Kyl’s decision to screen it in the Capitol:

“I am a strong advocate of First Amendment free speech. However, this is not about free speech, but rather an issue of propriety, timing and venue. Senator Kyl has every right to host anyone he chooses. However, it becomes a question of propriety to use the United States Capitol as a venue for the condemnation of an entire religion.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Wants to Raise Money Via Pollution Caps: Reports

President Barack Obama will propose raising new revenue through a greenhouse gas cap and emissions trading scheme when he unveils his first budget on Thursday, US media reported.

The budget he will present assumes an emissions trading system will generate revenue by 2012, the Washington Post reported.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Psychiatrist: Obama Corrupting America With Socialism

Book author warns economic ‘rescue’ will turn citizens into ‘wards of state’

Only a month into Barack Obama’s presidency, an acclaimed psychiatrist is warning that Americans are being slowly corrupted by socialism as Obama’s policies intrude into their economic, social and political lives — a tactic he believes will secure future votes for the Democratic Party.

“We have a desperate population, and it’s feeling even more desperate than usual,” Dr. Lyle Rossiter told WND. “People are really quite frightened. They’re looking for magic, and they think they are going to find it in this man.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Race Baiter Eric Holder

There’s been a lot of attention focused on Attorney General Eric Holder’s indictment of America as “a nation of cowards” on issues of race.

It was a shockingly divisive statement.

But lost to most observers was the way the end of speech about Black History Month paid tribute to racially divisive and extremist black leaders of the past — often overlooking more significant black historical figures who accomplished more and promoted racial unity.

What does that tell you?

It tells me Holder was sending a signal.

The race-baiting is not about to end, now that Barack Obama has become president. It’s about to go into overdrive. […]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



U.S. Pulling Out of ‘Durban II’ Conference

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration has decided to boycott the so-called Durban II conference out of concerns for anti-Semitism.

Multiple sources on a conference call with the White House on Friday told JTA that the Obama administration had opted not to attend any further preparatory meetings ahead of the planned U.N. conference against racism in Geneva in April.

The conference reprises the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa that devolved into an anti-Jewish free-for-all. Canada and Israel have opted not to attend the conference, and some U.S. Jewish groups had been pressing the United States to do the same.

Preparations for a draft document so far have seen Iran leading a coterie of nations blocking inclusion of anything that might guarantee Jewish protections — including mention of the Holocaust — while inserting draconian language guarding Islam against “insult.”

The State Department sent a delegation, including a senior staffer from the American Jewish Committee, to this month’s preparatory talks. The delegation’s conclusions were that the anti-Israel and anti-Western tendencies were too deeply entrenched to excise.

Now that the United States is withdrawing from the conference, European nations are expected to follow.

Speaking for the White House on Friday’s call were Samantha Power and James Warlick, who handle international organizations for, respectively, the national security council and the State Department; and Jennifer Simon, an adviser to Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Denmark: Nørrebro ‘Too Dangerous’ for Safety Volunteers

The Night Owls organisation is fearful for its volunteers patrolling the streets of Nørrebro due to ongoing violence

The voluntary Night Owls organisation, which patrols the streets at night to help young people stay out of trouble, is pulling out of the Nørrebro district in Copenhagen over safety fears.

Erik Thorsted, of the National Night Owls Association told Politiken newspaper that this is the first time the organisation has had to give up on an area.

‘It has become too dangerous,’ said Thorsted, ‘all of the shootings which are taking place have made it unsafe for people to walk around there, especially at night.’ The Night Owls represent a visible presence on the streets at night in their identifiable yellow jackets and are there to offer advice or help to young people if they need it. It is not their aim to interfere in situations, but hoped that their presence would act as a deterrent to young people who otherwise might engage in violence or vandalism.

Thorsted said he hoped that the violence in inner Nørrebro would soon abate so they could get their volunteers back on the streets, especially the teams comprised of women from ethnic backgrounds.

‘We have had a massive success with the female teams in the different ethnically-dominated areas of Copenhagen, where they have an incredibly good dialogue with the youngsters.’

There are at least 7,000 active volunteers nationwide involved with 223 local Night Owls’ associations.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Applause Marks Soldiers’ Return

The tide of public opinion seems to have changed as returning soldiers are given a hero’s welcome

People lined the streets of Holstebro yesterday to welcome home the Danish troops who recently returned from their tour of duty in Afghanistan

Spontaneous applause greeted the 600 soldiers returning from their tour of duty with the Nato-led Afghanistan mission yesterday, as they took part in an official parade through the streets of Holstebro, northern Jutland.

Defence Minister Søren Gade attended the parade and was surprised by the reaction of the crowd. ‘When people suddenly started to clap it was like an out of body experience for me. If I had said five or six years ago that people would applaud returning Danish soldiers, people would have thought I was drunk. It really was a moving experience,’ said Gade.

The event in Holstebro marked the first time in recent years that the Defence Command has arranged a parade for returning soldiers. The soldiers were part of the sixth team deployed to serve with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan for the last six months.

The parade marked the end of the official de-briefing period for the 600 men and women, where they had undergone medical evaluation and met with trained psychologists.

The soldiers and their families were also welcomed home by Mayor Arne Lægaard at the Musikteatret, where they were treated to musical and comedy performances.

There was also time set aside to remember the six members of the deployed team who lost their lives in Afghanistan. Major General Niels Bundsgaard asked for a minute’s silence to remember the fallen at the local Dragoon Regiment Barracks.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Finland: Disputes Over Scarves Split Employers

Employers face a re-examination of attitudes to religious symbols worn by staff. For example, some retailers permit the wearing of scarves by Islamic women employees while others have discouraged their use. Employers can freely decide on the issue in the absence of legislation.

In some cases, employers have asked during the recruitment process whether women want to wear a scarf while at work. The Kesko retailing group has adopted a positive approach and allows the wearing of scarves if they do not endanger work safety. However, the Helsinki based HOK-Elanto retailer has prohibited the use of religious symbols by employees.

HOK-Elanto Personnel Director Antero Levonen denies the company imposes a ban on scarves. He says a small scarf can be used if it adheres to the style and colour of the company’s own staff uniform.

Currently, employers can prohibit the use of scarves in the absence of legislation on the issue. Professor of Business Law, Kari-Pekka Tiitinen of the University of Helsinki told YLE Television News, he hopes common sense and flexibility will prevail. He does not favour specific legislation on the use of scarves, an issue that has enflamed tensions in several European nations.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Finland: Survey Indicates Half of Helsinki Residents Believe the City’s Security Situation Has Deteriorated

Study team surprised by apparent fear of immigrants

Roughly half of the Helsinki residents questioned said that they felt the city’s security situation had worsened in the three years since the last survey was taken. The City of Helsinki examined the sense of security in the city felt by locals and visitors, and the results are published today, Tuesday. The last such comprehensive assay was made in 2006.

Answers from respondents on such matters as the sense of safety they feel in public transport — buses, trams, the Metro — were much the same as in 2006. For example, around 60% felt that travelling on the Metro in the evenings contained either a moderate or strong element of insecurity. Roughly half had the same views when out and about in the city centre after dark, but nearly 80% felt safe in their own residential area regardless of the time of day.

What was new and surprising to the compilers of the study was the residents’ opinions on the influence of immigrants on city safety. Of those who felt that things had got worse on the security front, no fewer than 70% listed immigrants as a reason for the development, even though this was not included as a specific alternative on the questionnaire sheet. Respondents were troubled by the increasing number of immigrants. Immigrants were also associated in the minds of those taking part with crime and disturbances.

The City’s Johanna Seppälä, project manager at the Safety and Preparedness Co-ordinating Division, reported that the results had surprised the survey team. She estimated that the recent prominent media coverage of matters relating to immigrants may go some way towards explaining the outcome. “Whatever the reason, this is such a strong signal of the city’s mindset that a good deal of work will have to be done to respond to it”, said Seppälä on Monday. “If we do not intervene in possible problem-areas now, the situation in a couple of years could be very serious.”

Seppälä feels it is critically important to avoid a situation where different areas of the city have a starkly different tone. “We do not want problem suburbs in Helsinki, into which people are afraid to go”. Aside from concerns about immigration, the Helsinki residents expressed worries over marginalisation, passive indifference, the lack of any sense of community, street violence and the threat of it, the security on public transport, and road safety in general. The survey was taken by 765 Helsinki residents and visitors.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Greece: Escapes and Ladders by Paschos Mandravelis

According to a police statement issued in the wake of Wednesday’s grenade attack on the premises of an immigrant support network in Exarchia, the suspects left the scene in a vehicle bearing “unregistered [false] number plates.” It’s hard to see why the perpetrators went to all this trouble. After all, thousands of cars drive without plates in the center of Athens and no one seems bothered. They could have driven all the way to Exarchia without anyone stopping them. First, Exarchia is a no-go area for the police and, second, the police do nothing about cars without plates. There is simply no monitoring of petty offenses.

A second question is this: Given the large number of cars without plates in Athens, can you imagine the number of unregistered prepaid mobile phones? If the government does scrap anonymous prepaid mobile phones, millions of users will go to the trouble of registering their phone devices while those who really need an unidentified connection will simply import one from abroad — like those who drive around with false number plates. A car with no registration is clearly illegal. But more than 700,000 such cars circulate in Athens. Lack of policing means their number is rising.

Of course, as everyone knows, the problem is not the absence of laws, but the failure to implement them. If terrorists are not caught, it’s not because they are using mobiles with phone cards, but because no one is there to check if they’re using “unregistered cars.” When a helicopter can land right in the country’s best-guarded prison it’s ridiculous to talk about banning anonymous phones.

Security has been reduced to a public relations stunt for the minister of the day.

Each time a government fails it’s the people who bear the brunt. If the government really must unveil some new measure, it should enforce the registry of rope ladders. For these are more useful than phones to those seeking to escape and since they are cheaper than cell phones, the social cost will be smaller too.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Greece: Anarchists Target Newspaper Offices

Hundreds of suspected anarchists caused serious damage to the central offices of conservative newspaper Apogevmatini and torched several parked cars early yesterday afternoon after breaking off from a rally protesting a hand grenade attack on a left-wing human rights group and immigrant support network in Exarchia on Tuesday night.

About 1,000 people participated in the protest rally which began in Exarchia in the early afternoon and culminated with a peaceful march to Parliament. At about 7.30 p.m. a crowd of anarchists, numbering some 300 according to police, converged around the entrance to Apogevmatini’s offices on Feidiou Street, a parallel road to Panepistimiou Street, where they used sledgehammers, iron bars, sticks and stones to smash up the facade and torch several parked cars. There were no reports of injuries.

Police fired tear gas and threw stun grenades to disperse the vandals. But they returned later, using sticks and rocks to attack a riot police unit stationed at the junction of Harilaou Trikoupi and Didotou streets, near opposition PASOK’s offices, and vandalizing the building housing the Council of State on Stadiou Street.

Ruling New Democracy issued a statement condemning the attack on Apogevmatini’s offices. “The hooded assailants involved in this attack once again targeted the freedom of the press and the free exchange of ideas,” the statement said, adding that it condemned all “mindless violence and destructive rage.”

Members of leftist and anarchist groups on Wednesday participated in a debate about the hand grenade attack against the premises of the Network for Political and Social Rights, which has the same address as the so-called Immigrants Hangout. The leftist network called the attack “a fascist para-state murder attempt” but police said the hit could have been carried out by rival anarchists or leftists.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Italy: Migrants and Sex Offenders Face Tough New Measures

Rome, 20 Feb. (AKI) — The Italian government on Friday issued an emergency decree to crack down on illegal immigration and sexual violence, following a number of high-profile rape cases allegedly committed by Romanian immigrants. The emergency decree provides for a mandatory life sentence for the rape of minors or attacks where the victim is murdered.

It also speeds up trials for sex offenders, removes the possibility of house arrest, and offers free legal assistance for rape victims.

Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno said he was “satisfied” with the emergency decree, following several shocking rape cases that occurred in and around the Italian capital, Rome, recently.

“I am very satisfied,”Alemanno said. “We will organise a massive protest against sexual violence to support this cause and create a groundswell against this abominable plague of sexual abuse in all its forms, from family abuse to those that take place on the outskirts of the city.”

The decree, which takes effect immediately, must be approved by both houses of parliament within 60 days.

Under the decree’s provisions, illegal immigrants can be kept in preventative custody for up to six months — instead of the current two months. During this period, he or she will be properly identified and any asylum claims processed. Immigrants denied asylum or special protection who are not allowed to stay in Italy will be deported.

Another controversial measure provides for vigilante-style or unarmed ‘citizen street patrols’.

City mayors will be able to approve the patrols. Volunteer groups in charge of the patrols will have to register with the police. Priority for membership will be given to retired police and military on leave.

“They will not carry weapons, and will only be equipped with radio transmitters or mobile phones to alert police,” said Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni, who comes from the anti-immigrant Northern League party.

Video surveillance will be introduced in public places and an extra 100 million euros will be given to Italy’s ministry of the interior to pay for the recruitment of 2,500 new police and other measures.

Arrest will be mandatory in cases of rape with the possibility of a ‘summary judgment’ within 48 hours. Victims of sexual abuse will have all their expenses paid by the state as well as free legal counsel.

The crime of stalking that could lead to a sex-related crime or homicide carries a minimum sentence of six months and up to four years in jail.

The decree still has to be approved by both houses of parliament within 60 days, however, conservative Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and its coalition enjoy an ample majority.

The measures were adopted by the conservative government as racial tension and attacks against immigrants are rising throughout Italy. Gangs of thugs attack Romanians in a Rome neighbourhood following the rape last weekend of a 14-year-old girl by two Romanian suspects.

On 1 February, a homeless Indian labourer was savagely attacked and set on fire, in the coastal town of Nettuno, 70 kilometres south of Rome, allegedly by three young men.

In a separate incident in late January, four Romanian immigrants were arrested in the town of Guidonia, near Rome, for allegedly gang-raping an Italian woman.

A day after the attack, groups of Albanians and Romanians were beaten up by a mob and there were attempts to burn down Romanian-owned shops.

Last November, four youths beat up and set alight a homeless Italian man sleeping on a park bench in the northern city of Padova.

Official estimates say 68 percent of rape victims are Italian. However, 58 percent of rapists are Italian, while 9.2 percent are Romanian.

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



Italy: Atheists Get Original Message Out

Pescara agrees to slogan rejected by Genoa

(ANSA) — Pescara, February 26 — Italian atheists are getting the message they want out in Pescara after having to tone down it down in Genoa.

The message — The Bad News Is God Doesn’t Exist, The Good News Is You Don’t Need Him — will appear on posters for the next month and a half in the northeastern city.

Roberto Anzelotti, head of the local chapter of the Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists (UAAR), lauded Pescara city council for granting them permission. ‘‘The council showed itself to be very broad-minded and didn’t have anything to say against the message, which demonstrates that the polemics in Genoa were ideological,’’ he said.

The UAAR launched Italy’s first ‘atheist bus’ in the northwestern port earlier this month but only after its slogan was watered down because of religious protests. The message that has now been OK’d in Pescara was changed to: The Good News Is There Are Millions of Atheists In Italy; The Excellent News Is They Believe In Freedom Of Expression.

The bus started its daily trips on February 16, after what the UAAR called a ‘‘curious’’ battery problem, and is set to keep running until mid-March.

UAAR Treasurer Isabella Cazzoli says the association is optimistic about getting the original message out in other Italian cities aside from Pescara.

‘‘We’re at an advanced state of negotiation with other cities but after what happened in Genoa we don’t want to say which,’’ she said.

A Facebook group in favour of the UAAR’s drive has drawn thousands of supporters.

The Italian campaign follows similar ads in London, Barcelona and Washington where the slogan was: ‘‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’’.

The UAAR has 4,000 members across Italy.

photo: the original Genoa bus slogan at a preview before it was rejected

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: List of Most Problem Neighbourhoods Made Public

Housing Minister Eberhard van der Laan has published the controversial list of the so-called “40 problem neighbourhoods”. The minister had originally refused to name the areas, as he was afraid that the neighbourhoods and their residents would be stigmatised.

The list actually contains the names of 83 problem areas. The worst in the country is in the west of Amsterdam, the Kolenkit district. The next three are in Rotterdam — Pendrecht, het Oude Noorden and Bloemhof, followed in fifth place by an Utrecht neighbourhood, Ondiep.

The list, originally devised by former housing minister Ella Vogelaar two years ago, was compiled on the basis of the household income of the residents and the lack of security in the neighbourhood. Ms Vogelaar proposed to identify and invest in the problem areas as part of an urban renewal plan, addressing economic and social difficulties.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Norway: Latest Poll: New Gains for the Progress Party

The right wing Progress Party (FrP) regains lost ground and now has the support of 29.4 per cent of the electorate, according to Norstat’s February poll. This is up by 6.3 points from January, and only 3.6 points behind the Labour Party. The poll was made for the newspaper Vaart Land, shortly after FrP-leader Siv Jensen made her controversial speech in which she said that “Norway is undergoing a subtle islamification”, and after Justice Minister Knut Storberget announced his turnaound on the police hijab-issue.

After a 2.6-point set-back for Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s Labour and a 1.9 point loss for coalition partner Agrarians, the red-green coalition have lost the majority shown by the January poll, Vaart Land writes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Swiss Soldiers Face Loss of Right to Store Guns at Home

Switzerland’s part-time soldiers could lose their famous right to store their weapons at home.

A coalition led by the country’s Social Democrat party and the Greens has collected nearly 120,000 signatures to force a national referendum on whether the weapons should be stored at military bases.

The coalition of 74 groups says the weapons are involved in too many suicides and murders in the country and tighter controls are needed.

Switzerland’s armed forces consist of just a few thousand permanent full-time staff, with the rest essentially a militia.

Service in the militia is compulsory for men aged between 19 and 31 and in between call-ups they store their weapons at home. There are currently around 220,000 conscripts.

However, a 2007 law change banned the storage of ammunition in homes. The coalition is looking to extend this, control the purchase of military weapons and set up a national gun register.

Green lawmaker Josef Lang said more than 1.5 million unused weapons were kept in Swiss homes.

Lang said their presence “at the heart” of the population could not be justified.

He said a national register had to be created to keep track of the weapons, something police had long been seeking.

Lang said the weapons had to be “banished” from homes.

Barbara Weil, of the Swiss Medical Association, said it had been scientifically proven that if the guns were less freely available the number of suicides would drop.

The studies had also shown that other methods of suicide did not increase in countries who had brought in stricter gun controls.

The coalition estimates that 300 deaths annually are connected to gun use.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Terrorism: ‘New Al-Qaeda Video’ Targets Germany

Dubai, 26 Feb. (Aki) — A new video purportedly from Al-Qaeda criticises the German government for squandering taxpayers’ money on troops stationed in Afghanistan. The video, which has been posted to jihadist websites, urges Germany to renounce capitalism and embrace Islam to escape economic recession.

The video shows a still image of a German citizen turned Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, who calls himself Abu Talha. He delivers a 44-minute message in German with Arabic subtitles.

“Where are the German philosophers and economists, now that economic crisis besets us?” Abu Talha asks in the message.

“And what has happened to all the taxpayers’ money? Much of it has been spent on keeping our soldiers here in Afghanistan,” the message continues.

Abu Taba talks at length about Islamic finance and its prohibition of interest (‘ribah’ in Arabic), a central concept of western capitalism.

“After the end of communism, everyone in Germany believed that capitalism was the answer. But what I am saying to you is that Islam is the only way to escape from the economic crisis,” he says.

The video bears the logo of Al-Qaeda’s Al-Sahab media arm but has yet to be authenticated.

An individual calling himself Abu Taba last month appeared in a previous video with his face concealed and threatened Germany over its 3,460 troops currently deployed in northern Afghanistan.

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



UK: Fanatics Are on Rise and Labour Has Let it Happen

BRITAIN recently disgraced itself by banning democratically elected Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the country.

His planned “crime” was to screen a short documentary at a private viewing in the House of Lords.

It’s worth raising today after the £2,500 hand-out to sinister Jordanian Abu Qatada and the imminent arrival of Ethiopian terror suspect Binyam Mohamed.

Wilders’ film links horrific acts of terror with verses from the Koran recorded in taped rants by terrorists before their slaughter of the innocents.

I haven’t seen the film because it has been blocked on the internet.

But neither had Labour MP Keith Vaz when he went on TV to justify the veto.

Vaz said he didn’t need to. Nor did he need any precedent for such draconian censorship. Every decision should be considered on its “merits” — by people like himself, of course.

Our cringing surrender to this authoritarian, book-burning mentality was ordered by mealy-mouthed Home Secretary Jacqui Smith under pressure from Labour peer Lord Ahmed.

Lord Ahmed, who warned of mob demos, is the Pakistani-born Labour donor who once ignored protests and invited rabid anti-Semite Israel Shamir into the Lords.

Some extreme interpretations of the Koran teach that Jews and homosexuals are fit only for extermination — which is why Hitler was so popular in parts of the Arab world.

Wilders’ visit would have gone unnoticed but for Jackboot Jacqui, whose Government has prostrated itself to accommodate Islam’s nastier fringes.

She famously tried to detoxify events like 7/7 by describing them as “anti-Islamic activities” — as if the killers were shooting THEMSELVES in the foot!

