Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/31/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/31/2009In financial news, Italy is expecting a 5% drop in GDP this year, Tunisia’s textile export industry is struggling, and Serbia has experienced a 25% decline in personal computer sales.

In other news, Canadian prime minister Harper has announced that his party will introduce legislation which will gives victims of terrorism the right to sue.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Lexington, Rolf Krake, TB, The Frozen North, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Almunia: We Are Coming Out of the Recession
Italy: Central Bank Predicts 5 Percent Fall in GDP
Serbia: PC Purchases Drop Sharply
Tunisia: Impact on Textile Sector Key for Economy
 
Canada
Harper Announces Plan to Help Terror Victims
 
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi: Subversive Tendencies in the Magistrature
Cracks Show in Bulgaria’s Muslim Ethnic Model
Dutschke Family Wants Case Reopened After Stasi Discovery
Europe: 3 Out of 4 Muslims Discriminated, Not Reported by 79%
Franceschini Asks “Would You Let Berlusconi Educate Your Children?” Family’s Fury
Gibraltar Con Trick: Spain Grabs Back Sea Rights Under Guise of ‘Environmental Protection’
Greece: Muslims in Fresh Athens Demo Over Alleged Koran Insult
Italy: EU Should Decide on Gitmo Inmates
Italy: Defence Giant Focused on US Sales
Roma Camps: Maroni, Milan, Rome, Naples Commissioners Extended
UK: Extremists Behind Anti-War Protest Driven Off the Streets by Moderate Muslims
 
North Africa
Auctions: Morocco, 3 Mln Euros From Mamounia Sale
Egypt: Veteran Actor Supports Gamal Mubarak for Presidency
Family Axes Wedding Plans, Egyptian Cuts Off Organ
 
Israel and the Palestinians
EU Extends 39.7 Million Euros in Aid to UNRWA Social Program
Israel Begins Its Biggest Civil Defense Drill
Israeli Government Rejects Oath of Loyalty
Obama Promises Arabs Jerusalem Will be Theirs
 
Middle East
Study: 64% of Turks Don’t Want Jewish Neighbors
Turkey: Actress’ Sperm Donor Pregnancy Stirs Debate
 
Caucasus
Disputed South Ossetia Holds Poll
U.S. Halts Military Sales to Georgia
 
South Asia
India: Defence Minister Urges Delivery of Russian and Israeli Weapons
Italians Injured in Afghan Battle
UK: ‘Top Gun’ Takes on Taliban Upside Down
 
Far East
Amateurs Use Google Earth to Uncover Kim’s Sinister Secrets
Giancarlo Elia Valori’s Diplomacy With North Korea
Hong Kong Trade Unionist: China Risks Another Tiananmen
Vietnam: Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City: Protecting Environment is a Christian’s Duty
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Former Sudan Leader Nimeiri Dies
 
Immigration
Italy: Migrants Integrated But Social Risks
Italy: More Non-EU New Residents in 2008 Than EU
What Will America Stand for in 2050?
 
Culture Wars
Spain: Judges May Not Object to Gay Marriages
Sweden: Ministers Argue Girls’ Right to Sex Ed
 
General
Fears of Muslim Anger Over Religious Book
‘Hebrew Book-Burning’ Minister Farouk Hosni is Front-Runner to Head Unesco
Policy Review: Another Step in Internet Control
Tone Language is Key to Perfect Pitch

Financial Crisis


Almunia: We Are Coming Out of the Recession

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 29 — “We are coming out of the recession,” said EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia, speaking today in Sitges (Barcelona) at Spain’s Economic Circle Forum. Almunia showed cautious optimism in his comments: “We can look to the future with greater hope,” he said, cited by Europa Press. Almunia stressed that confidence indicators “are increasing across Europe” although “bank loans continue with to be stagnant” and the situation of many financial institutions continues to be “very far from normal”. As for the situation in Spain, in Almunia’s view, “the rise to positive growth will take a few more quarters” and could begin in the second quarter next year. In any case, concluded the EU commissioner, “the dizziness has passed”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Central Bank Predicts 5 Percent Fall in GDP

Rome, 29 May (AKI) — Italy’s central bank has forecast a 5 percent fall in gross domestic product for the country in 2009. The bank’s governor Mario Draghi predicted the fall on Friday in the light of the current global economic crisis.

“According to the latest forecasts, it will cause a fall in gross domestic product of 5 percent this year,” he said.

“Recent signs of a weakening in the recession originate from financial markets and opinion polls, more than from statistics available to date on the real economy.”

Draghi said a fall in foreign demand had provoked a significant contraction in industrial production and investment.

He said this had provoked an immediate reaction with the closure of entire companies , permanent or temporary job cuts, and returned purchases.

From October 2008 to March 2009, the country’s GDP had fallen more than 7 percentage points compared to the preceding period, he said.

Draghi said the latest forecasts saw Italy’s gross domestic product contracting about 5 percent this year, after a drop of 1 percent in 2008.

The public deficit could grow to over 4.5 percent of GDP this year and more than 5 percent in 2010.

The Bank of Italy governor painted a grim picture of the Italian labor market, saying workers on unemployment benefits and seeking work were already 8.5 percent of the workforce and could rise to above 10 percent.

This meant household income and consumption would continue to fall despite lower inflation, causing Italian firms to cut back even further on capital goods purchases.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia: PC Purchases Drop Sharply

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 29 — In the first quarter of 2009 in Serbia, sales of personal computers fell by 24.9% on the year to 62,800, as seen in a survey carried out by Idc Adriatics and reported by Informest. The sharpest drop was seen in the desktop computer segment, which dropped from 27% to 28,300 units, while the sale of laptops fell by 23% (33,000). In the first quarter the largest supplier of computers was HP, followed by Lenovo and MSan Grupa. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Impact on Textile Sector Key for Economy

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 29 — Tunisia’s textile and clothing industry, one of the most highly exposed sectors to the international financial crisis, will continue fighting to hold its position on international markets and maintain its role in Tunisia’s process of growth and job creation. This was the analysis given by the country’s Industry Minister, Afif Chelbi, speaking at a debate on “The textile and clothing industry facing the crisis,” which has taken place in Tunis. Chelbi stressed that despite an unfavourable economic cycle the sector still has the resources necessary to weather the crisis. Evidence of this, he said, includes “increased investments,” writes press agency TAP, “which increased from 55 million dinars in the final quarter of 2008 to 74 million dinars in the first quarter of 2009 (+35%). In the same period, the amount of foreign direct investments increased from 7 million dinars (about 3.6 million euros) in 2008 to 25 million (about 13 million euros)”. The impact of the crisis on the sector has led, according to the figures reported by the ministry, to reduced exports, which have led in turn to the closing of 15 businesses in the first four months of the year. This, along with the closing of another 11 businesses in the last four months of 2008, has resulted in 1,328 job losses. Chelbi said that he is optimistic, pointing out that steps taken to support businesses have aided 96 businesses, saving almost 20,000 jobs. In his view, the sector can be strongly turned around by investing in finishing, creation, design, and technical fabrics. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Canada


Harper Announces Plan to Help Terror Victims

TORONTO — The Conservatives will introduce legislation in the House of Commons next week, which would gives victims of terrorism the right to sue.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement during a speech at a Canadian Jewish Congress’ 90th anniversary gathering in Toronto Sunday afternoon, where he also received an award for his commitment to human rights advocacy.

“The bill will allow victims to sue perpetrators and sponsors of terrorism acts, both in foreign states and in Canadian ones,” Harper told a packed luncheon.

“This will help many victims seek long-overdue justice against those who have harmed them and their families. It also sends a clear message that our government will hold the sponsors and perpetrators of terrorism accountable for their crimes,” the prime minister said.

Harper’s announcement was met with a sanding ovation. The Canadian Jewish Congress has been pushing for some form of this legislation for at least 10 years, said CJC CEO Bernie Farber.

“It’s sad to say, the Jewish community is the number one target on most terrorist lists,” Farber said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton and Green Leader Elizabeth May were at the event in the morning and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff also addressed the crowd at lunch.

Ignatieff said he would be waiting to see more details of Harper’s terrorism announcement next week.

“We have had extensive discussions about civil remedies for victims of terror,” Ignatieff told reporters after his speech.

“We support the principle of this legislation. Now it’s just a matter of detail.”

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan will provide more information on the new bill next week.

           — Hat tip: The Frozen North [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Berlusconi: Subversive Tendencies in the Magistrature

(AGI) — Rome, 28 May — “There are subversive tendencies in the Italian magistrature.” “I will not leave politics until there is a separation in careers of prosecutors and judges,” were two passages from Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s speech to the Confesercenti meeting. Berlusconi’s words were accompanied by whistling, but also applause. “Think,” he added, “that someone tells me ‘stand trial’, but I am the champions of the accused.

The Financial Police,” he pointed out, “have visited my companies 587 times”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Cracks Show in Bulgaria’s Muslim Ethnic Model

KRUMOVGRAD, Bulgaria (Reuters) — Twenty years after Bulgaria’s then-Communist regime mounted an official campaign of persecution against its Muslim minority, Mustafa Yumer fears rising xenophobia could bring the nightmare back.

Yumer led resistance and hunger strikes against a drive to force Muslims to adopt ethnic Bulgarian names in the spring of 1989. Now he says growing anti-Muslim rhetoric is fomenting ethnic hatred and opening old wounds.

“We are all very worried,” said the 65-year-old philosopher and former teacher. “People are scared by far-right parties who preach and want to see Bulgaria becoming a single ethnic nation.”

Muslims make up about 12 percent of the Balkan country’s 7.6 million people with most of the rest belonging to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The country won praise for avoiding ethnic clashes after the end of the Cold War, in contrast to the former Yugoslavia which borders it to the west.

Bulgaria is the only European Union member country where Muslims are not recent immigrants. Most are the descendants of ethnic Turks who arrived during five centuries of Ottoman rule that ended in 1878. They live alongside Christians in a culture known as “komshuluk,” or neighborly relations.

But the rising popularity of the ultra-nationalist Attack party and hardening attitudes of other rightist politicians toward the Muslims ahead of a July parliamentary election have exposed cracks in the Bulgarian model.

Attack is unlikely to form part of the next government, but it has helped set the tone for the election campaign.

Ethnic Turks and Pomaks — Slavs who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule — are shocked and dismayed at accusations that they aim to create autonomous enclaves and that some of their villages are nests for radical Islam.

“If we sit and don’t work like Bulgarian patriots, one day they will conquer us indeed. They will annex whole regions,” Attack’s leader Volen Siderov told an election demonstration in May.

There have been over 100 incidents of vandalized mosques and other Muslim buildings in the last 2-3 years.

Girls have been banned from wearing the traditional Muslim scarf in some schools and universities — Bulgaria’s first glimpse of an issue that has raised tensions in western Europe.

RADICALISATION?

Some Muslims fear losing civil rights, gained in the past two decades, and a possible repeat of the repression of the 1980s if nationalists join a coalition government after the July 5 vote.

Commentators say the rise of nationalism has been helped by a combination of voter apathy and discontent at low living standards, high-level corruption and organized crime..

A “revival process” launched by the late communist dictator Todor Zhivkov to forcibly assimilate Muslims culminated with a campaign to force them to change their names, and the exodus of over 300,000 ethnic Turks to neighboring Turkey in 1989.

According to various estimates, between 500 and 1,500 people were killed resisting forced assimilation between 1984 and 1989, and thousands of others went to labor camps. The repression led to bomb attacks by ethnic Turks that killed scores.

“The wounds would have been healed by now if some people had stopped poking them,” said Fikri Gulistan, 49, dentist in Momchilgrad, where Turkish is the daily language.

Religious leaders warn that some in the Muslim minority may fall prey to foreign Islamic groups trying to radicalize them.

“We are doing our best to stop such processes,” said Hussein Hafazov, aide to Bulgaria’s top Muslim cleric Mustafa Alish Hadji. “We try to control the mosques and all the rituals. We have been successful so far.

“If we are constantly being blamed that we are terrorists and are dangerous for the security in this country, we don’t know whether part of the society won’t start feeling that way one day,” Hafazov added.

The Chief Mufti office says 323 mosques have been built in the past 19 years mainly with donations from individuals and organizations in Muslim countries, including Turkey.

Police have investigated a number of foreign Islamic foundations and made some arrests since 2000 on suspicion of spreading of non-traditional Islam and training fundamentalists but no charges have been raised.

In March, security services, acting on the complaint of a rightist politician, launched a probe into a local mayor and an Islamic studies teacher from the village of Ribnovo, on suspicion of taking Saudi funds to spread radical Islam.

No charges have been filed but the case filled chat rooms of newspapers and other news providers with anti-Muslim messages such as “Bulgaria for the Bulgarians.”

Religious leaders deny the existence of radical Islam and say the Ribnovo case only adds to worries that politicians are threatening the culture of tolerance in mixed communities.

MOSQUE AND CASINO

But analysts say the long tradition of good neighborly relations and the previous 45 years of official communist atheism had so far made it hard for fundamentalist Islam to gain a foothold in Bulgaria..

“The Turks (of Bulgaria) are mostly secular people. Any kind of messengers of non-traditional Islam have been sent away so far,” said Antonina Zheliazkova, head of the Sofia-based International Center for Minority Studies.

The mosque in Krumovgrad, built on the site of an ancient Thracian sanctuary, overlooks a flashy casino and several bars and was half-empty during a recent visit to Friday prayers.

Young women wear skinny jeans, sleeveless tops and modern haircuts rather than headscarves, while the secondary Muslim school in Momchilgrad finds it hard to enroll students.

The headscarf, banned by the communists in the 1980s, is mainly worn by older ethnic Turkish women and peasant Pomaks of all ages as an answer to the persecutions of the past and expression of rising Muslim consciousness.

Analysts say playing the Muslim card weeks before the elections helped a number of parties, including the ethnic Turkish MRF that is seeking to mobilize voters.

Many Muslims say they are disappointed with the MRF for failing to bring investment and jobs to their regions, which remain some of the poorest in Bulgaria.

None of the other parties, including the ruling Socialists, have so far offered an alternative that appealed to minorities.

Pollsters estimate that between 10,000 and 30,000 of those who immigrated to Turkey come back at election times to vote for the MRF, partly encouraged by Ankara.

“Turkey wants a strong Turkish minority in Bulgaria. This strengthens Turkey’s hand in the bilateral relations,” said Kader Ozlem of the Balkan Immigrant Culture and Solidarity Association of Bursa, whose parents left for Turkey in 1989.

Hardening attitudes toward Muslims in Bulgaria have also strengthened opposition to Turkey’s bid to join the EU. A poll late last year showed 49 percent of Bulgarians were against and 35 percent backed Ankara’s membership.

Attack is campaigning on the slogan “No to Turkey in the EU” for the European Parliament elections on June 7.

“No one has guarantees that the ghost won’t leave the bottle but for now it seems that the ethnic issues are exploited by two groups mainly,” said Boriana Dimitrova of Alpha Research, an independent polling company.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Dutschke Family Wants Case Reopened After Stasi Discovery

The son of the late West German student leader Rudi Dutschke wants a new investigation into the 1968 assassination attempt on his father’s life after the discovery that a Stasi agent was responsible for the death of another student.

Marek Dutschke told the press agency DPA in an interview published Saturday that the April 11, 1968 attempt on his father’s life by right-wing extremist Josef Bachmann should be re-examined for signs of possible influence from Eastern German secret police.

“Rudi also had his enemies over there,” Dutschke told DPA.

A growing chorus has called for Germany to probe deeper into the Stasi’s role in West German politics after the revelations that West Berlin police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras, who shot and killed 26-year-old student Benno Ohnesorg in 1967 was an informant for the East German secret police and a member of the East German Communist party.

The killing made Ohnesorg a leftist martyr and fueled explosive student protests against what they saw as a repressive West German state in the following years, culminating in the violent terrorist acts of the Red Army Faction, which sought to destabilise West Germany for nearly two decades.

Dutschke survived the attack but died in 1979 from complications related to his injuries. Bachmann, Dutschke’s assailant, committed suicide in prison and never revealed where he got his weapon from or whether he received outside support, Dutschke’s widow Gretchen Dutschke told DPA.

She said her husband was followed by both western and eastern European intelligence services and that he once had “unpleasant contacts” that included threats from agents. Gretchen Dutschke said Rudi Dutschke was seen as a “thorn in the side” on both sides of the Iron Curtain and had also been spied upon by the Stasi.

The archive for Stasi files should research the assassination attempt for signs of possible Stasi involvement, said Marek Dutschke. The Kurras case shows that there are surprises in the hundreds of kilometers of records kept by the secret police force, he said.

Marek Dutschke welcomed the effect the Kurras case was having on the historical evaluation of East Germany.

“It’s good for all of those people who believe that East Germany was the better Germany and not an unjust state,” Dutschke said. This year, Germany is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the East German regime, which led to the 1990 reunification of the two countries.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Europe: 3 Out of 4 Muslims Discriminated, Not Reported by 79%

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 28 — Three out of four Muslims living in EU countries have been the victim of racial discrimination in the past 12 months, especially at work. And that is only the tip of the iceberg, since 79%, especially young people, don’t report discrimination because 63% believe it “would do no good”. This data is contained in the ‘Report Focus 2: Muslims’, the first EU survey — 23,500 interviewed — on the experiences of immigrants and ethnic minorities regarding discrimination and racism, carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and presented today by FRA director Morten Kjaerum, at the Arab House in Madrid. The interviews were carried out by Gallup Europe among groups of immigrants and ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims, including North Africans, Sub-Saharans, Turks, Iraqis and Muslims from former Yugoslavia, a sample of the 13-20 million Muslims living in Europe. “The Muslims interviewed don’t think that religion or the habit to wear headscarves or Muslim clothes is the main reason for discrimination”, said Iannis Dimitrakopoulos, head of the FRA Equal Opportunities and Rights Department, underlining that the data doesn’t reflect the perception, rather concrete examples of discrimination. This discrimination focuses on nine areas: when looking for a job (18%) or at work (13%); when trying to rent or buy a house (14%), in restaurants or in shops (14%) and when turning to health services or opening a bank account. Of all those interviewed, 37% have been discriminated against, and 12% have been the victim of racism. Regarding the fact that these incidents are often not reported, Dimitrakopoulos said that it is “often caused by a sense of general resignation, as if these things are part of life. The authorities of each country are obliged to fight the problem, informing their citizens on how to report these cases, on their rights, on the laws which protect them”. Eighty percent of the Muslims interviewed were in fact not aware of the existence of organisations which they can turn to for support or advice. In Spain 65% of those interviewed didn’t know about anti-discriminatory legislation, against a European average of 37%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Franceschini Asks “Would You Let Berlusconi Educate Your Children?” Family’s Fury

Piersilvio: “How dare he?” Marina: “He should be ashamed”. Luigi: “Proud of family’s values”

ROME — First came Dario Franceschini’s question: “Would you let a man like Berlusconi educate your children?” The prime minister’s own children fired back: “How dare Franceschini? I may be wrong in taking seriously a remark in such appalling taste. But there’s a limit, even during the election campaign”, said Piersilvio Berlusconi. Mr Franceschini responded: “I saw Piersilvio Berlusconi’s indignant reaction and I am sorry he misinterpreted what I said. If he listens to it again, he will realise that I did not, nor shall I ever, express judgements about him or his family. I was talking about the values a public figure should transmit to the country”.

MARINA “PROUD”: Mr Franceschini’s comment, made while he was on an election tour of Liguria, provoked a chorus of reactions from Centre-right politicians, who demanded that the PD leader should apologise to Mr Berlusconi. But attention focused on the statements from the prime minister’s children that followed Mr Franceschini’s comments. Piersilvio wasn’t the only one to speak out. His sister Marina, chair of Fininvest and Mondadori, issued a statement through press agencies: “Franceschini should be ashamed. Who gives him the right to judge Silvio Berlusconi as a father? His words have offended me as a daughter. A daughter who is deeply proud of the father she has and the values he has transmitted to me. I would be happy for Franceschini’s children if they had a father like mine”.

VERONICA’S CHILDREN — Later, another response came from Luigi Berlusconi, Mr Berlusconi’s youngest child from his marriage to Veronica Lario: “I am happy and proud of the education I have received and of the values that have been transmitted to me by my family. I don’t see why politicians should be judging Silvio Berlusconi as a father. These are different levels that shouldn’t be superimposed”. Late last night, Luigi also issued a joint statement with Barbara and Eleonora, Silvio Berlusconi and Veronica Lario’s other two children. “Not everything can be put to a poll. The only people who can judge whether a father is capable of educating a child are his own children. Politics should never spill over into judgements on a person’s role as a father, which have nothing at all to do with politics. We believe we were brought up and educated in a well-balanced family environment with plenty of values”.

FRANCESCHINI — While on an electoral tour of Liguria, the PD leader expressed himself in these terms: “There can be no doubt that Berlusconi is a successful businessman and politician. He is rich, astute and influential. But I would like to ask Italian women and men one simple question: ‘Would you let this man educate your children?’ Anyone who is in charge of a country has a duty to set a good example and transmit positive values”.

THE REPLY — Piersilvio continued: “I, I myself, was educated by Silvio Berlusconi. And my values are his values. Industriousness, generosity, tenacity and respect for other people. The respect of which Franceschini has shown he knows nothing”. Earlier, the PDL national coordinator Denis Verdini referred to defamation as the PD’s educational model while Daniele Capezzone perceived “hatred and violence” in Dario Franceschini’s words. Paolo Bonaiuti, the premier’s spokesman, said it was an “insensitive remark. The PD secretary should apologise to the premier and his children”.

PD — The Centre-right is attacking Mr Franceschini because he is “effective” was how the president of the Italianieuropei foundation, Massimo D’Alema, interpreted the PDL’s reaction: “These attacks from the Right against the PD secretary are in response to an electoral campaign in which Mr Franceschini has very effectively given new impetus to the Democratic Party’s action”.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gibraltar Con Trick: Spain Grabs Back Sea Rights Under Guise of ‘Environmental Protection’

A diplomatic battle was looming last night after Spain tricked the EU into handing it new rights to the waters around Gibraltar.

The sleight-of-hand has provoked fury in the British outpost and left red faces in Whitehall.

And it has already produced a potential confrontation between British and Spanish ships in the region.

Spain, which has been challenging British sovereignty on the Rock for 300 years, has now laid claim under an EU ‘environmental protection’ scheme to most of the 20 square miles of British territorial waters that surround the Gibraltar peninsula .

The Rock has been a key strategic outpost since it was ceded by Spain to Britain in perpetuity under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

The sea surrounding the Rock is designated British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.. But the Spanish have convinced the European Commission to include most of it in a new environmental zone, to be maintained by Spain.

All but one small segment of the British zone — two square miles in the north-western corner — has been swallowed up by the Estrecho Oriental, a 69-square-mile marine conservation area.

Under EU law, a conservation site can only be declared by the sovereign state which owns the piece of land or sea in question.

So by allowing Spain’s request to include the waters around Gibraltar, European bureaucrats have tacitly recognised its possession of British territory.

Responsibilities in maintaining EU environmental zones include nature protection and the monitoring of wildlife and potential environmental threats.

But there are fears that it will merely act as a cover for Spanish vessels to mount incursions into British waters.

There has already been one minor skirmish, when Spain sent the corvette Tarifa ‘to inspect fishing boats’ east of Gibraltar, insisting it was in Spanish waters.

The armed fisheries protection vessel only retreated when the Navy sent the patrol vessel HMS Sabre to intercept it.

The Gibraltar government has lodged an application in the European Court in Luxembourg to have the new rights reversed.

Chief Minister Peter Caruana said: ‘Spain has usurped British sovereignty of Gibraltar waters. This is clearly wrong and unacceptable. Its actions are not an innocent mistake. There is zero basis in international law for its position.’

The Foreign Office has also expressed alarm. A spokesman said: ‘We do not recognise the validity of their designation.’

Britain’s Europe Minister Caroline Flint added: ‘We share the deep concern this designation has caused in Gibraltar and we continue to assert our sovereignty over BGTW.’

Self-governing Gibraltar covers only 2.6 square miles of land, with a population of just 28,000.

The vast majority of Gibraltans oppose any return to Spanish sovereignty. In the 1950s the Spanish dictator Franco ratcheted up claims over the Rock, partly in response to a visit of the Queen in 1954 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its capture.

For the next 30 years Spain restricted movement between Gibraltar and Spain. A referendum in 1967 found 12,138 wanted it to remain a British territory with just 44 voting to return to Spanish sovereignty.

In 2002 proposals for joint sovereignty were drawn up, but another referendum rejected the plan by 98.97 per cent.

Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Gibraltar Group, said: ‘This decision must be reversed.

‘The Spanish have been trying for 300 years to get a piece of Gibraltar, and unless we do something they will have finally succeeded in chipping away at our sovereignty of the Rock.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Greece: Muslims in Fresh Athens Demo Over Alleged Koran Insult

ATHENS (AFP) — More than 1,000 Muslim migrants and leftists demonstrated in Athens Friday over an alleged police insult to the Koran, a week after two similar protests degenerated into clashes with anti-riot police.

The protest was called by leftist and anti-racist groups after a police officer allegedly tore up some sheets of paper with extracts from the Muslim holy book belonging to an Iraqi migrant during an identity check last week.

“We want this officer put on trial, and we ask the government to protect our prayer sites in Athens,” said Zuri, a Moroccan protester.

“But we intend to set a good example and refrain from violence, Islam is a religion of peace,” he said.

Scores of police on foot and on motorbikes were mobilised to maintain order and keep the migrants who marched on parliament from coming into contact with a few dozen neo-Nazi militants staging a street gathering a few blocks away.

The far-right group was commemorating the fall of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Greece’s main Muslim and migrant organisations distanced themselves from the migrant demonstration, preferring to take judicial action instead.

“Our problems can be solved by dialogue, not demonstrations,” said Ahmet Moavia, head of the Greek Migrants’ Forum.

“The real agenda is migrants’ rights in Greece which include issues of religion,” he told AFP.

“Muslim Arabs will not participate because there is a political agenda which has nothing to do with Islam,” said Naim El Gadour, chairman of the Muslim Union of Greece.

“We filed a complaint against the officer, we chose the path of justice and peace and we will adhere to it.”

Rights groups report an increase in racist attacks on migrants in Athens in recent weeks. Last weekend, unknown assailants set fire to a basement flat housing a mosque and injured five men from Bangladesh sleeping inside.

More than a dozen migrants and police were injured last week in clashes that marred two days of Muslim rallies over the alleged insult to the Koran.

Scores of cars and a handful of shops had their windows smashed.

Police made 46 arrests at the time.

Muslim groups have demanded an apology over the incident which the government has so far failed to give. Calls to identify the officer who allegedly tore the Koranic verses have also been ignored.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: EU Should Decide on Gitmo Inmates

ROME — Italy’s interior minister insisted Saturday that any decision to accept Guantanamo inmates must be unanimously made by members of the European Union and expressed worry the suspected terrorists might move easily through the union’s loose borders.

Minister Roberto Maroni said the detainees from the U.S. military prison on the Cuban island should be sent only to countries that are able to jail them again, if need be.

“The European Union … should reach a unanimous decision and welcome, only if so they desire, those inmates that can be put back in jail,” Maroni told a news conference following a two-day meeting of interior and justice ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries.

Otherwise, the released Guantanamo inmates “arrive at the airports, are escorted out, and then are free to move” across the porous national borders of several EU countries. “This is obviously not acceptable for me, as it increases the level of terrorism risk,” Maroni said.

The European Union’s so-called Schengen zone is an area of open frontiers comprised of 22 EU countries and three outside the EU in which no systematic passport checks are carried out.

Maroni said the issue was discussed by Italian officials in a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier in the week. He said no concrete decision was made, and the issue will discussed again at a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on June 4-5.

Italy was considering taking “not more than two or three inmates,” but no formal request has been made yet, Maroni said, adding the inmates have not been identified.

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the closure of Guantanamo, which has been criticized in much of Europe. His administration is reviewing Guantanamo cases to determine whether the suspects remaining there should be tried in U.S. courts or released to other countries.

Separately on Saturday, the G-8 ministers agreed to increase cooperation and share information in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.

In a final declaration, the ministers stressed the need to block the financing of terrorism, urging the “monitoring the activities and communications terrorist organizations rely on,” especially the Internet.

The ministers also urged countries affected by sea piracy to prosecute the pirates whenever possible. Rampant piracy off Somalia’s coast is now the biggest threat to merchant shipping, with most attacks ending with million-dollar ransom payments.

The Group of Eight nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Italy: Defence Giant Focused on US Sales

Rome, 29 May (AKI) — Italian defence giant Finmeccanica regards the US market of strategic importance and is optimistic about future sales despite the global downturn, chief executive officer Pier Francesco Guarguaglini said. According to a report in the Italian financial daily, Il Sole 24 Ore, on Friday, Guarguaglini remained confident about the company’s outlook.

The company, which has been hit by the planned cancellation of a US presidential helicopter contract and the halving of a cargo jet contract, expects to benefit from a 4 percent rise in US defence spending in 2009 and 2010, Guarguaglini said.

“You have to consider that the (US) budget for 2010 has risen by 4 percent to 534 billion dollars from 527 billion dollars in 2009, a budget that excludes spending for the war,” he said.

“Despite several programme cancellations, there is expected to be a consistent increase in spending for equipment: an annual average of around 3 percent until 2013.”

Guarguaglini said 90 percent of sales generated by the company’s US subsidiary DRS Technologies came from the Pentagon and despite some recent order cancellations he remained positive about the future outlook.

“I remain optimistic despite the latest cancellations because the US is a strategic market, representing 50 percent of global defence spending and 21 percent of Finmeccanica’s sales,” he said.

Guarguaglini also promised to fight the US government’s move to terminate the 13 billion dollar VH-71 presidential helicopter programme as part of its defence cuts.

“The game is not over and anyway we will continue to fight,” he told the Italian daily.

Finmeccanica received political support from the Italian government on Thursday.

Italian defence minister Ignazio La Russa sent a letter to his US counterpart, Robert Gates, asking him to retain the helicopter programme being developed by Lockheed Martin and Finmeccanica’s Agusta Westland to avoid “negative impact on employment”.

“I do not know whether the order will proceed but the Americans certainly have to replace the helicopters and ours are the best machines on the market,” he said.

Guarguaglini was asked about the impact of the global economic downturn and cutbacks in defence spending.

“It all depends on how long the economic crisis lasts,” he said. “The impact could be limited because we have plenty of orders that will cover production for the next two and a half years.

“So as soon as the recovery begins, we will be ready to seize every opportunity.”

The chief executive said there were excellent opportunities for the company in Russia and it was also targetting Morocco, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

He noted that the shocking terrorist attack in the Indian city of Mumbai last November had also reinforced the need for India to invest more in defence and border security.

US investors hold over 20 percent of the company’s capital and represent 50 percent of its institutional investors. The Italian Treasury holds a 30.2 percent stake in Finmeccanica.

Earlier this week, Guarguaglini reiterated that US defence contractor Northrop Grumman could play a role in the C-27J cargo plane project after Boeing withdrew in February.

The Pentagon this month said it planned to scale back plans to buy 78 such cargo jets and purchase 38 planes instead.

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



Roma Camps: Maroni, Milan, Rome, Naples Commissioners Extended

(AGI) — Rome, 28 May — Public ordinances regarding camps for Italy’s Roma population have been extended until December 31 2010, announced Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni during a press conference after a cabinet meeting. The three extraordinary commissioners to manage emergency Roma camps in Milan, Rome, and Naples have been confirmed. Two ordinances have also been issued for the Piedmont and Veneto regions, appointing the prefects of Turin and Venice as extraordinary commissioners to manage the emergency situation regarding the Roma camps

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Extremists Behind Anti-War Protest Driven Off the Streets by Moderate Muslims

The Muslim community turned on extremists in their midst yesterday, telling them they were ‘sick and tired’ of their behaviour.

The angry confrontation came in Luton, where anti-Islamist protesters brandished England flags last Sunday, before clashing with police.

The latest violence erupted as arguments raged between fellow Muslims shortly after Friday morning prayers in the Bury Park area of the town.

Passing traffic ground to a halt as the large group of moderates confronted about a dozen extremists.

As the radical Muslims began to set up their stall, they were surrounded by a crowd shouting ‘we don’t want you here’ and ‘move on, move on’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Auctions: Morocco, 3 Mln Euros From Mamounia Sale

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 26 — The auction of items from Mamounia, the famous Marrakesh hotel visited by celebrities from the world of show business, politics and art, has made three million euros. From May 21 to 24 more than 5,000 pieces were auctioned at the Marrakesh Conference Centre, from teapots to cups, plates, sheets, hundreds of armchairs, lamps, and tables in various styles from Art Deco to Moorish. “We reached the sum of three million euros” said Claude Aguettes, the auctioneer in charge of the sale. “This auction has aroused great interest both in Morocca and abroad. There were at least three hundred people in the auction room at any time”. After three years of refurbishments the Mamounia, which is owned by the Moroccan railways, will reopen at the end of September with a new look designed by architect Jacques Garcia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt: Veteran Actor Supports Gamal Mubarak for Presidency

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 29 — Veteran Egyptian actor Adel Imam said he will support National Democratic Party (NDP) Policies Secretary Gamal Mubarak if he chooses to run for presidency. Describing the NDP policy chief as “an experienced politician who is present in the heart of the political kitchen”, Imam said his support for Gamal Mubarak as the next president of Egypt comes with full belief and honesty. “Why should not Gamal Mubrak run for the presidency. He has the right to run through the party for the presidency”, Imam told Dream TV, adding he would like to see him take the move. Imam also praised President Hosni Mubarak’s efforts to maintain Egypt’s stability, saying he admires his stand not to listen to war calls by some hawkish parties.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Family Axes Wedding Plans, Egyptian Cuts Off Organ

CAIRO — A 25-year-old Egyptian man cut off his own penis to spite his family after he was refused permission to marry a girl from a lower class family, police reported Sunday.

After unsuccessfully petitioning his father for two years to marry the girl, the man heated up a knife and sliced off his reproductive organ, said a police official.

The young man came from a prominent family in the southern Egyptian province of Qena, one of Egypt’s poorest and most conservative areas that is also home to the famed ancient Egyptian ruins of Luxor.

The man was rushed to the hospital but doctors were unable to reattach the severed member, the official added citing the police report filed after the incident..

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press, added that the man was still recovering in the hospital.

Traditionally, marriages in these conservative part of southern Egypt are between similar social classes and often within the same extended families — and are rarely for love.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


EU Extends 39.7 Million Euros in Aid to UNRWA Social Program

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 27 — The European Union has said it will entend 39.7 million euros to UNRWA to help it implement its Social Safety Net (SSN) program in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to a press release circulated by the European Commission’s diplomatic mission in Cairo today. At a ceremony at UNRWA’s food distribution centre in Jabalia Camp, Gaza, yesterday, Mr. Marcus Cornaro, Director for Europe, Southern Mediterranean, Middle-East and Neighbourhood Policy at the European Commission’s EuropeAid Cooperation Office, and UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Ms. Karen Abu Zayd, announced that the EU will be making a contribution of 39.7 million euros to help guarantee UNRWA’s SSN program in the occupied Palestinian territory, which helps meet the needs of some of the poorest and most vulnerable Palestine refugees. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel Begins Its Biggest Civil Defense Drill

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel began the biggest civil defense drill in its history on Sunday, training soldiers, emergency crews and civilians for the possibility of war at a time of rising tensions with Iran.

The five-day drill, code-named Turning Point III, will include simulated rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Air-raid sirens are to sound across the country on Tuesday and for the first time all Israeli civilians will simultaneously be required to practice taking cover when the sirens go off.

Israel believes Iran is developing nuclear weapons and has not ruled out a military strike. Iran says its nuclear program is only for energy production.

Israeli leaders have played down any connection between those tensions and this week’s exercise, and officials have been at pains to allay fears among Arab neighbors, such as Lebanon and Syria, that the exercise could be a cover for a military strike.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio the drill “was not created as a response to the events of recent weeks and months.”

Defense officials said the Turning Point series of exercises was designed to implement lessons learned from Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, when the Lebanese militia fired nearly 4,000 Katyusha rockets across the border at Israel.

Similar drills were conducted in 2007 and 2008, but the military said this year’s exercise would be “the largest and most comprehensive yet.” In last year’s drill, sirens failed to function in parts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israel inaugurated a state of the art national civil defense control and command center this year.

           — Hat tip: Rolf Krake [Return to headlines]



Israeli Government Rejects Oath of Loyalty

The Israeli cabinet has rejected a controversial proposal to require Israeli citizens to take an oath of loyalty to the Jewish state.

Under the plan, introduced by the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, citizenship would be granted only to those who swore allegiance.

The proposal angered Israel’s Arab minority, which comprises 20% of Israel’s population.

The plan can still be brought before parliament, but is unlikely to succeed.

The measure was thrown out by eight votes to three at a meeting of the Cabinet on Sunday.

Yisrael Beiteinu, which won the third most seats in February’s election, sought to introduce the oath as well as a ban on annual commemorations denouncing the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

During the election campaign, the party focused on perceived disloyalty among Israeli Arabs, drawing widespread criticism as well as support.

Many Israeli Arabs mark the Nakba, or the Catastrophe, when about 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the war which followed Israel’s declaration of independence.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Obama Promises Arabs Jerusalem Will be Theirs

Official: President said Palestinian state with holy city capital ‘in American interest’

JERUSALEM — President Obama and his administration told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting last week the U.S. foresees the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, according to a top PA official speaking to WND.

“The American administration was very friendly to the position of the PA,” said Nimer Hamad, Abbas’ senior political adviser.

“Abu Mazen (Abbas) heard from Obama and his administration in a very categorical way that a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is in the American national and security interest,” Hamad said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Study: 64% of Turks Don’t Want Jewish Neighbors

A new study published in a Turkish newspaper Sunday said 64 percent of Turks would not want Jewish neighbors.

The study also suggested Turks had a low tolerance for diverse lifestyles in general, as three in four respondents said they would not want to live next to an atheist or anyone drinking alcohol.

The study by Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University was meant to gauge radicalism and extremism in Turkey.

Results published in Sunday’s Milliyet also stated that 52 percent would not want Christian neighbors, 67 would not want to live next to an unmarried couple and 43 percent would not want American neighbors.

Religious extremism and nationalism have remained level in Turkey this decade, although anti-Israeli sentiment was on the rise, said Yilmaz Esmer, a professor of political science at Bahcesehir who led the study.

Israel is the most unpopular foreign country, followed by Armenia and the United States, the study revealed. Israel is also seen as most responsible for the world’s problems, followed by U.S. and EU policies, according to the survey.

A majority of Turks support their government’s bid to join the European Union, the study revealed, but most say the bloc views it with prejudice because Turkey is a Muslim nation.

Three out of four Turks believe the EU is trying to divide Turkey and 81 percent believe the bloc’s goal is to spread Christianity, said the study.

Despite this, 57 percent want full EU membership for Turkey.

“A majority of Turks still want EU membership, but a larger majority has very serious doubts about the EU’s intentions towards Turkey,” Esmer said.

One out of four Turks thinks Turkey is either already a full member of the EU or is unsure of its status, he said. Turkey has in fact been an official candidate for EU membership for 10 years and has completed only one of the 35 ‘chapters’ in the accession process.

Sixty-two percent of Turks said religion was their priority, followed by 17 percent who said secularism was. Democratization was the top priority for 15 percent, followed by smaller numbers who cited ethnic identity and financial gain.

“The main issue for Turks is religion and secularism,” Esmer said.

About 18 percent of respondents said they felt discriminated against, the highest rate in Europe, Esmer said. Still, most respondents felt that religious and ethnic diversity enriched life, rather than threatened national unity, he said.

The survey is based on interviews with 1,715 people selected randomly from 34 cities between April 12 and May 3. No margin of error was given.

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



Turkey: Actress’ Sperm Donor Pregnancy Stirs Debate

ISTANBUL — Actress Güner Özkul chose to apply to a sperm bank because her boyfriend already has children and does not want another one, leading to a public debate on ethics. If she wants respect for her decision to have a baby, she should respect to her boyfriend’s to not have one, she says. Getting pregnant by a sperm donor is not legal or common in Turkey

Pregnancy by sperm donor is a controversial topic and the recent decision by the daughter of a prestigious actor and actress to take this path to motherhood has flared the debate in Turkey.

Although she is not the first woman in Turkey to use this method, her story has drawn reaction from many people and her decision is being debated on many points, from ethics to religion and from law to psychology.

Güner Özkul, the 43-year-old daughter of actor Münir Özkul and actress Suna Selen, is also an actress and used to be a model. In her interview with daily Milliyet on May 10, she said she started to worry about not having a baby as she became older. Before she was 41, her doctor told her that there was nothing to worry about in regards to getting pregnant, as she had a biologically young age. But two years ago, her doctor told her that her ovular reserves were running out so she had limited time if she wanted to have a baby.

She said in the interview that she has become obsessed with the idea of having a baby and this brought a burden onto her recent relationships. She even went as far as avoiding friends with children. “I became an asocial, nervous, obsessed person.” She said she was delaying acting role offers, only with the idea that she may become pregnant during that time.

“Having a baby became more important than my relationships. I realized that this was my real problem.”

Özkul was aware that she was obsessed with the idea of having children. One of the reasons for that was in her past, she said. “I grew up in a crowded family. We were five siblings, and my childhood passed with my peers in the boarding schools,” she said. As a healthy person, she is trying hard to live longer as a lifestyle; however, she said it becomes meaningless to live longer when one will not have a child.

Regretted, if never tried

The meaning of life is desperately tied to having a child, for Özkul. She said she would regret it if she did not try to have a baby by sperm from a donor. She has become pregnant on her first try in the clinic and she will have a baby girl. “Doctors said it is a miracle baby and told me to look after it carefully,” Özkul said. If her first try fails she said she would take lessons from it too. However, she said she would not give up until she had tried all methods.

Getting pregnant by a sperm donor is not legal or common in Turkey. Özkul said in the minds of urban people there is always a choice like this, adding that she used to think, “At least I can apply to a sperm bank.” One day, her Plan B suddenly became her Plan A.

Denmark sperm vs boyfriend

Özkul already has a boyfriend but she did not have children from him. She chose to apply to a sperm bank because her boyfriend already had children and did not want another one. She used a donor’s sperm from Denmark instead of her boyfriend’s. She said in her relationships, none of her boyfriends wanted children or more children than they already had.

“If I want to see respect in my decision to have children, then I should respect my partner’s decision to not have children,” she said. This is when she stopped expecting her partner to be her baby’s father. Then she said she understood that she had to deal with this problem by herself.

“If I could produce sperm with my body, I would do that and use them to have a baby.” She said she learned that this will one day be possible through stem cell technology but not at the moment.

Legally and from a psychological perspective, the ethics of having and raising a baby without a father figure is under debate. Özkul said until the recent past it was debated whether organ donation was legal or ethical. “It was debated for a long time in Turkey until the day when those who claimed that organ donation was wrong suddenly needed one. Maybe this [getting pregnant through donor insemination] will be seen as normal one day,” she said.

Özkul is aware that one day her child may start questioning her about whether she had any right to have a child without a father. She is also aware that there may be some legal problems too. “But, giving birth to a baby is something egoistic, even when you have a partner. Making children totally happy is never possible. A child could ask her mother and father the same question of why they gave birth to him or her,” she said. Now, Özkul said she is at a point where she does not ask any questions that will bring doubts. Donor insemination is legally allowed in only some countries such as Greece, England, Cyprus and some parts of the United States. Özkul said she chose a center in Cyprus that was experienced in donor insemination as well as tube baby pregnancies. The cost of this donor insemination pregnancy was around 5,000 euros.

Most of the donors at the center in Cyprus are from northern European countries, said Özkul. “In fact, they told me that Turks prefer blond donors since they want blond babies. But I preferred a rather fair colored donor to make my baby look more like me,” she said.

AHMET HAKAN : Danish sperm quality debatable, Hakan says

Daily Hürriyet writer Ahmet Hakan addressed Güner Özkul in his May 12 column in letter format, reminding her of the challenges she might experience in the future: “You became 43 years old, and you wanted to have a child. Instead of making the effort to find a ‘father candidate,’ you found another way, which is, ‘Well, I won’t bother to waste my time with them.’“ Though Hakan said he knew it was not his business to nose into her life, he advised Güner that if she is not “that egotistical” she should know that “every children has right to know who his or her father is.”

“Imagine when your baby grows and asks you where her father is. What will you say?” Hakan asked Özkul in his column, adding even if she were able to overcome this problem, she would be faced with another one. Noting that Özkul got pregnant with the sperm of a donor from Denmark, Hakan said she should not expect to have a child like the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. “Do not forget that even though your donor is from Denmark, that does not mean he reflects the ‘Danish quality’ that you hope to find,” he wrote.

ÇIGDEM ANAD: Mother and father together spin the cocoon of love

Women who have children without a fatherÉ They of course guess the difficulties to raise a child without a father. They know that a child needs a father as well as a mother. Güner Özkul with all her sincerity says making a child by visiting a sperm bank is a selfish decision. What if there is no father candidate, can the mother refrain from her most fundamental instinct? How can she refrain? Men cannot understand this fundamental instinct.

It is not difficult to understand men who do not want children, but it is impossible not to acknowledge them to be right. I believe, however, the measure of loving a woman in a way that you cannot live without her is to have a child with her even though you do not want one.

I do not question Özkul’s relationship with her boyfriend. Moreover, I believe that it is a sign of their mutual respect, love and friendship for each other that their relationship goes on even though Özkul got pregnant by a donor.

If I go to buy sperm alone, I would leave the man I love. Because I am not a child who grew up with a mother and father. My self-confidence is not as high as Ozkul’s. I need a man who loves me that much that he cannot live without me.

AYSE ARMAN: ‘Don’t look back,’ Arman advises

As a response to fellow columnist Ahmet Hakan, Ayse Arman wrote in an article in the same newspaper on May 13, under the headline, “Güner, walk and don’t look back.”

“Your column about Özkul is totally populist and far from sensitive,” Arman said, noting that Hakan is not the parent of a child, and that if he were, he would not write so harshly about Özkul. The pregnancy of women like Güner Özkul is more important than writing on any kind of issue, Arman said, adding that there are many women who cannot get pregnant by the man they love and that sperm banks offer a solution for them, too.

“Whether you like it or not, you have no right to question the quality of that sperm. As you have the right to write anything you want, Güner, Özkul has the right to get pregnant with anyone’s sperm through any kind of method she wants,” Arman wrote in her column. Since giving birth and raising a child bring serious responsibilities, especially when a woman attempts to do so by herself, Arman said people should support Özkul instead of challenging her.

MURAT KINIKOGLU: An evolutionary approach to sperm-bank issue

In his May 18 column in daily Aksam, Murat Kinikoglu said that the number of babies born through artificial insemination is increasing in Turkey as well. Criticisms are usually made from a religious perspective in the country, blaming the single mothers who get pregnant through sperm banks, said Kinikoglu, adding, “However, some religion ethnologists are approaching with more sensitivity to the issue, such as Prof. Beyza Bilgin who said, ‘If Allah would not allow that, then it will not be possible to do so, it is like kidney transplants.’“

Kinikoglu also looked at the issue from an evolutionary perspective, saying that for some types of chimpanzees, knowing the father is important for the continuation of the genes and the family, but for some others, it is not. He said for Homo sapiens, knowing the baby’s father was important in order to maintain resources to aid the development of the child.

“Today, do we need a father who will protect our children from the enemy tribes and wild animals? Maybe in Afghanistan. However, it is probably not that necessary in modern Turkey,” he said.

However, sperm banks may cause unpredictable problems in the near future, he added.

AYÇA SEN: ‘Perfect’ families may not actually be that way

There is no perfect family, said Ayça Sen, participating in the ongoing “sperm bank” debate in her May 14 column in daily Radikal. Sen said that some were writing very didactic things, similar to a teacher using a chiding voice, as they emphasized psychological and sociological perspectives on the issue, saying it would have a cost for both mother and child.

“My one side thinks that homosexuals have the right to have a child, but my other side [that has grown up with a father] says it is not right. When I think that everyone has the right to have a child, then my other side thinks how happy Memo [her son] is when he rides his bicycle with his father,” wrote Sen. Saying she was confused about what she thought was right and wrong in the sperm-bank debate, Sen ended with the idea that the person who attempted to get pregnant using a sperm donor should be the one to decide. She added that raising a child without a father was better than raising a child with a father who abuses the child, who does not support his family or who is involved in criminal acts.

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

Caucasus


Disputed South Ossetia Holds Poll

Elections are taking place in South Ossetia, the disputed breakaway region of Georgia.

The polls are the first held since the territory declared independence from Georgia last August with Russian help.

Georgia regards the elections as illegal; it sees the territory as still part of Georgian sovereign territory.

Some observers say the poll is an opportunity for the South Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoity, to tighten his grip on power.

Only a few hundred ethnic Georgians remain in South Ossetia — a mountainous region of 70,000 people north of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi — and there is only one Georgian on the list of parliamentary candidates

Exaggerated figures?

With just 34 seats at stake, Sunday’s elections, though small, are important for the self-proclaimed republic, says the BBC’s Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi.

They are also a test of democracy in a region financially dependent on Russia, our correspondent adds.

South Ossetia declared independence after a five-day war between Russia and Georgia last August, but only Russia and Nicaragua have recognized its declaration.

The central election commission says 45,000 people are registered to vote in Sunday’s polls, though some analysts say this is a vast exaggeration.

One Russian newspaper, Vremya Novostey, suggested the discrepancy would provide an opportunity for Eduard Kokoity’s Unity party to rig the vote, which officials have denied.

Much of South Ossetia remains battle-scarred after last summer’s conflict and some residents say the pace of rebuilding has been slow, our correspondent says.

A coalition of opposition parties has accused Mr Kokoity of embezzling Russian aid money — a claim he denies.

Meanwhile, a month of controversial Nato military exercises are drawing to an end in Georgia.

Russia has condemned the exercises as “provocative”.

The drills have been taking place close to South Ossetia where Russian troops remain based following the war.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have remained at a low ebb in the wake of the conflict.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



U.S. Halts Military Sales to Georgia

Bowing to persistent Russian pressure, the Obama administration quietly has placed a hold on all U.S. military exports to Georgia due to a “policy review,” with no indication as to when it will be completed or what defensive military items will be allowed to be exported, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

U.S. sources told the G2 Bulletin that such a review has been so “close-hold” that even the Defense Department, which also reviews license applications for national security reasons, was unaware of the action. DOD has been recommending approval of munitions license applications for Georgia.

By law, the State Department has the lead in reviewing all munitions export license applications for “foreign policy” reasons. State could deny such license applications even if the Defense Department recommends approval on national security grounds.

The development comes as Russia renews threats to Georgia where nearly month-long maneuvers are under way by 15 countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. The Russian foreign ministry described the maneuvers as “dubious” and a “provocation.”

NATO decided to hold the maneuvers after Russian threats to show support for Georgia, which is seeking to join the western security organization. Due to Russian threats against Georgia and Europe if NATO would accept Georgia’s membership, NATO last March opted not to vote in Georgia but instead left open the prospect in the future. To show its support for Georgia in view of Russia’s invasion last August, NATO decided to conduct the military exercises in Georgia even though the country is not yet a member.

Keep in touch with the most important breaking news stories about critical developments around the globe with Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence news source edited and published by the founder of WND.

Last August, Russia staged an invasion of Georgia, occupying the two Georgian breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Upon occupying the provinces, Russia immediately announced its recognition of them as independent countries and immediately got them to “invite” Russia to take over border security, station battle tanks in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and set up air force and naval bases in Abkhazia.

Russia is adamant in asserting that it has the right to influence events in former Soviet states, such as Georgia. Moscow vehemently opposes Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO and believes the organization has expansionist intentions into areas Russia claims are within its sphere of influence.

“The Obama administration is caving to the Russians,” one official said. “It means that we’re letting the Russians control U.S. foreign policy interests.”

Up until the Russian invasion last August, the U.S. was a major supplier of military equipment to Georgia, in addition to providing training. The equipment provided, however, was designed more for counter-insurgency and defensive purposes and was not intended to confront any Russian threat.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

South Asia


India: Defence Minister Urges Delivery of Russian and Israeli Weapons

New Delhi, 29 May (AKI/Asian Age) — India’s defence minister A.K. Antony said that weapons contracts with Russia and Israel must be supplied timely, amid reports of an arms race in South Asia.

Speaking in the presence of the Russian and Israeli envoys in the capital New Delhi on the occasion of the induction ceremony of the early-warning surveillance aircraft or AWACS systems for the Indian Air Force, Antony said that he had “conveyed his anxiety to both Russia and Israel” for timely supply of armaments on schedule.

“The Russian and Israeli ambassadors are here. You (Russia and Israel) have to supply two more (AWACS systems),” Antony said, indicating that he expected no more delays in the delivery of the systems.

The delivery of the AWACS systems to India has been delayed due to technical problems. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major also said that India will need more AWACS systems in the years to come but said the exact number of additional systems would have to be worked out.

The defence minister said that the defence secretary will be leaving for Russia on Sunday to discuss the timely supply of AWACS and other systems from that country.

The AWACS comprise Israeli avionics including radar mounted on the Russian IL-76 platform.

The weapons delivery is part of a 1 billion dollar defence deal with Israel.

India had signed an agreement five years ago for supply of three AWACS system, the first of which was inducted into the Indian Air Force on Thursday.

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



Italians Injured in Afghan Battle

Three paratroopers hurt in firefight, 25 insurgents killed

(ANSA) — Rome, May 29 — Three Italian paratroopers were injured in western Afghanistan on Friday in a violent firefight which left 25 insurgents dead, defense ministry sources said.

The battle started when a joint Italian-Afghan army patrol came under attack in the area of Bala Morgab.

None of the soldiers from the Folgore Brigade suffered serious injury.

One was said to have hurt his foot jumping from his vehicle, another received some shrapnel wounds, while the third suffered a concussion when an anti-tank grenade exploded near him.

Three Afghan soldiers were also killed, while four others were injured and four insurgents captured.

Friday’s attack was not far from where an Italian military helicopter, carrying General Rosario Castellano, the commander of allied forces in western Afghanistan, came under machine-gun fire on Thursday.

The pilot was able to avoid the attack and take General Castellano to a meeting with local tribal elders.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa later said that “our boys reacted professionally… and successfully repelled an enemy attack”.

“Our troops do a lot and we cannot ask more of them. They are there to help rebuild and ensure calm as well as to keep terrorism far from our shores,” he added.

La Russa recalled that allied patrols frequently come under fire in the Bala Morgab area.