Labour’s refusal to act against extremism allowed such vile religious perverts as Abu “Hookie” Hamza to flourish.

It gave oxygen to rabble-rousing imams who brainwashed thousands of young British-born Muslims, not least the 7/7 murderers.

It turned a blind eye to migrants who refuse to assimilate and instead colonise whole suburbs and cities where welfare has become a way of life.

It encouraged multi-culturalism which, far from spreading tolerance, has entrenched primitive tribal customs, including forced marriages and honour killings.

As a result, our security services are at breaking point keeping tabs on an army of shadowy troublemakers who flit back and forth to Pakistan — many to be trained in OUR mass murder.

Of course, Islam extremism is rife in all EU countries.

In Geert Wilders’ Holland, the penalty for criticising Islam is death — as filmmaker Theo van Gogh shockingly learned.

France is constitutionally secular, but many schools cannot make educational visits to cathedrals, serve meals without a halal option or allow mixed swimming lessons. So, while acknowledging that most Muslims are decent, peaceful and law-abiding, it is impossible to disagree with what Wilders has to say about extremists. He told an American audience recently: “The Europe you know is changing. You have seen the landmarks. The Eiffel Tower and Trafalgar Square and Rome’s ancient buildings, the canals of Amsterdam.

“They are still there. And they still look very much the same as they did a hundred years ago. But a few blocks away from your tourist destination, there is another world very few visitors see.

“Throughout Europe a new reality is rising, entire Muslim neighbourhoods where very few indigenous people reside or are even seen.

“It’s the world of headscarves, where women walk around in figureless tents, with baby strollers and a group of children.

“Their husbands — or slaveholders, if you prefer — walk three steps ahead.

“With mosques on many street corners, shops have signs you cannot read. You will be hard-pressed to find any economic activity.

“These are Muslim ghettos controlled by religious fanatics. These are Muslim neighbourhoods, and they are mushrooming in every city across Europe.

“These are the building blocks for territorial control of increasingly larger portions of Europe, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, city by city.

“There are now thousands of mosques throughout Europe. With larger congregations than there are in churches.

“And in every European city there are plans to build super-mosques that will dwarf every church in the region. Clearly, the signal is: We rule.”

Sounds about right to me.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: How Did Britain Get Into This Tortured Position?

We allow extraordinary rendition only because we cannot reconcile human rights with the real threat of terrorism

I suppose it would have been too much to expect that Binyam Mohamed would have staggered off his flight from Guantánamo Bay and thanked the British Government for securing his freedom. Or that he might have thanked the British taxpayer for writing a blank cheque for his housing, medical treatment and legal fees, despite his being an Ethiopian with no home or family here. Instead, this latest, lucrative asset to the human rights industry spoke of his “betrayal” by his “home” country — and sued.

Why did we make this man our problem? Seemingly for both diplomatic and humanitarian reasons. David Miliband told me this week that he felt it would have been harsh to abandon a man whose temporary residency expired while he was in detention — even though he left Britain for Afghanistan eight years ago. It is generous to see this man as our responsibility. But it is disingenuous of the Government to suggest, simultaneously, that its conduct has been whiter than white.

Mr Mohamed is an Ethiopian whose asylum application was refused in 1994 but was later granted leave to remain (a routine ploy to cover up our sham removals policy). His various accounts of why he went to Pakistan and Afghanistan are laughable. Yet he was detained without trial for seven years, an outrage to justice. And there seems little doubt that he was tortured. possibly with tacit British agreement. His claims that Britain was complicit in his rendition by the US to Morocco and Afghanistan were given force by yesterday’s astonishing admission by the Defence Secretary that Britain had handed two terror suspects to the US for interrogation in Afghanistan in 2004. The Government has previously denied any part in extraordinary rendition. What other guilty secrets is it hiding?

The truth is that both government and human rights groups have taken liberties with reality. The only people to have profited are evil-doers and scroungers.

The government finds itself boxed into a very uncomfortable corner by the Human Rights Act, the human rights lobby and its duty to protect us from terrorism. The Human Rights Act has forced ministers to protect foreigners who hate us, at taxpayers’ expense. So we cannot return anyone who might face torture, hostility or even substandard medicine. The human rights lobby has made a mockery of asylum law and the Geneva Convention, leaving us trapped in endless deportation battles. And as a consequence the Government has distorted fundamental principles of justice to protect national security.

Because those people might threaten our own citizens, we have suspended our 400-year-old rule of habeas corpus to incarcerate some without trial. One is Abu Qatada, who arrived here on a false passport in 1993 and whose deportation to Jordan was finally sanctioned by the law lords last week. Six countries have warned that he is dangerous. It would surely have been better to have sent him to Jordan for trial, than to have keep him interned. But he will continue to escape justice: he will fight for many more years on legal aid.

There have there been similar contortions over torture. For three years ministers have been busily winning assurances from countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Algeria that deportees will not be mistreated. Amnesty International regards these “memoranda of understanding” as worthless. The effective prohibition on deportation has driven ministers to a dishonest compromise.

This compromise does not bother some other countries that are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights. France has been happily deporting terror suspects to Algeria for years. It does not regard the possibility of torture at one remove as seriously as it would regard torture carried out by its own operatives.

Some see that as pragmatic. Others believe that exposing someone to the risk of torture by others is as reprehensible as carrying it out. That is the official position of the British Government. But that implies four things. First, the memoranda of understanding cannot be used. Second, terror suspects cannot be removed, so should be freed from legal limbo and given UK citizenship. Third, even the faintest sniff of British complicity with American-sponsored torture is abhorrent and must be outed. Ministers cannot pretend to find torture wholly abhorrent while admitting to collusion in rendition.

These three things lead to a fourth. We must accept that we will henceforth rely on the Americans, the French and others to do the dirty work of saving some British lives. I say this because, although the argument is sometimes made that torture does not work, my conversations with security people over the years suggest otherwise. The House of Lords neatly pointed up this reality when it ruled that information that might have been provided under torture is inadmissable in court, but that governments can use that information if it could save lives.

The world is not as international law would like it to be. That is why President Obama said yesterday that he is keeping rendition as an option in the fight against terrorism. Wars are messy. Since 2001 there has been enormous confusion about whether to treat terror suspects as criminals, or as war combatants. Why can’t ministers just admit that?

It is quite right that Binyam Mohamed should use the the law to challenge his abhorrent treatment. It is right that his allegations are being examined by the Attorney-General. It is wrong that we can never deport him if he turns out to pose a threat to national security.

I feel proud that Britain seeks to uphold freedom and fairness; I am also furious that, in pretending that all rights are equal, we risk obliterating some of our deepest values. When Britain is so vulnerable to terrorism, do we really want to undermine our national security?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Some British Christians Feel Oppressed in the Public Square

High-profile cases involving Bible-sharing and prayer have raised concerns. But many say that reining in certain expressions of faith is a necessary compromise in a multicultural society.

LONDON — For a nation shaped by an overtly Christian heritage, Britain has apparently become a difficult place to be overtly Christian.

The conservative press bewails a steady erosion of Christian values. A member of Parliament has called for debate on “systematic and institutional discrimination toward Christians.” Even former Prime Minister Tony Blair recently let slip how aides would brusquely suppress any instinct he had to bring his faith into public view.

Now, a succession of ordinary Christians are finding this rule applies to them, too.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



What’s in a Name: Crime Suspects and the Swedish Press

The Local’s David Landes attempts to shed some light on the Swedish media’s sometimes peculiar practice of omitting the names of criminal suspects.

On Monday, a Swedish appeals court upheld the lifetime prison sentence of Christine Schürrer, a 32-year-old German woman convicted of murdering two toddlers in Arboga early last year.

Astute observers of the Swedish media may have noticed that the following day marked the first time that Sweden’s newspaper of record, Dagens Nyheter (DN), published Schürrer’s name, despite the fact that she had been named previously in nearly every other publication in Sweden, including The Local.

Most Swedish papers waited to publish Schürrer’s name until the day after her guilty verdict was handed down, even though foreign news outlets had been publishing her name for weeks.

For months following her arrest, Schürrer was referred to by the Swedish press simply as “the German woman” or “the 32-year-old” even though her name was readily available in court documents and some had gone to her Facebook profile to find more information.

In short, her name was easy to find, yet newspapers and other media outlets in Sweden continued to write stories as if Schürrer’s identity was some sort of state secret.

And while Schürrer’s guilty verdict, when she went from being a suspect to a convicted criminal, was generally seen as a green light for editors to publish her name and picture, DN nevertheless continued referring to her simply as “the German” right up until Monday’s appeals court ruling.

To readers raised on a different set of journalistic norms, the Swedish practice of withholding pertinent facts about a story may first appear like some odd form of self-censorship.

In its most basic form, news reporting is about telling readers “who” did “what”. According to some schools of media ethics, leaving out basic information like the identity of the “who” amounts to uninformative reporting on the one hand, or deliberate deception on the other.

Moreover, omitting a person’s name from a story can also leave readers wondering exactly what facts the reporter actually has in hand, and what may be conjecture.

While there are many 32-year-old German women in Sweden for example, there is only one Christine Schürrer.

But Britt Börjesson, a professor of media ethics at Gothenburg University, explains that the practice has more to do with Swedish culture than any attempt to alter the truth or muddy the facts.

“Sweden is a small country with a small language and with a tradition of reaching consensus,” she says.

“It’s something in our culture. When television stations or newspapers step over the line [in naming suspects], readers react and complain that it’s not ethical.”

According to Börjesson, the practice of not publishing suspects’ names began as an effort to protect young people accused of less serious offences from long-term public ridicule.

“The point was to give them a chance to come back and become good citizens again,” she says, adding there is a sense in Sweden that keeping criminals’ personal details confidential not only helps against recidivism, but also aids in defendants receiving a fair trial.

While Sweden does have laws protecting individuals from defamation, suits by people claiming that newspapers have violated the law are rare.

Moreover, there are no provisions in Swedish law specifically prohibiting newspapers from publishing suspects’ names.

“It’s not illegal. We just think it’s an expression of proper journalistic ethics,” says Börjesson.

The two main sections of Swedish legislation outlining press freedoms primarily address protecting free speech, and Sweden’s law on personal data protection has exceptions for details published for journalistic purposes.

But the slim chance of facing retribution in a court of law hasn’t kept most Swedish dailies from erring on the side of caution when deciding whether or not to publish names, as instructed by the set of rules outlining accepted journalistic practice in Sweden.

The rules stem from an early attempt at self-regulation first developed by Sweden’s National Press Club (Publicistklubben — PK) back in 1923.

In 1965, the Swedish Union of Journalists (Svenska Journalistförbundet) formally adopted a code of professional conduct, with the Press Ombudsman (Allmänhetens Pressombudsman — PO) being added in 1969 to help adjudicate cases when newspapers were suspected of failing to live up to the ethics code.

The code’s provisions on publishing names are quite clear, admonishing journalists to exercise extreme vigilance.

“Give careful consideration to the harmful consequences that might ensue for persons if their names are published. Refrain from publishing names if it might cause harm unless it is obviously in the public interest,” reads one section of the code, known as “The Rules of the Game” (Spelregler).

Other clauses emphasize the importance of not “violating the privacy of individuals” and refraining from subjecting individuals to undue publicity “unless the public interest obviously demands public scrutiny”.

Börjesson likens Sweden’s press ethics rules to a protocol, the interpretation of which fluctuates over time and which has evolved over decades of discussion in newsrooms and in society at large.

Responsibility for maintaining the code rests with a joint committee consisting of the union, the press club, the Newspapers Publishers Association (Tidningsutgivarna), and the Magazine Publishers Association (Sveriges Tidskrifter).

But while the interpretation of the rules may change, the wording of the rules is rarely altered.

“Their meaning and how they are interpreted can change without changing the actual wording of the rules,” says Börjesson.

She points to the mid-1980s as a time when the pendulum had perhaps swung the farthest away from publishing the names of criminal suspects.

So strong was the resistance among Swedish newspaper editors toward publishing names that they refused to name Christer Pettersson, the man suspected of committing one of the biggest crimes in the country’s history — the murder of then-Prime Minister Olof Palme.

“No one published the name of Palme’s suspected killer until the start of his trial, which was months after he’d been arrested,” explain Börjesson, adding that the decision by Swedish papers to finally publish Pettersson’s name was news in and of itself.

Since then, publishers have relaxed a bit in their interpretation of the press ethics rules.

“Today we print the names and identities of some criminals, usually particularly vicious criminals who are a danger to society. But still, we withhold the identities in most cases,” says Börjesson.

Börjesson also questions how much value Swedes place on learning a suspect’s name.

“What would we do with that information anyway? It’s not interesting,” she explains.

“Why should we care? As a reader, I don’t need to know.”

She admits, however, that there are cases where knowing the name of a suspect is relevant, such as a case involving a teacher at a local school or an offence committed in one’s own neighbourhood.

“But in those cases, there are other ways to get that information for anyone who is interested,” explained Börjesson, pointing to Sweden’s strong tradition of openness with public documents.

Sweden is considered the first country in the world to have enacted modern freedom of information legislation with its Press Freedom Act of 1766.

The act served as the genesis of that what is commonly referred to today as “offentlighetsprincipen” (‘The Principle of Public Access’) which stipulates that “every Swedish citizen has the right to access public documents”, according to the current constitution.

The constitution also guarantees that people who leak confidential documents to the media are protected from criminal charges.

What’s more, it’s the person who undertakes any effort to unmask the identity of a leaker that may instead be subject to prosecution.

Börjesson believes that Sweden’s tradition of openness is part of the reason why publishers resist printing names, and part of the reason why Swedes are so willing to accept the omission.

Before the advent of the internet, publishers of Sweden’s morning newspapers had a special role in the dissemination of information to the public. They were, according to Börjesson, “journalistic guides” for the whole industry and the country.

However, as it has become easier to get information from other sources on the internet, the status of newspaper editors had been somewhat diminished.

But that hasn’t stopped some editors, like Thorbjörn Larsson at Dagens Nyheter, from sticking to traditional ethical principles, even if the practical effect is limited.

“The argument that ‘it’s on the internet, so we should print it’ has been around for 15 years and has yet to gain any traction,” explains Börjesson.

As a result, Swedish newspapers can exercise a great deal of discretion when it comes to deciding what to publish.

According to Daniel Westman, an expert on IT-law at Stockholm University, the new media landscape poses a number of challenges for Sweden’s press freedom rules.

He believes it’s time to consider a facelift for both the journalists’ code of ethics and Swedish law.

“Suddenly we have a situation where publishers should also look at what sort of information other newspapers or individual websites have published with respect to personal information,” he says.

“Currently, the degree to which a publisher is responsible for looking at what others are doing when making his or her own decisions about what to publish hasn’t been dealt with satisfactorily.”

He adds however, that no matter what sort of new rules Sweden eventually puts in place, they may ultimately have little impact.

“If everyone can easily publish information on the internet via servers placed in other countries, then it may eventually not matter which of Sweden’s rules apply because there will be limits to how they can be enforced,” he said.

“At some point, everything will end up on the internet if someone wants it there.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Why the CIA Has to Spy on Britain

On the night of the Mumbai attacks I spoke to an old security source of mine, who has friends in SIS, MI5 and defence intelligence. There was only one thought on the minds of our security chiefs that night: ‘Are they British?’

In the bar of the Travellers Club and the pubs and tapas restaurants of Vauxhall Bridge Cross, drink was taken in double and treble measures amid grim assumption that the terrorists would turn out to have links to the UK. It was a fair assumption since, where international terrorism is concerned, Britain is no longer part of the solution; we are part of the problem. Where once we exported football hooligans, now we are among the world’s most prolific suppliers of Islamist extremists. Mercifully, the Mumbai terrorists had no discernible link to the UK. But as the industrial-scale intelligence arse-covering exercise groaned into action that day, no one would have been surprised to discover that another suicidal cell of British militants had slipped through the net.

Serving and former intelligence officers on both sides of the Atlantic say that the UK’s status as a hotbed of militancy and an exporter of terror means that obtaining intelligence, once a by-product of good international relations, has become a goal as much as an instrument of foreign policy. Take one recent example, the case of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident recently returned from Guantanamo Bay. Trying to discern the truth from David Miliband’s public pronouncements on the affair has been a little like preparing an intelligence assessment — the publicly available facts are sketchy and the true motives of the participants are concealed behind layers of cant, hypocrisy and not a little squirming embarrassment. The foreign secretary allowed critics to assume he is lying when he claimed the US threatened to cut off intelligence-sharing if the full details of the torture meted out to Mr Mohamed in a CIA black prison were laid bare in the High Court. Mr Miliband was more content with the suggestion (accurate as it happens) that he was concealing evidence of British complicity in the interrogations rather than admit that British intelligence has become dependent to an unprecedented and embarrassing degree on the CIA, a relationship he could ill afford to threaten…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Croatia: Full Support for EU Adhesion From Paris

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 19 — ‘Full support’’ from France over Croatia’s adhesion to the European Union was expressed today by Prime Minister Francois Fillon during a meeting with his Croatian counterpart Ivo Sanader, with the hope that Zagreb would participate ‘as a full member’’ in the NATO summit in April. Croatia is hoping to conclude its adhesion negotiations during 2009. However in December Slovenia, who joined the EU in 2004, used its veto over the opening of nine of the 35 chapters of Zagreb’s adhesion dossier, because of a territorial dispute which dates back to 1991. Fillon’s spokesman said that he hoped that Croatia would officially participate in the NATO summit on April 3 and 4 in Strasbourg and Kehl as a member of NATO. Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal must still approve Croatia’s membership of NATO, which was decided during the Bucharest summit in April 2008. The two Prime Ministers also discussed ‘ever more intense’’ bilateral relations and ways of responding to the economic crisis ‘in a coordinated way at the European and international level’’. (ANSAmed).

2009-02-19 19:52

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



EU: Commissioner Rehn, Croatia Risks 2010 Adhesion

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 20 — Croatia’s adhesion, for which negotiations should be completed in 2009 with adhesion in 2010, is at risk if a solution is not found soon for the border controversy with Slovenia. This was the alarm launched today by the European Commissioner for EU Enlargement, Olli Rehn, in a press conference on the economic results of EU enlargement. Zagreb “can still maintain its objectives for 2010 adhesion, but it is necessary that new chapters are opened in the Adhesion Treaty during the meeting scheduled for March”, Rehn said. A possibility, he added, that will become reality “only if there is a resolution to the border conflict with Slovenia”. The Slovenian government has imposed a veto on negotiation for the project of Croatia’s adhesion, worried that Zagreb’s possible entrance jeopardise the solution to the controversial border issue which has been an ongoing problem since 1991, when the two countries obtained independence. The Commissioner therefore invited the two countries to find a solution soon: “I am in favour of the meeting between the two Premiers next Tuesday, in an attempt to change the negative rhetoric that has dominated the recent period”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Kosovo: ICC, Former Serbian President Acquitted of War Crimes

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 26 — Former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic has today been acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in Kosovo from 1998 to 1999. Milutinovic was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity for having tried to hound Albanians out of Kosovo with “a systematic campaign of terror and violence” in the period 1998-1999. The objective — according to the accusation of Prosecutor Thomas Hannis — was to modify the ethnic composition of the region thereby ensuring Serbian control of the territory, forcing almost 800,000 Albanians to flee. For the council chamber, the role of the former Serbian president in this criminal enterprise was not proven, nor was it proved that he was in control of the actions of military and police forces of the former Yugoslavian state in Kosovo. According to judges, Milutinovic, “did not have direct control” over the former Yugoslavian federal army (VJ). “In effect, it was (Slobodan) Milosevic, sometimes called the ‘Supreme commander’, who exercised authority in commanding the VJ during the NATO campaign,” the court’s sentence read. Therefore, Milutinovic was acquitted on all counts. The former Serbian president will also have the right to compensation for time that he has already spent in prison. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Kosovo: Serbian Population Repeats “No” to Independence

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, FEBRUARY 17 — The Assembly which unites Serbian municipalities in Kosovo, an organisation recognised neither by Pristina nor the international community, has once again rejected Kosovo’s declaration of independence which was unilaterally proclaimed one year ago, stressing that the province belongs to Serbia. In an extraordinary meeting today in Zvecan, in northern Kosovo, where Serbian presence is most strongly felt, a resolution was approved that stresses “the autonomous province of Kosovo is an integral part of Serbian territory.” The meeting, which many Serbian parliamentary politicians travelled from Belgrade to take part in, was deliberately held on the day that Kosovo celebrated the first anniversary of its independence. The Assembly addressed the Serbian government, inviting it to request an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council with the aim of boycotting the deployment of the European Civilian Mission EULEX in the region. The Serbian minister responsible for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, who was also present at the meeting in Zvecan, said that Kosovo’s declaration of independence has set a dangerous precedent, and has led to increased tension and instability in the region. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia: War Crimes; Arrest Orders for 19 Bosnians

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 26 — Serbia’s Public Prosecutor’s Office for war crimes has issued arrest warrants for 19 Bosnians who are suspected of committing serious crimes against the Yugoslavian Army during the Bosnian war (1992-1995). As reported by the agency Beta in Belgrade, Ejup Ganic and Stijepan Kljujic, both members of the Bosnian three-party presidency at the time of the conflict, are on the list. The 19 persons are suspected of having attacked a division of the Yugoslavian Army in May 1992 in Sarajevo, killing 42 and injuring 73 — according to Serbian sources -, and taking 215 prisoners. In a first reaction to the arrest orders, Ejup Ganic — quoted by Beta — called the accusations “ridiculous”, claiming that all names on the list of the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office are persons “who defended Bosnia”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia: Talks on Customs-Free Export of Cars to Russia

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 17 — Talks between Serbia and Russia on abolishing customs duties on vehicles manufactured in Serbia should begin in April or May this year, BETA news agency was told by Mladjen Dinkic, the Serbian Ministry of Economy. As the ministry emphasized, during the talks it would be specified whether the export of cars would be completely liberalized or whether quotas would be established. The quotas would also include a certain number of vehicles manufactured in Russia being allowed customs-free import into Serbia. The Serbian Economy Ministry also said that the implementation of the expanded free trade agreement between Serbia and Russia could begin in March, which would liberalize the export of all medicines, meat products, confectionary products and wine. The agreement would abolish customs on refrigerators, freezers and other cooling devices, washing and drying machines, as well as a large number of other goods. The ministry said that the free trade agreement with Russia in 2000 liberalized around 95% of trade, but that the results to date have not been satisfactory because of which it was agreed in Sept. 2008 to expand the agreement.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria: 3 Mln Euro From France for Secondary School Reform

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 18 — Algeria and France have signed an agreement for 3 million euros in financing to reform Algerian secondary schools. According to APS, the agreement, which was signed by French Ambassador Xavier Driencourt and Algerian Foreign Minister Mouloud Hamai, will also provide for the creation of a secondary school of technology (ENTS). The objective of the 3-year project is to improve training and strengthen Algerian secondary schools. Improving the Algerian educational system is one of the central points of Algerian-French cooperation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt — Ayman Nur: I Will No Longer Lead Party

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 19 — Egyptian opposition leader, Ayman Nur, who was suddenly released yesterday after three years spent in prison, has stated that he will no longer lead the El Ghad party. The politician explained during a press conference that he will continue to work within the party, but that he will no longer be its head. The current El Ghad party Chair is Ihab El Khouli. Nur also reaffirmed his willingness to collaborate with all political forces, both internal and external, with the exclusion of Israel. One of the Egyptian government’s most famous opposition figures, Nur stood against Mubarak as a presidential candidate in 2005. Mubarak was re-elected for his fifth term with 88% of the votes: Nur got 7.6%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt: Islamic Lawyers Urge Death Sentence for Convert

In case on whether he can legally change religion, Christian is accused of ‘apostasy.’