“Every day there is a risk of attack because the terrorists want to create a situation of instability ahead of the Afghan (presidential) elections” in August, he explained.

On Thursday, La Russa said that “isolated actions” aimed at harming Italian soldiers were growing more common in the run up to the election.

“The deterrent action of the Americans and the English in the zone bordering the area under our control in the west of the county has resulted in renewed insurgence in the places where our soldiers are present,” he said.

“This doesn’t mean that the insurgents are stronger, because the weapons used in the attacks (explosive devices against patrols and other isolated acts) are the sign of those who do not feel in a position to fight openly,” he said.

According to the latest defense ministry figures, there are currently 2,795 Italian troops in Afghanistan, of whom 700 are in Kabul and over 2,000 are in Herat, where the Italian command has its headquarters.

Earlier this year Italy pledged to deploy extra troops for a period of three months to help guarantee security during August’s presidential elections.

An additional 400 army troops are set to be deployed in July, while 40 airforce troops should join them in August.

Another 114 soldiers will also be sent as part of the deployment of the NATO rapid response unit based in Solbiate Olona in northern Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Top Gun’ Takes on Taliban Upside Down

The navy’s leading pilot in Afghanistan tells of the daring manoeuvre he used to tackle a militant stronghold

THE Royal Navy’s “Top Gun” pilot and veteran of almost 200 missions in Afghanistan has relived the hair-raising aerial manoeuvres used against a Taliban stronghold.

Lieutenant Simon Rawlins, 30, described flipping his Harrier jet upside down while flying up the side of a mountain at more than 500mph to scare off enemy troops.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Far East


Amateurs Use Google Earth to Uncover Kim’s Sinister Secrets

A set of images — “North Korea Uncovered”, released by Curtis Melvin, a keen American amateur — includes a tantalising view of the site where the North Koreans detonated a nuclear device last week that diplomatic sources say may have been based on a Chinese design.

Melvin’s satellite map of the country, collated from Google Earth, reveals palaces, labour camps, mass graves and the entrance to the subterranean test base in the remote northeast of the country.

He started collecting images of the world’s most isolated country for the drier purpose of analysing the economy.

[…]

The result is a portrait of a hidden country. It is so rich in raw intelligence that even the collators may not be aware of just how many state secrets are on their website.

Railways and the electricity grid crisscross a landscape where no factories have functioned for years.

Grandiose monuments adorn empty plazas. Airfields and artillery emplacements scar the landscape. A lonely missile launching site from where the North Koreans fired off short-range missiles last week stands looking out across the Sea of Japan.

Sinister mounds mark the places where exiles believe the victims of a man-made famine in the 1990s — perhaps 1m people — were interred.

The mappers are confident that they have identified the Vinalon complex, a plant connected with hideous chemical warfare experiments.

The outlines of fences, ditches and boundaries appear to correlate with escapees’ accounts of the locations of labour camps. The mappers have also identified a public execution site.

Then there are the pleasure domes of the elite. From space they can be seen to extend like a Korean Xanadu through gardens, fountains, swimming pools and pavilions.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Giancarlo Elia Valori’s Diplomacy With North Korea

Rome, 29 May North Korea president Kim Jong Il is today regarded as a dangerous leader. But someone can testify that he and his family have helped — in similar critical moments — to ‘coold own’ difficult situations asd for human rights. In particular professor Giancarlo Elia Valori, president of ‘La Centrale Finanziaria Generale’, has met Kim Jong Il and his father the former leader Kim Il Sung, which was an old friend of him, several times. His last visit took place in 2008 and Elia Valori was the only western invited to the funerals of Kim Il Sung. Such confidential relationships have allowed Elia Valori to ask Kim Il Sung a mediation in order to convince the Iranians to free in 1988 three French hostages of Jewish origin, seized in Lebanese from Hezbollah (Jean Paul Kauffmann, journalist of the French television, Marcel Fontane and Marcel Carton, cameramen). Valori reveals an interesting detail: “In Pyongyang — he recalls — Kim introduced me to Mohsen Rafiqdoust, founder of the Pasdaran, the negotiator on the hostages issue”.

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



Hong Kong Trade Unionist: China Risks Another Tiananmen

Without democracy China is drowning in corruption and injustice. Workers, farmers and migrants revolts are a sign that Beijing is on the verge of a fresh crisis in its relationship with the population. Hong Kong is the catalyst of Chinese democracy. A witness of the Tiananmen movement, banned for over 20 years from returning to China, speaks out.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — Lee Cheuk Yan, 52, is a Legco parliamentarian in Hong Kong. Head of the territory’s Federation of Unions, he is also a member of the pan-democratic group. During the Tiananmen demonstrations he — like the majority in Hong Kong — helped the young people of Beijing and shortly before the June 4th massacre, he succeeded in bringing them money he had collected for tents, faxes and food. Arrested for a number of days he was later extradited to Hong Kong. Since then Lee is one of the few people banned from setting foot on the mainland, because of his support of the Tiananmen movement, but above all because of his commitment to workers rights in Hong Kong and China.

Many people ask me why I still remember June 4th. After all China has changed. Indeed the extraordinary progress of the China of today can be clearly seen. But it is only on an economic level. In that field alone, can we say that there has been great success, with a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) that for a long time was around 10% a year. But the way in which the Communist Party treats its people hasn’t changed at all. The only thing that has changed compared to 20 years ago is the dimensions of its corruption. And people continue to be angered by this corruption, just as 20 years ago.

So regarding freedom nothing has changed. There is still no freedom of expression, the government continues to quash all difference of opinion, there is no freedom of speech or association. We only need to look at how all of the signatories of Charter 08 have been arrested and silenced. As soon as they feel an opinion may threaten the Communist Party, they immediately suppress it. That is why they arrested Liu Xiaobo; during the Olympics they arrested Hu Jia, their only crime being their support of people’s rights.

This is why it is rally a bitter pill to swallow when I hear that we should forget June 4th because China has changed.

This year is not only the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. It is also the 90th anniversary of the May 4th movement. They too were students, who asked that China follow reforms based on “science” and “democracy”. Maybe after 90 years China has acquired science but where is the democracy? There is a cry for democracy that spans decades of Chinese history and still today we have neither democracy, nor human rights, nor freedom.

China has been waiting for over a century now for democracy and still we are still waiting. This is why it is even more urgent to remind the Beijing government that democracy is one the promises they haven’t kept and that without it we risk another sad episode for the people of China.

Beijing insists that democracy only suits the west. In reality it is said that without democracy and freedom of speech there is only corruption. Take for example the Sichuan earthquake. As well as the Mothers of Tiananmen — who honour their children killed by armoured tanks — now there are also the Mothers of Sichuan, whose children died in the earthquake. In May 2008, they had asked for an inquiry into the construction of the schools which collapsed on top of their children. One year later, on the very anniversary of the disaster, President Hu Jintao didn’t dare recall the problem of the “tofu buildings”. And yet a year ago the government had promised an inquiry!

Another example is Wen Jiabao’s efforts to strengthen the economy, by supporting the farmers, helping them by electric equipment and products [at the same time boosting internal consumption]. But the money never finds its way to the farmers: it remains stuck in the pockets of corrupt government representatives.

When Beijing says: “forget democracy and human rights, what’s important is feeding the people”, it is lying. What in fact happens is that without human rights, democracy and freedom of press, you don’t feed the people, only the corrupt. The only guarantee for the well being of the people is democracy.

Moreover without human rights and democracy you will never overcome the abyss between rich and poor. If there is no participation, no trade unions, civil society, you risk collapse.

Hong Kong played an important role in supporting the young people of the Tiananmen movement.

Those days of 20 years ago are one of the most painful periods of my life: to see young people killed, the wounded carried on bicycles, or in the arms of others, the people in tears…. I went to Beijing then to bring money that we had collected in support of their movement. I arrived there at the end of May. I witnessed the first clashes between the army with their tanks and the people. I had travelled there together with some students from Hong Kong, but we lost trace of each other. I searched the hospitals for them and in the end, by sheer luck; I found them wounded but alive.

However when we went to take the plane back to Hong Kong, the security dragged me from the plane before take-off. I was detained for three whole days and I had no idea what would become of me. But after three days — I think thanks to the pressure of some people in Hong Kong — they freed me to return. I later learned that some workers in Hong Kong had threatened to bulldoze the Xinhua offices in Hong Kong, if they didn’t release me, creating an international scandal.

I was lucky, there are Chinese who remained in prison for years.

For us in Hong Kong, the Tiananmen movement was a sign of hope that the dictatorship would end. That is why we supported it. But the massacre quickly put an end to our hopes.

On my return, after June 4th Hong Kong was shrouded in an atmosphere of terror and desperation. People had no more faith in the future, they sought to emigrate, leave the territory. I remember that my wife Elizabeth was pregnant at the time. People would ask her where she found the courage to have a child, with a husband who was in trouble with China.

And yet still today after 20 years we continue our battle so our friends in China may soon enjoy freedom and democracy. And our battle in Hong Kong is the same: we want full democracy in the territory, universal suffrage, but twice over the Politburo has stopped all progress, both for 2008 and 2012.

If China does not change its judgement of June 4th, how can we then expect Beijing to allow full democracy in Hong Kong? It is the same battle, the same movement.

This is why it is important that we in Hong Kong continue to support democracy in China. Ours is an important responsibility just as important as that of the Chinese. Here in Hong Kong, we at least have the opportunity to commemorate the dead of Tiananmen on June 4th [as is the case with the annual Victoria Parka vigil of June 4th -ed], but in Beijing none of our compatriots have the possibility to commemorate the dead: it is forbidden them.

Our annual appointment also gives people from China the chance to come to Hong Kong to remember Tiananmen. In 2005 when we commemorated the death of Zhao Ziyang, many of those who intervened had come from the Peoples Republic, where they were forbidden to remember Zhao.

For the Chinese of the Peoples’ Republic, coming to Hong Kong is not merely a question of tourism; it is also a tour for democracy. Hong Kong has the important role of being a catalyst for freedom in China.

Hong TV also plays a part in this: the people of Guangdong often watch Hong Kong programs. It often happens that when there are democracy rallies in Hong Kong, the programs are suppressed in China. Then people understand: Ah, they are demonstrating in Hong Kong!

Hong Kong, tank to its TV, internet, and media has a profound impact on China.

Remembering Tiananmen 20 years on means putting a choice to the Chinese government.

The nation is by now an economic power; even if there is an economic crisis, a lot of money is still circulating; there are those who say that it is no longer a question of the G20 but the G2 (China and the US) for world governance…..But why are they so weak in their relationship with their people, to the point of not being able to stand for difference of opinion and to resort to suppression?

Leaders are always concerned that something may happen to them. And I think that they are worried by the widespread corruption. A phenomenon of such dimensions, which has been ongoing for years, feeds resentment and revolts and maybe even another Tiananmen.

Obviously we do not want another Tiananmen. We want the government to respond in a positive way to the revolts, by meeting the people and enacting political reform. In China the desire for change is strong; the government has to decide what to do to respond to civil society. Maybe they will not immediately enact full democracy, but they should at least take the first steps towards this goal. By doing so it will avoid another massacre.

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



Vietnam: Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City: Protecting Environment is a Christian’s Duty

Card. Pham Minh Man against extraction of bauxite in the central high planes promoted by government. The prelate denounces all who “damage the environment in the name of development” and invites all to “preserve nature for future generations”.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) — “The natural environment is a gift from the Creator that all of us can share”; it is “a gift for everyone, not for a particular individual or minority group” and must be preserved for “for generations to come”. This is the message at the heart of the pastoral letter published by Card. Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, of Ho Chi Minh City, on May 28th. The prelate reminds the faithful that “Protecting environment is a Christian’s duty”.

The letter is his response to a decision from Vietnam congress to back industrial projects in the name of progress despite the risk of widespread environmental damage. The prelate recalls two particular cases: the pollution of the River Thi Vai, in Ho Chi Minh City, caused by factory waste from the Vedan Vietnam industries specialised in glutamine, starch and sodium; and the a decision from Vietnam congress to back bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands region.

Critics include Vo Nguyen Giap, general Vo Nguyen Giap, the legendary communist wartime hero. General Giap’s battle is characterised by a nationalist stamp; he claims the environmental and social damage from the mines would far outweigh any economic benefit, and pointed to security concerns due to the long term presence of hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers in bauxite mines.

In his letter, card. Pham Minh Man echoes the concern of scientists and intellectuals that: “Since natural environment is for everyone, no one has permission to damage or control it even in the name of economic development”. The prelate argues that industrialists only think “to gain profits for a small group of privileged people” without any thought for the “collateral effects caused” by their factories. “These strategies of economic development can only lead to chaos— concludes the archbishop of former Saigon — They are neither for the common good of society, nor the future of the nation”.

The criticism of bauxite projects has come from various directions of Vietnamese civil society, but the communist party has singled out the Catholic community for punishment: Last month, Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai, the spokesman of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery, and another Redemptorist, Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy were victimized by the government for their opposition against bauxite projects. They were accused by state media of “stupidity” and “ignorance,” of causing serious damage to national unity and to the process of development, and of plotting to overthrow the communist regime.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa


Former Sudan Leader Nimeiri Dies

Former Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiri, who brought Islamic law to the country, has died at the age of 79, government officials say.

Mr Nimeiri died after developing “an illness”, presidential assistant Magdi Abdel Aziz said. He did not provide any further details.

Mr Nimeiri came to power in a 1969 coup that ended years of civilian rule in Africa’s biggest nation.

He later became a close US ally before being ousted, also in a coup, in 1985.

“He was too ill to be taken out of the country for treatment,” Mr Nimeiri’s secretary Makkawi Ahmed was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The funeral would be held on Sunday in Omdurman, near the capital Khartoum, officials said.

Life in exile

After seizing power in 1969, Mr Nimeiri gradually shifted from being a left-wing admirer of Egypt’s late President Gamal Abdel Nasser to becoming a US ally.

During his time in office, the first civil war between the Muslim north and Christian and animist south was brought to an end.

In 1983, he introduced Islamic Sharia law to Sudan — a move which many analysts say triggered a fresh north-south conflict.

Mr Nimeiri’s rule was also marked by a severe economic crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, that was compounded by Sudan’s huge foreign debt and political upheavals.

There was a short period of democratic civilian rule after he was ousted in 1985, but the army under current President Omar al-Bashir seized power in 1989, backed by Islamist hardliners.

Mr Nimeiri returned to Sudan in 1999 after spending 14 years in exile in Cairo, Egypt.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Italy: Migrants Integrated But Social Risks

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 28 — Immigrants in Italy are more and more integrated, but they are at risk socially according to the 2009 global rights report to be presented tomorrow in Rome. Legal immigrants integrate well in Italy: one out of ten matrimonies regards an Italian and a foreign partner (a total of 24,020 in 2006), while the number of weddings in which both partners are foreigners totals 10,376; family reunions are increasing: the number of permits given out for family reasons on the total number of permits continues to rise; immigrants represent 10% of the labour market, of whom 814,311 are member of a trade union, 5% of the total number of members and 12% of active members, excluding pensioners. Immigrants create work: 10% of craftsmanship, 165,114 company owners, 52,715 partners and 85,990 other corporate figures, with the sharpest increase in the Moroccan, Romanian and Chinese community. Despite this close integration, immigrants keep running significant social risks. It is difficult for them to obtain Italian citizenship (an average of 2,000 per day in the EU-25, no more than 100 in Italy); 73.2% of the active population of immigrants has work, 12 points more than Italians, but their unemployment rate is 2 points higher, an average of 8.3% and 12.7% among women. Access to welfare is more difficult: despite a tax yield of 3 billion 749 million euros in 2007, 137.5 million for stamp tax and 254.5 million euros for profit income tax, local welfare has spent 136.7 million euros on them (2.4% of Municipality welfare spending), 53.9 euros per capita.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: More Non-EU New Residents in 2008 Than EU

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 26 — For the first time ever, in 2008 more citizens from non-European Union countries took up residency in Italy than EU citizens, national statistics bureau Istat reported on Tuesday. In its annual report on Italy, Istat said that last year 274,000 foreigners from outside the EU became residents compared to 185,000 EU citizens. According to Istat, there were two main reasons for this. The first was that last year a significant number of residency permits were issued to reduce a major backlog of requests, while the second was a reduction of arrivals of immigrants from new EU member states. The report’s section on immigration said that out of 3.9 million foreigners who had residency as of January 1 of this year, Romanians represented the largest community with 780,000. The report also found that for the 2007-2008 school year, the number of foreign students in Italian schools rose to 574,000, representing a 87% jump from the 2003-2004 school year. Non-Italian students thus represented 6.4% of the student population last year compared to 3.5% four years earlier. In the 2007-2008 school year, foreign students at the primary level represented 7.7% of the total, but this fell to 4.3% at the secondary school level, which was still more than double the 2% in 2003-2004. Istat found that non-Italian students enrolling in secondary schools preferred professional and technical institutes which gave them a diploma to allow them to enter the work force. The percentage of foreign students enrolling in vocational schools, in fact, was 41% compared to 19.4% for Italians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



What Will America Stand for in 2050?

The US should think long and hard about the high number of Latino immigrants.

By Lawrence Harrison

President Obama has encouraged Americans to start laying a new foundation for the country — on a number of fronts. He has stressed that we’ll need to have the courage to make some hard choices. One of those hard choices is how to handle immigration. The US must get serious about the tide of legal and illegal immigrants, above all from Latin America.

It’s not just a short-run issue of immigrants competing with citizens for jobs as unemployment approaches 10 percent or the number of uninsured straining the quality of healthcare. Heavy immigration from Latin America threatens our cohesiveness as a nation.

The political realities of the rapidly growing Latino population are such that Mr. Obama may be the last president who can avert the permanent, vast underclass implied by the current Census Bureau projection for 2050.

Do I sound like a right-wing “nativist”? I’m not. I’m a lifelong Democrat; an early and avid supporter of Obama. I’m gratified by his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. I’m also the grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants; and a member, along with several other Democrats, of the advisory boards of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Pro English. Similar concerns preoccupied the distinguished Democrat Barbara Jordan when she chaired the congressionally mandated US Commission on Immigration Reform in the 1990s.

Congresswoman Jordan was worried about the adverse impact of high levels of legal and illegal immigration on poor citizens, disproportionately Latinos and African-Americans. The principal beneficiaries of our current immigration policy are affluent Americans who hire immigrants at substandard wages for low-end work. Harvard economist George Borjas estimates that American workers lose $190 billion annually in depressed wages caused by the constant flooding of the labor market at the low-wage end.

The healthcare cost of the illegal workforce is especially burdensome, and is subsidized by taxpayers. To claim Medicaid, you must be legal, but as the Health and Human Services inspector general found, 47 states allow self-declaration of status for Medicaid. Many hospitals and clinics are going broke because of the constant stream of uninsured, many of whom are the estimated 12 million to 15 million illegal immigrants. This translates into reduced services, particularly for lower-income citizens.

The US population totaled 281 million in 2000. About 35 million, or 12.5 percent, were Latino. The Census Bureau projects that our population will reach 439 million in 2050, a 56 percent increase over the 2000 census. The Hispanic population in 2050 is projected at 133 million — 30 percent of the total and almost quadruple the 2000 level. Population growth is the principal threat to the environment via natural resource use, sprawl, and pollution. And population growth is fueled chiefly by immigration.

Consider what this, combined with worrisome evidence that Latinos are not melting into our cultural mainstream, means for the US…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Spain: Judges May Not Object to Gay Marriages

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 29 — Spain’s justices of the peace may not appeal to conscience and refuse to unite gay couples in matrimony. This ruling has been handed down by the country’s High Court, rejecting an appeal submitted by a judge in Sagunto (Valencia) against the agreement adopted in 2006 by the general council of judicial power, Spain’s governing council of the judiciary, which denied him the right to conscientiously object on religious grounds to presiding at a homosexual marriage. The judge had cited his fundamental right of freedom of ideas, which includes conscientious objection as its premise. In rejecting the appeal, the High Court pointed out that the only case of conscientious objection in carrying out a public office allowed by Spain’s constitution is that of refusing to do military service and in the case of healthcare staff involved with carrying out abortions. In 2005, Spain passed a law recognising marriages between same-sex partners. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Ministers Argue Girls’ Right to Sex Ed

Liberal party ministers Jan Björklund and Nyamko Sabuni have proposed a new schools law which removes the right to seek exemption from sexual education and swimming classes.

“All pupils, including immigrant girls, have the right to swimming lessons and to take part in physical and sexual education classes,” Björklund and Sabuni argue in an opinion article in Dagens Nyheter on Sunday.

Liberal party leader and education minister, Jan Björklund, and integration minister, Nyamko Sabuni, write that the right to exemptions from these classes will be removed in a new legislative proposal to be circulated for consideration during the summer.

The ministers underline that immigration is beneficial to Sweden while they point out that in Sweden all children have the right to the knowledge offered by the schools, “regardless of whether the parents like it or not.”

Björklund and Sabuni argue that far too many pupils, especially girls, in Sweden currently have their schooling “curtailed” by families with strong “honour traditions.”

They point out that in many such families the freedom of women is often seen as a threat to the family.

“The will of the girls is often subordinated to what is considered to be the best interests of the family; the men’s, or the group’s, “honour” based on the girl’s sexual behaviour.”

This situation can result in girls being denied the right to participate in physical and sexual education classes, something the ministers hope the new law will put a stop to.

Björklund and Sabuni base their arguments on a recent survey of school pupils in Stockholm.

The survey, by researchers at Stockholm University, indicates that 10 percent of pupils in the city’s schools regularly avoid participating in the subjects and school outings.

The survey shows that among the girls within this group, many replied that they could not participate because it would be contrary to their family’s religion or culture.

The ministers refer to a further study conducted by Anders Lange and the Living History Forum that indicates that almost 25 percent of teachers been asked for an exemption from physical education or swimming classes, and 14 percent from sexual education classes.

Björklund and Sabuni argue that the figures indicate that the problem with “honour culture oppression” could be greater than previously apparent.

“Taken to its extreme the oppression is a direct threat to the child’s life, but even if it does not go to such drastic lengths it almost always violates the child’s fundamental rights.”

The right to seek exemption from certain school subjects dates back to 1950 when the Swedish school curriculum still taught Christianity. Catholic and Jewish children were then able to be exempt from the classes and could attend equivalent classes organized by their own faith groups.

The right to seek exemption with reference to specific circumstances in the home was enshrined in the school laws passed in 1962 and then again in 1985.

The new law will limit this possibility to only very exceptional cases but will allow for classes to be organized to avoid “sensitive situations”, thus permitting girls and boys to be educated separately.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

General


Fears of Muslim Anger Over Religious Book

‘Does God Hate Women’ by Jeremy Stangroom and Ophelia Benson cites attitudes to women and criticises Mohammed’s marriage

An academic book about religious attitudes to women is to be published this week despite concerns it could cause a backlash among Muslims because it criticises the prophet Muhammad for taking a nine-year-old girl as his third wife.

The book, entitled Does God Hate Women?, suggests that Muhammad’s marriage to a child called Aisha is “not entirely compatible with the idea that he had the best interests of women at heart”.

It also says that Cherie Blair, wife of the former prime minister, was “incorrect” when she defended Islam in a lecture by claiming “it is not laid down in the Koran that women can be beaten by their husbands and their evidence should be devalued as it is in some Islamic courts”.

This weekend, the publisher, Continuum, said it had received “outside opinion” on the book’s cultural and religious content following suggestions that it might cause offence. “We sought some advice and paused for thought before deciding to go ahead with publication,” said Oliver Gadsby, the firm’s chief executive. The book will be released on Thursday.

A recent novel that also dealt with Muhammad’s relationship with Aisha provoked an outcry. The Jewel of Medina caused such anger that a Muslim extremist was convicted earlier this month of trying to firebomb the office of its publisher.

Continuum’s book may cause a backlash because it sets out to be a factual examination of religious attitudes to women. British writer Jeremy Stangroom and his American co-author Ophelia Benson, whose previous books on philosophy and science have received favourable reviews, cite ancient Islamic scholars to support their case. They roundly attack previous attempts to “soft-soap” the controversial episode in Muhammad’s life. In the aftermath of 9/11, the authors argue, a wave of political correctness aimed at building bridges with the Muslim world has meant accusations of “Islamophobia” have been used to silence debate about the morality of social conduct, past and present.

Through a gruesome catalogue of abuses carried out against women in the name of Islam as well as other major religions, including Hinduism and Catholicism, Stangroom and Benson conclude that most of the world’s great faiths are essentially misogynistic.

Among the many tragedies they cite are the deaths of 14 young girls in a fire at a school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in March 2002. The girls died after being herded back into a blazing classroom by the country’s religious police because they had neglected to don black head-to-toe robes in their rush to flee to safety.

However, the most contentious section of their book is likely to be their conclusions concerning the age at which Muhammad first slept with Aisha.

While it is widely accepted that the girl’s father first offered her for betrothal to Muhammad when she was just six, many argue that Muhammad married Aisha when she was nine and the union was not consummated until she reached puberty years later.

However, Stangroom and Benson cite extracts from a highly regarded historian of early Islam, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, who quotes Aisha as saying: “The Messenger of God consummated his marriage with me in my house when I was nine years old”. The authors conclude “religious authorities and conservative clerics worship a wretchedly cruel unjust vindictive executioner of a God. . . a God who thinks little girls should be married to grown men”.

Such assertions could invoke the ire of some Muslims. Anjem Choudary, a self-styled sharia judge and former leader of the banned British group Al-Muhajiroun, said: “Talk of Aisha as a child when she married is not true.

“At nine she reached her menses and in those days a girl was considered to be mature when that happened. No one will swallow talk about child brides. It would lead to a huge backlash, as we saw with The Jewel of Medina.”

           — Hat tip: Lexington [Return to headlines]



‘Hebrew Book-Burning’ Minister Farouk Hosni is Front-Runner to Head Unesco

An Egyptian Cabinet minister who offered to burn Hebrew books last year enters the final straight as favourite for leadership of Unesco today in the face of fierce opposition from Jewish groups and intellectuals in Europe.

Farouk Hosni, 71, an artist who has served as Culture Minister for 21 years, apologised this week for his book-burning call and is still deemed front-runner among seven contenders for the post of director-general of the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Policy Review: Another Step in Internet Control

In conclusion, I’m a huge proponent of Information Security and making the Internet (i.e. cyberspace or whatever you want to call it this week) more secure. It is very important to me. I live it, I breath it, and I know some of the risks and threats are real; however, I don’t believe this report to provide a clear, concise solution to the problems. It appears more to me to be some sort of mission statement or one group’s agenda on how to take control of the Internet (i.e. cyberspace) under the disguise of assuring a trusted and resilient information and communication infrastructure.

[Return to headlines]



Tone Language is Key to Perfect Pitch

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2009) — Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Sinatra and Hendrix — these and many other of the world’s most famous musicians have had “perfect” or “absolute” pitch. The ability, defined as recognizing the pitch of a musical note without having to compare it to any reference note, is quite rare in the U.S. and Europe, where only about one person in 10,000 is thought to have it. Often lumped into the mysterious realm of Talent, perfect pitch is — according to Diana Deutsch of the University of California, San Diego — probably more the result of nurture than nature, more environment than genes.

In a study published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America and being presented at the ASA meeting in Portland on May 21, Deutsch and her coauthors find that musicians who speak an East Asian tone language fluently are much more likely to have perfect pitch.