In the latest hearing of a Muslim-born Egyptian’s effort to officially convert to Christianity, opposing lawyers advocated he be convicted of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, and sentenced to death.

More than 20 Islamic lawyers attended the hearing on Sunday (Feb. 22) in Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary’s case to obtain identification papers with Christianity designated as his religious affiliation. Two lawyers led the charge, Ahmed Dia El-Din and Abdel Al-Migid El-Anani.

“[El-Din] started to talk about the Quran being in a higher position than the Bible,” one of El-Gohary’s lawyers, Said Fayez, told Compass. “[El-Din said] people can move to a higher religion but not down, so people cannot move away from Islam because it is highest in rank.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



OECD: Morocco Becomes Member Development Centre

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, FEBRUARY 18 — Morocco has become part of the Development Centre of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) — a centre for developing countries only. High Commissioner Ahemd Lahlimi said that the Committee voted unanimously in favour of Morocco’s acceptance thanks to the political, economic and social reforms carried out by the country. The Development Centre, explained Lahimi, “comprises developing countries with particular ambition, capability and desire to make economic progress, like Morocco. The experiences of these countries, their approach to development and reforms, necessary to guarantee the liberalisation of their economies, must be examined on this basis”. The president of the Development Centre, Javier Santiso, welcomed Morocco’s acceptance saying that the exchange of experiences between the main OECD member States and developing countries has turned out to be fruitful. Santiso called the political, economic and social reforms that have been started in Morocco “very interesting”, particularly the new family law promoted by King Mohammed VI. The president sees these reforms as a model “many countries should learn from”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


EU’s Solana on First Visit to Gaza Since 2007

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana toured the war-shattered Gaza Strip on Friday, as the EU announced that it would donate $553 million in aid to Gaza. Solana’s trip is the first of its kind since the Islamist Hamas seized power in the Palestinian territory in June 2007.

“I came to Gaza to see by myself the situation and the destruction and to show the solidarity to the good people of Gaza who have suffered so much,” he said at a news conference.

“I wanted to see with my eyes the level of destruction,” he said of the devastation wrought by Israel’s 22-day military offensive that killed more than 1,330 Palestinians.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Gaza Truce: Shalit as Condition for Crossings

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 18 — At the end of a defence council session of Ehud Olmert’s government, minister Meir Shitrit said that the release of corporal Ghilad Shalit is the Israeli government’s condition for the re-opening of the crossings into Gaza. The Interior minister said “it would be unthinkable to come to any kind of agreement (ed. — on Gaza), without Shalit’s release”, adding that this position was unanimously approved. The “top priority for Israel,” he stressed, “remains the release of Shalit by Hamas, who have held him since June 2006.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza Truce: Arab League Criticises Truce-Shalit Link

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 18 — Regarding today’s decision of Israel’s Defence Council to demand the release of corporal Gilad Shalit as a preliminary condition for a truce with Hamas, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, said that the refusal of a truce by Israel “is part of the Israeli blackmail of not making concessions”. Linking the truce to Shalit, according to Mussa “blocks the resolution of many questions”. Regarding the inter-Palestinian reconciliation, Mussa said that “the possibilities for reconciliation have improved after the most recent meeting with the head of the political office of Hamas in Damascus”, Khaled Meshaal. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza Truce: Arab League Criticises Truce-Shalit Link

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 18 — Regarding today’s decision of Israel’s Defence Council to demand the release of corporal Gilad Shalit as a preliminary condition for a truce with Hamas, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, said that the refusal of a truce by Israel “is part of the Israeli blackmail of not making concessions”. Linking the truce to Shalit, according to Mussa “blocks the resolution of many questions”. Regarding the inter-Palestinian reconciliation, Mussa said that “the possibilities for reconciliation have improved after the most recent meeting with the head of the political office of Hamas in Damascus”, Khaled Meshaal. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: EU Parliament, Extend Aid and Guarantee Supply

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 18 — The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached “inhuman levels” and the UE Parliament has asked for an expansion of aid to the population, urging Israel to guarantee a constant and adequate supply. A resolution which had the support across political groups was approved by 448 votes in favour, 19 against, and 5 abstentions. Parliament said that the conflict in the Gaza Strip “further aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the region, which has reached inhuman levels, and 88% of the population of Gaza is dependent on food aid”. The Parliament then called for the removal of blocks and the reopening of crossing points, and the preventing of weapons smuggling. The resolution expressed hopes for financial, economic and social recovery in the Strip, and pointed out that reconstruction implies a lasting ceasefire, the resumption of peace talks and reconciliation between the Palestinians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: EU Fundend Project on Deaf Children Launched

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 19 — A three year programme that hopes to improve the lives of more than 6,000 deaf and hearing impaired children, their families and communities in Gaza, was launched. The project, entitled ‘Development of a Comprehensive Intervention Services Infrastructure and Active Advocacy Network for the Rights and Needs of Hearing Impaired and Deaf Children and their Families in the Gaza Strip’, is co-funded by the European Union and Christoffel-Blindenmission and implemented by the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children (ASDC). Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children is a non-profit society that was established in 1992 in the Gaza Strip. Atfaluna aims to improve the quality of life of deaf children and adults for them to reach their full potential by providing quality education, health care, social services, and work opportunities. The European Union has provided over EUR 380,000 for this programme, equivalent to 75% of the total budget.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: Italy and Britain for Palestinian Marshall Plan

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 19 — ‘We are continuing to work for the reconciliation of the Palestinian community’’ to relaunch the ‘renegotiations for the peace process: the West must play its part through a Marshall plan for Palestine’’, said Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the end of a meeting in Rome with his British counterpart Gordon Brown. The vision is shared by Great Britain, who ‘will do everything possible to support the initiative’’ confirmed Brown. During coordination meetings for G8 and G20 Berlusconi said ‘we are into the details, including an economic relaunch project’’ in the area, including ‘the creation of an airport, hotels, and agreements with low cost companies to bring Catholic tourists into the country once we have peace, to contribute towards economic growth in Palestine’’. The objective is ‘to create two equal States’’ and not one Palestinian State ‘which would be too big compared to Israel’’. Berlusconi said that the theme will be central to G8, presided over by Italy, as well as G20 which will be hosted by Great Britain. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: EU Project for Women Against Poverty NGO Underway

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 25 — The EU-funded ‘Bunian Association for training, evaluation and community studies’ (BATECS), has been launched. The association, which is based in Gaza, aims at training the staff of five womens’ organisations to help in the fight against poverty in the most marginalised areas of Rafah and Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. The project, which received an initial grant of 236,000 euros from the EU (73% of the total budget), is to focus on improving the administrative, financial, and technical skills of the five partner organisations. Amongst the subjects to be studied are the basics of running not-for-profit organisation, human resources, work in the community, and strategic development planning. The selected organisations operate in various fields, from business (including artisan) and healthcare (including first aid and disease prevention), to support for women who are victims of violence, and also education and environmental matters. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: PNA to Ask Donor Conference for 2.8bln Dollars

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH (WEST BANK), FEBRUARY 25 — The Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Salam Fayyad, has announced that he will ask the Gaza donors’ conference (set to take place on Monday in Egypt) for 2.8 billion dollars (just under 2.2 billion euros) for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ military operation. “We have prepared a document, which donors will use to promise aid. It provides for a total of 2.8 billion dollars in all sectors,” said Fayyad in Ramallah, adding that the document “was prepared by the Palestinian Authority, with the involvement of all parties concerned. It also involves, aside from aid estimates, mechanisms that will allow donors to begin the reconstruction” of Gaza.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: Italy to Make Further 10 Million Euro Donation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — Italy is planning “a further 10-million-euro contribution” for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, according to an announcement made by Foreign Ministry spokesman Maurizio Massari during the usual weekly briefing with the press. Mr Massari said that Italy’s donation would be formalised on March 2 during the Gaza donors’ conference organised by Egypt in Sharm el Sheikh. Italy will be represented at the conference by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. In recent years Italy has put a total of 24-25 million euros towards aid for the Gaza Strip. In the period immediately after the outbreak of conflict in Gaza, Italy committed 12.3 million euros of aid to the cause. Representatives from more than 70 countries are expected at the Sharm el Sheikh conference, as well as numerous international organisations, in order to examine a plan for the use of the resources which are to be made available to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: a Documentary Exposé of Christian Persecution

‘First Comes Saturday, Then Comes Sunday’ explains exodus from Mideast

Bethlehem, once a 90 percent Christian town in Israel, now claims a Christian population of only about 20,000 of the 60,000 Arab residents — about 35 percent. The number drops day by day, month by month, year by year.

They haven’t left for no good reason. They have left for very good reasons. In fact, knowing the conditions these Christians face today, it’s surprising there are still 20,000 there.

In the last 20 years, some two million Christians have fled the Mideast.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy Sees West Bank Airport

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 23 — The Palestinian economy can be boosted by building an international airport and hotels catering to religious tourists in the West Bank, Group of Eight (G8) president Italy believes. The Italian plan, to be unveiled at a G8 summit in Italy in July, also envisages the construction of major new industrial plants, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said in an interview that will appear in French daily Le Figaro Tuesday. “The plan foresees the construction of an international airport able to attract the many Catholic tourists interested in visiting the holy sites of Christianity starting with Bethlehem”. It will also see “the construction of hotel infrastructure by the main groups in the sector and a plan for major international groups to build plants,” the Italian premier said. Berlusconi, who ruled out talking to the Islamist group Hamas which governs Gaza, said “this would be the only way to give an effective incentive to the Palestinians to sit down at the negotiating table and ensure peaceful co-existence (with Israel)”. The West Bank is ruled by Hamas’s rival, the more moderate Fatah, which runs the Palestinian National Authority. Fatah was pushed out of Gaza after Hamas won elections there two years ago but there are ongoing efforts to reconcile the factions. Italy will present its plan “to pull Palestinians out of their present state of poverty” at the G8 summit on the island of La Maddalena off the northern coast of Sardinia in July, Berlusconi said. There are no civilian airports within the West Bank, and the nearest major airport is in Tel Aviv. AS well as Bethlehem, the West Bank has other sites of religious and historical interest such as Jericho, Hebron, Qumran and the Dead Sea. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Kuwaiti Prof: 330, 000 Dead From 4 Pounds of Anthrax

A professor from Kuwait, the country liberated from Saddam Hussein’s attack squads by the United States in the first Gulf War, has outlined on Arab television a potential terror attack that would involve smuggling anthrax from Mexico into the U.S. and killing 330,000 people in 60 minutes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Turkey-Iran: Turkish President Gul in Tehran March 10

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 26 — The President of Turkey Abdullah Gul is to make an official visit to Iran on March 10 to take part in the OEC summit (Organisation for Economic Cooperation) in Tehran, say presidential sources quoted by the Anadolu press agency. The purpose of the summit is to reinforce and strengthen economic and commercial relations between the member countries, which apart from Turkey and Iran, comprise of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UAE Bans Anti-Islam Israeli Cartoon on Youtube

The United Arab Emirates has blocked an Israeli cartoon on the video sharing website YouTube due to content that mocks Muslims and insults the UAE, the country’s two internet service providers announced on Wednesday.

The controversial cartoon, called Ahmed and Salim, is a set of satirical skits that center on the title characters who are more interested in Western pop culture than their father’s aspirations of having them die as martyrs by carrying out terrorist attacks on “filthy Jews or Americans,” which the boys continue to fail at.

Ahmed and Salim decide to get an ice cream before performing an attack

The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said the decision to block the animated movie came after the organization received several complaints about the content that was deemed to be extremely insulting to Islam.

“We informed the two UAE internet service providers Etisalat and Du of the decision and they blocked the movie,” a TRA spokesman told AlArabiya.net. “Now users who try to see it will get an ‘access denied’ message.”

The skits are spoken in gibberish but are subtitled in Hebrew and English and a laughing audience can be heard in the background. One of the two young boys is dressed in traditional Gulf attire and the other wears a balaclava covering his face.

The UAE flag is shown in several scenes and in one of the scenes the boys are tasked with blowing up an Israeli bus but decide to get some ice-cream instead, when they return they mistakenly plant a bomb on a UAE-flagged bus.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Army is Fighting British Jihadists in Afghanistan

Top Army officers reveal surge in attacks by radicalised Britons

British soldiers are engaged in “a surreal mini civil war” with growing numbers of home-grown jihadists who have travelled to Afghanistan to support the Taliban, senior Army officers have told The Independent.

Interceptions of Taliban communications have shown that British jihadists — some “speaking with West Midlands accents” — are active in Helmand and other parts of southern Afghanistan, according to briefing papers prepared by an official security agency.

The document states that the numbers of young British Muslims, “seemingly committed jihadists”, travelling abroad to commit extremist violence has been rising, with Pakistan and Somalia the most frequent destinations.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Bangladesh: Dhaka, Shoot Out in Border Guard’s Headquarters

An argument between soldiers and officers over stalled back pay at the root of the episode. Hospital sources speak of one dead and eight injured. The government invites the mutinous guards to lay down their arms.

Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A gun battle has broken out inside of the Bangladesh border guards or Bangladesh Rifle, headquarters in the capital, Dhaka. Hospital sources speak of one dead and eight wounded, most of whom are civilians caught up in the shoot out.

There are two unconfirmed reports on the cause of the episode: an argument between officers during a top level meeting, or, an argument between soldiers and officers over unpaid wages. The paramilitary mutiny resulted in army intervention in order to quell the rebellion.

Local sources report that a group of mutineers opened fire within the Headquarters of Bangladesh Rifle and then assaulted a nearby shopping centre. There were civilian victims among the people

The government of newly elected premier Sheikh Hasina issued a public statement inviting the mutineers to lay down their arms and return to their barracks; the executive says it is willing to open negotiations to address their claims.

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



Malaysia Allows Catholic Paper to Use “Allah”

A Catholic newspaper in Malaysia reported on Friday it had won the right to use the word “Allah” after a long battle with the government which threatened to close it down.

The editor of the Herald newspaper, Father Lawrence Andrew, said the weekly was now allowed to use the word as a translation for “God” in its Malay-language edition, as long as it printed “For Christians” on the cover.

“ Now we can use the word Allah again and continue printing without hindrance. So with regards to the Herald we are happy “

Father Lawrence Andrew”Now we can use the word Allah again and continue printing without hindrance. So with regards to the Herald we are happy,” he told AFP, saying the decision came in an official gazette dated earlier this month.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar had on Feb. 16 signed a gazette that prohibits “any document and publication relating to Christianity containing the words ‘Allah’, ‘Kaabah’, ‘Baitullah’, and ‘Solat’ are prohibited,” according press reports.

The ban was noted in the gazette (Order 2009) under the section: Prohibition On Use of Specific Words on Document and Publication.

The order allows Christian publications to use the word of “Allah” only in print and with the condition that these publications clearly state their Christian orientation in the front cover, according to press reports

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Justice and Peace: Sharia in Swat Valley is a Defeat for Entire Country

Peter Jacob, secretary of the bishops’ conference commission, criticizes the agreement between the government and the Taliban. It provides for peace in exchange for the introduction of Islamic law in the Swat valley. The human rights activist does not foresee a Taliban regime like the previous one in Afghanistan, but fears violations of the rights of women and religious minorities.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — “For us it is a setback and a strategy that will not work.” The tough talk comes from Peter Jacob, national secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), speaking about the agreement between the local government and the Taliban. It allows the introduction of sharia — Islamic law — in exchange for a ceasefire in the district of Malakan, which includes the Swat valley, in the northwest part of the country on the border with Afghanistan. The agreement was signed yesterday by the government of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Taliban militia group Tahrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM).

“We think that the more space we will give to fundamentalism, the more they will try to gain from this strategy,” Peter Jacob stresses to AsiaNews. He recently returned from a visit to the NWFP, and emphasizes that the agreement “is a tactical step of the provincial government to resolve Islamic militancy in Swat.” The human rights activist met with various local political leaders, and explains that “sharia is an emergency medicine” to resolve the situation of tension, but if this does not produce the desired results, “there will be strict action against militants there.”

Peter Jacob says, however, that he is sure that the areas where Islamic law is introduced will not see a Taliban regime like the previous one in Afghanistan, because the ruling liberal Awami National Party is confident about the agreement. “But of course as the result of sharia law implementation, the first casualties would be women and religious minorities, because the freedom of women and other faiths would not be tolerated.”

According to the latest information, the delegation of the TSNM, headed by the leader Sufi Muhammad, has come to the Swat valley to verify that the peace agreements are being respected. During his stay in the area, mullah Sufi Muhammad will try to convince the mullah Fazlullah — head of the Taliban militias in the Swat — to lay down his weapons in exchange for the introduction of Islamic law.

Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari has not yet signed the document ratifying the peace agreement: he will sign it only after it has been ascertained that the ceasefire is being respected in the Swat, in the district of Malakand, and in the areas that have recently seen fighting between the military and the militias.

The North-West Frontier Province has for some time been the theater of a massive campaign by the Taliban, who want to introduce sharia and Islamic courts. The Swat valley fell into the hands of the Taliban in the autumn of 2007; the army immediately launched a vast offensive to regain control of the territory. An initial agreement, which provided for the introduction of sharia, never went into effect. Last summer, the military launched a second offensive that failed to uproot the Taliban militias from the area.

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



Pakistan: Discovering the Bible to Bring the Christian Message to Everyone

In one of the oldest Catholic villages of Pakistan a congress is held to discuss the Holy Scriptures and the Church’s mission. It is part of the Year of the Bible launched by Pakistani bishops. It can “rekindle people’s passion for the word of God [. . .] so that they can pass on to others what they have received,” says the secretary of the Catholic Bible Commission of Pakistan.

Khushupur (AsiaNews) — “This is a totally new concept for me, meeting the Holy Scriptures only for myself, discuss the verses among ourselves so as to understand how they can become part of my daily life,” Aqeela Dilshad, a 19 years old college student from Faisalabad diocese, said as she talked about a four-day Bible congress that drew about 170 Catholic, many young, from her diocese as well as that of Islamabad.

The event took place in one of the Pakistan’s oldest Catholic village, Khushpur, in Punjab province on the theme of ‘The bible and the Church’, fourth such meeting in a series that began in May 2008, when Pakistan’s bishops launched the Year of the Bible.

After the Eucharist celebrated by Mgr Joseph Coutts, bishop of Faisalabad, which inaugurated the congress, a series of sessions got underway in which delegates approached the Holy Scriptures in different ways.

Fr Aftab James Paul, diocesan director of the Faisalabad Bible Commission, told AsiaNews that the focus of the four-day event was the richness of the Bible and the many approaches that it offers the faithful, all from a dual perspective, that of personal conversion and of mission to the world “to promote the Christian message to others.”

Men and women religious, catechists, diocesan and Caritas operators were among the delegates. And for all of them the four days in Khushpur were an important moment to discover the Holy Scriptures anew.