“Perfect pitch for years seemed like a beautiful gift — given only to a few genetically endowed people. But our research suggests that it might be available to virtually everybody,” Deutsch said.

Unlike English, many East Asian languages, such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese, are “tonal,” so that a word’s meaning often depends on the tone in which it is said (not to be confused with intonation such as sarcasm). Deutsch surmises that learning perfect pitch is, for fluent speakers of a tone language, akin to learning a second tone language.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Fanny Truchelut Case

For several years Yvette “Fanny” Truchelut and her husband ran a hostel for holidaymakers in a rural area of France. In the summer of 2006 she was brought up on charges after requesting that female Muslim guests remove their veils in the common areas of her establishment.

The resulting prosecution, conviction, and fine drove her out of business and forced her into penury. Mme. Truchelut has launched an appeal, making public her ordeal and requesting financial assistance.

Many thanks to Gaia for this translation of Fanny Truchelut’s story:

In 1985, my ex-husband and I (we separated in December 2007 partly as a result of the following events) bought an old, unoccupied summer camp (note: where groups of children used to spend their summer vacations)

I had two objectives:

  • to create a home for my family (I have 4 children) to accommodate my children, their spouses and my future grandchildren.
  • to finance this enterprise, I turned this house into a ‘gite’ to accommodate holidaymakers. I wanted to create an environment in which conviviality would be paramount.

In December 2004, we opened the house to holidaymakers. My son Antonin set up an Internet site: grandesgouttes.free.fr — which was very active. The orientation that I had taken — a place of hospitality and user-friendliness — was clearly indicated on the site.

From December 2004 to August 2006, that is to say for 1½ years, we successfully rented to holidaymakers. Our enterprise took shape. The holidaymakers who came were in agreement with this principle and I did not encounter any problem; quite the contrary.

The Demiati family arrived at my property on August 11, 2006. They had reserved the accommodation on the Internet. This family had thus seen our site, which gave a clear description of our services:

Communal Area of 70 m2 (living room — dining room) on the ground floor placed free at your disposal, where you can congregate or meet the other tenants of the house.

This room was not available for private rent.

In this family, there were two women, both veiled. For a few seconds I remained immobile on the staircase asking myself what I should say or do. My past experiences, both as a child and a woman, came back to me and I asked Horia Demiati (HD) and her mother to remove their veils in the communal parts of the house, in particular in the room quoted above.

- – - - – - – - -

HD then requested me to return the down payment to her. I went away to look for the cheque which I had not yet cashed, I returned the cheque and the family left.

In requesting that HD remove her veil, I thought of it as an exchange from one woman to another woman. However subsequent events showed me that it was nothing of the sort. All the Demiati family members are militants: HD is treasurer of the CIFE, an organization which militates openly for the wearing of veils in the work place.

I discovered my predicament… in the press in an extremely violent way

A journalist called me on Thursday August 17, 2006, using a well-known tactic of the press; to attack the person interviewed, to comment on the gravity of his act, mentioning on several occasions the consequences (obviously the maximum) to which the person would be likely to be condemned, in short to put the person interviewed in a situation of stress, to make them lose control of the situation. And the tactic worked.

On the following day the journalist published an article in the newspaper Est Républicain of August 18, 2006, an article with this heading on page one:

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN A ‘GITE’

The court will not tolerate racial discrimination, but too late, the evil was done.

However, the presumption of innocence is a basic principle of our Law. This principle means that any individual must be presumed innocent of the charges against him until such time as a judgement is made and a sentence decreed (Article 9 of the Declaration of Human rights and the Citizen).

Confirmed by the Security Convention of the European Court of the Human rights.

AFP (Agence France Presse) reprinted the article, and a media outburst ensued.

Following these articles, I received threats, sufficiently serious for me to visit the police station on August 29, 2006. I was in an intense state of stress, I feared for our safety and I signed a statement which was retained by the court to condemn me. I was officially advised of the complaint relating to September 12, 2006 one month after the events. Civil action was taken by the MRAP, the LDH and the LICRA.

My lawsuit with Epinal on October 2, 2007.

The civil parties in the case took up the terms of the libellous press campaign, treating me as illiterate and racist. The lawyer of the MRAP labelled me a Catholic fundamentalist, even though none of my children are baptised.

My defense was based, at my request, on the issue of Women’s Rights., Maître Varaut made a plea which plunged the room into silence. The opposing parties spent all their time insulting me as well as the two women who testified, Anne Zelenski and Annie Sugier.

At the end of the hearing, when the Vice-president of the court asked me whether I had anything to add, I spoke only about Anne (Zelenski) and Annie (Sugier), reminding the lawyers Welzer, Tubiana and Bouvier, that if one day, they defend a beaten woman, that they remember them, because it was they who created the first refuge for beaten women in 1978. But it was not until 1992, 14 years later that a law was introduced to repress marital violence.

I was found guilty of religious discrimination and received 4 months of suspended sentence and a fine of €8,490. (fuller details about the judgement can be found on my site).

The court decided to condemn me from a passage of my deposition of August 29, 2006.

Extracts of the judgement: Given that Mrs Yvette Idoux married Truchelut report in these terms what occurred: “last August 11, we received a family which had reserved a lodging, family that we refused to lodge, my husband and I, due to two women wearing veils, members of this family, women who refused our request to withdraw this ostentatious sign of their religion in the common parts of the lodging” (statement of the 29/08/2006).

Given that it thus appears, unambiguous that Mrs Truchelut subordinated the hiring of her lodging to the removal by Mesdames HD and her mother of their veil, with the reason that this constituted, according to her own expression, “ostentatious sign of their religion“.

Thus, the common parts became the hiring of the lodging. The court did not take into account either the fact that it was HD who decided to leave or that I at no time requested it.

My appeal in Nancy

I was attacked via the Internet for having been defended by Maître Varaut. They said I should not be supported because of that. Thinking that it was important to win such a lawsuit and wishing as much as possible to gather people behind this cause, I changed lawyers and took on somebody who did not have any “label”. A serious error on my part. Maître Varaut was only an excuse to allow a great number not to implicate themselves.

Unfavourable side, one takes the same ones and one starts again, even insults and low blows.

My guilt was confirmed, I was condemned to two months of suspended sentence and €6,000 of damages.

My personal situation

At Christmas 2006 I received new phone calls from people with surnames of North African origin wishing to rent for Christmas, which made me fear new provocations. I again felt trapped and I decided to stop letting rooms with all the financial consequences that can be imagined. The property can be repossessed and sold without our permission, which will not be easy because it is located in a remote place in the mountain.

My father sent me to work in a factory at 14 years old and I have always worked since. I am 56 years old and I am separated from my husband. I have 2 more dependent children. I am entitled to a pension which I will not be able to touch until I am 60 years old. Currently I live on an allowance which enables me to live or rather to survive but I am unable to pay the €6,000 damages plus interest for which I was scandalously condemned. The decision was made executory, i.e. I must pay the associations known as human rights organizations (MRAP and LICRA) who did not hesitate for one moment to send a bailiff to threaten me to seize my pieces of furniture.

Your assistance would be most welcome. For those who wish to help me financially:

  • by cheque to the order of Fanny Truchelut
    5, rue Louis Français — 88370 — Plombières Baths
  • by credit transfer: BANK: CIC EAST IBAN: FR 76 30087 3366 100020074001 68
    BIRO: CMCIFRPP

I am writing a book to testify to this story.

I thank you.

Fanny

Yet Another Candidate for the EU Parliament

Conservative Swede has taken note of my two previous posts on EU candidates, and has suggested a third one to add to the list, Traian Ungureanu of Romania. As with Kent and Henrik, I have met Traian, and heard him speak at length about the political situation in his country.

Here’s what Conservative Swede has to say:

Both Henrik and Kent have a tough race, and for them to enter it will require their respective parties to get two MEPs into the EU parliament, and for people like you checking them in the ballot as your preference vote (they are number 8 and 6 respectively on their parties’ lists). Do it!

Someone who is much more likely to be elected, however, is Traian Ungureanu in Romania. And he’s as good on Islam and Islamization as Kent and Henrik. He recently started his blog, where he’s got Gates of Vienna and Brussels Journal in his blog roll. Traian is a journalist and is a candidate for the Democratic Liberal Party (EPP), the party of the Romanian president (Traian Basescu). Does that make him sound like an establishment figure to you? Forget about it!

- – - - – - – - -

The political landscape in Romania is something quite different. All parties from the left to the right, are controlled by the oligarchy, i.e. the former Securitate officers, except the party of Basescu. And of course they control the media too (not so different from the West if you think about it). The president Traian Basescu has been like a lonely Churchill against all the other traitorous Chamberlains and Halifaxes. When he opened the Securitate archives. When Romania officially condemned Communism (the only country which did so far, all thanks to president Basescu). And many times Traian Ungureanu has been the only journalist defending the president. Of course the Securitate controlled media has tried to crush president Basescu (yes including an impeachment of course), and Ungureanu is seen as a big threat too, and has therefore ended up as a real loner. It even got to the point where the Romanian media implied that “the Traians” were so tight that it they must be in a homosexual relationship. Based on them having the same first name, and given how childish the media always is… And given that they are the two really truly brave men in Romania.

But yes, president Basescu, and his party, have got a lot of support by the people. Unlike in the West they are not as mesmerized by the establishment’s PC/Securitate ploys (although this is deteriorating at a very fast rate in Romania too, mainly thanks to George Soros).

Visit Conservative Swede’s post for a wealth of additional detail on Romanian political affairs.

Another Candidate for the EU Parliament

Last week I posted about Henrik Ræder Clausen’s candidacy for the European Parliament as a member of the Danish People’s Party.

Here is a presentation by Kent Ekeroth, who is one of several candidates from Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats) standing in the EU elections on June 7th. I have met Kent on several occasions, and he was part of the Swedish delegation at our meeting in Copenhagen earlier this month.

The text below was kindly translated into English by our Swedish correspondent CB.



Protect our freedom, stop Islamization!

by Kent Ekeroth

This is my presentation before the elections to the European parliament 2009.

Kent EkerothStats:

I was born in Malmö but grew up in Halmstad and Lund.

I have a Master’s Degree in Business from the University of Lund, and among things I have studied and worked in Australia for a year, 2004. In addition I was an intern at the Swedish embassy in Israel, during the autumn of 2006. Since 2007 I have been the international secretary of Sweden Democrats, and my job is to create contacts with parties and organizations abroad. Among other things I have been responsible for contacts with AEN, where we recently were accorded the status of observers.

In addition I work with our party’s criminal policy group and our EU-group that has formed our EU-manifesto. Besides that I’m a substitute in the Lund municipal council.

Short facts:

Name:   Kent Ekeroth
Place:   Lund
Age:   27
Profession:   Master of Business Administration
Most important EU-matter:   Resisting the Islamization of Europe
Current status:   Candidate for Sweden Democrats

Matters I want to pursue in the framework of the EU:

Resisting the Islamization of Europe
- – - - – - – - -
Europe is confronted with an ever-rapid Islamization, which of course has its basis in a very liberal immigration policy, which is enhanced by a high level of illegal immigration.

The effects of a growing Muslim minority in Europe have become painfully obvious, in Sweden as in the rest of Europe. We can see ever more signs of countries adapting to increasing Muslim demands, adjustments to school lunches, multicultural holidays, and gender-segregated bath houses. We have so called “no-go zones” where police, the fire department, ambulances, etc. can’t go without being attacked. We see violent crimes sky-rocketing. It is happening in several European countries; France, where among things have daily car fires occur, and which has a population consisting of 10 % Muslims; England is perhaps the worst-off country in Europe, where sharia has become a part of the official law of the land and whose flag was removed from its prisons so the Muslim inmates wouldn’t be “upset”. In the Netherlands, as is well-known, we have seen politicians and filmmakers being murdered as a result of their criticism of Islam. Amsterdam is expected to have a Muslim majority soon.

The list could go on at length. What is obvious with these developments is that we will soon see our freedoms and our Western society eroded, to the advantage of the totalitarian, misogynistic, violent, and oppressive ideology that is Islam.

Even today we see that the EU totally doesn’t understand the danger we face. They in fact, among other things, seriously discuss importing 50 million African immigrants to Europe.

Europe needs to wake up. And I intend to wake them if I’m elected to the European parliament.

Cancel agreements that threaten Sweden’s sovereignty and self determination

With amendments to the EU since the beginning of Sweden’s entry, Sweden has relinquished ever more of its sovereignty and self-determination. An example of this is Euratom-agreement that Sweden has already signed. In brief, the agreement says that Sweden’s natural resources, are “the community’s property”, that is, the EU’s. Sweden sits on thousands of billions of Swedish krona in assets, just of uranium oxide, which is used in nuclear power. According to the agreements that Sweden has already entered into, this is now the community’s property.

Furthermore, the Sweden Democrats recently launched a campaign to save Sweden’s cultural landscapes [mostly refers to varying but typical Swedish landscapes that many people feel it’s important to preserve], which are put under pressure by the EU.

There are several agreements and decisions from the EU that Sweden has to cancel right away or to obtain exceptions from. The above exemplifies that. This is an important area to struggle for within the framework of the EU.

These are matters that are can be best dealt with at home, that is that Sweden with her own hand cancels the agreements. But those matters can also be treated within the EU framework,where Sweden negotiates exceptions or the like. In either case I can pursue these matters from the EU parliament on both fronts, both in Sweden and the EU.

Matters to be dealt with in Sweden

Withdrawal from the EU’s political union

A natural priority is that Sweden shall withdraw from the political union that is the EU. Through working in the machinery of the EU, and thereby getting direct information and knowledge of all that is happening in the EU, I can purse an opinion in Sweden — for a Swedish withdrawal. I intend to do that.

Vote June 7th

The EU influences Sweden more and more. Even if Sweden has only about 20 places in the EU parliament (depending on what treaty that will apply) and limited influence, it is important to show what one thinks about the EU and its development.

A vote for the Sweden Democrats is a vote for Sweden’s independence, to return power to Sweden and the Swedes, so that we have the ability to decide our own future.

The New English Review Gets a Close Look at Taqiyya

When the invitation from the New English Review arrived earlier this year, I was delighted. A counter-jihad conference in Tennessee! Geert Wilders would be appearing via teleconference, and the other speakers, including Nidra Poller (who had been at the Brussels Conference in 2007) would make for an excellent (if intensive) weekend.

I talked to the Baron about his possible attendance,even though it might be a bit much coming so soon after the conference in Denmark. He figured he’d still be catching up on all the work that would accumulate while he was gone. We discussed it for a few days, looking at the list of speakers, and trying to figure out if he could manage it.

Then word came that his job would be ending, so the decision was made for us. No matter how much good attending that conference might be, airfare for the unemployed had somehow been left out of the administration’s stimulus package. Yeah, I was disappointed he couldn’t go but those feelings were eclipsed by the specter of imminent unemployment. Things you just know would be “great opportunities” resolve themselves into the category of “not that important after all”. I decided I could be satisfied with reading the write ups at the New English Review and maybe emailing Nidra Poller when she got back to Paris.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t very aware that the conference was going on this weekend…

Then, last night our tipster TB sent a link to a local Tennessee news report that the conference venue had been cancelled:

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel turned away a symposium it had booked for this weekend that would have featured a controversial Dutch politician and filmmaker, citing concerns about safety if the event were allowed to happen.

A group called New English Review planned to hold a two-day conference on “Understanding the Jihad in Israel, Europe and America,” and had signed a contract in January to use the prominent West End Avenue hotel. [my emphasis - D]

“We canceled the group for both the safety and the health of our guests and employees here at Vanderbilt hotel,” said Tom Negri, managing director of Loews Vanderbilt.

Negri is known in the Nashville community for his involvement in the group Nashville for All of Us, which helped defeat the English-only measure this year.

I googled Mr. Negri’s group, “Nashville for All of Us”. It appears to promote the balkanization of Nashville, based on language. This group’s existence shows once more the downward spiral of our common culture based on a common language. One has only to look at the experience Canada has had with Quebec to know that such attempts lead to resentments and alienation. At any rate, the English-only referendum was defeated so their municipal activities will have to bear the added expense of communicating in whatever language residents speak. In Nashville at least, the American ideal of integrating newcomers via a basic necessity – i.e., language – is officially dead. And Mr. Negri’s group is responsible, so that gives you some idea of what his bias might be toward a group calling itself the New English Review.

Digging a bit deeper, Mr. Negri has other associations that make questionable his motivation in canceling the symposium so suddenly. News Max has more background on this fellow:

Thomas A. Negri, managing director of Loew’s Vanderbilt Hotel and Office complex in Nashville, told Newsmax on Wednesday that he had taken the extraordinary step of cancelling the conference at the last minute for the health, safety and well-being of our guests and employees.

Negri refused to say why he felt the conference would adversely affect the “health, safety and well-being” of the hotel’s guests and employees, except to refer to the website of the New English Review, the group organizing the conference.

The website features articles that warn about radical Islam written by activists, journalists and scholars, including former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, and former Muslim scholar, Ibn Warraq.

One article, written by a retired U.S. army intelligence officer, Jerome Gordon, warns of the growing problems caused by the recent influence of several thousand Somali Muslim refugees who have come to work for a nearby Tyson’s Food plant to replace illegal Hispanic meat packers.

Negri appeared at a 2003 pro-immigration event on the same dais with a well-known Somali warlord, Gordon told Newsmax.

In a written statement to the conference organizers, Negri said that the hotel had “not received any information related to a specific security threat concerning this event,” and declined to provide any justification for cancelling it at the last minute.

Here’s more from the Tennessee paper. Watch the reporter slide into an adversarial position:
- – - - – - – - -

Rebecca Bynum, listed on the group’s Web site as publisher and a senior editor, said the hotel stated no actual threat was made against Loews for hosting the symposium.

“We find it interesting that even without a specific threat that the fear of violence is so great that they would decide to cancel our event,” Bynum said.

New English Review’s Web site had a statement that said, “Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel succumbed to intimidation and cancelled hosting our event.”

Bynum said the group signed a contract in January to do the meeting at Loews, but learned this week it was canceled.

She said Loews knew the topic of the event and had talked with the group about the possibility of having security, though she and other members were not worried.

The group’s Web site lists a Nashville mailing address, but it does not include a description of the group’s purpose or mission. The World Encounter Institute, a nonprofit organization that funds the Review site and symposium, said it aims to protect the values of Western civilization.

Obviously the reporter didn’t look too hard. If you go to the website, the purpose of the World Encounter Institute, of which the New English Review is part, appears at the top of the page:

The World Encounter Institute is a non-profit corporation dedicated to defending the values of Western civilization, including the freedom of the arts and music, women’s and children’s rights, the abolition of slavery worldwide and the defense of the Constitution of the United States of America through research, publications and educational outreach.

WEI provides funding for: New English Review and the New English Review Symposium

World Encounter Institute is a 501 (C) (3) corporation as of July 6, 2006.

Here is the listing of their Board of Directors, found directly below the purpose statement:



Julia E. Raffety, President
Ibn Warraq, Vice President
Rebecca Bynum, Secretary
Hugh Fitzgerald
Richard L. Rubenstein
Jerome Gordon



I’m sure you recognize most of them as counter jihad leaders.

Continuing with the newspaper reporter, it becomes obvious that she has her own agenda here:

“We seek to raise awareness about the nature of the jihad and all its various instruments, which do not all necessarily involve violence,” Bynum said, declining to elaborate.

In other words, “do your own research, Ms. Journalist”. Taqiyya doesn’t involve violence. Neither does intimidation via expensive lawsuits. In fact, jihadists use lawfare quite successfully.

The reporter grinds on:

One of Bynum’s articles questions the Nashville Jewish community’s attempt to foster relations with local Muslims.

“These people are all well intentioned and perhaps actually believe they can reverse 1,400 years of Islamic history,” she writes. “They are providing their own children as political cover for people whom they want very much to trust and believe, but who have revealed themselves to be deceivers.”

You are left to wonder why the journalist cherry-picked this particular quote out of all that Rebecca Bynum has written. She rushes through the wind-up,

The symposium started Friday as scheduled, but at a venue revealed only to people registered to attend.

Negri wouldn’t say whether Loews had ever canceled a symposium or similar event in the past.

“We made the correct decision to protect the health and safety of guests and employees,” Negri said.

Right, we got that. But how come it took five months on the part of Mr. Negri to reach this “health and safety” decision? It’s obvious that he was told the title of the conference from the beginning.

I doubt that the New English Review staff knew of Mr. Negri’s associations with Nashville’s Somali Muslims. Or, if they did know, perhaps they thought he would be (pardon the expression) “honor-bound” to keep to the terms of their business contract.

The comment section for this article is now difficult to access. When I first read the story a few hours ago, the tide of opinion about Mr. Negri’s sudden cancellation of the conference was running almost entirely against his decision and the way it was implemented. Fortunately, I scraped out one page of comments before they disappeared, so you can get the flavor of the debate:

1. If everyone takes Mr. Negri’s position, then de facto censorship is instituted. There is a generation of Americans unfortunately that have not the stones of a male gnat and quiver and shake as cowards at the slightest hint of trouble.

2. Loews is a private business and it can do as it pleases, but it certainly seems unfair to cancel a group’s reservation at the last minute, especially without a good explanation. Some yellow-bellied manager got the heebie-jeebies, I guess.

3. They should have left the word English out of their name…[that would be an inside joke for people from Nashville - D]

4. Cowards!

5.This is a perfect example of the fear and intimidation that is a part of Islam. Is there another religion that advocates the murder of others who hold different beliefs? When faced with the evil of this cruel religion you either face it or you will be consumed by it. Negri has shown himself to be a coward and should immediately resign his position. One thing is certain, I will never stay at a Loews hotel again.

6. Well if Mr. Negri is so scared of the Muslims getting pizzed off and causing a safety issue for the staff and guests, then isn’t he in effect helping to make Mr. Wilders point about the volatility of Islamic radicals?

Did Mr. Negri cancel at the last moment hoping to put a spanner in the wheel of “Understanding the Jihad in Israel, Europe and America”? Did he deliberately fail to notify the Review until Wednesday, hoping they would be forced to cancel?

Thankfully, they found another venue and the symposium went on without the help of Mr. Negri. In fact, his attempts to spoil things just gave the gathering more publicity. Now people will be looking forward to hearing about the speeches. Here’s the line-up:

The Honorable Geert Wilders, Member of Parliament of The Netherlands, will be speaking by video. He is chair of the Dutch Party for Freedom which is now the most popular political party in the country. He opposes the Islamization of the West and supports the creation of American style first amendment for the EU. His short movie, Fitna, has been shown in the United States Senate.

Richard L. Rubenstein is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Bridgeport and Lawton Distinguished Professor of Religion Emeritus at Florida State University. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Jewish theology, the Holocaust and other issues including After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism, The Cunning of History, My Brother Paul and Dissolving Alliance: The United States and the Future of Europe.

Hugh Fitzgerald, board Member of World Encounter Institute and Sr. Editor of New English Review has developed what could be highly effective alternative strategies in dealing with the challenge of Islamic aggression, both for Israel and the US. He is also a Sr. Analyst for Jihadwatch.

Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS is an American scholar and Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School. His is the author of The Legacy of Jihad, a work which provides an analysis of Jihad based on an exegesis of Islamic primary sources on the topic and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History.

Nidra Poller is an American novelist and journalist living in Paris and translator, most recently, of Humanism of the Other and Unforseen History. She has written extensively on the growing problem of antisemitism in Europe and has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Standpoint, Commentary, New English Review, City Journal, Jerusalem Post, Washington Times, Jewish Quarterly, NY Sun, National Review Online and Pajamas Media.

Jerry Gordon, contributing editor for New English Review, specializes in domestic anti-terrorism policy. His work at NER has been used by Senator Joseph Lieberman as well as Representative Sue Myrick in drafting legislation to protect the United States against the efforts of those who would overturn the laws and customs of this country.

Rebecca Bynum is Publisher and Sr. Editor of New English Review and board member of World Encounter Institute. Her book, Allah Is Dead is due to be published this year.

Norman Berdichevsky, a geographer, historian and linguist, is a contributing editor at New English Review. His published works include, Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain’s Culture, Society & History, and Nations, Language and Citizenship.

Bill Warner, director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam. He is the author of 11 compilations of Islamic doctrinal texts arranged for easy study by the layman.

Paul “Dave” Gaubatz is a former Federal Agent, is a U.S. State Department-trained Arabic linguist and counterterrorism specialist. He has acquired over two decades of experience while working on assignments in Middle-Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Iraq. Mr. Gaubatz is the Director of a major research project which sends research teams to Islamic Centers throughout the U.S. who advocate terrorist acts against U.S. interests and/or support such groups. The first-hand obtained intelligence is provided to law enforcement and to the American public to insure they are aware of national security concerns affecting them and their children.

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


When the Baron and I were first mulling over the question of whether or not he’d be able to accept the invitation to attend, I did some research on the participants whose names I didn’t recognize. Norman Berdichevsky, with his interests in history, linguistics and geography was a real find.

The Baron loves European history of all kinds, so when I found this particular book by Dr. Berdichevsky, I ordered it for him as a consolation prize: The Danish-German Border Dispute, 1815-2001: Aspects of Cultural and Demographic Politics. Who knew there was even a dispute, much less that is lasted so long? One reviewer said:

This is a fascinating study about a little known border dispute that nevertheless had major ramifications for the course of European history in general and Scandinavian-German relations in particular. It also challenges the widely held misconception about the relationship between language and national identity.

Just so. Isn’t that relationship, of language and national identity, the very one that our villain, Mr. Negri, was so successful in suppressing in Nashville?

By the way, if you’d like to complain to the powers that be about this lack of hospitality, here’s the contact page. The hotel in question is the Vanderbilt in Nashville. Tell Loew’s what you think of Mr. Negri’s behavior:

http://www.loewshotels.com/en/ContactUs/SendUsAComment.aspx



World Net Daily also has a story up about the cancellation of the symposium booking. Mr. Gaubatz, one of the speakers, told WND that he’d received some threatening emails about the event. WND also has a link in that report to an earlier story about Mr. Gaubatz’s work.

The New English Journal has called this event its “First Annual” Symposium. I hope that by their Second Annual Symposium the Baron will be there but even if he’s not, NER deserves our admiration for sponsoring this kind of program.

Perhaps an annual event will lead to the kind of networking in the US that the conferences in Europe have accomplished?

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/30/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/30/2009Nicolas Sarkozy’s favorite project, the Mediterranean Union, has been stalled for the last year or so. Now the French and Egyptian foreign ministers, after meeting in Paris, have announced their determination to revive the initiative to unite the Maghreb with the EU.

In other news, a study indicates 40% of Somali women in the Netherlands have been genitally mutilated.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Germany Agrees Deal With Magna, GM to Save Opel
Islamic Finance: Can it Save Western Banks?
Japanese Industrial Output Jumps to 56 Year High of 5.2%.
The Revenge of the Italian Way
 
USA
Are Tea Partiers the New ‘Terrorists’?
Career Lawyers Overruled on Voting Case
Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food
GOP Attacks Democrats for Climate Proposal
Guess Who Speaks at Commencement Ceremonies
Ohio Man Arrested for Mowing Unkempt Grass at Park
Oklahoma Druggist Arrested for Killing Holdup Man
U.S. Man Who Gave Secrets to Israel Spared Prison
 
Europe and the EU
Austria: Chancellor Calls for Extension of Army’s Border Patrols
Banks: Spain, Santander to Rebrand U.K. Banks
BBC Offers Apology to Muslim Council of Britain Over Guest’s Remarks
EU: The Conversation Continues, Not Always Politely
‘Forty Percent of Somali Women in Netherlands Genitally Mutilated’
Greece Fears Immigrant Unrest
Gulf Capital Used to Buy Polish Shipyards: Tusk
Italy: Criminals, Judges, Press ‘Evil’
Michael Nazir-Ali: Jesus Wouldn’t Have Voted BNP, and Neither Should Any Christian
NATO: Berlusconi-Rasmussen, Resume Relations With Russia
Sweden: Iraq-Born Teen Solves 300-Year Old Math Puzzle
UK: Poll Reveals Labour Heading for Election Humiliation
UK: Tragic, Unwise: Conservative Grandees Turn on David Cameron Over Plans for European Union
Unmasked: The Football Hooligans Behind Last Weekend’s Bloody Protest in Luton Against a Muslim War Demo
 
Balkans
Croatia: Hague; Zagreb Assures Full Cooperation
 
Mediterranean Union
Cairo and Paris to Re-Launch Alliance
 
North Africa
Tunisia-Algeria: Strengthening of Border Control
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Italian Mission in West Bank for New Marshall Plan
 
Middle East
Defense: Turkey; Expenditures Jump With New Chopper Project
Lebanon: Hezbollah, Facing International Judicial Attacks
Lebanon: Iran Ready to Strengthen Army, Nasrallah
Over Turkish Objection, UN Extends Cyprus Peacekeeping Mandate
Terrorist Flees to Lebanon, FBI Confirms
Turkish Awareness on Human Rights Increases
 
South Asia
Bangladesh: Two Young Brothers, Victims of a Family Feud, Disfigured With Acid
Pakistan: Islamic Radicals Storm “Blasphemy” Hearing
US Urges Europe, China to Step Up Afghan Help
 
Far East
Asia: Vietnam Gearing for War With China?
Japan University Gives Away Iphones to Nab Truants
U.S. Won’t Accept North Korea as Nuclear State: Gates
 
Australia — Pacific
Flu Prompts New Powers
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Britons to Return From Zimbabwe
 
Latin America
‘Homophobic’ Christian TV on the Outs in Brazil?
Miami Judge Awards $1.2 Billion in Suit Against Cuba
 
Immigration
Barrot to EU-27, Refugee Transfers Into Union
‘EU Response Needed’ on Immigration
France to Accept 80 Immigrants From Malta
Maroni: EU Commissioner Open to Our Proposals
Sweden: Tax Agency Ready for June 1st ID Card Rush
 
Culture Wars
Deadline Set in Banned Bible Study Case
‘Gay’ Activist to Oversee Public Classroom ‘safety’
Mandatory ‘Gay’ Day for K-5 Students
 
General
Predator Drones Could Face Legal Challenges From Human Rights Advocates

Financial Crisis


Germany Agrees Deal With Magna, GM to Save Opel

BERLIN (Reuters) — Germany reached a landmark deal with Canadian auto parts group Magna, General Motors and governments to save carmaker Opel from the imminent bankruptcy of its U.S. parent, German leaders said on Saturday.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told journalists waiting outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offices during the six-hour meeting that a comprehensive deal had been agreed.

“I can tell you that a deal has been reached,” Steinbrueck said shortly after 2 a.m. He added that the deal included bridge financing for Opel worth 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion) and a trustee model for the German carmaker.

Siegfried Wolf, the co-chief executive of Magna, cautioned there were still details to be ironed out.

“In five weeks’ time we should have the formal signing of the contract,” he said.

Hesse state premier Roland Koch said, for example, the state assemblies in both Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia — two of four states with Opel plants — would still have to endorse it. He said he hoped that could be completed by Sunday.

Leaders of all four states have endorsed the deal.

Metalworkers’ union IG Metall also backed the accord.

“It is good that the state has finally cleared things up. It was high time,” said Oliver Burkhard, head of the union in North Rhine-Westphalia.

“Now we can look ahead. Now the real work begins. The only thing that is certain is that Opel will keep going.”

Steinbrueck said U.S. Treasury representatives at the meeting had also endorsed the agreement.

Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg renewed his reservations about risks involved with the rescue but added there would also have been risks if Opel declared bankruptcy.

Magna and Opel had presented their plan to senior German officials and representatives of the U.S. Treasury to win their support and ensure the release of the financing that Opel desperately needs to survive over the coming months.

An agreement between GM and Magna is a first step toward securing the future of Ruesselsheim-based Opel, which has been under GM’s control for the past 80 years and traces its roots in Germany back to the 19th century.

“I think this is the start of a new future for Opel, for the workers, the company and the brand,” GM Europe head Carl-Peter Forster told journalists. He added, however, that there would still be some hard negotiations on the fine-print ahead.

The German government has been scrambling to safeguard Opel’s future before GM files for bankruptcy, a step which is expected to come by Monday.

A first round of talks in Berlin collapsed amid mutual recriminations on Thursday morning, prompting the German government to set a new round of negotiations for Friday.

Italian carmaker Fiat, Magna’s main rival in the battle for Opel, pulled out of talks, leaving the door open for Magna, a company that was started by Austrian emigre Frank Stronach in a Toronto garage nearly half a century ago.

Magna plans to use Opel to push into Russia, Europe’s fastest-growing car market before the economic crisis hit.

The company, which has 70,000 employees in 25 countries, supplies components and systems to many of the world’s leading carmakers, including fuel tanks and radiator grilles for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and fuel filters for the BMW X3.

LIFE GOES ON, SAYS FIAT

Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne had earlier appeared to concede defeat to Magna, saying his focus was on the company’s deal with Chrysler.

“If the Opel transaction is not available to Fiat, life will move on,” he said.

A stumbling block had been U.S. Treasury opposition to German demands that Opel assets be temporarily placed in a trust to protect them from GM creditors. Germany will now release the bridge financing to tide Opel over until a merger is completed.

Based in Ruesselsheim near Frankfurt, Opel employs 25,000 staff in four German plants.

It is part of a GM Europe operation that employs more than 50,000, with car manufacturing plants in Spain, Poland, Belgium and Britain, where Opel cars are sold under the Vauxhall brand, as well as engine and parts sites such as Aspern near Vienna.

Like its parent GM, Opel has suffered acutely from the worldwide economic slowdown. Its fate is being followed closely in Germany, where the auto industry remains a potent symbol of the country’s post-war recovery and export-driven economy.

Merkel faces an election in September and was keen to ensure a deal that would avert large job losses.

(Additional reporting by Christiaan Hetzner in Frankfurt, John McCrank in Montreal, Ian Simpson in Milan; Tom Kaeckenhoff in Duesseldorf; Writing by Erik Kirschbaum and Noah Barkin; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Islamic Finance: Can it Save Western Banks?

Financial crisis offers Islamic banks a chance to flourish

The rules are simple, no dealing in alchohol, pornography or anything deemed morally harmful coupled with no interest and you have the foundation for an Islamic financial system, which has been able to withstand the current economic meltdown, presenting Islamic banks with a unique opportunity to flourish.

Unlike banks in Western economies, Islamic banks have been delt less of a blow by the financial crisis and experts believe it is because the laws followed are based on those set out in Islam’s Holy book, the Quran, which for Muslims is the word of God.

No interest and risk sharing

Islamic banks do not borrow in interbank markets as their funds are from their own deposits and they do not hold toxic collateralized debt obligations. Furthermore Islamic law forbids interest and encourgaes risk sharing, which means that any investment, profit or loss, is shared by both the bank and its clients.

The fact that Islamic banks have seen minimal adverse effects from the crisis has made them more attractive to investors, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who watched the value of their investments in conventional banks plummet, according to a new report, named The development of Islamic finance in the GCC, from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

“There has been much questioning of the values underpinning the conventional financial system, and the search for alternatives means that Islamic banks are likely to receive more attention, especially as their raison d’être is morality in financial transactions, based on religious teachings,” said author of the report Professor Rodney Wilson, who wrote the report for LSE’s Kuwait Programme on Development, Governance and Globalization in the Gulf States.

The demand from the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims for investments that comply with their beliefs means assets that comply with Islamic law range between $700 million and $1 trillion, with some estimates seeing assets growing to $1.6 trillion by 2012.

The value of Shariah-compliant assets in the GCC, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, amounts to more than $262 billion.

“The increasing international respect for Islamic finance has been noted in the GCC, and this should encourage local acceptance by both governments and bank customers, not least because no Islamic bank has failed in the crisis and required a substantial government bail-out,” Wilson said.

Linking the West with Shariah

Wilson said the GCC’s position in the heart of the Muslim world made the area a strategic hub that could link Islamic finance to Europe, Asia and Africa and argued the spread of subsidiaries of GCC-based Islamic banks was an indication that it was already happening.

However, regulatory differences and harmonization among different schools of thought, are just some of the main obstacles of Islamic banking as it looks to grow into a cross-border system, mainly targetting European countries with large Muslim communities.

As the industry expands into non-Muslim or secular states, the need to educate others about the sector has become greater.

In a sign that cultural barriers may be coming down, this week a London-based training program was launched by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Ian Luder, to enable the European financial hub to better cater to the requirements of Islamic finance.

“Despite the current global financial crisis, Islamic finance continues its growth as an increasingly viable alternative banking system for both Muslims and non-Muslims. It will be a vital component of the new global financial infrastructure,” Luder said.

The program, which will be run by the Islamic Banking Finance Center U.K., was established to provide research and training for private and public organizations such as insurance companies, banks, non-financial businesses and academic institutions.

“The Islamic finance sector is expanding at an exponential rate…due to its strong financial principles and ethical values, which prohibits the charging or paying of interest and encourages mutual risk and profit sharing between parties,” Akmal Hanuk, chief executive of IBFC-U.K., said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Japanese Industrial Output Jumps to 56 Year High of 5.2%.

A government stimulus plan seeks increased industrial output in coming months. But unemployment is on the rise and internal demand slowing. Experts forecast uncertainty until the second half of 2010.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Japan’s industrial production jumped at the fastest pace in 56 years in April, with predictions for further gains in May and June. Even though economists are optimistic, time will be needed before there can be an effective economic recovery with an unemployment rate that has risen to 5% (maximum levels since 2003) and slowing internal demand.

Companies making electric parts, chemicals and transport equipment posted particularly strong gains. According to the Ministry of Economy, manufacturers expect production to soar 8.8 % in May and 2.7% in June due to brightening prospects for a recovery in global demand. Thus Japanese exports continue their upward trend of April after relatively sluggish period.

The increase comes on the back of massive lay-offs and production cuts by companies due to recession pressures, in their efforts to reign in production costs. For example, innovation costs slid to 2.7%in April. But this directly affected many family budgets, with 3.46 million unemployed according to official data. Family consumption slid to 1.3% in April compared to the same time last year. The consumer index dropped by 0.1%, and is forecast to drop by a further 0.7% in May. Symptoms that any real recovery is still a long way off and that the increase in production is linked to the stability of world markets, after recent heavy losses.

Chiwoong Lee, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo, predicts unemployment will rise to record levels and hit 6 % by the end of next year, and that weak consumption and expanding job losses could reverse the recovery in industrial output later this year. This week global camera manufacturer Nikon announced it will cut a further 1,000 jobs.

Yasunari Ueno, chief economist at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo, has also forecast that the “economy will remain sluggish with “highs and lows until the second half of 2010”.

Other analysts note that these improvements are a result of the government’s stimulus package for a total of 15,400 billion Yen (circa 113billion euro) aimed at supporting production and internal demand.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



The Revenge of the Italian Way

Italy is known for the fragility of its public accounts. But in the current economic storm, some features of its economic system, until recently stigmatised, are seen in a new light. Despite of Maastricht’s religion.

by Giorgio Fodor

The financial crisis has had a devastanting impact on bank’s balance sheets. As markets froze financial models used by the financial sector proved deceptive and assets that had been presented as safe revealed themselves dangerous and overvalued.

Investment banks soon ran into trouble. As they did not take deposits from the public they were not regulated as normal banks but they had borrowed heavily and were highly leveraged. This posed a threat to the whole of the financial system and with one exception (Lehman Brothers) were saved from bankrupcy where necessary.

It should be realised that this was not supposed to happen. Only institutions regulated by the banking authorities were legally entitled to protection, but the danger was so big that action was considered indespensable. Even a giant insurance company AEG was saved with $80 bn because of its role in the banking system. This company had sold insurance on the future value of dubious securities to banks who thus were able to lower their capital requirements under existing rules. The failure of AEG, that is, a counterparty to banks in these contracts, would have forced banks to try to raise capital in a desperate moment or to further curtail lending. This would have provoked further falls in the value of bank shares and aggravated their problems.

The crisis hit many different financial institutions that were helped by central Banks or governments. They were saved partle because of a strong intellectual movement that developed after Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz published their research on the Great Depression, where a central role in the transformation of a recession ino a Depression was given to the shrinking money supply, caused by bank failures. If monetary policy had been important at the time, it was crucial to repeat that tragic mistake.

The massive aid given to banks in the present crisis is however of a different order of magnitude from the past because of the explosive growth of financial institutions in the recent past, in many cases abroad. Because of this a totally new problem arises: in some cases banks are so big that saving them may endanger the debtor status of the country’s Government. The assets of only one bank, Barclays Bank (£2547 billion) are higher than Britain’s GDP. One Icelandic bank, Kaupthing, has assets that are six times the GDP of Iceland and a second bank, Landsbanki, has assets that are over three times the country’s GDP. Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium Luxemburg, Cyprus, Spain, the UK, France and Ireland all have at least one bank whose assets are higher than the home country GDP.

Clearly it would be absurd to think that all these assets are worthless, but potential losses may be very big indeed and it is not surprising that in some cases the quotations of the official debt of these countries has suffered. The damage to public finance is therefore due not only to the known cost of bailouts like capital injections or the buying of preferential shares,but also to concern about the total possible costs in the future, also because the credibility of audited accounts has been severely dented due to recent scandals. Nobody knows the market value of many of the frozen securities for which there is no market, nor the possible suprises hidden in bank’s balance sheets or kept in Special Investment Vehicles.

There are studies of the impact of banking crisis on government debt, a subject carefully studied in papers by Reinhart and Rogoff…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA


Are Tea Partiers the New ‘Terrorists’?

Blogger claims he received visit from FBI after sending letters to lawmakers

A tea party protester claims he was investigated as a terrorist by the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI after he sent letters to his representatives criticizing the government for spending money he says the U.S. does not have.

Steve Shirk, a Tea Party Patriots blogger who attended the Atlanta Tea Party, said he began a letter-writing campaign in September 2008 to representatives, senators and the White House to express his frustration with what he considers to be irresponsible spending. He said he sent his letters through the official government websites with identifying information and indicated that he was offering his political opinion about pending legislation or governmental policy.

[…]

But Shirk claims that on April 23 he was visited by the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI. He said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I, reported to the FBI that he was endangering the government and should be investigated as a suspected terrorist.

[…]

But Shirk said the more he thought about the incident, the more he became upset.

“Is this where we are headed?” he wrote. “Is this the Socialistic Fascism the current majority is pushing on the American people to be followed by not only political Fascism, but tyranny at the hands of our Federal law enforcement agencies at the direction of political hacks? Is this the last of it, or am I now identified somewhere as a terrorist threat to be watched?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Career Lawyers Overruled on Voting Case

Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.

The incident — which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube — had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.

Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.

The lawyers also had ascertained that one of the three men had gained access to the polling place by securing a credential as a Democratic poll watcher, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Times.

The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food

On May 19th, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on “Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.”[1] They called for a moratorium on GM foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling. AAEM’s position paper stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific criteria. “The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.”

More and more doctors are already prescribing GM-free diets. Dr. Amy Dean, a Michigan internal medicine specialist, and board member of AAEM says, “I strongly recommend patients eat strictly non-genetically modified foods.” Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.”

Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, President of AAEM, says, “Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions.” World renowned biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava goes one step further. After reviewing more than 600 scientific journals, he concludes that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a major contributor to the sharply deteriorating health of Americans.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



GOP Attacks Democrats for Climate Proposal

WASHINGTON — Republicans on Saturday attacked the climate change proposal crafted by congressional Democrats and endorsed by President Barrack Obama as doing little to reduce global warming while saddling Americans with high energy costs.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, in the GOP’s weekly radio and Internet address, called the House climate bill “a classic example of unwise government.” The address culminated a week of coordinated Republican attacks on the Democratic proposal which would require the first nationwide reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

GOP House members used the weeklong Memorial Day congressional recess to drum up voter opposition to the Democratic bill. The governor’s criticism echoed Republican lawmakers’ arguments at “energy summits” in Pennsylvania, Indiana and California and at other forums during the week.

The proposal to cap greenhouse emissions “will cost us dearly in jobs and income and it stands no chance of achieving its objective of a cooler earth” because other nation’s such as China and India will not have to follow, argues Daniels, according to a transcript of the Saturday address.

“The cost for all American taxpayers will be certain, huge, and immediate. Any benefits are extremely uncertain, minuscule, and decades distant,” maintains Daniels.

The climate bill would require a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and 83 percent reduction by mid-century. It advanced from the House Energy and Commerce Committee shortly before lawmakers left Washington for their holiday break, getting only one GOP vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she wants to take up the measure in the full House this summer.

“The national energy tax imposed by Speaker Pelosi’s climate change bill would double electric bills here in Indiana, working a severe hardship on low income families, but that’s only where the damage starts,” says Daniels. “In a state where we like to make things, like steel and autos and RVs, it would cost us countless jobs. … Our farmers and livestock producers would see their costs skyrocket. and our coal miners would be looking for new work.”

Daniels made no mention of compromises crafted by the bill’s chief Democratic sponsors — Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts — aimed at easing the economic costs on energy-intensive industries such as steel and automobiles, and on regions heavily dependent on coal for electricity generation.

Under a so-called cap-and-trade provision, polluters would be able to buy and sell emission allowances to ease the cost of the reduction. Initially free emission allowances would be provided to electric utilities and other energy-intensive industries facing unfair competition from abroad.

Waxman and Markey have argued much of the higher fuel costs would be offset by increased energy efficiency and rebates — using money from the sale of emission allowances — to people facing higher energy costs.

But Daniels says there’s a better approach than the cap-and-trade government mandate and “protect the environment, lower energy costs and create jobs at the same time all without raising taxes.” He cited Indiana’s production of ethanol and biodiesel, efforts to develop less polluting coal plants, expansion of wind power and conservation programs.

Congressional Republicans said that instead of a mandatory cap on pollution, they want to expand domestic oil and gas development, using some of the proceeds for renewable energy development, expansion of nuclear energy and more support for research into ways to capture carbon from coal burning.

The Democratic bill also would devote billions of dollars to carbon capture research and would require utilities to generate at least 12 percent of their power from renewable energy.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Guess Who Speaks at Commencement Ceremonies

Survey reveals invitations to conservatives rare — and sometimes rescinded

A new survey shows that invitations to conservatives to speak at university commencement ceremonies are rare — and sometimes even have been rescinded, apparently because of the political views held by that group of people.

The newly released assessment by the Young America’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to training future conservative leaders, said for the 16th straight year, liberal speakers are dominating at college commencements this year. The organization called the emphasis “disproportionate.”

“This year is no different,” the report said. “Commencement ceremonies were dominated by those on the Left, while conservative representation was shabby, at best.”

In cases when conservatives are invited, there is a response that could be described as disruptive, and in at least one case an invitation this year to a high-profile conservative actually was withdrawn.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Ohio Man Arrested for Mowing Unkempt Grass at Park

SANDUSKY, Ohio — An Ohio man arrested for mowing unkempt grass at a public park said he just wanted to make his city look nice. John Hamilton said he took control of the situation because the grass in Sandusky’s Central Park was about a foot high. According to a police report, a witness said Hamilton was blowing grass onto the sidewalk and shredding trash in the park that had not been picked up.

Police said they arrested 48-year-old Hamilton after he refused to stop mowing and charged him with obstructing official business and disorderly conduct.

City Manager Matt Kline called the arrest unfortunate and said he understands Hamilton’s frustration. Kline said budget cuts have left Sandusky understaffed for seasonal maintenance work.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Oklahoma Druggist Arrested for Killing Holdup Man

OKLAHOMA CITY — Confronted by two holdup men, pharmacist Jerome Ersland pulled a gun, shot one of them in the head and chased the other away. Then, in a scene recorded by the drugstore’s security camera, he went behind the counter, got another gun, and pumped five more bullets into the wounded teenager as he lay on the floor.

Now Ersland has been charged with first-degree murder in a case that has stirred a furious debate over vigilante justice and self-defense and turned the pharmacist into something of a folk hero.

Ersland, 57, is free on $100,000 bail, courtesy of an anonymous donor. He has won praise from the pharmacy’s owner, received an outpouring of cards, letters and checks from supporters, and become the darling of conservative talk radio.

“His adrenaline was going. You’re just thinking of survival,” said John Paul Hernandez, 60, a retired Defense Department employee who grew up in the neighborhood. “All it was is defending your employee, business and livelihood. If I was in that position and that was me, I probably would have done the same thing.”

District Attorney David Prater said Ersland was justified in shooting 16-year-old Antwun Parker once in the head, but not in firing the additional shots into his belly. The prosecutor said the teenager was unconscious, unarmed, lying on his back and posing no threat when Ersland fired what the medical examiner said were the fatal shots.

Anthony Douglas, president of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called it an “execution-style murder” and praised the district attorney for bringing charges. Ersland is white; the two suspects were black.

Parker’s parents also expressed relief that Ersland faces a criminal charge.

“He didn’t have to shoot my baby like that,” Parker’s mother, Cleta Jennings, told TV station KOCO.

But many of those who have seen the video of the May 19 robbery attempt at Reliable Discount Pharmacy have concluded the teenager in the ski mask got what he deserved.

Mark Shannon, who runs a conservative talk show on Oklahoma City’s KTOK, said callers have jammed his lines this week in support of Ersland, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel who wears a back brace on the job and told reporters he is a disabled veteran of the Gulf War.

“There is no gray area,” Shannon said. One caller “said he should have put all the shots in the head.”

Don Spencer, a 49-year-old National Rifle Association member who lives in the small town of Meridian, 40 miles north of Oklahoma City, said the pharmacist did the right thing: “You shoot more than enough to make sure the threat has been removed.”

Barbara Bergman, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, likened the public reaction to that of the case of Bernard Goetz, the New Yorker who shot four teenagers he said were trying to rob him when they asked for $5 on a subway in 1984.

Goetz was cleared of attempted murder and assault but convicted of illegal gun possession and served 8 1/2 months in jail.

Bergman said those who claim they used deadly force in self-defense have to show they were “in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury.”

The pharmacy is in a crime-ridden section of south Oklahoma City and had been robbed before.

The video shows two men bursting in, one of them pointing a gun at Ersland and two women working with the druggist behind the counter. Ersland fires a pistol, driving the gunman from the store and hitting Parker in the head as he puts on a ski mask.

Ersland chases the second man outside, then goes back inside, walks behind the counter with his back to Parker, gets a second handgun and opens fire.

Irven Box, Ersland’s attorney, noted the outpouring of support for the pharmacist, including $2,000 in donations, and said: “I feel very good 12 people would not determine he committed murder in the first degree.”

Under Oklahoma’s “Make My Day Law” — passed in the late 1980s and named for one of Clint Eastwood’s most famous movie lines — people can use deadly force when they feel threatened by an intruder inside their homes. In 2006, Oklahoma’s “Stand Your Ground Law” extended that to anywhere a citizen has the right to be, such as a car or office.

“It’s a ‘Make-My-Day’ case,” Box said. “This guy came in, your money or your life. Mr. Ersland said, ‘You’re not taking my life.’“ The gunman “forfeited his life.”

Box said that another person might have reacted differently, but he asked: “When do you turn off that adrenaline switch? When do you think you’re safe? I think that’s going to be the ultimate issue.”

If convicted, Ersland could be sentenced to life in prison with or without parole, or receive the death penalty.

Jevontia Ingram, the 14-year-old boy accused of wielding the gun in the robbery, was arrested Thursday. The district attorney on Friday filed a first-degree murder charge against him, as well as against a man accused of being the getaway driver, and another man suspected of helping talk the teens into the crime.

The charges accuse all three of sharing responsibility for Parker’s shooting death.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



U.S. Man Who Gave Secrets to Israel Spared Prison

NEW YORK (Reuters) — An 85-year-old former civilian employee of the U.S. Army was fined but avoided prison time on Friday after earlier pleading guilty to giving classified documents to Israel in the 1980s in a case the sentencing judge said was “shrouded in mystery.”

Court documents showed that Ben-Ami Kadish, who was fined $50,000 but spared prison time, reported to the same handler as Jonathan Pollard, an American who spied for Israel in the 1980s and triggered a scandal that rocked U.S.-Israeli relations.

“Why it took the government 23 years to charge Mr. Kadish is shrouded in mystery,” U.S. District Judge William Pauley said during the sentencing hearing in Manhattan federal court. “It is clear the (U.S.) government could have charged Mr. Kadish with far more serious crimes.”

Kadish pleaded guilty in December to acting as an unregistered agent of Israel. He was arrested in April 2008 on four counts of conspiracy and espionage. The spying charge, dropped under a plea deal, had carried a possible death sentence.

“I am sorry I made a mistake,” a frail-looking Kadish said during the sentencing hearing. “I thought I was helping the state of Israel without harming the United States.”

The judge said he gave a lenient sentence due to Kadish’s age and infirmity, but said Kadish had committed “a grave offense” and had “abused the trust” of the United States. For much of the hearing, Kadish sat slumped in his chair with heavy eyelids. At one stage, he had to be shaken awake by his lawyer.

MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEMS

Prosecutors had recommended no prison time as part of the plea deal. They said between 1980 and 1985 Kadish provided classified documents, including some relating to U.S. missile defense systems, to an Israeli agent, Yosef Yagur, who photographed the documents at Kadish’s residence.

Yagur also was Pollard’s main Israeli contact. Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to spying for Israel in 1986. Israel gave Pollard citizenship in 1996 and acknowledged he was one of its spies in 1998.

During the hearing, the judge questioned a prosecutor as to why it took so long to charge Kadish when the telephone records on which the case was based were available in the mid-1980s.

“There is no mystery behind it, it’s just what happened,” said prosecutor Iris Lan, who explained she understood it took the FBI that amount of time to assemble the evidence.

The judge also questioned Kadish’s lawyer about how Kadish was able to earn $104,000 in 2007 when he does not work. His lawyer said it was from investments.

Kadish was born in the United States but grew up on a farm in Palestine before the founding of the modern state of Israel. He served in the British and U.S. armies in World War II.

From 1980 to 1985, Yagur asked Kadish to obtain classified documents, which Kadish retrieved from the U.S. Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey, according to a sworn statement by Kadish. Kadish said he kept up a friendship with Yagur after 1985.

“While Kadish knew he was aiding Israel, an ally to the United States, he also knew his crime compromised the national security,” the judge said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Austria: Chancellor Calls for Extension of Army’s Border Patrols

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann called today (Tues) for an extension of the army’s border patrols beyond their scheduled cancellation at the end of the year.

Faymann called the extension of such patrols in the country’s eastern regions one of three anti-crime measures he would discuss with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso tomorrow in Brussels.

The chancellor cited resolution of security problems along EU Schengen Agreement countries’ eastern borders and the hiring of more policemen as the two other anti-crime measures he had in mind. Faymann said People’s Party (ÖVP) Interior Minister Maria Fekter would have his full support in her efforts to increase the number of police in Austria.