“I am very lucky to take part in this congress,” said Sister Shazia Lal, from the congregation of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For her it was an opportunity “to know the history of the Bible and what role our people played in translating it.”

For Caritas operator Shakeela Yasmen, 29, from Tob Tek Singh, the four-day event helped her understand the importance of “bringing the word of God into my actual life.”

Fr Emmanuel Asi, secretary of the Catholic Bible Commission of Pakistan, said that the purpose of the various Bible congresses held since May of last year has been to “rekindle people’s passion for the word of God and push them to regularly recite and study the Bible so that they can pass on to others what they have received.”

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



Pakistan: Swat Peace Deal Threatens Human Rights Says Amnesty

Mingora/London, 17 Feb. (AKI) — Human rights, especially women’s rights, would be further threatened once Islamic Sharia law is imposed troubled northwestern Swat district under a controversial peace accord signed this week, leading campaign group Amnesty International has said.

“The Pakistani government must ensure it protects the human rights of nearly two million people in the Swat valley and neighbouring Malakand district,” Amnesty said.

Once one of Pakistan’s most popular holiday destinations, the Swat valley is now mostly under Taliban control since an insurgency began there in 2007 following the siege of Islamabad’s Red Mosque in which over 100 people died.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Swat and hundreds of girls’ schools have been destroyed since the Taliban began a reign of terror including beheadings of officials and members of the Pakistani security forces sent to quell the insurgency.

The Taliban in Swat has also publicly whipped men for shaving their beards, destroyed music shops and forcibly prohibited women from leaving their homes, unless escorted by a male relative, Amnesty noted.

The controversial peace deal signed between Taliban insurgents in Swat and the government of surrounding North West Frontier Province could legitimise the human rights abuses that have been taking place in the region as the Taliban influence has increased, Amnesty warned.

“The government is reneging on its duty to protect the human rights of people from Swat Valley by handing them over to Taliban insurgents,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific director.

Amnesty also accused the Pakistani authorities of launching “indiscriminate and disproportionate” attacks against the Taliban that have mostly harmed civilians.

Females in Swat have been systematically targeted by the Taliban for “gender based” violence and discrimination, the group said.

Girls and women’s rights to freedom of movement, work and education have been severely curtailed, it said.

“The Pakistani government cannot just abandon these people and sign away their rights,” said Zarifi.

NWFP chief minister, Ameer Hussain Hoti on Monday announced an accord had been signed that would implement a new “order of justice” in Malakand and Swat.

A new law will create a separate system of justice for the whole area, although the Taliban have reportedly already set up their own system of Islamic justice, as they understand it.

Between 250,000 — 500,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the Swat valley since 2007.

The Taliban campaign against female education has led to tens of thousands of children being denied an education, according to local observers.

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



The Pakistani Time Bomb

So far, the United States has given the government of Pakistan more than $12.3 billion in military and economic aid. Vice President Joe Biden proposed last summer that we throw another $7.5 billion in non-military aid Pakistan’s way over the next five years.

But that isn’t enough to keep Pakistan from failing as a state, says the Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council describes itself at its website as “promot[ing] constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting the international challenges of the 21st century.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Far East


Japan’s Boffins: Global Warming Isn’t Man-Made

Climate science is ‘ancient astrology’, claims report

Exclusive Japanese scientists have made a dramatic break with the UN and Western-backed hypothesis of climate change in a new report from its Energy Commission.

Three of the five researchers disagree with the UN’s IPCC view that recent warming is primarily the consequence of man-made industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. Remarkably, the subtle and nuanced language typical in such reports has been set aside.

One of the five contributors compares computer climate modelling to ancient astrology. Others castigate the paucity of the US ground temperature data set used to support the hypothesis, and declare that the unambiguous warming trend from the mid-part of the 20th Century has ceased.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Boxer Seeks to Ratify U.N. Treaty That May Erode U.S. Rights

Sen. Barbara Boxer is pushing the Obama administration to move forward with ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a controversial treaty that has never gained much support in the U.S.

Sen. Barbara Boxer is urging the U.S. to ratify a United Nations measure meant to expand the rights of children, a move critics are calling a gross assault on parental rights that could rob the U.S. of sovereignty.

The California Democrat is pushing the Obama administration to review the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a nearly 20-year-old international agreement that has been foundering on American shores since it was signed by the Clinton administration in 1995 but never ratified.

Critics say the treaty, which creates “the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and outlaws the “arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy,” intrudes on the family and strips parents of the power to raise their children without government interference.

Nearly every country in the world is party to it — only the U.S. and Somalia are not — but the convention has gained little support in the U.S. and never been sent to the Senate for ratification.

That could change soon.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Demography: Italy, More Than 60 Mln Inhabitants in 2008

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 26 — In 2008, for the first time and thanks mainly to foreigners, the Italian population has risen over 60 million according to a survey carried out by Italian National Statistics Office ISTAT. The Office points out however that the results are still “provisional”. The total population, writes ISTAT, “has grown in 2008 as well, thanks to immigration”. During 2008 “the resident population in Italy is likely to grow by over 434 thousand, a growth rate of 7.3 per thousand inhabitants, causing the historic threshold of 60 million inhabitants to be surpassed on January 1 2009”. ISTAT reports that “it has taken 50 years (from 1959) to grow from 50 to 60 million inhabitants. The growth from 40 to 50 million took 33 years: from 1926 to 1959 and 30 years from 30 to 40 million (1896-1926)”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Forced Integration at City Schools Possible

Copenhagen may follow the same route as Århus and introduce a forced school-integration policy for children

Failure of the voluntary ‘Copenhagen Model’ to successfully integrate children from immigrant families in schools may result in the city turning to a forced integration model, reports Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

Copenhagen’s youth committee has set up a workgroup that will assess whether integration is best served through forcing those children into predominantly white schools or returning to the Copenhagen model. The model was first used in 2005 and regarded as a success.

The ultimate goal is to prevent the proliferation of classrooms with an overabundance of students with immigrant backgrounds and achieve a better balance between immigrant and Danish students in classes.

But the city, which had been allowing children from the Nørrebro borough to attend schools in the Østerbro borough, abandoned the model in October, alleging a lack of places at schools.

Forced integration of children into schools has become known as the ‘Århus model’ in Denmark because of that city’s preference for it, one which has been successful, according to the numbers.

Immigrant children from Århus are placed in different schools according to their Danish language abilities. The municipality indicates that 80 percent of those children’s Danish skills have improved as a result of the move.

Several parties in Copenhagen’s city council are in favour of forced integration at schools. However, the city indicated the lack of available class places still poses an obstacle.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Government Stands Its Ground Against EU Residency Changes

The government is sticking to its promise to parliamentary ally The Danish people’s Party, and opposing any EU changes to residency regulations

A stubborn Birthe Rønn Hornbech vowed to continue Denmark’s uphill battle to preserve its strict residency rules in the face of stiff opposition from the European Union.

During talks at the EU Commission in Brussels yesterday over the Metock ruling — which allows non-EU spouses of EU member country citizens to obtain residence permits without having previously lived in an EU country — the integration minister reiterated the Liberal-Conservative government’s wish to repeal the ruling’s conditions.

Although Austria and Ireland have indicated their support of Denmark’s position in the matter, most EU member states are against any charge in the directive. But Hornbech is prepared to stand her ground.

‘If you ram your head against a wall you may as well keep doing it until there’s a hole,’ she said. ‘We have an agreement with the Danish People’s Party and until that changes the goal is to alter the directive.’

The Danish People’s Party (DF) made fighting the Metock ruling a requirement for the government in return for the party’s support of the most recent immigration package. But experts generally believe the chances of getting the EU to change the ruling is impossible, particularly when it would require unanimous approval from all the union’s member states.

At Thursday’s meeting, EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot said the commission’s guidelines for administering the Metock ruling were delayed but would be completed by June.

Hornbech said she was ‘satisfied’ that the EU Commission had at least promised at the meeting to increase its focus on possible abuse of the ruling or on any unforeseen loopholes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Politicians Plot to Deport Weapons Violators

The integration minister plans to propose a legal change that would allow foreign criminals convicted of weapons violations to be deported

Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech wants to table a proposal that would tighten weapons laws and allow for the deportation of foreign criminals who have been convicted of weapons’ crime.

‘We must do everything to make it clear that we simply won’t stand for this. Those [criminals who have broken weapons laws] who do not need be in the country, have to know that they are at risk of being deported,’ said Hornbech to DR News.

Both the Conservatives and the Danish People’s Party (DF) have already backed the plan, which would signal a parliamentary majority backing for the change.

‘If someone is not a Danish citizen and has committed a crime then they should be deported, no matter how long they have been in Denmark,’ said DF legal spokesman Peter Skaarup. ‘We should not accept that Denmark is becoming a playground for criminal activities.’

Khalid Alsubeihi has worked for many years with immigrant youths in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen and warned against introducing legislation that would punish one group more than another.

‘It’s sending the wrong signal to young people. Criminality should be heavily punished, but it should be equally so for everyone,’ said Alsubeihi.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



EU Immigrant Numbers Grow Steadily

At the end of December last year, 1,026,495 European Union citizens were resident in Switzerland, an increase of 6.8 per cent on the previous year.

According to the latest figures released by the Federal Migration Office, 1.6 million foreigners had residence permits out of a total population of 7.6 million. These foreigners include people born in Switzerland of foreign parents.

While the number of EU citizens is growing steadily, new arrivals from other parts of the world increased by only 0.4 per cent and many nationality groups — such as Serbian, Croatian and Sri Lankan — are seeing declining numbers.

This is a reflection of the new law on foreigners, which allows only the recruitment of highly qualified workers from the rest of the world.

Germans remain the largest group of newcomers — 31,463 more people from the neighbouring country moved to Switzerland last year, bringing the total German population to 233,352. However, Italians remain the largest immigrant group with 290,000.

The Federal Migration Office statistics exclude asylum seekers.

Traffic is moving both way, with 20 per cent more Swiss people living abroad than a decade ago. In 2008, more than 8,000 Swiss moved abroad, taking the overall total of Swiss expatriates to 676,176.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



EU Interior Ministers’ Mediterranean Proposal

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 26 — This morning EU ministers of the interior will be discussing the joint proposal by Italy, Greece and Malta for greater coordination in the handling of immigration flows in Mediterranean countries. In preparation for this morning’s discussion, some sources say Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has met with delegations from the three countries which are part of the initiative. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Finland: Timo Kalli Tries to Explain Immigration Comment

MP Timo Kallli, chairman of the Parliamentary group of the Centre Party, felt compelled on Thursday to clarify a statement in which he said that the minimum age for old age pensions should be increased, so that limits might be placed on immigration. On Wednesday, the TV network MTV3 sought out the opinions of all of the government party groups on the reasons why immigration has “exploded”. “The more Finns can be kept at work for a longer time, the easier immigration can be kept under control”, Kalli said. He then continued, saying that raising the pension age will not eliminate the need for immigration, but that one basis for raising the age of retirement is that “the longer Finns’ working careers can be extended, the less we will need work-based immigration.”

The chairman of the Swedish People’s Party, Stefan Wallin, reacted to Kalli’s comments on Thursday, saying that the statement was “as unfounded an interpretation of the purpose of the government’s aims as it is a stupid one.” Wallin added that no linkage was made in the government programme on pensions and a need to reduce immigration. He felt that it was “extremely regrettable”, that Kalli, as the chairman of the largest political group in Parliament, will place himself in a position of “a lightning rod for powers who use immigration as a political weapon”. Immigration is the responsibility of Astrid Thors (Swed. People’s Party), the Minister of Migration and European Affairs.

Kalli told Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday that the linkage between immigration and retirement age was his “own statement”, and had not been part of the government’s political discussions. He also said that his statement was not intended as a comment on policy toward foreigners. He denied that he had meant to suggest that immigration would be somehow undesirable, adding that there must be “as many work-based immigrants as needed”. Talk of immigration “exploding” is linked with the recent surge in the number of asylum applicants.

Kalli also said that MTV3 had made use of the “tail end” of his statement. In reality, on the MTV3 recording, Kalli mentions limiting immigration as the second most important reason to raise the pension age. Immigration policy was the cause of the second-longest discussion at Tuesday’s government meeting. The government decided to decided to promote employment among immigrants, and to toughen asylum policy in order to reduce the number of unfounded asylum applications. Kalli’s statements have sparked furores before. The most famous one was when he said on television in the spring of 2008 that he refuses to abide by the law on election financing because no punishment has been assigned to violators. The statement was followed by a massive public outcry, which led to extensive debate on the issue, and that is why there are moves to toughen campaign financing legislation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Immigrant Integration Better in Emilia Romagna

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 20 — Immigrants are integrating into Italian society better in the central Emilia Romagna region than elsewhere, the National Council on the Economy and Labour (CNEL) said Friday. The region around Bologna topped a ranking in CNEL’s sixth annual report. As for provinces, the area around the northeastern city of Trieste came top for “social and employment integration”. Annual per capita earnings for immigrants were about 7,000 euro less than for Italians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Immigration: ACLU Signs Add to Washington State’s Immigration Storm

An immigration showdown is brewing on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where simmering tensions and borderline hostility have fueled a turf war between the local community and the Border Patrol agents assigned to protect it.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union has jumped into the ring and upped the ante, rolling out a campaign that will install signs inside buses informing riders of their rights — to ignore Border Patrol agents.

The signs, entitled, “YOUR RIGHTS with border patrol agents on this bus,” makes three points:

• If you’re a U.S. citizen, you don’t have to prove it. • If you’re not a U.S. citizen and are 18 or older, you must show your immigration papers to federal agents. • Everyone has the right to remain silent.

The campaign, which could start as early as next week, is the latest in a series of expanding grassroots efforts aimed at curbing the expansion of Border Patrol forces and the powers of its agents.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy: Immigrant Population Close to Four Million

Rome, 26 Feb. (AKI) — A wave of recent immigration has lifted the number of foreigners living in Italy to almost four million people. According to the latest figures released by the central statistics agency, ISTAT, there were 3.9 million foreigners living in Italy on 1 January 2009 — an increase of 462,000 over the previous year.

An increase in the number of new born babies — 12,000 more than in 2007 — helped to raise the country’s flagging birthrate and take the total population to more than 60 million people.

ISTAT said that there had been an increase in the number of Italian women having babies, as well as an increase in the number of foreign residents who had given birth.

In 2008, around 88,000 babies or 15.3 percent of the total were born to foreign mothers compared to only 29,000 or 5.4 percent in 1999. Of the babies born to foreign mothers, 3.4 percent were born to Italian fathers and 11.9 percent to foreign fathers.

ISTAT said that Romanians make up the greatest number of foreigners (772,000) followed by 438,000 Albanians and 401,000 Moroccans. Together these groups make up 40 percent of the total number.

The distribution of foreigners is much higher in the north of the country, where 62 percent of them live. As many as 23 percent live in the region of Lombardy that surrounds the northern city of Milan. There are only 12 percent of foreigners living in the south of the country.

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



Maroni: Joint Proposal on EU Agenda

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 26 — Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, announced at the end of a meeting with his colleagues in the European government that the main points of a joint proposal advanced by Italy together with Greece, Malta, and Cyprus, to oppose illegal immigration targeting the Mediterranean, will be inserted into the agenda of the upcoming Swedish EU presidency. The Stockholm agenda will dictate the priorities for internal issues and EU justice over the coming four years. During the meeting, Maroni explained that this commitment, requested by Italy, was assumed by the EU Commissioner of Justice, Security, and Liberty, Jacques Barrot, and by the representative from Sweden, the next holder of the EU’s rotating presidency. “This commitment is of crucial importance and to be appreciated. It means that in the strategy for the next five years, there will be points that we have chosen to combat illicit immigration specifically in the Mediterranean. This is the new aspect,” commented Maroni, who said that he expects Stockholm to also recognise the need to increase financing for Frontex to “make it more effective”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Court: State Trashed Church’s 1st Amendment Rights

Encouraging members to support traditional marriage protected speech

An appeals court ruled the state of Montana violated a church’s First Amendment rights to encourage its members to support traditional marriage.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the state’s determination that the church was an “incidental political committee” because members promoted and signed petitions supporting traditional marriage, and the pastor also encouraged it.

The complaint against Ferry Road Baptist Church of East Helena was sparked by a complaint from a homosexual activist group, the court ruling noted. The Alliance Defense Fund took up the fight for the church by filing a lawsuit in 2004 after the state issued its ruling against the church.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


Energy: Khelil Says OPEC Likely to Cut Output Again

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — Algerian Minister for Energy and Mines Chakib has been quoted by APS as saying that “OPEC will probably be opting on March 15 for a new cut in output,” to try to “stabilize falling prices.” If the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries “had not decided in September, October and December to decrease its production (in total by 4.2 mln barrels/day, Ed.),” said Khelil, “today crude oil prices would not be at 40 but at 20 dollars per barrel.” The next OPEC summit is scheduled for March 15 in Vienna. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

D.C. in Brief

I just got back from Our Nation’s Capitol, and it will take me a while to catch up.

As you know, I was up there in the belly of the Great Satan to attend two events featuring Geert Wilders. Each involved one or more brief speeches, a showing of Fitna, and then a question-and-answer session.

Both events were sponsored by the Center for Security Policy and the International Free Press Society. The first was invitation-only and took place in the Lyndon B. Johnson Room of the U.S. Senate, at the invitation of Senator John Kyl of Arizona. Sen. Kyle spent a while talking to Mr. Wilders before the speeches started, and I was able to take some photos of the two men conversing.

Unfortunately, I lack skill as a photographer and was using a crappy camera, so the non-flash photos required some work to make them usable.

Geert Wilders and Sen. John Kyle in the LBJ Room


Geert Wilders and Sen. John Kyle in the LBJ Room

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Geert Wilders and Sen. John Kyle in the LBJ Room


Geert Wilders at the NPCThe event this morning took place at the National Press Club, and was attended by various members of the Fourth Estate.

The photos I took there aren’t much good; I was taking them at a distance, and without a flash, so most of them are too blurry to be rehabilitated.

I haven’t had time to look at the blogs, but I’ll bet Pamela has all the skinny on a little contretemps between several well-known bloggers and a journalist who asked a very — ahem — loaded question of Mr. Wilders. Go over to Atlas Shrugs and see what she has to say.

I’ll have more to report about the two events tomorrow, after I’ve had a good night’s sleep and caught up with the email.

The Tea Parties Have Begun

***UP DATE ***


Provocateur Jim says he arrived late at the party in Oklahoma City. He has a picture of the event.

Not a bad crowd for such short notice…not to mention that it’s freaking freezing February.

Gateway Pundit has his report, too:

1,500 protesters braved the cold (in the 30’s) and wind today at the St. Louis Arch for the anti-Spendulus rally.

The local television predicted 100 protesters would show up. Despite the cold and the timing (11:00 AM on Friday) the turn out was respectable.

As usual, he has great pictures.



Moving on to Denver, Slapstick says:

A raucous crowd gathered on a chilly Friday morning, and had a clear message for President Barack Obama…

The Gadsden Society will be holding a non-partisan, pro-liberty rally on Sunday on the west steps of the state capitol at 2pm.

My favorite sign at this rally: “IF YOU CAN’T DEFEND IT, DON’T SPEND IT”.



Michelle Malkin has a good cross-section of the party pictures, plus links.

Tea Party photo album: Fiscal responsibility is the new counterculture


She says:

I’ve got tons of photos and e-mails pouring in from Tea Party people across the country. I joked to a Christian Science Monitor reporter covering the events that fiscal responsibility is the new counterculture. More coverage/photos/livestreaming at TCOT Report.

There is, as the old ‘60s song goes, something happening here. And what it is, is very clear: A grass-roots revolt against the culture of entitlement. The spendzillas in Washington do not speak for us.

So far, she has pictures from:

San Diego CA
North Carolina
Nashville TN
Portland OR
Lansing MI
Cleveland OH
Houston TX
Austin TX
Atlanta GA
Washington DC
Tampa FL
Chicago IL
Hartford CT

I’ll look around for a blog that is managing to find every city. I know there’s one out there.



Rick Santelli’s rant earlier this week on the “stimulus” package has gone viral and is spreading.

It might never have happened had not the President’s press secretary felt compelled to make fun of Mr. Santelli’s impromptu speech during the press conference the next day.

This administration is proving to be quite thin-skinned. Instead of ignoring their critics, the Obama people seem compelled to attempt to bring them down with ridicule. This is not the first time they’ve become upset by media criticism. Just imagine how ballistic they’ll be when — or if — the national media ever starts chewing on this for real. So far, the “journalists” who sit in the White House press room are lap dogs. Obviously, they won’t risk being put out in the cold for any confrontational questions.

But there’s a large section of the U.S. media who don’t have to worry about access to the press section, so we’re going to be hearing from more people like Santelli.

First, look at Mr. Santelli’s rant from the “pit” of the trading floor. Notice when he suggests that Americans who are angry about the pork-larded “stimulus” bill ought to have another tea party.



The list below the fold of regional tea parties is from The Northshore Journal. Of all those I’ve checked it seems the most comprehensive. If you click the link, you can see the sponsors for each area. Some of these events are today, and some are tomorrow. As time goes on today, it’s my guess that the list will continue to grow.

It is also likely to generate further tea parties in the future, as the weather grows warmer and people have more time to plan larger events.

One hopes that the President’s press secretary will ignore the brouhaha this time. If he doesn’t, it will indicate an inability to learn from his mistakes. Not a good sign for Obama’s grand strategy.
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Northeast

* Boston – Friday, February 27, 2009 noon, The Barking Crab Restaurant, 88 Sleeper Street, Boston
* Hartford, CT – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm, State Capitol
* New York City – Saturday, February 28, 2009, 2:00pm – 3:00pm, City Hall Park, New York
* Philadelphia – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm, Independence Hall
* Washington D.C. – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 2:00pm White House on the Lafayette Square Park side
* Pittsburgh – ***May be postponed due to rain *** Friday, February 27, 2009 12 pm – 1 pm, Market Square

Southeast

* Atlanta – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm at the Georgia State Capitol Building ~ Downtown Atlanta Washington Street Exit
* Fayetteville – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm, Liberty Point Resolves Marker, downtown Fayetteville, Hay Street

* Asheville, NC – Friday, February 27 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Pritchard Park, Corner of Haywood St. and Patton Ave.
* Columbia, SC – TBD
* Greenville, SC – Friday, February 27, 2009 6:00pm, on the banks of the Reedy River and on the walking bridge just west of Main Street
* Orlando – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm on Lake Eola across from Panera Bread
* Tampa – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm, Federal Courthouse, 801 N. Florida Ave., Tampa
* Gainesville FL – Friday, February 27, 2009 2:00pm – 6:00pm, Ale House, 3950 SW Archer Rd
* Fort Meyers Beach – Friday, February 27, 2009 11:30am – 1:00pm Bowditch Park, 50 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach
* Sarasota – Friday, February 27, 2009, 12:00pm – 1:00pm, Island Park and Marina Jacks, Bayfront Drive (41) and Ringling Blvd, Sarasota
* Nashville – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm Legislative Plaza
* Shelby County Alabama – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm, entrance to Eagle Point Neighborhood, Highway 280
* Jackson, Miss – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:30pm, On the steps of the Capital Building in Jackson

Midwest

* Cleveland – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm Public Square in Downtown Cleveland, 1 Public Square
* Chicago – Friday, February 27, 2009 11:00am – 12:20pm at
Daley Plaza Civic Center, 50 W Washington St.
* Lansing, MI – Friday, February 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm, State Capitol bldg
* St. Louis – Friday, February 27, 2009 11:00am – 12:00pm The Steps of Arch, Wharf Street
* Springfield, MO – Friday, February 27, 2009, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, Lake Springfield Park
* Kansas City – Saturday, February 28, 2009 10:00am – 2:00pm J.C. Nichols Foundation, 47th and J.C. Nichols Parkway K.C. MO
* Wichita, Kansas – Friday, February 27, 2009, 11:30am – 12:30pm, Farm Credit Bank Building, 245 N. Waco
* Omaha – Friday, February 27, 2009, 11:00am – 12:00pm, Douglas County Courthouse, 16th and Farnam St, Omaha
* Davenport, Iowa – Saturday, February 28, 2009, 12:00pm – 1 pm, Corner of Brady & Locust Streets, Davenport

Southwest

* Austin – Friday, February 27, 2009, 11:00am – 12 pm, Capitol steps
* Dallas – Friday, February 27, 2009, 11:00am – 12 pm, Victory Plaza at the American Airlines Center
* Fort Worth – Friday, February 27, 2009 3pm to 7pm at the Cowtown Bar & Grill, 7108 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth
* Houston – Friday, February 27, 2009 11:00am – 2:00pm, Fondren Green at Discovery Green Park, in front of Amphitheatre
* San Antonio – Friday, February 27, 2009, 11:00am – 12 pm, Alamo Plaza
* Oklahoma City – Friday, February 27, 2009, 11:00am – 12:00pm, State Capitol Steps, Oklahoma City
* Tulsa – Friday, February 27, 2009 11 am to 1 pm, Veteran’s Park, 21st & Boulder
* Phoenix – Friday, February 27, 2009, 10:00am – 11:00am, State Capitol, 1700 W Washington St, Phoenix
* Tempe AZ – Friday, February 27, 2009 noon, Tempe Beach Park, west of the Mill Avenue Bridge
Rockies
* Denver – Friday, February 27, 2009 10:00am – 12:00pm Colorado State Capitol Building – West side steps 200 E. Colfax Ave.

West Coast

* Seattle – Friday, February 27, 2009, 12:15pm – 1:15pm, Westlake Park, 410 Pine St. by the big arch
* Portland – Friday, February 27, 2009 9:00am – 10:00am Pioneer Courthouse Square @ the corner of Broadway & Morrison (in front of the STARBUCKS), 715 SW Morrison St
* San Diego – Friday, February 27, 2009 9-10 am, Just north of the Star of India on San Diego Bay
* Sacramento CA – Friday, February 27, 12 Noon, California State Capitol, North Steps, L Street, Sacramento
* Los Angeles – Friday, February 27, 2009, 9:00am – 10:00am, Santa Monica Pier
* Orange County – Friday, February 27, 2009, 9:00am – 10:00am, Huntington Beach Pier

The Turban Kissers

Here is another of the occasional essays by Zenster.

Enjoy.



I am in the process of re-reading Michael Crichton’s book, “Rising Sun”. When I first read this entertaining story of crime, culture and technology, I was not as fully aware of the ongoing culture wars taking place around the world as I am now. Imagine my bemusement and sense of irony in reading the following passage (page 230):

Ron laughed, “Rawlings is part of a group we call the Chrysanthemum Kissers. [Note: The flower of Japan’s royal family is the chrysanthemum. The royal seat is known as the Chrysanthemum Throne. At one point, sumptuary laws prohibited Japanese commoners from cultivating a certain variety of this bloom.] Academic experts who deliver the Japanese propaganda line. They don’t really have a choice, because they need access to Japan to work, and if they start to sound critical, their contacts in Japan dry up. Doors are closed to them. And in America, the Japanese will whisper in certain ears that the offending person is not to be trusted, or that their views are ‘out of date’. Or worse-that they’re racist.. Pretty soon these academics begin to lose speaking engagements and consulting jobs. They know what’s happened to their colleagues who step out of line. And they don’t make the same mistake.” [emphasis added]

It would seem as though Islam has lifted a page from Japan’s playbook. Forget the fact that Islam is not a race. Why should trivialities like logic and correct definitions enter into the argument? All critics of Islam are automatically deemed “racist” and Politically Correct contumely is immediately heaped upon the offending brow.

[Note: I am perfectly aware that not all Muslims wear turbans, nor are all turban-wearers Muslim. None of that changes how a vast majority of Islam’s highest clerics wear turbans and how evocative the term “Turban Kisser” remains.]

Recent events involving the Culture of Perpetual Aggrievement(tm) clearly indicate that Muslims are skinless people living in a sandpaper world.. Islamic sensitivities know no bounds and even the slightest offense-however unintentional it might be-is deemed a capital crime. While Islam’s own skewed internal priorities finds such absurd hypersensitivity to be appropriate, outsiders are in no way obliged to feel a similar sense of outrage or affront. Lasting proof of this was delivered when tiny Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper published a series of cartoons depicting Mohammed in several unflattering yet factually correct ways.

The ensuing catoonifada, was a typical Islamic spectacle replete with murder, arson, rioting and general mayhem. It served up notice that the world’s Muslim population was perfectly willing to exercise the most obvious blackmail and extortion to obtain its measure of what can only be termed totally undeserved respect. Most baffling of all was how so many Western leaders rapidly acquiesced to this blatant assault upon its most cherished traditions of free speech and religious satire.
- – - - – - – - -
There are few explanations for such abject groveling by well-armed free people. History abounds with object lessons regarding the folly of appeasement. This is especially so when confronted with unprincipled bullies. By cloaking the objectives of its totalitarian ideology in religious robes, Islam elicits unwarranted deference from those who should be the quickest to condemn it.

Such ready abandonment of fundamental moral principles by these Western leaders is almost as disturbing as the vileness of Islam itself. To countenance or tolerate such evil is to abet its malign ends. Yet, those who should resist surrendering to such oppression most strongly instead yield to it without scruple or compunction. What is it that motivates these people to so unhesitatingly relinquish their grip upon moral authority?

Only a few answers present themselves and none of them are very pretty.

As with Crichton’s Chrysanthemum Kissers, monetary gain often figures into the equation. The oil supply of Islamic nations prompts innumerable cases of moral and philosophical turpitude. Still, there are those with whom Islam’s ascension poses a most dire threat.

Women and non-Muslim religious followers stand to lose everything they have gained over the last several centuries of progress. Nonetheless, we see prominent women and clerics rise up in defense of a misogynistic triumphalist doctrine that bodes only the very worst for them. What is it that motivates Islam’s embryonic victims to become Turban Kissers?

Another answer to this conundrum is stupefying in its connotations. People have largely renounced their capacity to judge. The dictum of “Judge not lest ye be judged” has become the ultimate reductio ad absurdum. Our Postmodern world has tarred personal judgment with dark insinuations of prejudice and unfair bias. This reluctance to exercise personal discernment and moral authority has bred up a mentality of ‘anything goes’. Having lost all sense of propriety, our collective moral compass has become demagnetized and we are terminally Tolerant of Everything except the fundamental tenets of our own culture.

Pleading that others do the judging for us created a moral vacuum into which have rushed the least judgmental people of all. They are saturated with moral and cultural relativism to the point where no distinctions can be made, even between this world’s most barbaric savages and its worthiest citizens. As personal judgment is discarded, there is forsaken a fundamental and irreplaceable level of human dignity. It is this voluntary disregard of our spirit’s own nobility that drives the darkest imaginable forces.

Wittingly or not, this moral vacuum has created lift for those who were once the very worst drag upon civilization. These new “visionaries” are the new witch doctors and conjurers. Spouting their bromides of Globalism and Multiculturalism, a new breed of Narcissistic Elite has grabbed the reins of power. In their rush to deconstruct centuries of painstaking progress, they are undermining the very foundations of our civilized world.

This Narcissistic Elite is incapable of believing that the world could survive without them. They arrogate to themselves the most regal airs and maintain an arrogant disregard for ordinary people. They surround themselves with compliant and unquestioning subordinates whose job it is to cater or pander to the elitist brand of entitlement. It is here, in this echo chamber of unrestrained self-serving that the ability to tolerate evil germinates. The virtue of discernment is obliterated. Rather than undergo the rigors of critical analysis or careful examination, these incurious political captains bestow legitimacy where there is something to be gained.

Unbeholden to the needs or rights of their citizens, these Illustrious Few do not hesitate to navigate by their own hallucinations of reality. Steering for the shores of their private Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, they also speed civilization’s fragile boat towards submerged reefs.

One of these hidden obstacles is Islam. Purposefully concealing its own true nature, Islam fawns upon its enablers in the West even as it plots their destruction. The Mandarins, blinded by their own self-importance and dazzled with the utopian prospect of a mythical Transnational One World Government, ignore Islam’s imperial designs and toxic intolerance to anything outside the Ummah. Obsessed as they are with revisionist dreams, they see the destructive Muslims world view as a way to rid themselves of our antiquated and irrelevant Western culture.

Few other entities besides communism are so corrosive to modern civilization. None of these Vampire Elite can imagine that their own house of political cards will be swept away the instant that Islam gains ascendancy. Immersed in delusions of utopia, these Turban Kissers will continue to shout Islam’s praise right up to the moment a Muslim’s scimitar strikes their necks.

They will never know what hit them.

"Will Free Speech Be Put Behind Bars?"

Free Geert!


Tonight, Thursday, February 26th 2009, Geert Wilders gave a speech in the Lyndon B. Johnson Room of the U. S. Senate Capitol Building.

He was sponsored and introduced by Senator John Kyl (R-AZ).

The event was sponsored by The Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gafffney and The International Free Press Society’s Lars Hedegaard. Both men were in attendance during the speech.

Here is Mr. Wilders:

Thank you.

Thank you very much for inviting me. And – to the immigration authorities – thank you for letting me into this great country. It is always a pleasure to cross a border without being sent back on the first plane.

I feel very honoured to have the privilege to speak and to show my short documentary Fitna here in this heart of your democracy, here in the US Senate.

Today, the dearest of our many freedoms is under attack all throughout Europe. Free speech is no longer a given. What we once considered a natural element of our existence, our birth right, is now something we once again have to battle for.

As you might know, I will be prosecuted in my own country, because of my film Fitna, my remarks regarding Islam, and my view concerning what some call a “religion of peace”.

A few years from now, I might be a criminal. And on top of that The Kingdom of Jordan also threatens to prosecute me for insulting Islam and ask for my extradition.

Whether or not I end up in jail is not the most pressing issue; I gave up my freedom four and a half years ago. I am under full-time police protection ever since because of death threats from muslims and terrorist groups linked to Al Qaida. In the last few years I lived in different safehouses, army-baracks and yes: even prison cells in order to be safe.

But it’s not about me. The real question is: will free speech be put behind bars?

And the larger question for the West is: will we leave Europe’s children the values of Rome, Athens and Jerusalem, or the values of Mecca, Teheran and Gaza?

- – - - – - – - -

This is what video blogger Pat Condell said in one of his latest you tube appearances. He says: “if I talked about Muslims the way their holy book talks about me, I’d be arrested for hate speech.”

Now Mr. Condell is a stand-up comedian, but in the video he is dead serious and the joke is on us. Hate speech will always be used against the people defending the West – in order to please and appease Muslims. They can say whatever they want: throw gays from apartment buildings, kill the Jews, slaughter the infidel, destroy Israel, jihad against the West. Whatever their book tells them.

Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake, my prosecution is a full-fledged attack by the left on freedom of speech in order to please Muslims. In fact it was started by a member of the Dutch Labour party. If you read what the court of Amsterdam has written about me, you read the same texts that cultural relativists produce.

In fact, cultural relativism is the worst disease in Europe today. Most of our politicians believe that all cultures are equal. Well let me tell you they are not. Our Western culture based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism is in every aspect better than the Islamic culture. Like the brave apostate Wafa Sultan said: it’s a comparison between a culture of reason and a culture of barbarism.

Back to my country. How low can we go in the Netherlands? About my prosecution, The Wall Street Journal noted: “this is no small victory for Islamic regimes seeking to export their censorship laws to wherever Muslims reside”. The Journal concluded that by The Netherlands accepting the free speech standards of, say, Saudi-Arabia, I stand correct in my observation that – I quote- “Muslim immigration is eroding traditional Dutch liberties”.

Now, if the Wall Street Journal has the moral clarity to see that my prosecution is the logical outcome of our disastrous, self-hating, cultural relativists immigration policies, then why can’t the European liberal establishment see the same thing? Why aren’t they getting at least a little bit scared by the latest news out of, for example, the UK?

The news tells [us] that the Muslim population in Britain is growing ten times as fast as the rest of society. Why don’t they care?

The answer is: they don’t care because they are blinded by their cultural relativism. Their disdain of the West is so much greater than the appreciation of our many liberties. And therefore, they are willing to sacrifice everything.

The left once stood for women’s rights, gay rights, equality, democracy. Now, they favour immigration policies that will end all this. Many have even lost their decency. Elite politicians in Europe have no problem to participate in or finance demonstrations where Muslims shout “Death to the Jews”.

Seventy years after Auschwitz they know of no shame.

Two weeks ago, I tried to get into Britain, a fellow EU country. I was invited to give a speech in Parliament. However, upon arrival at London airport, I was refused entry into the UK, detained for three hours and sent back on the first plane to The Netherlands. The reason: I would threaten community harmony and therefore public security. And all this because of my film “Fitna”.

An absolute disgrace. The British Home Secretary even publicly admitted on BBC TV that she never watched my film Fitna but decided to ban [it] from the UK anyway.

If I would have been admitted to the UK I would have loved to have reminded the audience of a great man who once spoke in the House of Commons. In 1982 President Reagan gave a speech there that very few people liked. Reagan called upon the West to reject communism and defend freedom. He introduced a phrase: “evil empire”. Reagan’s speech stands out as a clarion call to preserve our liberties. I quote: “If history teaches anything, it teaches self-delusion in the face of unpleasant facts is folly”. What Reagan meant is that you cannot run away from history, you cannot escape the dangers of ideologies that are out to destroy you.

Denial is no option.

Ladies and gentlemen, I suggest to defend freedom in general and freedom of speech in particular. I propose the withdrawal of all hate speech legislation in Europe. I propose a European First Amendment. In Europe we should defend freedom of speech like you Americans do. In Europe freedom of speech should be extended, instead of restricted. Of course, calling for violence or unjustly yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre have to be punished, but the right to criticize ideologies or religions [is a] necessary condition for a vital democracy.

As George Orwell once said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”.

Let us defend freedom of speech and let us gain strength and work hard to become even stronger. Millions think just like you and me. Millions think liberty is precious. That democracy is better than sharia. And after all, why should we be afraid? Our many freedoms and our prosperity are the result of centuries of endeavour. Centuries of hard work and sacrifice. We do not stand alone.

Ladies and gentlemen, our enemies should know: we will never apologize for being free men, we will never give in. We will never surrender. There is no stronger power than the force of free men fighting for the great cause of liberty. Because freedom is the birthright of all man.

Freedom must prevail, and freedom will prevail.

Thank you very much.

Geert Wilders
Chairman Party for Freedom (PVV)

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/26/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/26/2009The news feed is abbreviated tonight because I had to gather everything before I left for DC, which means late news is not included.

The most alarming stories concern Iran as a regional partner invited to discussions about “stabilizing” Afghanistan.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

Financial Crisis
Crisis: Israel Sees Downturn, Concerns Over USA Aid
 
Europe and the EU
Civil Servants Ready to Pay £2, 000 Each (of Your Cash) to Hear Islamic Extremist Preach
Freed Detainee Moans: Britain is Just Too Cold
HST: Berlusconi, Turin-Lyon Will be Built
Will Jacqui Smith Ban This Islamic Hate-Monger? or is She a Cowardly Hypocrite?
Will Labour Allow This Muslim Hardliner With Links to Hezbollah Into Britain?
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Moslems Close to Winning Case Over Destroyed Mosques
Kosovo: Serbia Accuses of Organ Trafficking During War
 
Mediterranean Union
Lampedusa: Emhrn Sends Delegation to Island
 
North Africa
Algeria: 007 Accused of Rape; Minister, Pervert or Recruitment
Attack in Cairo: Suspicions Point to Hezbollah and Iran
Egypt: Exports to USA Up 65% Despite Financial Crunch
Libya: Constitution Awaited, Draft Version in Early March
Morocco: Berber Names Banned, Associations Protest
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Kerry in Gaza Strip, First U.S. Mission in Years
Gaza: Mahmoud Abbas Visits Prague, Hamas in New Govt
Israel: Netanyahu Looks Right, Lieberman at Foreign Ministry
Israel: Lieberman Wants Netanyahu Government With 3 Parties
Israel: Czech EU Presidency, Difficult Start With Netanyahu
 
Middle East
Iran: Blast Hits Mosque in Southeast
Italian Killed in Turkey: Two Persons Involved, Lawyer
Turkey Expects 20% Increase of British Tourists in 2009
Turkey: Colonel on Trial for Neglect in Journalist’s Murder
Turkey-USA: Washington Considers Ankara as a Major Actor
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Italian Minister Floats Greater Role for Iran
Armed Forces ‘Are Fighting British Muslims With Yorkshire Accents’ in Afghanistan
Indonesia: Secretary Clinton in Jakarta to Show New Attention for East and Islam
Pakistani Army Colonel ‘Was Involved’ in Mumbai Terror Attacks
 
Far East
China and U.S. Breathe Sigh of Relief: Economy More Important Than Human Rights
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
China Hails Agreement Between Sudan and Darfur Rebel Group
Terrorism: Al-Qaeda Video Claims Foreign Abductions in Niger
 
Immigration
Bulgarians, Romanians Accused of Stealing Greek Pensions
Immigration Crisis on Britain’s Doorstep
Italy: 300 Illegal Immigrants Transferred From Lampedusa After Riot
Spain: 25 Migrants Drowned in Shipwreck Near Canary Islands
the Revolt Moves to Malta

Financial Crisis


Crisis: Israel Sees Downturn, Concerns Over USA Aid

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 18 — The Israeli economy is looking increasingly bleak in the global recession, and saw tax revenues drop and 20,000 jobs lost in January alone, with the two main banks in the country hemorrhaging 250 million euro in the last 4 months of 2008 and a deficit that risks becoming unmanageable in 2010. The situation is becoming serious with the U.S considering cuts in aid to Israel in response to new Israeli investment projects beyond the ‘green line’ in the Palestinian territories and increasing worries in the business world about the political world’s ability to quickly come to an agreement on a stable, widely supported government after the tangled results of the election on February 10. The latest data released by the media today have not contributed to optimism, with increasing unemployment (19,719 jobs lost in January 2009), and a disturbing announcement made a few hours ago by Bank Laumi, one of the foundations of the Israeli financial sector, of losses of 700-800 million shekel (about 250 million euros) accumulated in the last 4 months of 2008. A report from the central bank has confirmed the recession, with losses in almost all productive sectors and predictions also for lost tax revenue in 2009 up to 40 billion shekel (about 8 billion euro) less than what the government had expected. Analysts are also worried about the public deficit, which at the end of 2009 is estimated to be 5% of the GDP instead of the 1% target. A mountain of debt, which the expenses of Operation ‘Cast Lead’ conducted over the past weeks against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, seems to have had a limited influence, could become unmanageable in 2010 warned Haaretz commentator Moti Bassok, if the Obama administration confirms their intention, already circulating in the U.S., in response to the extension of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories (in violation of international agreements) of a one-billion-dollar cut in financing to Israel. One more reason, continued Haaretz, to try to create a moderate, widely supported government as hoped for by Washington. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Civil Servants Ready to Pay £2, 000 Each (of Your Cash) to Hear Islamic Extremist Preach

Government officials will spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to attend a lecture by an Islamic extremist whom Jacqui Smith is under pressure to ban from Britain.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Freed Detainee Moans: Britain is Just Too Cold

FREED Guantanamo Bay prisoner Binyam Mohamed had a new complaint about Britain yesterday — it’s too cold. Mohamed, 30, once accused of plotting a “dirty bomb” attack in the US, has been shivering ever since being returned to the UK on a private jet on Monday.