Burgenland SPÖ Governor Hans Niessl immediately welcomed Faymann’s proposal to extend the army’s border patrols indefinitely, claiming their end would be “a blow to provincial security”. Niessl, however, added that the extension should not be considered a substitute for the 270 additional policemen the province needed.

Noting a dramatic increase in the number of break-ins in Burgenland, the governor said: “People’s security must be guaranteed. We cannot leave citizens living near the border in the lurch.”

Faymann’s attention to security may reflect fear that the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) and Alliance for the Future of Austria’s (BZÖ) focus on crime and immigration in the European Parliament (EP) election campaign will give them a big boost. Both parties have risen in the polls during the campaign for the election on 7 June.

The two right-wing parties are also exploiting Sunday’s massacre at a Sikh temple in Vienna.

Ewald Stadler, who heads the BZÖ’s list for the EP election, said yesterday “problem gurus and hate preachers” should not be allowed into the country. We cannot become the marching field for all the insane.”

Stadler called for the re-introduction of border checks between Austria and Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, respectively, and suggested similar restrictions on borders with Italy and Germany could also be an option.

Stadler repeated his calls for more police officers and called for an increase in subsidies for institutions that secure internal security and for the formation of a special commission to deal with “immigrant crime”.

“Criminals” who have already been given Austrian citizenship should lose it again, Stadler said, adding they should also be jailed for at least one year.

FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache claimed on Sunday evening the SPÖ’s “open-door policy” would “lead to chaos and soaring multicultural crime”.

Constitutional experts Bernd-Christian Funk and Heinz Mayer claimed today that extension of the army’s border patrols would be unconstitutional.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Banks: Spain, Santander to Rebrand U.K. Banks

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 28 — Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley, all under the Spanish banking group Santander, will be changing their names to Santander as well at the end of 2010. Any customer of the three groups will be able to carry out transactions in all of the branches under the same brand name. Santander is currently the second largest banking group in the world after HSBC. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



BBC Offers Apology to Muslim Council of Britain Over Guest’s Remarks

The BBC has offered £30,000 and an apology to the Muslim Council of Britain after airing accusations that it encouraged the killing of British troops.

The corporation offered the settlement after a Question Time panellist accused the council of failing to condemn attacks on British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Charles Moore, a former editor of The Daily Telegraph, made the comments on the programme in March during a debate about Islamic protests at a soldiers’ homecoming parade in Luton. He claimed that the council thought it was a “good thing, even an Islamic thing” to kill troops.

The council, an umbrella organisation representing about 500 Islamic bodies in Britain, said that his claims were a “total lie” and threatened the BBC with legal action.

It pointed to a 2007 interview with its secretary-general, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, published in a national newspaper, in which he categorically condemned attacks on British soldiers.

Last night Dr Bari said: “These kinds of statements are very damaging, and we received many complaints from our Muslim supporters who said they were extremely offended by the comments.

“In fact when a British man called Ken Bigley was kidnapped in Iraq, we sent envoys there to plead for his release. This is accusing us of encouraging terrorism abroad.”

The council’s lawyers are now considering the BBC’s offer.

It is believed that Mr Moore was not consulted over the BBC’s decision to settle.

A BBC spokesman said: “Question Time is a programme that includes input from a wide range of contributors. On occasion this means that those who are not present don’t get a chance to put their case. This was one of those occasions.”

Question Time is filmed one hour before it is broadcast for legal advisers to check its content. No concerns were expressed at the time over Mr Moore’s remarks, which were seen as provocative but not defamatory.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



EU: The Conversation Continues, Not Always Politely

…Now to some of the more recent comments. A person calling himself ‘Crumblekid’ (oh dear) produces the ancient, rust-streaked EU propaganda claim that the EU has somehow prevented a European War since 1945. I’ve asked before, and I’ll ask again, which potential armed conflict has been in any way prevented by the EU? The only European power-struggle during this era was that between the USSR and the Western European free countries. The EU played no part in preventing that developing into war. That task was achieved by NATO (in its first, genuine, incarnation).

There is a strong argument for suggesting that the EU (largely under German pressure) actively caused the various armed conflicts in former Yugoslavia by pushing forward with the recognition of Croatia as an independent state. It is widely believed, for instance, that Britain’s opt-out from the Euro had to be ‘paid for’ by British recognition of Croatia. It is true that the Franco-German conflict has been institutionalised by the EU. But that was made possible by France’s humiliating and permanent defeat at the hands of Germany in 1940. No new war was ever likely.. Vichy France (in which Francois Mitterrand was deeply involved) was in a way the prototype for the new Franco-German relationship. Germany had by then defeated France three times, (though initially it had not yet become a fully-fledged nation) playing a decisive part in the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig in 1813, and again in the Anglo-Prussian victory at Waterloo in 1815, the debacle of 1870 and the second debacle of 1940. The French elite realised in 1940 that they would never again be able to seek military supremacy over Germany, and thought deeply about what sort of new relationship they could have with their Eastern neighbour. The original ECSC was based upon a French recognition that France could no longer contemplate war with Germany, and must come to a permanent accommodation (the Elysee Treaty of 1963, signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, is the real political basis of the modern EU, codifying a Franco-German axis under which Germany is the unacknowledged European superpower, while France maintains its international prestige, nuclear weapons etc, has its agriculture lavishly subsidised, and that the two countries consult before any EU summit to ensure that they present a united face).

[…]

The moves towards ever-narrower union, which is stipulated as the EU’s aim in the Treaty of Rome, might conceivably cause conflicts in Europe that could lead to war. They are at least as likely to do so as they are to prevent it. Those who seek to justify British membership of the EU will have to do better than this. In any case, secessionists like me do not want to break up the EU. We just want to leave it, and negotiate a civilised relationship with it as an independent nation. If other countries are happy with it, that’s their affair. Most, I think are. The fundamental difficulty for Britain is twofold. One, its Common Law presumption of innocence tradition is incompatible with EU law and two, its outward-looking global trading engagement is unsuited to membership of a continental protectionist bloc. Adversarial government is also pretty much unknown in continental countries, and our strong, independent national press is pretty much unique as well.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



‘Forty Percent of Somali Women in Netherlands Genitally Mutilated’

THE HAGUE, 30/05/09 — Four out of ten Somali and Ethiopian women who give birth in the Netherlands have been genitally mutilated. This is relatively few, Health State Secretary Jet Bussemaker wrote to the Lower House on Friday.

The figures were recorded by research organisation TNO after questioning midwives. The number of cases of female circumcision is fairly low, since nine out of ten women in the countries of origin have been circumcised, Bussemaker reasoned.

To obtain a better picture of female circumcision, the state secretary previously announced that midwives would be registering this form of mutilation. They will also be trained in how to discuss circumcision with families.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greece Fears Immigrant Unrest

Eleftheros Typos

Panic has swept through the Greek police force following clashes with immigrant Muslims that occurred in the wake of a demonstration against “racism and Islamophobia,” on 22 May.

Police across the country are now on alert, fearing civil unrest on the scale of the riots which occurred in Greece in December 2008 or the Paris ghettoes in 2005. Experts have reported that Muslim immigrants are unable to control their anger at what they have termed “police racism.” There have been several demonstrations in the capital, and a number of extremist groups have taken advantage of the situation “to pour petrol on the flames.” The worst of these incidents occurred on 23 May, when arsonists attacked a basement that serves as a makeshift mosque in the centre of Athens. No one has claimed responsibility, but members of an extreme-right group were seen in the area of the building shortly before the fire broke out.

During the demonstrations, immigrants chanted “Allah, Allah” and denounced police methods. The protests were sparked by reports of a police officer throwing a Koran onto the ground and stamping on it, in the course of an identity check. An inquiry is underway, but may prove to be inconclusive due to a shortage of neutral witnesses. Ahead of demonstrations planned for the weekend, the Minister of the Interior has convened several crisis meetings, and asked police to remain on alert across the country. Greece’s Muslim population is not confined to Athens, and there are fears that the flare up may extend to Turkish, Pomak and Roma Muslim communities, which for centuries, have lived alongside orthodox Greeks in Thrace, in the north of the country. But for now, the violence appears to be concentrated in Athens where, only a few days ago, a Muslim attempted fire shots at a police station in a suburb of the city. The man was arrested in time, but his action immediately triggered the setting up of a series of identity checkpoints targeting immigrants, with plain clothes and uniformed police searching cars.

Resentment at this type of police action is exacerbated by the fact that there are currently no Muslims in the Greek police force. However, in recent months, the Ministry has set up advisory groups with a view to establishing a recruitment programme for Muslim police and to improve its response in the event of an emergency. However, these initiatives will be hard pressed to compensate for the lack of collaboration with the Muslim community, which is highly critical of the Greek state’s failure to keep its promises. Over the last thirty years, successive governments have failed to honour a commitment to establish a mosque in Athens. In the last decade, with the arrival of large numbers of illegal immigrants, the Muslim population has grown rapidly, and now more than 700,000 people have to contend with the chronic lack of facilities in which to practice their religion.. Over a hundred illegal, makeshift prayer halls have been set up in basements and garages, located between Omonia Square and the poor neighbourhoods, between the capital and Piraeus. These are not mosques, but the plans to build a place of worship in Athens have been in existence for years.

As early as 1978, the king of Saudi Arabia, Khaled, obtained a commitment from the prime minister of the period, Constantin Caramanlis, to build a mosque in the northern suburbs of Athens. In the year 2000, in the run-up to the Olympic games, the prospect of the arrival of a large contingent of Muslim athletes in four years time resulted in a plan to build a Muslim centre and a mosque at Peania, close to Athens airport. However, the project was shelved, when the Greek Orthodox church, which has a special status in the Greek state, submitted a formal objection. The story was repeated in 2006, when the neighbourhood of Eleona, close to the centre of Athens was chosen, and once again the plan was set aside. Muslims also have to cope with the lack of a proper cemetery in Athens, and many of them pay thousands of euros to bury their dead in Thrace or in their country of origin. Foreign analysts have criticized Greece, a Christian Orthodox country, for its failure to take proper care of Muslim immigrants. Clearly, the problem of Muslim resentment is deep-rooted one, and the recent violent clashes with police are simply the tip of the iceberg.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Gulf Capital Used to Buy Polish Shipyards: Tusk

WARSAW (AFP) — Gulf capital is behind the consortium which bought two of Poland’s three historic shipyards this week, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk indicated Saturday.

“There is a specific fund which represents the interests and financial potential of that region,” he told the radio station RMF FM.

“It would not have been possible without my many visits to Qatar and Kuwait, without my telephone conversations and the exchange of mail.”

The ARP, a government agency responsible for handling privatisations, said Thursday that United International Trust had paid a total of 364 million zlotys (82 million euros, 115 million dollars) for the yards at Gdynia and Szczecin on Poland’s northern Baltic coast.

It said that the buyer was planning “other forms of economic activity” in parallel to shipbuilding.

Warsaw has revealed little about the buyer, only saying that it had acted through an an intermediary, Stichting Particulier Fonds Greenrights, which like United International Trust is based in Curacao, a Caribbean offshore haven run by the Netherlands.

“Why are Arab investors interested?” Tusk said on Saturday. “Because they are interested in cooperating with us in the field of gas, and to participate in the Polish gas market.”

Polish gas firm PGNiG announced on April 15 that it had signed a deal with the Qatari firm Qatargas for the supply of one million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year.

PGNiG said that the deal provided for a 20-year supply contract with Qatargas, with shipments set to begin in 2014.

The gas will be shipped by tankers to a terminal currently being built at Swinoujscie on Poland’s northwest Baltic coast, near the border with Germany.

Poland, which meets 30 percent of its gas needs from its own resources, 40 percent from Russian imports and the remainder from a variety of sources, has been looking for ways to further diversify its suppliers.

The European Commission, which polices competition rules in the 27-nation European Union, had ordered Poland to sell its shipyards, after ruling that Warsaw had doled out illegal state aid to keep them in business.

The proceeds of the sales must be used to pay off the yards’ creditors and the state subsidies which were faulted by the European Commission.

The no-strings tendering process was open to all, from shipbuilders to bidders with an eye on the yards’ real estate — leaving some 9,000 employees nervously awaiting news of their future.

The issue of the third yard in Gdynia’s neighbouring port of Gdansk is being handled separately by Brussels, which has yet to give its verdict on a restructuring plan there.

The shipyards hold particular significance for many Poles because they were the cradle of protests against the communist old order.

Dozens of people were killed there when security forces fired on workers demonstrating against food price rises in 1970.

In 1980, a strike at the Gdansk yard led to the creation of the trade union Solidarity, which snowballed across the shipbuilding industry into a nationwide protest movement.

Driven underground by a military clampdown in 1981, Solidarity reemerged to negotiate a peaceful end to communist rule in 1989.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Italy: Criminals, Judges, Press ‘Evil’

Berlusconi rails against three greatest bugbears

(See related story.) (ANSA) — Rome, May 28 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday said the three greatest evils facing Italy were criminals, magistrates and journalists. “I’ve always said that for me there are three categories that do evil: criminals, public prosecutors and dentists. But since dentists now use injection to anaesthetize… I put journalists in their place,” he told an assembly of national retail services association Confesercenti. He singled out “certain journalists” especially, saying “look (at the newspapers) in recent days”, referring to coverage by national and international papers over rumours about his relationship with an 18-year-old girl whose birthday party he attended.

The premier hit out at criticism by some foreign failies, saying this proved they were “lackies of the Italian Left”.

In turning round an observation by the Financial Times on Wednesday that one of the differences between Berlusconi and dictator Benito Mussolini was that “he has squads of starlets, not of Blackshirts,” the premier replied “thank God (I have starlets), they’re better, much better”. The premier received several whistles and boos when he spoke of left-wing “subversive clots” in the justice system as the reason why his government pushed through a law giving immunity from prosecution while in office to Italy’s top four institutional figures, but Berlusconi brushed these off. “There are just four or five of you whistling, 10-15 at the most. You’re statistically irrelevant,” he said. He pledged “not to quit politics” until he had overhauled the justice system, “because only then will a citizen be able to have a fair trial”. The premier has repeatedly claimed he is the victim of a witch-hunt by an allegedly leftist judiciary and was booed in June last year when he described the magistrature as “a cancer in our democracy”, also during an address to Confesercenti. Berlusconi, who has been in power for almost eight of the last 15 years, has been convicted in several corruption cases relating to his business empire but the sentences have always been overturned on appeal or annulled by a new shortened statute of limitations.

IMMIGRATION POLICY ‘NOT ANTI-HUMANITARIAN’.

The premier meanwhile also hit out at criticism that Italy’s new policy of returning illegal immigrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Libya is anti-humanitarian. “There’s nothing non-humanitarian in it,” he said. “Extremely precarious boats are pinpointed, the illegal immigrants are given something to eat and then they are taken back to Libya”. Berlusconi blamed the influx of illegal immigrants on the former centre-left government. “This has happened because the former government gave the impression to the eastern and African countries that our frontiers were open. We will no longer tolerate this immigration and we are prepared to accept into Italy those who have jobs and not those who are forced to resort to crime to live,” he said. On the basis of an accord with Tripoli, Italy has sent back to Libya nearly 500 would-be migrants since the launch of its controversial new policy on May 6, despite criticism from the UN, the Catholic Church and humanitarian organisations. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has claimed the new policy is a success, with the arrival of large boats from the North African coast ceasing almost entirely.

HOUSES FOR QUAKE SURVIVORS ‘READY BY SEPTEMBER’.

The premier also talked about the quake-hit Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, which is due to become the focus of international attention when it hosts the Group of Eight summit in July.

Berlusconi has been working hard to keep damage caused by the April 6 quake in the spotlight, moving the G8 summit to the stricken city from its original venue on the Sardinian island of La Maddalena.

On Thursday he said that houses for 3,000 people left homeless by quake in L’Aquila and surrounding villages will be ready by mid September.

“Today 63,000 people are not in their homes,” he told the national retail services’ association Confesercenti, referring to those being accommodated in tent camps and other temporary accommodation. “Some 53% of houses are inhabitable but people don’t have the courage to return because the wave of aftershocks continues, and nobody has the courage to push them into doing so,” he said. “We’ve suggested to people still in tents that they go and have a holiday by the sea,” where the government would house them in hotels, “because we don’t want anyone still in tents in the summer”. The premier said the final houses would be made available to earthquake survivors “by the end of November, before it starts getting cold”. On Friday Berlusconi is scheduled to reopen “65%” of L’Aquila’s hospital, which failed to hold up to the quake despite being theoretically quake proof. He will also present university degrees and school certificates to the families of some of the students killed in the quake, which claimed nearly 300 lives. Abruzzo Governor Gianni Chiodi said Thursday the region and the government had agreed to an investment package for infrastructure and to relaunch economic development worth six billion euros, 1.7 of which could be spent in the next three years. Minor seismic activity in the region has continued since the main earthquake, with the most recent quake recorded on Wednesday between L’Aquila and Rome and measuring 2.1 on the Richter scale.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Michael Nazir-Ali: Jesus Wouldn’t Have Voted BNP, and Neither Should Any Christian

Hard on the heels of the financial crisis, we have a political one. People were just coming to terms with betrayal by one trusted group — the bankers, custodians of our hard-earned savings. Now The Daily Telegraph has revealed that politicians, too, have been cynically manipulating the system to gain maximum financial advantage: an advantage denied to others because of legislation enacted by the very people who were flouting it.

Understandably, the stories have caused fluttering in the dovecotes of Westminster. Not a day goes by without nostrums being prescribed by political leaders, social commentators, and religious leaders. Some seem to believe that simply by fiddling with processes and structures the problem will be solved: if only we had a smaller Parliament, or electoral reform, or an elected House of Lords, we would not again have to face this lack of confidence in our democratic institutions.

Others predict that a political vacuum will develop, which various kinds of extremists and mavericks will attempt to fill — even those, such as the British National Party, who enlist Jesus in support of their campaign, when their ideals are as anti-Christian as they come.

Yes, we need to have confidence in our democratic institutions. But this will not be engendered by tinkering. What is needed is moral and spiritual renewal. We should begin to acknowledge that a culture built on the expectation of endless growth — regardless of its effects on the environment, the person and family relationships — is not the way. Nor will panaceas based on crude utilitarianism and an ethics based on the findings of focus groups serve us well. We need a robust moral framework for our life together. In this country, the Judaeo-Christian tradition has provided the basis for the institutions of state, the laws of the land and the values by which we live. It has also given rise to a sense of mutual obligation which has characterised British society at its best. The notion of the human person, as made in God’s image, has given us an understanding of moral agency, the formation of conscience and of freedom. Our commitment to equality derives from belief in the common origin of all human beings; our commitment to liberty from the teaching that people are created free and subject, ultimately, to God alone.

This tradition holds that creatures have been endowed with inalienable rights. Recognition of this would go a long way in limiting the role of the state in people’s lives and, by trimming the role of government, prevent the emergence of elected oligarchies, such as the ones on display at the moment.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



NATO: Berlusconi-Rasmussen, Resume Relations With Russia

(AGI) — Rome, 29 May — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi today had a long talk over the phone with the new secretary-general of the NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who will take office on August 1. Rasmussen again thanked Berlusconi for the crucial role he has played during the latest NATO summit in Strasburg-Kehl, resolving the question of the appointment of the new NATO secretary-general. Berlusconi told Rasmussen about his recent talks in Russia with President Medvedev and Premier Putin. Both agreed on the importance of re-launching the dialogue between Russia and the NATO, examining ways to reach this goal. The Italian premier underlined the importance of NATO paying constant attention to its relations with the Arab-Muslim world and choosing experienced personalities to develop NATO’s new strategic concept, announced a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Iraq-Born Teen Solves 300-Year Old Math Puzzle

Finds formula to explain and simplify Bernoulli numbers

A 16-year-old Iraqi immigrant living in Sweden was the youngest student to solve a math puzzle that has stumped experts for more than 300 years, Swedish media reported last week.

In just four months, Mohamed Altoumaimi found a formula to explain and simplify the so-called Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of calculations connected to numbe theory named after the 17th century Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli, the Dagens Nyheter daily said.

Altoumaimi, who came to Sweden six years ago, said teachers at his high school in Falun, central Sweden were not convinced about his work at first.

“When I first showed it to my teachers, none of them thought the formula I had written down really worked,” Altoumaimi told the Falu Kuriren newspaper.

He then got in touch with professors at Uppsala University, one of Sweden’s top institutions, to ask them to check his work. After going through his notebooks, the professors found his work was indeed correct.

Although the Bernoulli numbers formula had previously been solved, Altourmaimi’s solution was praised because of his young age and school level, the paper reported.

Lindahs said that Altoumaimi is a very gifted student and found it remarkable that a high scool student was able to solve the puzzle.

Senior lecturer Jan-Aake Lindhal verified the formula, but added that although correct, it was well known and readily available in several databases,” a statement from the university said.

“It’s really exciting, now all the teachers have come and congratulated me,” the teen said of the response to his formula.

Altoumaimi plans to take summer classes in advanced mathematics and physics this year.

“I wanted to be a researcher in physics or mathematics; I really like those subjects. But I have to improve in English and social sciences,” he told the Falu Kuriren.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



UK: Poll Reveals Labour Heading for Election Humiliation

The expenses scandal has had a devastating impact on Labour and Gordon Brown, a Populus poll for The Times finds today.

Labour’s overall position has slid to 21 per cent, its lowest in polling history. When asked how they would vote in next week’s European election, those polled have put Labour in third place behind UKIP and the Tories, for the first time.

All the minority parties, including the Greens and the British National Party, have made striking advances in the past three weeks as the row over MPs’ allowances has engulfed all the main parties.

Surprisingly the Liberal Democrats have been hit almost as badly as Labour in both the general election and European voting standings.

But it is Labour and Mr Brown who appear to have taken the biggest hit over the expenses scandal, with 62 per cent of those polled citing the Prime Minister as the most damaged, compared with 5 per cent citing David Cameron. Only 14 per cent believe that Labour is likely to win outright at the next general election, compared with 51 per cent for the Conservatives.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Tragic, Unwise: Conservative Grandees Turn on David Cameron Over Plans for European Union

Lord Brittan and Lord Patten attack alliance with hard-right Polish and Czech parties

A group of Tory grandees and former Âsenior diplomats will tomorrow launch a devastating attack on David Cameron’s flagship Eurosceptic policies, warning that they pose a threat to British influence in the European Union.

On the eve of the European elections, the Tory leader stands accused of adopting a “rigid commitment to impotence” after he pledged to withdraw from the main centre-right grouping in the European parliament.

Cameron, who will appear alongside highly conservative EU allies in Warsaw tomorrow, goes into the European elections next Thursday on the most hardline ÂEurosceptic ticket of any mainstream political leader since Britain entered the EEC in 1973.

Cameron also says that a future Conservative government would be prepared to break with convention by reopening the Lisbon treaty, which is designed to streamline the working of the EU after its recent expansion.

The fears of Britain’s most senior serving diplomats, one of whom described the Tory plans as “bonkers”, are only being voiced in private.

But the Guardian has spoken to four Tory grandees, as well as two of Britain’s most senior retired diplomats, who voice those fears in public. Lord Patten, the mastermind of the Tories’ 1992 Âelection victory, and former home secretary Lord Brittan both criticise Cameron’s tactics, with Patten describing them as “unwise”.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a former head of the Foreign Office who was Britain’s ambassador to the EU at the time of the Maastricht treaty negotiations in 1991, is also highly critical.

“I do not understand a rigid commitment to impotence,” he said. “I do not understand why [the Czech and Polish parties who will form a new group with the Tories] are preferable to Angela Merkel or Nicolas Sarkozy, or why they think the route to influence lies that way.”

Lord Wright of Richmond, head of the Foreign Office in Margaret Thatcher’s final years as prime minister, questioned Cameron’s decision to try to reopen the Lisbon treaty. “It will be a formidably difficult negotiation,” he said. “There will be very few allies.”

Lord Tugendhat, a European commissioner between 1977 and 1985, said it would be a “great tragedy” if the Tories tried to renegotiate a ratified Lisbon treaty once the party is in office.

Retired diplomats are careful about speaking in public. However, the strength of their language reflects Foreign Office concern that Cameron will trigger the worst crisis yet in Britain’s relations with the EU. Their fears centre around Cameron’s two key policies:

* The Tories have pledged to withdraw from the EPP-ED grouping, which consists of all the major centre-right parties within the EU. Instead, Cameron will establish a new group, principally with Poland’s deeply conservative Law and Justice party, whose leaders have banned gay rights marches. It will also include the Czech ODS party, whose founder, Václav Klaus, disputes that global warming is man-made. Cameron met leaders of the ODS in the Czech Republic last night and in Warsaw tomorrow will meet leaders of the Law and Justice party.

The Tories have also been talking to the Lavtian Fatherland and Freedom party, some of whose members attend ceremonies to commemorate a Latvian unit of the Waffen SS.

* A future Conservative government will also offer a referendum on the Lisbon treaty if it has not been ratified by all member states. In the more likely scenario that it has been ratified, Cameron says he “would not let matters rest”. Kerr was scathing of this stance.

He said: “Everyone is fed up with institutional treaties. The Tories owe it to us to tell us what they mean, because they will have to tell the world at the end of the first European council they attend, when they discover there is no majority for calling the intergovernmental conference to change the treaty as they propose.”

His views are echoed by Tory grandees. Lord Patten, the former Hong Kong governor who went on to become a European commissioner, is dismissive of Cameron’s pledge on the European parliament. “It is an unwise decision and will reduce the Conservatives’ influence in the European parliament,” he said.

Lord Brittan of Spennithorne, a former Tory home secretary who went on to become European trade commissioner, said: “I think it was a mistake for the Conservatives to leave the EPP. It will be a great loss. There is no doubt that the attempt to leave the EPP has annoyed a lot of the European leaders who are members of the EPP and are in government. It will make it more difficult to establish relations with them.”

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “It is not true that the Conservative party would retreat to the margins of Europe. Centre-right governments … are not only willing to work with us, they are already working with us behind the scenes in anticipation of the demise of this dreadful Labour government.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Unmasked: The Football Hooligans Behind Last Weekend’s Bloody Protest in Luton Against a Muslim War Demo

Dave Smeeton agreed to meet us outside a Portsmouth pub. There was one condition. ‘No photographers — I don’t want my photograph taken,’ he insisted when we contacted him on his mobile phone earlier this week.

Smeeton, 53, is a married father of two, who lives in a terrace house in the south coast town and works in the motor trade.

But he also has another career: as the leader of a group called March for England. Its motto? ‘We are English and proud — not racist.’

The group, which has more than 400 members, has turned up in towns and cities for occasions such as Remembrance Day and the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London.

Its unofficial coat of arms is the flag of St George — which, Smeeton says, they are determined to ‘reclaim’ from the Far Right and hooligan element. A noble sentiment — but one which events last weekend would seem to undermine.

Smeeton and his supporters were in Luton for the Bank Holiday to lay wreaths at the war memorial. And to take part in a supposedly peaceful demonstration against Islamic fanatics who jeered and waved placards saying ‘Butchers of Basra’ during a homecoming parade for The 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment in March.

But the event on Sunday turned into mob violence. Asians — and Asian shops — were attacked, cars vandalised and stones hurled at police. At the centre of the mayhem, whipping up the 500-strong crowd, were skinheads and men in balaclavas with shirts bearing the Cross of St George.