The former Al Qaeda suspect has told supporters he is finding it difficult to adjust to the British climate after four years at the US naval facility in Cuba, where temperatures at this time of year are about 26C, compared with 10C in London.

Fellow former Guantanamo detainee Moazzem Begg revealed Mohamed was in “good spirits” but was struggling to cope with the weather. “He’s been wearing a jacket most of the time,” he said.

Ethiopian-born Mohamed arrived in Britain on Monday on board a luxury Gulfstream jet, with the estimated £120,000 bill to be paid by the taxpayer.

His lawyers will now apply for him to be given indefinite leave to remain in the country while they prepare a series of lawsuits claiming he was tortured with the knowledge of British intelligence.

Mohamed will also be offered counselling to help him adjust to his move to a “nice and quiet” house in the English countryside.

US lawyer Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley said: “He’ll spend this week just clearing his head. After that, counsellors will be lined up to help him and he’ll consider speaking to the media. I don’t think a lot of this has hit him yet.”

His British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, of the legal charity Reprieve, will pay for his living expenses until his immigration status is sorted out.Mohamed first came to Britain in 1994 and was given temporary resident status in 2000 after his asylum claim was turned down.

In June 2001 he travelled to Afghanistan via Pakistan and was accused of fighting for the Taliban against the Western-backed Northern Alliance.

Following trips to the US and Britain, he was arrested at Pakistan’s Karachi airport in April 2002.

Mohamed claims he was tortured in Pakistan and Morocco with the knowledge of British intelligence before being taken to Guantanamo Bay in September, 2004, where he claims he was abused.

His allegations about British collusion are denied by the Government.

At one point during his long campaign to be released, Mohamed went on a month-long hunger strike.

But on Tuesday he tucked into custard-filled doughnuts, cheese, hummus, and bread with chocolate spread after a shopping trip with his sister Zuhra and friend Begg.

“We talked a lot, mostly about the people still being held in Guantanamo, and we ate a lot of biscuits,” said Begg. “He’s extremely emaciated.”

The two men’s plans for a Guantanamo reunion party were dealt a blow yesterday after immigration officials detained another former prisoner.

Jarullah Al Mari, 35, was detained at London’s Heathrow airport on Tuesday and taken to an immigration centre prior to deportation.

It is understood he failed to notify the authorities of his seven-year spell at Guantanamo Bay.

Although held on suspicion of links to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, no charges were ever brought against him. Qatar national Al Mari was released last year and spent time in the UK in January on a speaking tour.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



HST: Berlusconi, Turin-Lyon Will be Built

(AGI) — Rome, 23 Feb. — The line Turin- Lyon will be built, said Premier Silvio Berlusconi in an interview to French daily Le Figaro on the eve of the Italy-France summit in Rome. ‘‘A few weeks ago my government confirmed commissioner Mario Virano as president of the technical Observatory on the Turin-Lyon line’’ he reminded. ‘‘We want to speed up the completion of Corridor 5. The high-speed train (HST) was part of our electoral programme, there is full agreement in the government, so the Turin-Lyon will be built. The development of infrastructures is a priority for us. We have reopened many building sites after the previous government had closed them due to environmentalist fanaticism. It pleases me that an idea that was introduced when Italy was EU president in 2003 is gaining a foothold on European level: the emission of Eurobonds to finance big European infrastructures’’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Will Jacqui Smith Ban This Islamic Hate-Monger? or is She a Cowardly Hypocrite?

So here comes the acid test: is Jacqui Smith, as she proclaims, an enemy of extremism in all its forms, or a cowardly hypocrite?

In October, the Home Secretary announced ‘tough new measures’ to deny entry to Britain to anybody ‘engaged in fostering, encouraging or spreading extremism and hatred.’

In recent weeks she has put them to use by banning a Dutch MP with hugely controversial views on Islam, and a notorious anti-gay US preacher.

But will she be prepared to apply the same new standards to Islamic extremists who preach a hatred of Jews?

Ibrahim Moussawi, a known hardliner with links to Hezbollah, has been invited to speak at a London university, the School of Oriental and African Studies. His track-record speaks for itself.

He allegedly described Jews as ‘a lesion on the forehead of history’, and is an editor for the newspaper of Lebanon-based terrorist organisation Hezbollah.

He is also former political editor of the Iranian-backed group’s TV station, which is banned in many countries including France, Spain and the US, as its output is seen as anti-Semitic.

Al-Manar television — the Arabic word for ‘beacon’ — is Hezbollah’s main mouthpiece in the Middle East and around the world, broadcasting from Beirut.

It describes itself as the ‘station of resistance’ and campaigns on behalf of Hezbollah and against the state of Israel, and American and British policy in the Middle East.

It routinely describes fighters who are killed and suicide bombers as ‘martyrs’, and condemns Israeli forces as criminals.

The station has also been widely condemned for anti-Semitism after it broadcast a 30-part series based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document setting out a supposed secret Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

In short, it is a no-brainer for Miss Smith. He should, as the Centre for Social Cohesion and the Conservatives argue today, be banned from setting foot in the UK, let alone speaking here.

Failure to do so must represent double-standards of the very worst kind.

The Far-Right Dutch MP Geert Wilders was banned from travelling to Britain to show his shocking 17-minute film called Fitna at the House of Lords because his views were considered wildly extreme.

His film, which links mainstream Islamic texts with the terrorist attacks on New York in September 2001, was indeed crude and provocative.

It begins with the hugely controversial cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb as a turban, and the suggestion that the Koran is ‘a fascist bookâ€(tm) is patently offensive to millions of people.

But so are the odious ramblings of Moussawi.

Miss Smith also banned the Reverend Fred Phelps, founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, from entering the UK earlier this month.

The ‘Reverend’, who campaigns under the slogan ‘God Hates Fagsâ€(tm) is fanatical and hateful in equal measure. He had wanted to visit Britain to picket a performance of a play which dramatises the real-life murder of a gay man in 1998.

Miss Smith said he had ‘engaged in unacceptable behaviour by inciting hatred against a ‘number of communitiesâ€(tm). So has Moussawi.

Yet Labour has, in the past, been happy to display double standards when the beneficiaries were Islamic extremists.

The cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was not just granted a visa to visit the UK in 2005. He was publicly praised by the then London Mayor Ken Livingstone at City Hall.

This was despite the fact Al-Qaradawi had been criticised for condoning suicide bombings and for having anti-Semitic and homophobic views.

Will Miss Smith now repeat the past mistakes of a left-wing establishment inexplicably tolerant of Islamic franatics who pass themselves off as scholars or academics?

The omens do not look good. During her time as Home Secretary, Moussawi has already been allowed in at least twice — in December 2007 and February 2008.

This is her third — and surely final — chance to show some courage.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Will Labour Allow This Muslim Hardliner With Links to Hezbollah Into Britain?

Jacqui Smith was tonight warned against exercising ‘double standards’ as an Islamic extremist prepared to travel to the UK.

Ibrahim Moussawi, a known hardliner with links to Hezbollah, has been invited to speak at a London university.

But the Home Secretary is under pressure to refuse an entry visa to Moussawi, who has allegedly described Jews as ‘a lesion on the forehead of history’.

Earlier this month, she banned the far-Right Dutch MP Geert Wilders from coming to Britain to show his film about Islam as it would threaten ‘community harmony’.

But the Conservatives warned that to ban those who threaten community harmony, while letting in those who glorify terrorism or are part of terrorist groups, would send out the ‘wrong message’.

There must be ‘no double standards on extremists’, warned Tory security spokesman Baroness Neville-Jones.

Moussawi, who has already made at least two trips to the UK, has been invited to speak on political Islam at the School of Oriental and African Studies next month.

Editor for the newspaper of Lebanon-based terrorist organisation Hezbollah, he is a former political editor of the Iranian-backed group’s TV station, which is banned in many countries including France, Spain and the U.S, as its output is seen as anti-Semitic.

Despite his background he has twice been allowed to speak publicly in Britain by the Home Office, once in December 2007 and again in February 2008.

More…

JAMES SLACK: Will Jacqui Smith ban this Islamic hate-monger? Or is she a cowardly hypocrite?

£250,000 bill for return of ‘torture’ prisoner as luxury jet flies him from Guantanamo to Britain

MAX HASTINGS: Torture is wrong but why, in the name of sanity, should we allow those who hate us to live here?

Blears calls for common sense over political correctness in return to ‘core British values’

Yesterday, in a letter to Miss Smith, Baroness Neville-Jones said: ‘You will be aware that Mr Moussawi has links to Hezbollah, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation in many countries.

‘Mr Moussawi has also, over the years, made a number of remarks that are extremist, anti-Semitic and inflammatory. In October last year you introduced what you described as “tough new measures” to deny entry to extremists.

‘These measures included “creating a presumption in favour of exclusion in respect of all those who have engaged in fostering, encouraging or spreading extremism and hatred”. Mr Moussawi has so engaged.

‘In line with your “tough new measures”, I trust that if Mr Moussawi applies for entry, you will use your powers to exclude him.’

Home Office sources said Moussawi’s visa application had not yet been received, but would be studied closely.

A spokesman said: ‘The Government opposes extremism in all its forms. We are determined to prevent individuals coming to the UK who want to spread extremism or hatred in our communities.

‘Exclusion decisions are based on hard evidence not hearsay, and are targeted at those who seek to stir up tension and provoke others to violence regardless of their origins and beliefs.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Bosnia: Moslems Close to Winning Case Over Destroyed Mosques

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, FEBRUARY 20 — The Court of Banja Luka ruled today that the city itself and the Republika Srpska (RS, Bosnia’s Serb-majority body) should compensate Bosnia’s Islamic community with a payment of approximately 41 million euro for the 16 mosques destroyed in the capital city during the Bosnian war (1992-95), says the Fena press agency. The action was first brought in 2000, but the first hearing didn’t take place until seven years later, following a ruling by Bosnia’s Constitutional Court. It is the first time that the RS has had to take responsibility for destruction of places of worship in Banja Luka. The Islamic community, says legal representative, Esad Hrvacic, “is satisfied, even if the total amount of compensation is too small” and despite a law saying that all compensation claimed before 2001 should be transformed into public debt and be paid in treasury vouchers with a 20-year term. “We are expecting it to be applied,” Hrvacic continued, “and that the RS will not appeal the ruling”. During the period 1992-93, all 16 of the city’s mosques were mined and razed to the ground, even if they were located in areas of the city unaffected by hostilities. According to witnesses, all the acts of destruction had clearly been planned and all were carried out during the hours of curfew. Among those destroyed was that of Ferhadija, built in 1572, and numbered among the largest and most beautiful mosques in the Balkans. It is now being re-built. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Kosovo: Serbia Accuses of Organ Trafficking During War

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 23 — The Serbian authorities are planning to acquire further elements and information from the Albanians responsible for the suspected trafficking of organs taken from Serbs captured in Kosovo during the armed conflict in 1998-1999. In recent months the Albanian judiciary rejected Serbia’s request for an in-depth investigation into accusations in a book by former chief Prosecutor in the Hague for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia (TPI), Carla Del Ponte. According to Del Ponte, around 200 Serbs captured in Kosovo at the end of the 1990s and taken to Albania had their organs removed and used in illegal trafficking. The Albanians said in defence of their refusal to cooperate that both local authorities and an investigation by the UN over war crimes investigated the claims without finding any credible corroboration. “New evidence shows that these crimes took place in the north of Albania, and we intend to send an official demand to the Tirana judiciary to provide further information” said Bruno Vekaric, spokesman for the Serbian prosecutor for war crimes Vladimir Vukcevic. Vekaric added that the Serbian authorities plan to present this new evidence to representatives at the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN Security Council. Dick Marty, representing the Council of Europe, will carry out a mission to Belgrade, Pristina and Tirana during March as part of the investigation into the trafficking of organs from Kosovan Serbs. The Belgrade press today published photographic evidence which shows member of UCK (Kosovan Liberation Army) with Serb prisoners in locations in the north of Albania. According to the Serbian judicial authorities this bears out the accusations coming from Belgrade. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Lampedusa: Emhrn Sends Delegation to Island

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 23 — A statement from the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) reads that the group is ‘particularly worried about Lampedusa and about the worsening of the situation of immigrants in Italy’’ and will be sending a delegation to the island from February 25-27. ‘The situation on the island’’, it continues, ‘became worse on January 14 2009 when the Italian Interior Minister decided not to transfer immigrants to the mainland, but to expel them directly from the island.’’ According to the EMHRN the situation became worse once again after an agreement signed by the Tunisian and Italian authorities which aimed at facilitating the return of illegal Tunisian immigrants to their country of residency. The EMHRN argues that this understanding ‘has increased tension in the centre since Tunisian law can punish those who left Tunisian territory illegally with up to six months imprisonment.’’ The human rights network went on to request that Italian authorities ‘respect the European convention of Human Rights.’’ (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria: 007 Accused of Rape; Minister, Pervert or Recruitment

(ANSAmed)- ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 18 — Algeria’s Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni has broken the silence over the scandal involving a CIA agent in Algeria. The agent is charged with date-raping two Algerian women using drugs. “What we must find out” said Zerhouni during President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s visit today to Blida (50 km west of Algiers) “if these rapes are the act of a pervert or if they were a way to put pressure on foreign citizens and recruit them for unknown reasons”. Zerhouni, quoted by APS, also pointed out that “neither of the two victims have reported the crime to Algerian justice. The two women who live abroad preferred to start proceedings in the country where they live now”. According to the press the two Algerian women also have Spanish and German nationality. The CIA agent, Andrew Warren, has been charged with doping and then raping the two Algerian women in his residence in the American embassy in Algiers. He returned to the USA in October and an investigation into the case is in progress in Washington. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Attack in Cairo: Suspicions Point to Hezbollah and Iran

A young French tourist is dead. Wounded other French, a German, three Saudis and four Egyptians. It is an attack on the Egyptian tourist industry, already humbled by the global economic crises.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A young French tourist was killed and a further 25 people injured in a terrorist attack close to the Khan el Khalili market in the heart of the city. According to security forces, the explosion was caused by a bomb placed under a bench in front of the Hussein mosque. This morning police announced they had arrested three suspects.

The young woman who died was 17 years old and was part of a group of French tourists. Among the wounded are 17 French, a German, 3 Saudis and 4 Egyptians. This is the first attack of this nature to target tourists since the 2006 attack in Dahab, Sinai in which 20 people lost their lives.

Police report that the bomb was home-made. Security forces confirm that this attack was likely conducted by one of the small militant cells that have split off from the main Islamist groups operating in Egypt that try to model themselves after al Qaeda.

However the effect of the attack against tourists is still significant. Egypt is already suffering a severe economic slump thanks to the global financial crisis. This attack will only exacerbate Egypt’s economic pains.

Analysts note that the attack also comes at a time when Iran, using its militant proxies in Hezbollah, appears to have stepped up covert activity in Egypt. Egypt was the mediator of the truce between Israel and Hamas in the recent war in Gaza, and has long been critical of Hamas militancy and its links to Hezbollah and Teheran.

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



Egypt: Exports to USA Up 65% Despite Financial Crunch

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 20 — A recent report by the Foreign Trade Division of the US Census Bureau has indicated an increase in the volume of trade exchange with Egypt between August and December of 2008. Egyptian exports to the USA have risen by 65%, reaching USD 715 million, the report said. USA imports from Egypt during the same period in 2007 amounted to USD 433 million, the report added. Egypt’s non-oil exports alone stood at USD 348 million, which is 24% rise on 2007. Egyptian imports from the USA declined by 21% in the last five months of 2008, reaching USD 1.242 billion. In 2007, it equaled USD 1.574 billion. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Libya: Constitution Awaited, Draft Version in Early March

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 19 — Local media have reported that the plan for the new Libyan Constitution is to be presented in public at the beginning of next month during the People’s Congress scheduled on March 2, drawn up on the initiative of Seif Al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan president and president of the foundation named after his father. Over the past few days, the works carried out by the Juridical Committee have reportedly drawn to a close. The Committee was made up not only of Libyans but also foreigners including a few Italians, and had been put in charge of assessing the legal aspects of the plan. The official announcement and the presentation of the draft are therefore expected to take place in the session of the General Congress of the People (analogous to a European parliament). “When we talk of constitutions, the laws are able to be modified. There is nothing unusual about the fact that a constitution can be changed,” said the head of the People’s Congress Muktah Keba, one of the highest-ranking posts in the Jamahiriya, meeting with a group of foreign journalists in Tripoli. However, Keba did not confirm that the presentation would be taking place on March 2. “In certain countries, every once in a while, the constitution is adjusted,” he added, referring to what has recently occurred in Algeria. “What our leader Gaddafi wants, in any case, is only the freedom of human beings. Moreover, in Libya what directs our actions in every field is our religious tradition, which respects human beings and sanctions all of his rights.” The plan for the new constitution is the first since 1969 when Gaddafi took power in the country and abolished the one in place at the time. Its definitive approval, according to the wishes of those supporting it, should occur on September 1, the day of the 40th anniversary of the devolution. Also March 2 was not a day chosen by chance, being the anniversary of the “hand over of power to the people” by Gaddafi on March 2 1977, reducing the power of the Revolutionary Committee and creating the Jamahiriya (which translates literally as “regime of the masses”). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Morocco: Berber Names Banned, Associations Protest

(ANSA) — RABAT, FEBRUARY 18 — Human rights associations and Berber organisations in Morocco have condemned as a racist act the decision by the Rabat government to ban Berber names. The head of the administrative service of the Ministry for the Interior, Idriss Bajdi, confirmed that in January all registry offices apart from embassies and consulates received a list of banned Berber names because they violate law 99-37. In 13 cases the State offices refused to register newborns given a Berber name (such as Tilil, Sifoa, and Llelli), which invoked the anger of the people and human rights associations. ‘Certain names have been banned because they go against the Moroccan identity’’, said Bajdi, adding that ‘the decision was also taken to put an end to the spread of meaningless names’’. Law 99-37 states that an Arabic-Moroccan name must be chosen for newborns, it must not be a surname or composed of more than two names, it must not be the name of a city, village or tribé. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Gaza: Kerry in Gaza Strip, First U.S. Mission in Years

(ANSAmed) — GAZA/JERUSALEM — John Kerry and two other American congressmen visited rubble-strewn Gaza today in the first U.S. mission to the Gaza Strip in years. Hamas, in power in Gaza for the past two years, looked favourably upon the visit, despite the fact that the US delegation avoided meeting Hamas officials, since the group is on Washington’s black list of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups. The visit received a cold welcome from an Israeli government spokesperson. The mission is part of a wider Middle Eastern tour of a U.S. congressional delegation led by Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Affairs Commission, and former Democratic presidential candidate in the 2004 elections. The trip to Gaza preceded a stop in Syria which seems to reflect the will of the Obama administration to re-launch dialogue with the government in Damascus regarding renewed efforts to restart the peace process. The mission is also taking place in the general context of the spread of the idea that Hamas cannot be left out if an agreement is to be found. Today the British press reported a dialogue between European countries led by France and Great Britain and Hamas leaders. Two French Senators reportedly visited Damascus to meet one of the leaders of the Palestinian movement, Khaled Meshaal. Kerry’s stop in Gaza took place after a visit to Israel in which the Senator met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, with whom he visited the southern city of Sderot (the city most highly targeted by Hamas’ rockets) and confirmed Washington’s will to try to mediate with Syria. Then on board an armoured UN vehicle, Kerry entered the Gaza Strip with colleagues Brian Baird and Keith Ellison (the only Muslim member of Congress), and visited Izzbet Abed Rabbo and Gaza City, where the three stopped in the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) office. While speaking to a Palestinian leader in one of the UN schools, Kerry criticised Hamas for ‘‘not having made the necessary decisions’’ to show a willingness for peace. And referring to Israel, he underlined that any country that has had rockets launched on it for years, ‘‘is destined to respond. When described the situation for the people in Gaza during the war was compared to that of hostages where the (Israeli) police entered ‘‘destroying the entire building and killing everyone, together with the kidnappers’’ he said to ‘‘now look to the future, not the past’’. Commenting on the visit, Hamas sources rejected criticism against them as ‘‘unjust’’, but praised the initiative. ‘‘We highly appreciated this delegation’s visit as we do that of any delegation that wants to verify the facts and see what happened in Gaza’’, said Ahmed Yousuf. Positive tones were contrasted by the embarrassment of the Israeli government, which, through comments made by spokesperson Mark Regev, limited itself in the afternoon to acknowledging that it ‘‘was not informed’’ of the trip to Gaza made by their American guests. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: Mahmoud Abbas Visits Prague, Hamas in New Govt

(ANSAmed) — PRAGUE, FEBRUARY 23 — Extremist Islamic movement Hamas should be part of the new Palestinian unity government, according to statements made today in Prague by PNA President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), on a two day visit to the Czech Republic on an invitation from Vaclav Klaus, current EU president. “The Hamas movement is part of the Palestinian people and as such, must be represented in a unity government”, said the Palestinian leader. Israel and Palestine must continue with peace talks, with the goal of having two states, according to Abbas. He presented his project for a Palestinian unity government in Prague, which would respect international regulations and commitments. According to the Palestinian leader, the national unity government is the fundamental condition to rebuild the Gaza Strip. The Czech Republic, which has been the EU president since January, last week allocated 350,000 euros in humanitarian aid for Gaza. In January, Prague sent 175,000 euros in aid to refugees in the Middle East through the United Nations. The division of funds will be decided at an international donors’ conference set to take place on March 2 in Cairo. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Netanyahu Looks Right, Lieberman at Foreign Ministry

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 25 — Possibilities for a ‘hawk government’ are increasing in Israel; those for an executive branch with broad agreements at least to Tzipi Livni’s Kadima centrists are decreasing. These are the most recent indications from the ever changing consultations of Likud (nationalist) leader and incumbent Premier, Benyamin ‘Bi-bi’ Netanyahu. Consultations that in recent days were concentrated on the hypothesis of a national unity cabinet, without much success. This has left space for internal dialogue on the right — lay and religious — for the only plan B that Netanyahu has at his disposition: a government (with a poor image for many in the international community and potentially embarrassing for the Barack Obama administration in the US) supported by parties from the right and far right of the political spectrum. An option that the same Likud leader seems to fear, but one which he has begun to sound out in the scheduled meetings with emissaries and representatives from Israel Beitenu (IB, the radical right laic party of Soviet origin led by Avigdor Lieberman which emerged as the country’s third power after the elections on February 10), Shas (the Sephardic orthodoxy), and the Torah Front (Ashkenazi). In the end all spoke of “progress”, leaving however the impression of an interlocutory phase. Lieberman, who would prefer to avoid religious company, made it known that he hopes for the Foreign Ministry, in spite of perplexity from Western chancelleries and the alternative candidacy given by Likud to an immigrant from the ex-USSR, the ex-dissident Nathan Sharanski, in the case of a restricted decision on the right. He also made it clear that he is unwilling to move on the laic status of the government and on the institution of civil matrimony in Israel: the most important issue for the people who elected him, Russophiles and secular voters. While Shas and Torah Front, altrouhgh “available” to Netanyahu, they invoked “the status quo in the relationship between religion and state”. A juniper thicket from which the Likud leader can come out only if the leader of Kadima changes her mind, leaving room for a grand coalition led by him, and open to the maximum — as he stressed today — of “support from the opposition” before a possible escalation in the Iranian nuclear crisis. Another face to face with Bi-Bi is expected for Friday. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Lieberman Wants Netanyahu Government With 3 Parties

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — State-run radio has said that Israeli Beitenu (IB) leader, Avigdor Lieberman, recommended that President Shimon Peres set up a government with three main parties (Kadima, Likud and IB) under Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu. Lieberman laid the condition of a government with a wide parliamentary base of three parties and others wanting to join in exchange for his support of Netanyahu. Lieberman is quoted as having told President Peres that ‘‘we recommend Netanyahu, but only in the context of a wide-ranging government.’’ IB came out of the elections much stronger than it had been previously, and with 15 seats has become the third largest party in the Knesset. With its support and the near certainty of those of extreme right and religious parties, Netanyahu would already have the official support of 65 representatives in the Knesset, four more than the quorum for a majority. Shimon Peres has resumed talks this morning with parties before making his decision on who to entrust the task of forming a new government. The talks are to come to an end this evening.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Czech EU Presidency, Difficult Start With Netanyahu

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 23 — The Czech presidency of the EU will not face an easy beginning if Benyamin Netanyahu becomes the next Israeli Premier, but it remains that the peace process must move forward based on a “two states” solution. This is what the Czech vice-Premier and Minister of European Affairs, Alexandr Vondra, said at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council. To the question of whether the nomination of Netanyahu could make the peace process with the Palestinians easier, Vondra responded: “That remains to be seen”. “I believe that the beginning may be rough, but then we must move the peace process forward, because the two state solution is getting closer”, Vondra affirmed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Iran: Blast Hits Mosque in Southeast

Zahaden, 18 Feb. (AKI) — A motorcycle bomber struck a mosque in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan on Wednesday, damaging the building but causing no human casualties, semi-official Iranian news agency Fars reported, quoting police.

The motorcyclist had apparently detonated his bomb outside the building after being prevented from entering the mosque.

Zahedan is the provincial capital of Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province, which borders Pakistan. Similar bombings have been carried out in the past in Iran’s southeastern regions, some of them deadly.

Zahedan is a stronghold of Sunni armed insurgent group Jundallah. The group has launched attacks near the Afghan and Pakistani borders and the Iranian authorities have claimed it is linked it to Al-Qaeda.

Iran claims armed separatist groups usually carry out bomb attacks in the southeast before fleeing to hideouts in Pakistan.

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



Italian Killed in Turkey: Two Persons Involved, Lawyer

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 18 — New evidence has revealed that more than two perpetrators may have been involved in the rape and murder of Italian artist Pippa Bacca, who was hitch-hiking across Turkey for peace last year, her family lawyer told ANSA today. “The forensic report has revealed that there were at least two, maybe three, involved in the rape and murder of Pippa Bacca,” Mehmet Eke said. The trial of the man suspected of murdering Giuseppina Pasqualino Di Marineo in northwestern Turkey, after he picked her up while hitchhiking to Israel on a mission of peace, began in October 2008. Turkish prosecutors have “aggravated life in prison” for sole suspect, 38-year-old Murat Karatas. Bacca departed from the Italian city of Milan together with Silvia Moro, an artist friend, on March 8. The two artists had been hitchhiking to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv hoping to send a “peace message” to the world. Pasqualino and Moro separated from each other in Istanbul on March 19, and after March 31, no further contact could be established with Pasqualino. The 33-year-old artist was found dead in a forest near the town of Gebze in the northwestern province of Kocaeli on April 11. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey Expects 20% Increase of British Tourists in 2009

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 16 — Turkey expects a 20% increase in the number of British tourists in 2009 in the face of global economic crisis. “There is a 20% increase in the number of reservations made by British tourists”, Ismet Yilmaz, undersecretary of the Tourism Ministry, was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency. Yilmaz sounded optimistic about the tourism sector despite the ongoing global financial crisis with estimating a fall of 20% in the number of tourists to Turkey against a 60% decrease in the world. “More European tourists will start to prefer Turkey, a cheaper destination compared to its peers”, Yilmaz said. Turkey’s tourism revenues, an important resource to finance the huge current account deficit, reached USD 21.9 billion in 2008 when 31 million tourists visited the country. In 2008, the number of German tourists hit 4.25 million and tourists from Russia ranked the second with 2.8 million, while about 2.1 million British tourists visited Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Colonel on Trial for Neglect in Journalist’s Murder

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 17 — A Turkish court will try a retired colonel and five soldiers for covering up warnings ahead of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. A High Criminal Court in the northwestern province of Trabzon ruled Tuesday that Retired Colonel Albay Oz and five other soldiers face up to two years in prison on the charge of “neglect of duty” for their role in the death of Dink, Dogan News Agency reported. A Criminal Court of Peace in the province had earlier ruled to dismiss the charges against the six accused. Dink, editor in chief of the Agos newspaper, was shot dead outside the offices of the paper in Istanbul in January 2007. The teenager accused in the murder was quickly apprehended trying to make his way to his hometown of Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. Police later arrested Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal for inciting the teenager to carry out the attack. A total of 20 suspects are currently standing trial for Dink’s murder. It was later revealed that Tuncel, who was a police informant, had alerted Trabzon security forces about plans to murder Dink. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey-USA: Washington Considers Ankara as a Major Actor

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 17 — The United States considers Turkey as “a major actor” in its future projections for U.S. foreign, economic and trade policy, an expert on international trade law, said. “Turkey has been defined as a major actor for the future of the United States. Turkey is a leader in its region and you need to strengthen your role in the region as a strategic partner”, Matthew Nolan, Arent Fox partner, told an Istanbul discussion panel on “U.S. President Barack Obama’s Trade Policies”. Nolan said the U.S. needed to improve its relations with certain countries and regions, such as the Middle East and the Eurasia. “The way Turkey would incorporate itself into the regional actuality and its partnership with the U.S. will be important for the region”, Nolan said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: Italian Minister Floats Greater Role for Iran

Kabul, 19 Feb. (AKI) — Italian foreign affairs minister Franco Frattini discussed a greater role for Iran in the stabilisation of Afghanistan in talks with new US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, on Thursday. The two leaders had a lengthy telephone conversation on how to ensure peace and security in Afghanistan to counter a resurgent Taliban.

The Italian foreign minister stressed in a “clear and unambiguous” message that stability cannot be reached exclusively with military means and discussed the need for greater regional diplomacy and support.

Italy intends to reinforce that message during its current role in the rotating presidency of the Group of Eight nations during 2009.

The foreign affairs minister also spoke of the need for a greater commitment to reconstruction and cooperative efforts for the country’s development.

As president of the G8 this year, Italy is organising a conference on the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the northern Italian city of Trieste at the end of June.

Holbrooke said he would convey Frattini’s views to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, whom Italy’s foreign minister is expected to meet soon.

Frattini said in Herat on Tuesday that it was essential to find a way for Iran to become a “positive interlocutor”.

The US general in charge of the war in Afghanistan on Wednesday predicted a tough year ahead despite the transfer of 17,000 extra US troops due to arrive in the south of the country.

Army general David McKiernan said the US would need to be heavily committed for years to Afghanistan, where insurgent violence has increased to its highest levels since US-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001.

McKiernan said he was delighted by president Barack Obama’s decision to send extra troops to Afghanistan but warned that their mission would be

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



Armed Forces ‘Are Fighting British Muslims With Yorkshire Accents’ in Afghanistan

The Armed Forces are increasingly fighting British Muslims with Midlands and Yorkshire accents on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

Intelligence reports show that rising numbers of home-grown jihadists have joined the Taliban so they can kill British soldiers.

Senior military sources say UK troops are engaged in a ‘surreal mini-civil war’ in the dusty badlands of Helmand Province.

The revelations came as the Ministry of Defence announced another three British soldiers had been killed in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan today.

UK troops in action in Helmand are now fighting fellow Britons, it is believed

The soldiers, from 1st Battalion The Rifles, were hit by the blast near Lashkar Gar on Wednesday morning. It brings the British death toll in Afghanistan since the war began in October 2001 to 148.

Surveillance operations from the warzone has picked up voices talking with West Midlands and Yorkshire accents, according to official briefing documents.

The electronic ‘chatter’ confirms mounting fears that young disaffected Muslims are travelling to southern Afghanistan to commit violence against British targets.

MI5 has estimated that up to 4,000 British Muslims had travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan for military training, with ‘dozens’ switching to the front-line.

One senior military source said intelligence officers had been hearing more voices speaking in Pakistani accents such as Punjabi, Urdu and Kashmiri Urdu rather than Pashtu, the official Afghan language.

He said: ‘There appears to be more men from other parts of Pakistan fighting with the Taliban than just the Pashtuns who have tribal allegiances with the Afghan Pashtuns.

‘It is this group, the Urdu, Punjabi speakers, etc, who fall back into English in, for example, Brummie accents.

‘You get the impression that they have been told not to talk in English but sometimes simply can’t help it.’

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Secretary Clinton in Jakarta to Show New Attention for East and Islam

Closer relations between the two countries are possible. For experts, Obama administration is expressing new interest in Asia and a different relationship with Muslim countries. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Hillary Clinton has arrived in Jakarta, the second stop in her first foreign trip as US Secretary of State. Her visit to the most populous Muslim country in the world is being closely monitored by experts who want to see what directions US foreign policy is taking under President Barack Obama.

Ms Clinton was welcomed by a group of 50 schoolchildren, waving US and Indonesian flags and singing traditional Indonesian folk songs. They are from the President Obama’s old school, which he attended during his four-year stay in Indonesia.

In personal notes President Obama has called Indonesia “a special country,” where “various people from different cultural and ethnic groups could live peacefully in harmony,” Ms Clinton said after meeting with her Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda at the Foreign Ministry in Pejambon, Central Jakarta, late in the afternoon.

The friendly atmosphere aside, security around the visit was tight with some 3,000 police agents in place.

About a hundred radical Muslims organised a rally against Clinton’s visit, attacking the “US dictatorship” and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greater).

In her maiden speech as secretary of State Ms Clinton openly acknowledged that “Washington had previously neglected Asia,” said Trias Kuncahyono, a senior editor in Jakarta. On this trip “Clinton wants to show [. . .] a ‘real break’ between the Bush administration and Obama’s.”

“Japan, China and South Korea (the other countries on Clinton’s Asia trip) have been very long American allies in East Asia. That’s why” US attention has now turned to “Indonesia as the largest Muslim country in the world,” he added.

Experts agree that Clinton’s Jakarta trip is a sign that the Obama’s administration has a new perspective on hot issues like the relationship between Christianity and Islam.

For Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation, Muhammadiyah, Clinton’s visit reflected US recognition and appreciation of Indonesia as a strategic partner. In his view East and West can build their relations on fresh, new bases.

Although she is not scheduled to meet any Muslim religious leaders, many Islamic figures have been invited to the dinner prepared by the US Embassy in her honour.

Ms Clinton is also scheduled to meet Indonesian President Yudhoyono at the State Palace.

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



Pakistani Army Colonel ‘Was Involved’ in Mumbai Terror Attacks

Police have accused an officer in the Pakistan Army of being involved in the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

The name of Colonel R Sadatullah appears in an 11,200-page document that lists the charges against Azam Amir Kasab, who police claim is the sole surving gunman of the November attacks in which 170 people died.

Police believe that Colonel Sadatullah is a serving officer in the Pakistan Army’s Special Communications Organisation, an offshoot of the force’s signals corps. It is alleged that an official government e-mail account linked to Colonel was used to send at least one message related to the attacks.

His naming represents the most specific allegation of Pakistan’s involvement in the attacks and will put more strain on India’s relationship with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

           — Hat tip: Zenster [Return to headlines]

Far East


China and U.S. Breathe Sigh of Relief: Economy More Important Than Human Rights

For Mrs. Clinton, human rights will no longer be the main issue. In exchange, Beijing has decided to continue buying U.S. Treasury bonds, in order to support the American economy.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — China’s official media have defined the visit of Hillary Clinton as “a relief,” because the new U.S. secretary of state has set aside the question of human rights, and talked instead about the economies of the two countries.

China Daily commented that “if the point of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s maiden voyage overseas in her new role as United States secretary of state was to assure and reassure, she made it.”

At a press conference in the capital, Clinton clearly explained that human rights in China must not be a distraction from the more vital questions of trade and the environment, and expressed hopes for closer collaboration between the two powers in confronting the economic crisis.

Just a few years ago, Clinton unleashed a harsh attack against Beijing, which had censored part of one of her books published in China, where it talked about women’s rights.

Yu Wanli, an associate professor at the Centre for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University, said that after this visit issues like human rights and Tibet will be pushed to the sidelines, in order to “work on something meaningful now.” The American decision brings a “sigh of relief” for Beijing, since there are significant anniversaries this year that could lead to social tensions: the 50th anniversary of the revolts in Tibet, and the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

Clinton also breathed a “sigh of relief,” because China has considered the economy more important than the (past) criticisms about human rights: to the request that Beijing continue to buy and accumulate American Treasury bonds, the Chinese said yes. More precisely, Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi said that China wants its foreign currency reserves — at 1.95 trillion dollars, the largest in the world — to be invested safely, at good value and liquidity. But he added that China wants to continue to work with the United States. Similar assurances have been given by President Hu Jintao.

Clinton said that China and the United States find themselves “in the same boat,” and are “rowing in the same direction.” Beijing holds about 700 billion dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds. But the leadership is under pressure to diversify its holdings, because of the depreciation of the dollar. The economic crisis afflicting the United States risks reducing to nothing the value of its bonds.

According to the analyst Wang Xiangwei, however, Beijing has no alternative but to support the U.S. economy and invest in U.S. Treasury bonds, precisely as the Obama administration is seeking new funds to pay for the 787 billion dollar economic stimulus package. Wang Xiangwei (c.f. today’s edition of the South China Morning Post) says that there seems to be some minor blackmail on the part of the United States: if China does not buy Treasury bonds, information will be published in the United States about the money that the leadership and their relatives have deposited in banks there.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa


China Hails Agreement Between Sudan and Darfur Rebel Group

The Chinese press calls it the beginning of a true reconciliation. Comments from other countries are much more cautious. Dispute continues at United Nations between those who want to try the Sudanese president for genocide and those who, like Beijing, do not want direct interventions.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China is hailing the agreement signed yesterday in Doha (Qatar) by the Sudanese government and the rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement, one of the strongest groups among the populations of Darfur.

Among other things, the agreement stipulates the end of attacks against the 2 million refugees living in the camps, and an exchange of prisoners. The People’s Daily, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party, calls it true “reconciliation” between the parties at war, although it acknowledges that there is still a long way to go to peace.

The agreement is being greeted with great caution by the United States and the UN, which see it as a first timid step toward peace. U.S. ambassador Susan Rice says that this does not change the position of her country, which is in favor of having Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir tried for the genocide taking place in Darfur.

Yukio Takasu, a Japanese ambassador to the UN, insisted that the fighting needs to be suspended as soon as possible, because “we don’t want to see talking while fighting,” observing that many other rebel groups must also be involved.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, while applauding the agreement, stressed that “until the parties renounce hostilities, the situation in Darfur cannot improve.”

Last February 11, UN sources revealed that the International Criminal Court intended to issue an arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir (in the photo, with Chinese president Hu Jintao), accused of directing the genocide underway in Darfur, where since 2003, according to UN figures, at least 300,000 have been killed and 2.2 million have been made refugees. But the warrant was not issued, in part because of a request for postponement advanced by African and Arab countries, with the support of China and Russia.

According to Beijing, such an initiative would serve only to “destabilize” the region, worsening the conflict in Darfur and blocking any peace agreement between the government and the rebels. There is great disagreement at the UN, and the question could go as far as the Security Council, which could order the arrest warrant to be postponed for a full year.

China, which buys two thirds of Sudan’s oil exports, has been highly criticized for failing to use its economic influence to exert pressure on Khartoum to end the civil war. Together with Russia, it is also accused of selling the country weapons that have been used in Darfur.

Beijing responds that tensions among ethnic groups are a domestic issue for Sudan, and that China contributes to peacekeeping forces sent by the UN. In reality, China is sending hundreds of technical experts there (in February, another 435 Chinese will depart, including engineers, doctors, road construction experts). These people can contribute to the country’s growth, but have no influence over the war, in the absence of specific pressure from Beijing.

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



Terrorism: Al-Qaeda Video Claims Foreign Abductions in Niger

Dubai, 18 Feb. (AKI) — A message allegedly from Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay in Niger and the abduction of four European tourists in January on the border between Niger and Mali.

“We are happy to announce to the Islamic nation that our mujahadeen have managed to carry out two operations in Niger,” said the audio message purportedly from Al-Qaeda’s North African branch. It was broadcast on Wednesday by Dubai-based Arabic satellite news channel Al-Arabiya.

“The mujahadeen reserve the right to treat the hostages according to Islamic Sharia law,” the audio message warned.

Fowler is a Canadian diplomat and United Nations special envoy to Niger and Guay is the deputy director of the Sudan task force in the Canadian capital,Ottawa. They were abducted with their driver outside Niamey on 14 December while returning from a visit to a gold mine operated by a Canadian company.

On 16 December a rebel group called the Front des Forces de Redressement claimed to have kidnapped Fowler, but a spokesperson later denied the claim.

An undated video showing the diplomats were still alive was sent to the Malian authorities earlier this month. Their missing driver was not shown in the video.

A Swiss couple, an elderly German woman and a British man were returning from a Tuareg cultural festival in Mali on 22 January when they were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen along the border of Mali and Niger

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

Immigration


Bulgarians, Romanians Accused of Stealing Greek Pensions

THE COUNTRY’S biggest trade union is accusing thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants of milking the Greek state pension cash cow.

“Not only are [they] bleeding the pension funds dry, they are plundering them,” Yannis Panagopoulos, president of the Confederation of Workers in Greece (GSEE), told reporters on February 10.

Under European Union law (directive 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons and to members of their families moving within the EU), the portability of social security benefits between member states is guaranteed. This is part of wider efforts to promote the free movement of EU nationals within the 27-member bloc.

In practice, this EU law allows all EU citizens to draw a full pension from Greece even if they have worked in Greece for merely a year.

GSEE, which represents more than two million workers throughout the country, is calling on the government to revise national legislation so that EU citizens will no longer be able to do this.