‘I was very disappointed about what happened,’ Smeeton claimed. ‘Our members were not involved in the trouble. That sort of thing couldn’t have been further from our minds.’

It would be easier to believe Dave Smeeton if it were not for his unsavoury past.

It is encapsulated in a spoof advert for Dr Martens on his Facebook page, in which three skinheads are kicking a man on the floor in the head. The caption reads: ‘Kicking the f*** out of you since 1960.’

Smeeton has added, for good measure: ‘Those were the days.’ He is, after all, a former skinhead himself. He used to belong to the ‘6.57 Crew’, one of the country’s most notorious gangs of football hooligans.

They got their name from the train that took them to away games. Their arrival in a town or city — particularly during the Seventies and Eighties — usually resulted in mindless thuggery and bloodshed.

Some of the 6.57 Crew, according to anti-fascist campaigners, belonged to Combat 18, the armed wing of the British neo-Nazi movement. The ‘18’ stands for the first and eighth letter of the alphabet — AH — for Adolf Hitler.

The men who formed Combat 18 used to handle security at British National Party events, but the BNP was too ‘moderate’ for them so they broke away. They were associated with acts of terrorism, arson attacks and assaults throughout the Nineties.

‘I can understand why people might get the idea I’m a racist because of my past. I was involved with the 6.57 gang — at a low level — in the Seventies,’ Smeeton admitted when challenged about his past.

‘Some of the things we did were wrong. I’ve changed. I despise anyone who says they’ve never made a mistake.’

‘Mistake’? Well, that’s one way of putting it. The Facebook picture of those skinheads, however, to mark a reunion of the ‘crew’ two years ago suggests Smeeton still gets a ‘kick’ out of the old days.

He insists he is a changed man and that March for England comprises upstanding people from all walks of life. You will not be too surprised to learn, however, that many come from one walk of life in particular — the football terraces.

They include ‘QPR Casual’ (‘casual’ is slang for a member of a hooligan gang), ‘Chester Casual’ and ‘Chester skin’ (as in skinhead), to name but a few of the contributors on the March for England website.

Large numbers of the protesters who ran amok in Luton, of course, were wearing football shirts and chanting football songs. Just a coincidence, obviously.

Shortly before the protest started at about 5pm, Smeeton and 16 of his March for England associates were spotted in the Wheelwright pub in Luton town centre. Among their ranks was a skinhead in trademark Ben Sherman shirt, red braces and Dr Martens.

Smeeton had been due to address the demonstration, but witnesses say police confiscated his megaphone. By then, trouble was brewing and, presumably, officers feared he might inflame the situation further.

He did speak, but only briefly. We have a copy of the full text of what he intended to say. It ends with a passage from Winston Churchill’s historic wartime speech made on June 4, 1940: ‘We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender . . .’

Churchill, of course, would have been horrified to find his words being used by individuals such as Smeeton. But the British National Party employed the same strategy earlier this week when its leader, Nick Griffin, argued that modern Britain, with its record of welcoming immigrants, has betrayed the ‘blood, sweat, toil and tears’ of those who fought for freedom during the Second World War, cynically echoing Churchill’s first speech to parliament as wartime prime minister.

Smeeton is adamant he has nothing against Muslims — only Muslim extremists. Few, however, will be convinced. He and his fellow ‘patriots’ are proof, if nothing else, that extremism breeds extremism on both sides.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Luton. Anger has been building for some time against the Muslim community — the vast majority of whom are decent, law-abiding citizens — because of the activities of a tiny and unrepresentative minority.

One of the militants convicted of plotting to blow up the Bluewater shopping centre in Essex in 2007 came from the town and the 7/7 London bombers congregated at Luton station before heading to King’s Cross.

Luton, according to a leaked intelligence report, remains a focus for concern for anti-terror police. But, more than anything else, it was the ‘reception’ given to soldiers that caused so much outrage here. Many local families have fathers, sons and brothers in the regiment.

The backlash has been violent and indiscriminate. Already one of the young Muslims who jeered the returning soldiers has had the windows of his home smashed, his car set alight, and the words ‘Scum’ and ‘Get out’ daubed on his walls. The man, in his 20s, had to be given round-theclock police protection, along with his sister and parents.

Just after midnight on May 5, Luton’s Islamic Centre was torched; a firebomb hurled through a window.

For the record, those who run the centre have utterly — and publicly — condemned the Islamic fanatics, such as Sayful Islam, the so-called Sword of Islam, who, among others, barracked the soldiers returning from Iraq.

Islam, one-time leader of the town’s branch of extremist Islamic group Al-Muhajiroun, was ‘roughed up’ recently and warned to stop his vile activities — by moderate Muslims, it should be pointed out, who blame him for bringing their community into disrepute.

The mob — and racists — don’t distinguish between ‘innocent’ and ‘guilty’, moderate and militant Muslims.

Shortly before the Islamic Centre, which houses a mosque and school, was set alight, staff received a string of threatening anonymous letters. One warned: ‘We know who you are … we have plenty of pictures of you … we are watching you … we will certainly have you for what you did this week’ [a reference to the homecoming parade].

A second was littered with references to the crusades, including the name of Reynold de Chatillon, whose brutality towards Muslims in the holy land was infamous.

‘Saladdin once preached Jihad against the Christian kingdom, so now we preach our Jihad against Islam!!’, ranted the letter, which described Muslims as ‘parasites’ and ‘Allah’s vomit’.

A similar coat of arms and Crusader imagery is featured in a notorious anti-Islamic website penned by someone calling himself Lionheart.

Lionheart, we discovered, is Paul Ray, 32. Ray used to run a computer repair shop in nearby Dunstable, but is now unemployed. Last year, he was arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred and is still on bail.

Asked if he sent the poisonous letter to the Islamic Centre weeks before it was torched, Ray replied: ‘This is the first I’ve heard about the letter. The Muslims must be trying to pin the firebombing on me.’

Guess which organisation Paul Ray belongs to? Yes, that’s right, March for England. He took part in Sunday’s demonstration, but says he was not involved in any of the trouble. Ray calls Smeeton a ‘very good friend.’

Another link between the men is Glen Jenvey, accused by several newspapers of fabricating stories about Islamic extremism. Jenvey has eight ‘friends’ on his Facebook site; two of them are Ray and Smeeton.

Smeeton has made much of the fact that March for England pulled out of organising last weekend’s protest a few weeks ago because the council was being uncooperative.

But, on May 11, the day the group officially dissociated itself from the event, Smeeton was on the internet posting this rallying call: ‘We will not be putting their name to this march. There’s no reason not to go. As far as I know of up till today this will go ahead but not official.’

Another site, run by ‘associates’ of Smeeton, advertised the event with crude insults designed to whip up the mob. Among the vile postings was this: ‘Who do you think you are kidding Mr Muslim, when you think the English will back down? Take your beard and that stupid f****** dress you wear, and f*** off out of England.’

Is it any wonder that a supposedly peaceful protest became a riot? The thugs were organised, peeling off into groups, each rampaging through the town centre, making it almost impossible for police to contain them.

One group of about 40 or 50 protesters tried to storm an Asian-run fast-food outlet, Pepe’s Piri Piri fried chicken shop in Chapel Street. Staff and customers trapped inside locked the door, but the mob began banging on the glass with sticks.

Then they unfurled the flag of St George and pressed it against the window. A young Asian man trapped outside was beaten up and left covered in blood — in a scene not unlike the one depicted in Dave Smeeton’s ‘skinhead’ advert.

The toll so far: nine arrests — more could follow once police have finished analysing CCTV footage — thousands of pounds’ worth of damage, not to mention the bill for the police operation, and community relations at breaking point.

You might think the protesters had made their point, but no. We understand another demonstration is planned for Luton in August.

‘It’s time to unite against everything that is ruining our country,’ declares Dave Smeeton on the March for England website.

‘It’s time to remove that notion that the St George flag is racist … to claim back our flag which should never have been associated with racism in the first place.’

Patriotism or stirring up trouble? Either way, it would be better coming from someone who was not a (former) football hooligan.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Croatia: Hague; Zagreb Assures Full Cooperation

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, MAY 29 — Croatia has today given assurances that it is willing to collaborate with the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague and that it will shortly call on it for official notice of the criticisms passed by General Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, according to whom Zagreb has been deliberately withholding certain documents on its army’s military operations. The announcement has come from the country’s Justice Minster, Ivan Simonovic, who neither confirmed nor denied press reports that it was General Ante Gotovina, himself facing charges for war crimes, who removed the reports on artillery deployments during the summer of 1995 requested by the Court from the Defence Ministry’s archives and destroyed them. Full cooperation with the Hague is one of the conditions for Croatia’s membership of the EU and since 2005 — when their last remaining fugitive was handed over: General Gotovina himself — Hague prosecutors have always expressed their satisfaction with Zagreb’s conduct. Over the past few months, however, Brammertz has been expressing suspicions that the documents referring to the bombardment of the town of Knin, a secessionist stronghold, which took place in August of 1995 during the Croatian army’s final offensive, have not been handed over. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Cairo and Paris to Re-Launch Alliance

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 29 — France and Egypt, the co-president of the Union for the Mediterranean, which is dormant almost a year after its creation in Paris, intend to relaunch the alliance on a “technical and sectional basis”, said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit after a meeting in Paris with counterpart Bernard Kouchner, who last week said that the current state of the UM is due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the dramatic situation in Gaza. “We must realise the original idea of the UM, which was not created to resolve conflict in the Middle East or conflict between two countries, but to strengthen the fabric of relations between countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea,” said the head of Egyptian diplomacy. He added that a UM meeting will take place in Paris on June 23 on sustainable development. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Tunisia-Algeria: Strengthening of Border Control

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 29 — According to the Tunisian website African Manager, which cited information from the Algerian daily paper Al Moujahid, the border between Tunisia and Algeria is due to be strengthened with the setting up of 23 posts in the Algerian zone Tebessa. This part of the border covers 300 square kilometres, which will be subjected to advanced surveillance equipment. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Italian Mission in West Bank for New Marshall Plan

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 29 — The aim of the Italian mission in the West Bank and Israel is to “mark the way for a new Marshall Plan”. The mission, which is set for June 9-11, is to be comprised of the Foreign undersecretary Stefania Craxi and 40 Italian businesses. It is a practical mission “with a political significance”, underlined Craxi, because “political peace and economic peace can, and must, go hand in hand”. Small and medium-sized Italian enterprises are attracted by investment prospects in the West Bank in the sectors of infrastructure, transport and agriculture “and can bring social stability by creating a Palestinian middle class”. The aim is to create “small incubators of development” along the lines of the Jenin industrial park, where both Israeli and Palestinian contractors are already present. According to Craxi, this is an example of a peaceful and exemplary coexistence between two peoples, which constitutes an example for political peace. This is a new mission because “projects will be established in loco for the first time”. Until now, the “logic of large conferences that allocate money but which then struggle to find the right path to pursue” had been followed. Italy, on the other hand, is aiming for a new Marshall Plan for concrete development “which first of all looks at the feasibility of the projects and then puts down the money”. A policy of “small steps instead of giant proclamations”. As well as the business people, Craxi will meet both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities on the occasion of a conference on the West Bank and Gaza to be held in Ramallah. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Defense: Turkey; Expenditures Jump With New Chopper Project

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 28 — Expenditures by the Turkish Defense Industry Support Fund (SSDF), an extra-budgetary defense resource, jumped by 39% to $1.6 billion last year as a result of the military’s ATAK helicopter project, daily Today’s Zaman reports. According to a report from the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (SSM), on the 2008 expenditures of SSDF, 85% went to the ATAK project. Tusas Aerospace Industries (TAI), Italy’s AgustaWestland and local defense contractor Aselsan signed contracts valued at approximately $2.7 billion for the production of Italian A-129 attack helicopters in Turkey in June 2008. The export of the Turkish domestic defense sector increased by 37% in 2008 to $576 million over the previous year, the report indicated. Minister of Defense, Vecdi Gonul, said expenditures for research and development in the defense industry increased by a record 90% in 2008 over 2007, to $510 million. The SSM report said the government expects to meet half of Turkey’s defense technology needs with domestic products by 2010. Turkey currently has the second largest army among the members of NATO. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Hezbollah, Facing International Judicial Attacks

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 29 — Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement supported by Syria and Jordan, and a local daily newspaper, which sympathises with the movement, stated yesterday that Hezbollah is currently facing “an international judicial war” which ranges from the US to Argentina and all the way to Germany. “The campaign is a continuation of the US-Israeli war on the resistance (Hezbollah), after the failure of Israel’s military offensive in 2006,” Hassan Nasrallah, one of Hezbollah deputies in the Lebanese parliament, told Lebanese TV broadcaster, LBC. Nasrallah was referring to a recent article published in German weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, which reported that Hezbollah was involved in the assassination of Lebanese former PM Rafik Hariri. He was also referring to the decision by the Supreme Court of Argentina to reopen investigations into the 1994 anti-Semitic attack in Buenos Aires of which Iran and Hezbollah are accused, and to the decision by the US Treasury to freeze US assets of people connected to Hezbollah. The Shiite movement rejects all the accusations. “Preparations are underway for an international judicial attack on Hezbollah”, writes daily newspaper Akhbar, according to whom “it seems that Hezbollah will shortly be confronted by a large number of international and local courts”. (ANSAmed).

2009-05-29 14:38

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Iran Ready to Strengthen Army, Nasrallah

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 29 — Iran is willing to contribute to a strengthening of the Lebanese army without demanding any political price, should such a request be presented to Tehran, said the leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, today. “The Islamic Republic…will not turn down any request for help by the Lebanese army and will make Lebanon a strong nation, an all without any conditions”, Nasrallah said, speaking via a large screen to his assembled followers close to the Beqaa valley. If the political alliance led by Hezbollah wins the general elections of June 7 and forms the new government, it will work “to make sure the army is well armed and powerful”. (ANSA)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Over Turkish Objection, UN Extends Cyprus Peacekeeping Mandate

ISTANBUL — The U.N. Security Council extended its Cyprus peacekeeping mandate for another six months on Friday as Turkey voted against the resolution.

The mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force, or UNFICYP, which patrols the divided Mediterranean island’s ceasefire line, had been due to expire on June 15 and was extended until December 15.

The resolution was adopted by 14 countries in favor, and one, Turkey, against for “reasons of principle.” Turkey has been a member of the U.N. Security Council since January.

“This wrong approach to consider the government of Cyprus as the sole government of the whole island has unfortunately been the main obstacle on the way to finding a just, lasting and comprehensive solution for over 45 years,” Turkey’s U.N. Ambassador Baki Ilkin was quoted by news agencies as saying.

Cyprus has been split since 1964 when Turkish Cypriots were forced to withdraw into enclaves.

Re-launched in September 2008 after a four-year hiatus, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, have been involved in UN-sponsored unification talks aimed at reaching an agreement to end the island’s decades-long division. But little progress has been made so far.

The talks mark the first major push for peace since the failure of a U.N. reunification plan in 2004, which was approved by Turkish Cypriots but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.

The Security Council resolution also strongly urged Christofias and Talat “to increase the momentum in the negotiations to ensure the full exploitation of this opportunity to reach a comprehensive settlement.”

The council reiterated that a settlement should be based on two strong separate zones with an overarching federal government.

The resolution also welcomed the implementation of some confidence-building measures by the two leaders and urged further steps, including the opening of additional crossing points between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot zones.

Ilkin told the council after Friday’s vote that the “yes” vote by Turkish Cypriots in the 2004 referendum proved “that they want a just and lasting comprehensive settlement.”

“They are prepared once again not to spare any effort to achieve a durable and equitable solution,” he said, expressing hope that the Greek Cypriots would also “respond positively.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Terrorist Flees to Lebanon, FBI Confirms

NEW YORK — A master bomb maker who once targeted commercial airliners and was suspected of aiding the Iraq insurgency has fled to Lebanon, an FBI official has confirmed.

There is information that 73-year-old Abu Ibrahim was reportedly in Tripoli, a city in northwest Lebanon, the official said earlier this week. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation continues.

The Palestinian terrorist is accused of bombings in the 1980s. He was indicted in the 1982 bombing of Pan Am Flight 830. The explosion killed a 16-year-old boy and wounded more than a dozen passengers as the plane headed to Honolulu from Tokyo.

The FBI has been looking to catch Ibrahim for decades and has recently increased its efforts to arrest him. In April, an FBI committee recommended Ibrahim be placed on agency’s list of most wanted terrorists.

The FBI is also trying to tap a State Department reward program to boost the bounty for his capture to millions of dollars. Ibrahim’s real name is Husayn al-Umari.

Ibrahim has remained out of reach for decades while living in Baghdad. With the help of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, Ibrahim ran a feared terrorist organization called “15 May,” according to federal court documents and terrorism experts. The group is named for the date Israel was founded.

Ibrahim, a devout Sunni who was born in Tripoli, is suspected of carrying out more than two dozen attacks on mainly American, Israeli and Jewish targets in a career that spans decades.

The Iraqi government also used him to conduct terrorism operations against Syria and Iran. In his book, former CIA spy master Duane R. Clarridge wrote that Ibrahim had a “talent for constructing ingenious machines of death, such as refrigerator trucks whose cooling pipes were filled with liquid explosives.”

He’s accused of training a slew of operatives in the art of bomb making whose expertise metastasized across the Middle East, including Mohammed Rashed and Abu Zyad. Rashed is behind bars at the Supermax maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo. He’s scheduled to be released in less than four years.

Some still remain unaccounted for, like Zyad.

Zyad, 60, was born in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. He assisted Ibrahim in Baghdad in the early 1980s, according to CIA investigative notes obtained by The Associated Press. The notes say Zyad lived in Sudan for two years before leaving for Algiers, Algeria, in 1989. His current whereabouts are unknown.

A former senior CIA official who was stationed in Baghdad after the Iraqi invasion in 2003 said there were serious suspicions that Ibrahim had helped the insurgency.

The official said Ibrahim had recently slipped into Lebanon through Syria after coalition forces began to increase efforts to drive insurgents out of the Mosul area and the Saladin Province in Iraq, where Ibrahim had been operating.

The former CIA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still works in the Middle East, said that Ibrahim had also gone to Tripoli. Ibrahim’s second wife, Selma, is from Tripoli.

“He’s got a lot of resources there,” the official said.

Ibrahim’s family also has connections to the Badawi Palestinian refugee camp on the northern fringes of Tripoli, according to the CIA notes.

The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Turkish Awareness on Human Rights Increases

ISTANBUL — Turks’ human rights have increased, albeit just slightly, within the last two years as well as their familiarity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to a poll by International Amnesty Turkey.

Of the poll participants in 2007, 36 percent said they knew the declaration, while this ratio increased to almost 38 percent in 2009. The poll was conducted by TNS Piar company for the organization under the framework of the 60th Year project, which was initiated in 2007 for the 60th anniversary of the human rights declaration. The aim of the poll was to increase awareness about human rights and familiarity with the declaration.

There were also some more drastic changes about the perception and awareness of human rights. The percentage of people in 2007 who said they had read the declaration was almost 13 percent. But, this ratio increased to 19 percent in 2009. The percentage of people who said they knew that every individual has the right to live, have freedom and security was 56 percent in 2007. In 2009, the amount increased to almost 64 percent.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Bangladesh: Two Young Brothers, Victims of a Family Feud, Disfigured With Acid

Their father’s first wife demanded a sum of money and a piece of land. The target of the attack was the boy’s mother; on not finding here the women and her brother attacked the children. In ten years Bangladesh has seen 2200 acid attacks.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Two brothers disfigured with acid because of a family feud — over a question of money — with their father’s first wife the author of the attack. This is the fate of Joanki (only six months old) and his brother Arman (18 months), currently under treatment in hospital in Dhaka for the grave injuries they received. Their parents are of humble origins — Mohammad Ali is an ironmonger — and have appealed to people for funds to help them pay for their son’s treatment.

Sriti Costa, a nurse at the severe burns unit in Medical College Hospital Dhaka, has told AsiaNews that Jonaki has “serious burns covering 7% of his body” and that his condition is “not good”. Abu Zafar, the investigating police officer, confirms that a file has been opened against Asma, father of Siraj Mia, and the women’s two brothers, Dulal and Ujjal. “The suspects have fled — the inspector reports — but we have set up numerous check points. We hope they will be soon caught”.

The episode took place in Sharifpur, in the centre east district of Bramhanbaria, on May 23rd last. “Asma, my husband’s first wife” the mother of the two boys Morzina Begum, tells AsiaNews — and her brother Ujjal entered our home with the aim of pouring acid over me. At that moment I wasn’t in the room and as a result they changed their target, attacking the babies”. Morzina explains that “money issues” still pending between her husband and his first wife were behind the attack. On separating from his first wife, the woman demanded 50 thousand Taka [circa 525 euros] and a piece of land. “When my husband refused — concludes Morzina — they began to persecute me”. In order to guarantee treatment for the babies, their parents have appealed for a loan from their neighbours.

Acid Survivors Foundation, a foundation based in Dhaka that cares for victims, reports that between January and April 2009 there have been 28 cases of acid attacks. In total over the last decade since May 1999 — December 2008 there have been 2198 attacks. Many organisations for human rights — among them Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Christian Development Alternative and Acid Survivors Foundation — condemn “the brutal attack on two little brothers” and ask for “the immediate arrest of those responsible and exemplary punishment”.

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



Pakistan: Islamic Radicals Storm “Blasphemy” Hearing

Christian couple on trial; member of prosecution team threatens to kill wife.

Radical Pakistani Muslims in a town outside of Lahore this month overran a courtroom in hopes of swaying a judge in a “blasphemy” case against a Christian couple, and a member of the prosecution later threatened to kill the wife.

Some 50 molvis (Muslim clergy) on May 14 burst into the courtroom in Mustafabad, where a bail hearing was taking place in the case against Munir Masih and his wife Ruqiya Bibi, according to the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).

“Nobody could stop them as they rushed into the court,” said CLAAS’s Tahir Gull, sole representative for the accused. “They said, ‘No non-Muslim has the right to keep a Quran in his house, they have done this so they are liable to be punished.’“

Masih and Bibi, both in their 30s, were originally accused under section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code with defiling the Quran by touching it with unwashed hands on Dec. 8 of last year. Masih was taken to prison and remained there until Jan. 22, when a Muslim neighbor who had asked him to store some of his possessions, including his Quran, testified on his behalf and the case was dropped.

The complainant, Mohammad Nawaz, subsequently filed another accusation on Feb. 12, this time under 295-C, blasphemy against Muhammad, Islam’s prophet. This charge carries a death sentence, whereas defiling the Quran calls for life imprisonment.

Despite pressure from the crowd of clerics, Judge Shafqat Ali — also a molvi — granted the couple bail. Following the hearing, however, a member of the prosecution team approached Bibi outside the courtroom and threatened to kill her.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



US Urges Europe, China to Step Up Afghan Help

SINGAPORE — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Europe and China to step up their involvement in rebuilding Afghanistan, saying Saturday that America alone cannot put the conflict-ridden nation back on its feet while mired in a fight against the Taliban.

Gates said he has been tougher on the Europeans than countries in Asia in demanding bigger contributions because three successive NATO summits have declared Afghanistan to be their “highest priority.”

But he said he is concerned by “the difference between the rhetorical emphasis … and the capabilities that our allies are prepared to put forward.”

“The need is greater than the commitment that has been made,” Gates told an Asia-Pacific conference of defense ministers, officials and analysts.

Afghanistan is seen as a crucial test of the power and relevance of NATO, but the escalating war in the Central Asian nation has raised doubts in Europe about the ability of the alliance’s 32,000 troops to stem the Taliban insurgency.

Worries about casualties and costs have contributed to opposition to the conflict that many Europeans see as an unnecessary distraction during economic crisis.

The U.S. has 38,000 troops, and President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 more be sent there.

“A lot of our allies are there in very large numbers … so it’s not like people have been sitting with their hands in their pockets,” Gates said, answering questions from delegates after his speech.

But to establish a sustainable and effective government in Afghanistan, the country needs additional aid and expertise to build infrastructure and more funding to expand and maintain the Afghan army, Gates said in the speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The annual conference is organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank.

Gates also said the United States would “welcome China’s help in Afghanistan, whether it is for the security fund or a number of these civilian areas of expertise.”

“This is one of the places in the world where all contributions are welcome,” he said.

Hundreds of U.S. experts and diplomats will be flying into Afghanistan in the months to come but that’s “still far short of what the need is,” he said. “It’s one thing for the U.S. to be able to surge a significant number of military forces, but our civilian capabilities are limited,” he said.

The ultimate solution to Afghanistan’s security is a strong national military and police force, for which the U.S. will pour billions of dollars over the next several years.

“Afghanistan for a considerable period of time will never be able to afford the size army and police that is required to take on the security challenges in the country,” Gates said.

Gates also praised Pakistan for stepping up the war against Islamic extremists in the region bordering Afghanistan. The Pakistani military says it has killed more than 1,100 militants in a month of heavy clashes and has the Taliban on the run in the Swat Valley region.

The Pakistani establishment has come to “understand that what was happening there represented a truly existential threat to the Pakistani government and Pakistani democracy,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Far East


Asia: Vietnam Gearing for War With China?

Billions of dollars in oil prompts purchase of sub fleet

With attention focused on North Korea’s brinkmanship on nuclear weapons and missiles, another potential crisis is brewing that is about ready to spill over into violence, with Vietnam apparently preparing to challenge China’s ownership of a string of islands thought to be the link to billions of dollars worth of oil.

In asserting its rights to the Spratly Islands also claimed by China, Vietnam has ordered six Project 636 Kilo-class submarines from Russia and has gotten permission for the purchase, in addition to other military arms Vietnam has ordered.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Japan University Gives Away Iphones to Nab Truants

TOKYO — A prestigious Japanese university is giving away hundreds of iPhones, in part to use its Global Positioning System to nab students that skip class.

Truants in Japan often fake attendance by getting friends to answer roll-call or hand in signed attendance cards. That’s verging on cheating since attendance is a key requirement for graduation here.

Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo is giving Apple Inc.’s iPhone 3G to 550 students in its School of Social Informatics, which studies the use of Internet and computer technology in society.

The gadget will work as a tool for studies, but it also comes with GPS, a satellite navigation system that automatically checks on its whereabouts. The university plans to use that as a way check attendance.

Students who skip class could still fake attendance by giving their iPhone to a friend who goes to class. But youngsters aren’t likely to lend their mobile phones, which are packed with personal information and e-mail, according to the university.

U.S. universities use the iPhone for various, other purposes. At Stanford University, students have developed iPhone applications in a course. At Duke University, the gadget is used to get around the campus and find information about course listings and other events.

Aoyama Gakuin signed a deal earlier this month with Softbank Corp., the exclusive vendors of the iPhone in Japan.

The number of students using the iPhone is expected to reach 1,000 in the program — the first time the iPhone is being used on such a scale at a Japanese university.

The iPhone will be used to relay course materials, lecture videos and tests. The university hopes students will develop software applications and other lifestyle uses for the cell phone.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



U.S. Won’t Accept North Korea as Nuclear State: Gates

SINGAPORE (Reuters) — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday that the United States would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and sternly warned it against transferring any nuclear material.

In a speech to an Asian defense conference in Singapore, Gates also said the threat from North Korea, which this week detonated a nuclear device and launched a series of missiles, could trigger an arms race in Asia.

“We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in the region or on us,” Gates said. “We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state.”