“In all other EU countries, workers are entitled to 1/44th of the minimum national pension for each year they have contributed to the local insurance fund,” said Panagopoulos. “It is only in Greece where one year of social insurance gets you the minimum pension of 486 euros and this is a serious problem for IKA… This is being done by immigrants in neighbouring Balkan countries, where the minimum pension is 80 or 100 euros.”

Unionist Yiorgos Koutroumanis, who heads the Association of Fund Employees, blamed loopholes in national legislation for the problems. “Organisational weaknesses in the system and loopholes enable Greeks as well as immigrants to abuse the system,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, officials at IKA headquarters in Athens have reported a dramatic increase in the number of applications for pension applications filed by Bulgarians and Romanians since January. This coincided with the expiration of a two-year ban imposed by Greece on the free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania.

Not only are Bulgarians and Romanians spending the last few years of their working career here in order to secure a better pension, but some others are reportedly also bribing Greek officials (with the help of unscrupulous go-betweens) for documentation showing they and members of their family are permanent residents in Greece so that they can draw a Greek pension. Many have never even visited Greece.

This fraud is costing the Greek taxpayer tens of millions of euros a year, according to reports in the Greek media. And fraudsters are getting away with the ripoff because the government has yet to check whether they have actually worked in Greece and whether they permanently reside here.

Employment Minister Fani Palli Petralia, whose office is responsible for the state pension funds, told reporters on February 10 the government will look into the matter.

According to the Athens Labour Centre (EKA), some 130,000 Romanians and Bulgarians reside in Greece. Bulgaria and Romania are the newest (both joined in January 2007) and poorest members of the EU. Interior ministry data on the number of valid residence permits in circulation show the majority of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants in Greece are women.

The free movement of workers in the EU is central to the European ideal.

————————————————————————————————————————

One example

After working 24 years as a computer programmer in Sofia, a 63-year-old Bulgarian moves to Greece. He settles in Thessaloniki and finds a job as a typist in a translation office. Upon his 65th birthday, this Bulgarian national is eligible to draw the minimum IKA pension (about 480 euros). Had he returned to Bulgaria to retire, he would have received a pension at least four times smaller.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Immigration Crisis on Britain’s Doorstep

A dangerously tense situation is brewing on Britain’s doorstep as gangs trafficking refugees to the French coast become more violent, an undercover Sky News reporter has found.

Around 1,000 immigrants are thought to be in the Calais area alone, but in an effort to find other routes into the UK many are now heading to alternative ferry terminals, as far down as Saint Malo and Roscoff.

British Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has announced that he plans to travel to Calais in the near future to assess the scale of problem, which he conceded had been made worse because of the improved security measures at the local ferry port.

Both the British and French governments have vowed to go after the organised criminal gangs making millions of pounds trafficking refugees into the coastal towns.

While filming covertly in Calais, Sky’s undercover reporter experienced first-hand how dangerous the gangs have become.

Posing as an illegal immigrant from Armenia, he was approached by a pair of Afghan men who warned that his life would be in danger if he did not leave the lorry park.

The said: “The agents [traffickers] round here will kill you if they see you again.

Immigrants have set up camp

“This parking is only for Afghans. They have been killing lots of people for this parking. Next time if they see you here they will kill you.”

Many of the immigrants interviewed by Sky News described how the tougher security had made it almost impossible for them to smuggle themselves into the UK in lorries.

In recent years they could expect to stay in Calais for around two weeks before successfully boarding a lorry bound for the UK, now many have been there for months, and see little prospect of getting through.

Their situation has become so desperate, that gangs of 15 to 20 immigrants have started lying in wait for lorries at road junctions, attempting to board the moving vehicles as they slow down.

French charities such as Association Terre d’Errance and Coordination Francaise Pour Le Droit D’Asile have suggested many refugees are now heading to towns near the Belgian border and down the coast to ports such as Dieppe, Oustreheim, Cherbourg, Saint Malo and Roscoff.

They have warned that unlike Calais, charity support for immigrants in these towns in limited or non-existent, leaving many without food, water or shelter.

On Britain’s Doorstep

5:48am UK, Monday February 23, 2009

Mark White, Home affairs correspondent

A dangerously tense situation is brewing on Britain’s doorstep as gangs trafficking refugees to the French coast become more violent, an undercover Sky News reporter has found.

Charities have warned of a crisis due to the number of stranded immigrants

A recent crackdown on border security has left thousands of illegal immigrants stuck for months in port towns as they fail to sneak on board lorries to cross the Channel.

They are living in makeshift camps and facing threats from criminal gangs who prey on their desperation.

The situation is generating a humanitarian crisis just a few miles from Britain, charities are warning.

They have no facilities, little food and their situation is becoming perilous. They appear wild-eyed, exhausted and desperate.

Sky News undercover reporter on immigrants in Calais

Around 1,000 immigrants are thought to be in the Calais area alone, but in an effort to find other routes into the UK many are now heading to alternative ferry terminals, as far down as Saint Malo and Roscoff.

British Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has announced that he plans to travel to Calais in the near future to assess the scale of problem, which he conceded had been made worse because of the improved security measures at the local ferry port.

Both the British and French governments have vowed to go after the organised criminal gangs making millions of pounds trafficking refugees into the coastal towns.

While filming covertly in Calais, Sky’s undercover reporter experienced first-hand how dangerous the gangs have become.

Posing as an illegal immigrant from Armenia, he was approached by a pair of Afghan men who warned that his life would be in danger if he did not leave the lorry park.

The said: “The agents [traffickers] round here will kill you if they see you again.

Immigrants have set up camp

“This parking is only for Afghans. They have been killing lots of people for this parking. Next time if they see you here they will kill you.”

Many of the immigrants interviewed by Sky News described how the tougher security had made it almost impossible for them to smuggle themselves into the UK in lorries.

In recent years they could expect to stay in Calais for around two weeks before successfully boarding a lorry bound for the UK, now many have been there for months, and see little prospect of getting through.

Their situation has become so desperate, that gangs of 15 to 20 immigrants have started lying in wait for lorries at road junctions, attempting to board the moving vehicles as they slow down.

French charities such as Association Terre d’Errance and Coordination Francaise Pour Le Droit D’Asile have suggested many refugees are now heading to towns near the Belgian border and down the coast to ports such as Dieppe, Oustreheim, Cherbourg, Saint Malo and Roscoff.

They have warned that unlike Calais, charity support for immigrants in these towns in limited or non-existent, leaving many without food, water or shelter.

One of the reasons that the number of people appears to be going up is that we are catching more people. That is a result of the extra resources we have spent.

Phil Woolas, British Immigration Minister

In Cherbourg, Sky News spoke to Ayas Yousef, a 21-year-old Iraqi Kurd.

Having been deported from Britain twice before, he has decided to avoid Calais and try his luck further down the coast.

He said: “It’s very difficult… I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried. I’ve got in a lorry maybe 20 to 25 times, but every time they find me.”

He and around 50 other immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan spend their days in a small tent village on a hill over-looking Cherbourg. They benefit from some charity hand-outs, but many others like them are not so lucky.

The Government is also re-examining the amount of financial assistance it offers to France, to help boost security along the French coast.

Mr Woolas told Sky News: “It’s right that we financially contribute and that taxpayer money is being spent in these joint border controls that we already have.

“One of the reasons that the number of people appears to be going up is that we are catching more people.

“That is a result of the extra resources we have spent, so of course we accept our financial responsibility and I think the public would expect us to do so.”

But with the increasing pressure on the public purse, some will argue that if security is already working effectively, it is up to the French government to deal with the problem by either deporting those in their country illegally, or offering them state support.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Italy: 300 Illegal Immigrants Transferred From Lampedusa After Riot

Rome, 19 Feb. (AKI) — Three hundred illegal immigrants were transferred from the southernmost Italian island of Lampedusa to holding centres elsewhere in Italy pending their deportation, Italy’s interior ministry said on Thursday.

The transfers came after rioters on Wednesday burned down an entire wing of Lampedusa’s detention centre in protest at expulsion orders issued to 100 Tunisian illegal immigrants.

After the riot, in which 50 people suffered smoke inhalation and other injuries, the interior ministry announced it intended to speed up deportations from Lampedusa.

Wednesday riot and other protests on Lampedusa this year are the direct result of the Italian government’s decision late last year to turn the facility into an expulsion centre instead of a temporary reception centre, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told Adnkronos International.

“The Lampedusa centre has never previously seen such human fury, such self-harm, or arson attack. It was designed as a reception centre and a change in policy does not mean it is equipped to function as an expulsion centre,” UNHCR spokeswoman Laura Boldrini told AKI .

Since the new government policy, Lampedusa’s detention centre has suffered severe overcrowding, as people are being held there for many weeks at a time. Some illegal immigrants having been detained there since December.

The centre was designed for illegal immigrants to stay there for a couple days for medical and ID checks before being transferred to facilities elsewhere in Italy.

“Lampedusa was previously a transit point. The system has gone up in smoke. We need to go back to the old system,” said Boldrini.

Illegal immigrants staged a mass breakout from the Lampedusa centre in January and a group of Tunisians and Moroccans held there went on hunger-strike.

Some 200 Tunisians who were due to be repatriated under a bilateral accord reached in late January with the Tunisian government were transferred from Lampedusa to Rome’s Ponte Galeria expulsion centre, Boldrini said.

The interior ministry did not specify the nationalities of the 300 illegal immigrants transferred between Wednesday and Thursday to holding centres in Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia, in the northern Italian city of Turin and the southern industrial port of Crotone in Calabria.

Lampedusa which lies around 113 kilometres from Tunisia and 205 kilometres south of Sicily, has become the main landing point for rapidly growing numbers of illegal immigrants arriving in Italy by sea from North Africa.

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants now arrive annually on Lampedusa, and their numbers have been growing rapidly in recent years. Residents say the island is being turned into a Mediterranean ‘Alcatraz’.

Rights groups have voiced concern at conditions at the Lampedusa detention centre and the Italian government’s policy of repatriating illegal migrants to countries where they could suffer human rights violations.

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



Spain: 25 Migrants Drowned in Shipwreck Near Canary Islands

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — The death toll resulting from the shipwreck of a large raft carrying North African immigrants on Sunday evening, which occurred twenty metres off Lanzarote, one of the Canary islands, has risen. Maritime rescue services have been quoted by media as saying that so far 25 corpses had been found, 18 of which from boys under age 17. The last three bodies brought in by Civil Defence submarines were of children between the ages of 13 and 15. The search goes on since, according to witness statements from the six survivors of the shipwreck, one person is still missing, making it a total of 32 people who had been travelling on the raft which ran up against the reefs on Sunday. As the hours wear on, more information is being released on the worst tragedy in immigration seen in Spain over the past ten years. An entire family died in the wreck, a mother and her two children from El Aaiun, Morocco, while another family from Assa, in the southern part of the North African country, have identified another of the children’s bodies. The Moroccan Inetrior Ministry has asked its Spanish counterpart for photos of the victims to be able to identify them and repatriate them to their home country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



the Revolt Moves to Malta

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA — After the yesterday’s clashes between immigrants and the police in the Lampedusa identification and expulsion center, the revolt moved today to two detention centers for migrants in Malta. Policemen and soldiers in anti-riot gear intervened to control two revolts which broke out at the same time in the Safi and Hal Far centres. Also in this case, as happened yesterday in Lampedusa, the non-EU immigrants have set fire to two buildings. Some immigrants have managed to escape in the chaos. The rebels are almost all North Africans who were waiting to be repatriated. The incidents broke out after news of yesterday’s clashes in Lampedusa spread in the two centres in Malta. Meanwhile the latest landing of 230 immigrants on the Maltese coasts has set off yet another political confrontation on the island state, with the Labour opposition asking for the parliamentary agenda to be suspended in order to debate the urgent issue of illegal immigration. The government has said that it is involved with the European Union and Italy in efforts to find the best way to deal with illegal immigration, while the Labour party in the opposition has replied that the population and the structures in place cannot hold up under the situation any longer. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Battle of Trafalgar in 2009

I suppose this little gem has already made the rounds of emails in the UK, but this is the first I’ve seen it. Might as well let us Americans in on the fun.

From The Venerable 1st Earl of Cromer:

Nelson: “Order the signal, Hardy.”

Hardy: “Aye, aye sir.”

Nelson: “Hold on, that’s not what I dictated to Flags. What’s the meaning of this?”

Hardy “Sorry sir, you’ll have to read this.”

Nelson: (reading aloud) “‘ England expects every person to do his or her duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion Or disability.’ -

What gobbledygook is this, Hardy?”

Hardy: “Admiralty policy, sir. We’re an equal opportunity employer now. We Had the devil’s own job getting ‘ England ‘ past the censors, lest it be considered racist.”

Nelson: “Gadzooks, hand me my pipe and tobacco.”

Hardy: “Sorry sir. All naval vessels have now been designated smoke-free Working environments.”

Nelson: “In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the main brace to steel the men before battle.”

Hardy: “The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. Its part of the Government’s policy on binge drinking.”

Nelson: “Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we’d better get on with it ………………… Full speed ahead.”

Hardy: “I think you’ll find that there’s a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water.”

Nelson: “Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow’s nest please.”

Hardy: “That won’t be possible, sir.”

Nelson: “What?”

Hardy: “Health and Safety have closed the crow’s nest, sir. No harness; and they said that rope ladders don’t meet regulations. They won’t let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected.”

Nelson: “Then get me the ship’s carpenter without delay.”

Hardy: “He’s busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the foredeck, Sir.”

Nelson: “Wheelchair access? I’ve never heard anything so absurd.”

Hardy: “Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently-abled.”

Nelson: “Differently-abled? I’ve only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn’t rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card.”

Hardy: “Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency.”

Nelson: “Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons.”

Hardy: “A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won’t let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. And they don’t want anyone breathing in too much salt – haven’t you seen the adverts?”

Nelson: “I’ve never heard such rubbish. Break out the cannons and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy.”

Hardy: “The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral.”

Nelson: “What? This is mutiny!”

Hardy: “It’s not that, sir. It’s just that they’re afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There’re a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks.”

Nelson: “Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?”

Hardy: “Actually, sir, we’re not.”

Nelson: “We’re not?”

Hardy: “No, sir. The French and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn’t even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation.”

Nelson: “But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.”

Hardy: “I wouldn’t let the ship’s diversity co-coordinator hear you saying that sir. You’ll be up on disciplinary report.”

Nelson: “You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King.”

Hardy: “Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it’s the rules. It could save your life.”

Nelson: “Don’t tell me – health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?”

Hardy: As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu! And there’s a ban on Corporal punishment.”

Nelson: “What about sodomy?”…

Go here for the punch line. Scroll down.

[Heh. The things I can get away with while the Baron’s gone. Post ends here]

The Southern Hypocrisy Poverty Center

Our Oklahoma lurker sent this story from Tulsa’s KOTV:

Hate Groups Identified In Oklahoma

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 19 hate groups active in 2008 in Oklahoma.

According to the SPLC’s Intelligence Report released Thursday, 926 hate groups have been identified in the U.S.

The report says the number of hate groups continued to rise in 2008 and has grown by 54 percent since 2000.

SPLC cites immigration fears, a failing economy and Barak Obama’s successful campaign for President.

As anyone who has looked into the shenanigans of the Southern Poverty Law Center knows, they are one of the best-funded hate groups out there.

Back in the day when you had to depend on the MSM for any information, I was a big supporter of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Having grown up down here, I knew how rough it could be for blacks entering the dungeons of what passed for “equal justice” in the deep south.

But as many others did I grew up eventually. I began to read some history, and I looked into the groups I’d promoted and supported. Some of what I learned was ugly, but probably nothing I discovered surpassed the venality, mendacity, and sheer ill-will of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
- – - - – - – - -
Here’s a rundown on the founder:

Morris Seligman Dees is the founder and chief trial lawyer of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Dees was born into a Shorter, Alabama farming family in 1936. As an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, he founded a direct mail order sales company, Fuller & Dees Marketing Group, which prospered into one of the largest publishing firms in the South. In 1960 he graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law and continued to run his business until the late Sixties, when “a night of soul searching at a snowed-in Cincinnati airport” led him to sell his company to the Times Mirror, the parent company of the Los Angeles Times. Dees professed an eagerness to “speak out for [his] black friends who were still ‘disenfranchised’ even after the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” “I had made up my mind,” he would write in his 1991 autobiography A Season for Justice, “I would sell the company as soon as possible and specialize in civil rights law.”

In 1971 Dees used the funds from the Times Mirror sale to establish the Montgomery-based SPLC with Julian Bond and attorney Joseph Levin.

In 1972 Dees served as the chief fundraiser for George McGovern’s presidential campaign, for which he raised some $20 million.

In 1975 Dees was arrested and removed from court for attempting to suborn perjury (by means of a bribe) on behalf of the defendant in a North Carolina murder trial. Though the felony charge against Dees was subsequently dropped, the presiding judge refused to re-admit him to the case; that refusal was upheld on appeal.

[…]

Dees is known to be the architect of one of SPLC’s most effective-and most controversial-tactics: exaggerating the prevalence and capabilities of racist and extremist rightwing groups [my emphasis - D] operating in the United States in order to frighten supporters into donating money to SPLC.

…Several studies conducted in the 1990s indicated that the Dees and other top SPLC figures earned significantly higher salaries than the leaders of most non-profit organizations.

Because SPLC perennially disburses twice as much on fundraising as it does on legal services (while skimming off substantial amounts of revenue for its own endowment), Dees’ income has provoked accusations of fraud. Stephen Bright, a director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, a leftwing Atlanta-based group that opposes the death penalty, put it bluntly in a 1996 letter to Dees, in which he denounced the latter as a “a fraud and a conman,” and upbraided Dees because “you spend so much, accomplish so little, and promote yourself shamelessly.”

Similarly, leftwing journalist Alexander Cockburn accused Dees of raising funds “by frightening elderly liberals that the heirs of Adolf Hitler are about to march down Main Street.”

See? Even the Left thinks he’s a sham.

The accusations against Dees have also come from some of the people closest to him. As Dees’ onetime business partner Millard Fuller once said: “Morris and I … shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money. We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich.”

In 1986, SPLC’s entire legal staff quit in an act of defiance against Dees for his pursuit of lucrative, high-profile cases against the KKK, in preference to working to secure civil liberties for the poor. Speaking to reporters, SPLC attorney Gloria Browne candidly admitted that the Center’s programs were devised to cash in on “black pain and white guilt.”

Asked about his knack for generating revenue, Dees once boasted, “I learned everything I know about hustling from the Baptist Church. Spending Sundays on those hard benches listening to the preacher pitch salvation — why, it was like getting a Ph.D. in selling.”

As of 2000, SPLC’s assets exceeded $120 million; that same year, the organization spent twice as much on fundraising efforts as on legal services for victims of civil rights abuses. Accordingly, the American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog group, gave SPLC one of the worst ratings of all of the organizations it monitored.

“They’re drowning in their own affluence,” former SPLC legal fellow Pamela Summers told The Montgomery Advertiser. “What they are doing in the legal department is not done for the best interest of everybody [but] is done as though the sole, overriding goal is to make money.” “I think people associate the SPLC with going to court,” added Summers. “And that’s why they get the money. And they don’t go to court.”

At an April 1996 news conference in Washington, Dees announced that there had been a recent spate of black church burnings in the South which “certainly” had been carried out “by racists.”…It was ultimately learned, however, that Dees’ claim was unfounded.

Dees was again in the spotlight in the fall of 2000, when he narrated an HBO documentary, titled Hate.com, about extremism in America. But critics noted that while Dees and SPLC regularly condemned rightwing extremist and nationalist groups, they consistently failed to apply similar scrutiny to leftwing hate groups.

In recent years, Dees has worked to provide legal representation for illegal aliens. In 2005, for example, he represented two El Salvadorans in a lawsuit against the vigilante group Ranch Rescue, which was charged with using force to keep these illegals from sneaking across the Mexican border. Dees and SPLC won the case and achieved, as settlement, the transfer of the group’s 70-acre property and headquarters to the plaintiffs. “Certainly it’s poetic justice that these undocumented workers [now] own this land,” Dees said.

There is more information on Dees at the link cited above.

It is disquieting to know that a TV station would put forth this story without bothering to do the research on the Morris Dees’ Personal Enrichment Center. But they didn’t. Just a quick and dirty stab at Oklahoma, and a link to the Oklahoma hate sites, just in case the readers are interested.

There is a larger hate group map showing all the states. Oklahoma only has 19 hate groups, while Virginia has 26. Somehow, though, the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra compounds never make it into the listings. Now why would that be? And according to the SPLC records, New Mexico has only one group, as do North Dakota and Maine. What’s the matter with those people? Buncha slackers, that’s what.

It would be interesting to see the correlation between the incidence of “hate groups” as defined by Dees and Co. and the breakdown of red states and blue states (not to mention the purple ones).

The greed and lack of integrity of grievance mongers like Dees have done incalculable harm to race relations in this country. People like Dees have conspired to scare people in order to extract money from them. He is a parasite and a hate monger.

Unfortunately for our country, there are many people out there just like him. And there are far too many news outlets like KOTV who put up these press releases they get from places like SPLC just to fill up space.

Hey, you guys in Tulsa: straighten them out, would you?