Compounding tensions on the Korean peninsula, a South Korean newspaper quoted a source in Washington as saying Pyongyang was preparing to move an intercontinental ballistic missile from a factory near the capital to a launch site on the east coast.

Increasingly belligerent North Korea has warned of war, saying it was no longer bound by an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and threatened further provocations in response to U.N. Security Council censure.

Gates said the Obama administration would hold North Korea “fully accountable” if it transferred any nuclear material outside its borders.

“The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies. And we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action.”

The statement seemed to harden and broaden the Obama administration’s stand on North Korea’s recent series of provocations from a regional security issue to a global proliferation threat.

Regional powers are waiting to see what the North might do next after it conducted a nuclear test on Monday. South Korea is on alert on the assessment Pyongyang may make provocative moves using conventional weapons at their heavily armed border.

North Korea has warned of an intercontinental ballistic missile test in anger over U.N. Security Council punishment for what Pyongyang said was a satellite launch on April 5.

“Preparations to move an ICBM from the Saneum Weapons Research Center near Pyongyang by train have been captured by U.S. spy satellites,” Saturday’s Dong-a Ilbo newspaper quoted a source in Washington knowledgeable about the issue as saying.

The research lab is the North’s main center of research and manufacture of long-range missiles, the newspaper said.

South Korea’s defense ministry could not immediately comment on the report.

“REAL PAIN” SANCTIONS NEEDED

In New York, the United States and Japan circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to key members, condemning the claimed nuclear test and demanding strict enforcement of sanctions imposed after the North’s first atomic test in October 2006.

Gates said North Korea was not a direct military threat now but said sanctions that bring home “real pain” were needed against Pyongyang.

“If (the North Koreans) continue on a path they are on, I think the consequences for stability in the region are significant and I think it poses the potential, the potential for some kind of an arms race in this region,” Gates said.

Western diplomats said permanent Security Council members Russia and China have agreed in principle that North Korea should be sanctioned for its nuclear test, but it was not clear what kind of penalties they would support. Both are generally reluctant to approve sanctions.

“Our hope is that all parties concerned will remain cool-headed and take measures to address the problem,” Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told the Singapore defense conference.

“Our stand on the issue is consistent. We are resolutely opposed to nuclear proliferation. Our view is that the Korean peninsula should move toward denuclearization.”

U.S. officials have urged China to pressure North Korea to step back from nuclear brinkmanship and return to stalled disarmament talks. But many Chinese analysts say Washington overstates Beijing’s sway over Pyongyang, as well as their government’s willingness to use that influence.

The two Koreas have fought two deadly naval clashes on their disputed maritime border in the past 10 years and the North has warned another could happen.

A U.S. defense official said the United States had observed “above average activity” in the past 24 hours at a site in North Korea that has previously been used to test fire long-range missiles.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it had seen the number of Chinese fishing boats near the peninsula in the Yellow Sea drop sharply in recent days and is watching the North’s activities for indications of aggression.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Flu Prompts New Powers

The NSW chief health officer has been given stronger powers to ensure people suspected of having swine flu remain in isolation, as the state’s infection rate continues to rise.

Under the extra powers granted by the NSW government, Dr Kerry Chant can order anyone who has been in contact with a suspected case and has ignored advice to voluntarily quarantine themselves to stay isolated for up to 14 days.

She can also stop children who have been in contact with a suspected case from going to school.

NSW police can assist in compliance on request from Dr Chant.

Dr Chant said the powers were an emergency measure and she did not expect to use them because most people were heeding advice given by health authorities.

“These are measures that I think the general community would be very supportive of … the vast majority of the community have been adhering to our messages. This is just to ensure we have the powers,” Dr Chant told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said swine flu clinics were also being set up in major public hospitals across the state to assist in managing the virus.

Royal North Shore, Sydney and St George hospitals were among those who had already set up flu clinics, while some regional hospitals were on stand-by.

The clinics will allow for rapid assessment and treatment of suspected swine flu cases and minimise the risk of infecting other patients and hospital staff, Mr Della Bosca said.

“It’s important also to note that that will mean that our emergency departments in public hospitals will be able to continue their important work … with minimal disruption,” he said.

Mr Della Bosca also said 25 NSW nurses had joined the cruise ship Pacific Dawn when it docked in Brisbane to assess and screen passengers before they arrive in Sydney on Monday.

As of this morning, there was no local transmission of swine flu in NSW.

There were 54 people in NSW who had tested positive for swine flu, out of whom 43 had been on the cruise ship Pacific Dawn when it docked in Sydney last Monday and 11 had picked up the virus on overseas travel

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Britons to Return From Zimbabwe

More than 60 British passport holders, reduced to poverty in Zimbabwe, are to be repatriated to Britain over the next few weeks.

They are the first successful applicants to a UK government scheme to resettle elderly and vulnerable people unable to afford the move themselves.

All their savings were lost in years of hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe.

The government says it may eventually have to pay for the return of 750 of its citizens.

The scheme is available to people aged over 70 with medical or care needs.

Bags packed

Fred Noble has lived in Zimbabwe for 51 years, but is now packing his bags for the move back to Britain this weekend. He had built up a good pension fund working on the railways, but is now almost destitute.

“I got sick, had to go to a private hospital and pay all the expenses myself. I had to sell my flat,” he said.

“One day you are very well off, and the next day you are a poor man.”

Inflation in Zimbabwe, which at one point reached 231m%, made pensions, savings and investments worthless.

British local government minister John Healy says the number of enquiries went up after last year’s presidential election in Zimbabwe.

“People were looking for help, particularly as the economy was still collapsing, the health care system, food supplies were getting more difficult,” he said.

With the new unity government in power, the economy in Zimbabwe is beginning to stabilise. But it has come too late for Mr Noble.

“I’ll miss this,” he said. “Wonderful years. But I am not a young man any more, and I am going home to die — that is how I look at it. I came to a beautiful country and I will remember it as that.”

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Latin America


‘Homophobic’ Christian TV on the Outs in Brazil?

The Brazilian government is seeking to ban from daytime television what it refers to as “homophobic” Christian programming.

The government initially wants to put up a disclaimer that the shows are not recommended for people under the age of 18. A Brazilian government official told a newspaper there that while such programs would be restricted to after 11:00 p.m., “the ideal is that they not be shown at any time.”

Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality offers his reaction. “It seems that the Brazilian government is moving towards a pro-homosexual totalitarianism which directly impinges on the rights of Christians to be Christian,” he shares. “I think that this is a very dangerous road, and we need to be watching it from the United States.”

The move, he points out, also means children will not be getting the biblical view on the subject from television.

“This is the new socialism, which now appears to be directly repressing biblical speech on the issue of homosexuality — and we need to watch it because there are socialist advocates in the United States,” LaBarbera cautions. “The idea that Christian programming needs to be labeled as…’homophobic’ is just bizarre, but it’s very dangerous that this is being done so openly.”

The family advocate believes the Brazilian government is so beholden to its homosexual allies that it is directly suppressing speech. He contends that homosexual activists know there is little support for homosexuality in the South American country, so they want to suppress opposition to it before it mounts.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Miami Judge Awards $1.2 Billion in Suit Against Cuba

MIAMI (Reuters) — A Florida judge awarded nearly $1.2 billion on Friday to a Cuban American former CIA operative who hunted revolutionary Che Guevara, in a lawsuit he brought against Cuba over the suicide death of his father.

The award eclipses past judgments against the Cuban government handed down by courts in Miami, the heart of Cuban exile opposition to the island’s communist leadership. But it was not immediately clear if the judgment could be collected.

Gustavo Villoldo, now in his 70s, blamed Guevara, former Cuban president Fidel Castro and others for the death of his father, who killed himself in 1959 after the family’s property was seized in the wake of Castro’s revolution.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Peter Adrien awarded Villoldo damages of $1.179 billion, a court official said.

“You have brought closure to us after 50 years. Justice has prevailed,” the Miami Herald quoted Villoldo as saying following the verdict.

Villoldo’s attorneys told the Herald they would try to collect the judgment from frozen assets belonging to the Cuban government. But their prospects for success were uncertain. The frozen accounts in the United States have been depleted by past judgments.

The award far surpassed a judgment of $253 million last year in a wrongful death case brought against Cuba by the family of Rafael del Pino Siero, a U.S. citizen who was a friend of Fidel Castro but turned against him after Castro took power in 1959.

Castro’s forces captured del Pino Siero and he died in a Cuban prison cell 18 years later.

The award to del Pino’s children bested a $188 million judgment for the relatives of three people killed when a Cuban military jet shot down two small planes belonging to the Miami-based exile group Brothers to the Rescue in 1996.

Villoldo is a former CIA operative who participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and later helped hunt down Guevara in the jungles of Bolivia. The bearded revolutionary was captured and killed by CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers in October 1967.

Villoldo has said he personally supervised the burial of Guevara’s body and cut off a lock of Guevara’s hair, which he kept for decades. The hair and related items were sold at auction for $119,500 in October 2007.

Guevara, a leading figure of the Cuban revolution, became an international icon of rebellion for generations of leftists.

The Cuban government recovered what it said were Guevara’s remains from Bolivia more than a decade ago and buried them at a monument in Santa Clara, Cuba.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Barrot to EU-27, Refugee Transfers Into Union

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — It is necessary to make haste, given the dramatic situation bound to arise with a possible increase in migrants trying to make their way across in the Mediterranean Sea with the arrival of the summer season, and make an appeal to the sense of solidarity among member states. The EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Jacques Barrot, in view of the upcoming Council meeting on June 4-5, has drafted a letter to EU-27 Interior Ministers in which he sets forth the measures Brussels intends to take as concerns illegal immigration, and has asked for all member states to contribute. PILOT PROJECT FOR REFUGEES — Barrot has proposed a pilot project to deal with the problems involved in taking in asylum seekers benefiting from refugee status. For those in need of international protection, the Commission has put forth the possibility that they — once taken into a member state which is most heavily exposed to migratory pressures, or even a transit country like Libya — will be transferred into the Union. An immigrant taken in by Malta or Italy, therefore, could then be transferred to Sweden or Finland, for example. To do this the Commission is willing to increase the funds available. As it stands, 4,000 euros in EU financing is set aside per refugee for the country that agrees to take them in. However, Brussels is aware of the suspicion that such a proposal is likely to run up against in some countries, and so has asked that every country make its own choice on the matter. PARTNERSHIP WITH AFRICAN COUNTRIES — The Commission is aiming at better cooperation with North African nations, especially with Libya, but — according to Community sources — Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco have already given signals that they would like to work together. The idea is to try and bring in a regional partnership beginning with a conference: a sort of Tripoli II, according to EU sources who have hinted that Brussels might be willing to make up to 20 million euros available to the countries willing to take part. STRENGTHEN FRONTEX — The European agency created to manage cooperation with foreign borders, according to the Commission, should be strengthened to improve the planning of the operations, with clear accords and modalities which would make it possible to take action in order to prevent human lives from being lost and to bring rafts loaded with migrants to shore at pre-established points.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



‘EU Response Needed’ on Immigration

‘Not just Italy’s problem’, Justice Commissioner Barrot says

(ANSA) — Brussels, May 29 — European Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot on Friday called for a “real European response” to deal with illegal immigration in Italy and other southern Mediterranean countries.

“Immigration is not just Italy’s problem but a European issue on which we must have greater solidarity,” he said in a letter to the current Czech European Union presidency, illustrating proposals he plans to make at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Luxembourg next week.

Barrot described the immigration problem as “increasingly serious”.

“Many people lose their lives in the sea attempting to reach the EU, the protection systems of some member countries are under very heavy pressure and a growing number of immigrants are managing to enter the EU illegally,” he said.

Barrot called on the Czech Interior Minister, Marin Pecina, to kickstart an initial exchange of views on the issue by his EU counterparts, calling on them to try to identify “concrete and priority actions that will have an effect in the short term and that would be put into action in the next few months”.

“It’s very important that all the EU interior ministers believe that the situation can only be resolved through great European solidarity,” he said.

“At the moment not everyone is convinced”.

On Thursday Barrot said one way the EU could offer support would be to collaborate with UN refugee agency UNHCR to set up identification centres in the countries from where would-be migrants board boats to cross to Europe.

“We need to organise centres to examine asylum requests in the countries of imbarcation: Libya, Tunisia, Egypt,” he said.

Barrot added that the EU was also”working to facilitate readmission agreements with the countries of origin” to ease the repatriation process.

“But the priority is to avoid tragedies,” he said. “If we don’t find a common solution and shared rules, the risk is that the immigrants rebound between one country and another. This is the premise for a humanitarian disaster”.

According to EU sources, the Czech duty presidency is willing to include the immigration issue on the agenda of the June EU leaders’ summit.

ITALY DETERMINED TO CONVINCE PARTNERS.

Italy is determined to convince its partners that the emergency is “a European problem” and the EU needs to apply the principle of solidarity and share hospitality costs for immigrants who have been granted refugee status.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Friday he was “very satisfied” by Barrot’s letter.

“This represents a significant advance,” he said.

The minister reiterated that Italy will ask the EC to help it deal with the immigration issue by evaluating its two-pronged suggestion: the principle of burden sharing so that the 27 EU members would agree to provide hospitality for asylum seekers arriving here; and reinforcing the role of its border agency Frontex by making it responsible for the creation and management of a European network of identification centres.

Earlier this month Italy introduced a controversial new policy of turning back boats trying to reach Italy’s southern shores to Libya, the main stepping-off point for would-be migrants.

Italy has sent back nearly 500 would-be migrants since the launch of the policy on May 6 despite heavy criticism from the UN, the Catholic Church and humanitarian organisations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



France to Accept 80 Immigrants From Malta

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 28 — By July France will accept around 80 of the illegal African immigrants who arrive on the Island of Malta on a daily basis. The operation is unique in Europe and was announced in December 2008 by the then minister of immigration, Brice Hortefeux, and elaborated by his successor Eric Besson with the help of the French ambassador to Malta, writer Daniel Rondeau. The news was announced this morning by the French Catholic daily La Croix. Assisted by the Maltese authorities, the island’s temporary reception centres have drawn up lists. Twenty illegal immigrants have already been chosen, men and women mostly from Somalia and Eritrea. “Each case has been closely examined” said Rondeau, “considering the possibility of their integration into French society. We have assessed their skills and their chances of finding work in France, as well as their personalities”. According to the Maltese, “there are more than 700 illegal immigrants on the island at the moment”. “Malta has so far been neglected by the other European countries in this tragedy of illegal immigration. This situation is unsustainable”, said the former president of the island, Guido De Marco. “We must help Malta as French, Europeans and Mediterranean citizens. Europe must stop being selfish and must show more solidarity. Therefore we have signed this solidarity pact” concluded the French ambassador. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Maroni: EU Commissioner Open to Our Proposals

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 29 — In European Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot’s view, there has been a “full willingness” to discuss Italy’s proposals for a greater sharing in Europe of the burden of combating illegal immigration, said Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni after a G8 Justice-Interior Ministers meeting in Rome on immigration. “We asked,” explained Maroni, “the European Union and the European Commission to intervene to support border countries like Italy to combat illegal immigration.” The agreement with Libya, he underlined, “works: landings have stopped, but the very intense bilateral effort that also benefits Europe must be shared by the entire EU to help the countries of origin and transit of migrants and to adopt policies to accept migrants and share the associated burden.” We will “discuss this in Luxembourg next week at the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union, where we will bring our proposal drawn up together with other Mediterranean countries who share our position. The point is that all European countries must assist in accepting asylum seekers and in the repatriation of illegal immigrants, and the EU must improve FRONTEX (The European border management agency) to better prevent the flow of illegal migrants,” said Maroni. Barrot has been “fully willing to discuss these topics and today we made substantial progress”. (ANSAmed).

2009-05-29 20:22

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Tax Agency Ready for June 1st ID Card Rush

After two and half years of waiting, immigrants arriving in Sweden will finally be able to obtain Swedish national identity cards.

Starting June 1st, the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) will begin accepting applications from people who are registered as living in Sweden with a personal identity number (personnummer), are at least 13-years-old, and can verify their identity.

“We’re absolutely ready and have done all that we can do at this point,” the Tax Agency’s Anna-Lena Österborg told The Local.

“It’s exciting. This is a whole new activity for us.”

Österborg, who has managed the ID card project, said the Tax Agency expects a wave of applications to flood in during the first few days.

Extra staff have been assigned to the 23 different offices around the country accepting applications in order to troubleshoot any possible problems.

“Since it’s the first time that any of us will be carrying out this activity, we’re going to be well-prepared,” said Österborg, although she couldn’t elaborate on any specific glitches that may be likely to occur.

In addition, Österborg urged patience from applicants who show up to file applications on the first few days in June.

“There may be long lines and application times may end up being longer than the expected two weeks,” she said, adding the agency had no concrete estimate of how many people may apply for ID cards.

Ever since early 2007, when the now shuttered Svensk Kassaservice announced it would no longer be issuing ID cards to non-Swedes, foreigners living in Sweden have been forced to turn to banks in order to obtain ID cards — and with decidedly inconsistent results.

While certain branches of some banks issued ID cards to non-Swedes, other banks refused to accept applications because foreigners were not able to adequately verify their identity.

For well over a year, the government has been wrestling with how to deal with an issue which has been a constant thorn in the side of new arrivals to Sweden who find themselves unable to obtain an ID card to help them carry out many of life’s basic functions like seeing a doctor or collecting packages from the post office.

After months of silence the government confirmed in September 2008 that the Tax Agency would take over responsibility for issuing ID cards.

And starting Monday, Tax Agency offices around the country will begin accepting applications, which must be filed in person.

“We’re also really hoping that people take time to ensure they meet the requirements before coming in to file their application,” said Österborg.

In addition, she stressed the importance of paying the 400 kronor ($52) application fee by bank- or plus-giro before showing up at the Tax Agency in person.

“Our offices don’t handle cash for security reasons,” she said.

The Tax Agency also requests that people hang onto their payment receipts to present as proof of payment when submitting their ID card application.

Also important is making sure that the applicant has an approved type of identity document, such as a previously issued Swedish identity card or passport, or an EU passport issued after September 1st, 2006.

In addition, passports from Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are also acceptable, although passports from more recent EU members Romania, Cyprus, and Bulgaria are not.

For people lacking the approved documents, it’s necessary for them to come to the Tax Agency with someone who can vouch for their identity, such as a parent, sibling, spouse, or adult child.

In certain cases, an employer can also serve as an identity witness.

“It’s really important that we make sure these documents are credible and that cards are issued to the people who are who they say they are,” said Österborg.

She admitted, however, that some cases may require additional investigation, such as cross-referencing an identity witness with the Tax Agency’s population registry to verify their relationship to the applicant, or checking that two people claiming to be a couple are registered at the same address.

“At the end of the day, we’re relying on people’s good faith,” she said.

Applicants will then be photographed at the agency’s offices, and should receive their ID cards within two weeks of filing the application, assuming everything is in order.

But again, Österborg emphasized that the first wave of applications may take somewhat longer.

“Once we’ve got everything up and running smoothly, we shouldn’t have any trouble meeting the two-week deadline,” she said.

“But we know expectations are high and want people to understand that at first, we may take a little bit more time than expected to get them their ID cards.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Deadline Set in Banned Bible Study Case

Demand letter warns of ‘irreparable’ harm from First Amendment violation

Code enforcement officials in San Diego who banned a pastor and his wife from holding Bible studies in their home or face fines have taken less than 24 hours to respond to a demand letter from a legal team representing the couple in what could be a major First Amendment dispute.

And now they have a deadline to withdraw statements that lawyers believe already have created an irreparable violation of the First Amendment.

Dean Broyles, the chief of the Western Center for Law & Policy, told WND today the letter was dispatched to Pam Elias, chief of the land use division for the county of San Diego, on Tuesday, and a meeting was held among the parties yesterday.

[…]

The sequence of events developed this way.

“On April 10, 2009, Good Friday, a female county employee came to the Joneses’ residence. The county employee appeared in the front yard and proceeded to take pictures of our clients’ home,” the letter said. “She noticed the Joneses’ daughters in the front yard and asked to speak with their mother. Although she did not provide any paper work or identification, subsequent information obtained by the WCLP leads us to believe that the county employee who went to the Joneses’ residence was Code Enforcement Officer Cherie Cham.”

“Do you have a regular weekly meeting in your home? Do you sing? Do you say ‘amen’?” the official reportedly asked. “Do you say, ‘Praise the Lord’?”

The pastor’s wife answered yes.

She says she was then told, however, that she must stop holding “religious assemblies” until she and her husband obtain a Major Use Permit from the county, a permit that often involves traffic and environmental studies, compliance with parking and sidewalk regulations and costs that top tens of thousands of dollars.

If they fail to pay for the MUP, the county official reportedly warned, the couple would be charged escalating fines beginning at $100, then $200, $500, $1000, “and then it will get ugly.”

[…]

Broyles earlier told WND that oppressive governments, such as communist China or Nazi Germany, worked to repress home fellowships, labeling them the “underground church” or “subversive groups,” legally compelling Christians to meet only in sanctioned, government-controlled “official” churches.

“Therein lies my concern,” Broyles said. “If people can’t practice their religious beliefs in the privacy of their own homes with a few of their friends, that’s an egregious First Amendment violation.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



‘Gay’ Activist to Oversee Public Classroom ‘safety’

Homosexual group founder handed federal Education Department post

The founder of the homosexual activist group GLSEN, which promotes homosexual clubs in high schools, middle schools and grade schools and is the driving force behind the annual “Day of Silence” celebration of homosexuality in many districts, has been handed a federal appointment where he will be responsible for overseeing “safety” in the nation’s public schools.

Linda Harvey of Mission America, which educates people on anti-Christian trends in the nation, said it is nothing more than a “tragedy” for an open homosexual who has “had an enormously detrimental impact on the climate in our schools” to be in such a position.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Mandatory ‘Gay’ Day for K-5 Students

Board imposes homosexual curriculum on classes

A California school district has approved a mandatory homosexual curriculum for children as young as 5 — and parents will not be allowed to remove their children from the lessons.

The mandatory program, officially titled “LGBT Lesson #9,” was approved May 26 by the Alameda County Board of Education by a vote of 3-2. Students from kindergarten through fifth grade will learn about “tolerance” for the homosexual lifestyle beginning next year.

[…]

Parents will not be given an opportunity to opt-out of lessons that go against their religious beliefs. Some parents are threatening to sue the school board and mount a recall. Opponents presented a petition with 468 signatures from people who don’t want the homosexual lessons in the curriculum.

[…]

… Capitol Resource Institute’s Karen England explored the curriculum and released a statement condemning the program before the board’s vote.

“This curriculum ignores the fact that every child has a mom and a dad, to redefine ideas like ‘family.’ School absolutely should be a safe place, but this isn’t just about safety. Students have to embrace highly controversial social values or risk being labeled as bigots,” she warned. “Five year old kids aren’t ready to think on their own about sexuality — and their families’ values will be dismissed. That’s not an education in critical thinking. It’s social activism.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


Predator Drones Could Face Legal Challenges From Human Rights Advocates

Human rights activists are turning their attention to the drone program in part because they say there’s no warning to innocent civilians who are in a targeted area.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Al Qaeda in Brazil

The following article about the arrest of an Al Qaeda terrorist in Brazil appeared last Tuesday in Folha Online. Many thanks to our Portuguese correspondent MJF for the translation:

Jungmann seeks information from the Federal Police about the arrest of Al Qaeda member

MP Raul Jungmann (PPS-PE), the President of the Commission of Public Security of the City Council, has asked the Federal Police to brief him about the detention of an Al Qaeda member in Brazil. The same request was made to GSI (the department concerned with the safety of public institutions) and ABIN (the Brazilian Intelligence Agency).

A high-ranking member of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda was arrested in Brazil on charges of spreading a racist message, according to the Federal Police. The detention of said terrorist was made public in last Tuesday’s edition of the Folha, in Jânio de Freitas’ column…

Jungmann said he had previously known about terrorist actions in Brazil. “We had known for some time now that high-level members of terrorist networks were circulating in Brazil. The tri-border region is a platform for the shipment of resources to the Middle East,” said the MP.

Jungmann fears Brazil may become a sort of “lodging country” for terrorist organizations, since the country does not have specific laws to deal with this matter. “We have an aggressive diplomacy in our dealings with the Arab world. On the other hand, this country is about to become a lodging place for terrorist organizations. I know that, before being arrested, he was followed here. We face a clear lack of leadership on the terrorist question,” the MP said.

Protest

The president of UNI (National Union of Islamic Entities), Abdul Nasser El Rafei, found fault with Jungmann’s opinion.

- – - - – - – - -

“The Arabs have helped build this country and diversify the rich Brazilian culture. There are now in Brazil, according with the IBGE (the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), about 10 million Arabs and people of Arab descent, and I wonder why no terrorist acts have ever taken place in Brazil, and why it is that just when diplomatic relations are being strengthened between Brazil and the Arab world Brazil should become a lodging place for terrorists. This is absurd. MP Jungmann’s statement was very untimely,” he said.

“We regret the generalist and erroneous position of this member of Parliament and representative of the Brazilian people, a multifarious country that has always been receptive towards the various cultures of the world. A place where multiple nationalities and religions can live together and in peace,” Abdul remarks.



Hat tip: ESW.

Would You Buy a Car From This Man?

Obama’s first major scandal is brewing. Sorting out the rumors from the reality will take some time. Some folks believe that this is just one more “distraction” to keep Americans’ attention off Obama and onto manufactured outrage where others can be blamed when snafus occur. Whether real or manufactured, this particular situation will not turn out well for the administration.

From Fox News:

General Motors now is on the verge of bankruptcy after bondholders forced it Wednesday to withdraw a plan to swap bond debt for company stock. The government, which has already provided $19 billion in loans to GM, could take a 70 percent stake in the company.

Chrysler, which has received $5.8 billion in federal aid, disclosed in bankruptcy court this month its plan to close about a quarter of its 3,200 U.S. dealerships by June 9. Chrysler also plans to close eight manufacturing plants, part of its work to shed assets, debt and contracts and shift its good assets to Italian automaker Fiat.

The direction gone is far afield from the rosy scenario imagined by the president when he introduced his task force in February. Now, with two of the Big Three automakers on the brink of oblivion, lawmakers — including some who approved diverting funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program for banks for use by GM and Chrysler — are starting to raise doubts about the overseers of the restructuring.

It turns out that the Auto Task Force appointed by Obama (I don’t know who actually chose the individuals in this “Task Force”) is made up of individuals from the field of finance, not the car industry:

“Who is this auto task force and who do they represent? They certainly don’t represent workers in America. They don’t represent investors, they don’t represent dealerships they represent various Wall Street interests,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

The combined total of auto industry experience the 24-member task force brings to the bailout negotiations equals zero, and some don’t drive at all, note critics.

“Of course we know that nobody on the task force has any experience in the auto business, and we heard at the hearing many of them don’t even own cars. And they’re dictating the auto industry for our future? What’s wrong with this picture?” asked Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

Thirty-six members of Congress from both sides of the aisle told the White House last week they are troubled by the work of the Auto Task Force. The lawmakers’ concerns range from exploiting auto workers to laying off dealership employees.

“Decisions being made by the Auto Task Force and in the bankruptcy proceedings in New York are more than troubling,” the group, which includes Kucinich and Gohmert, wrote in a letter to Obama.

The lawmakers — wary of shuttered car dealerships, job losses and the big unknown of a GM bankruptcy — implored the Obama administration to slow down the restructuring process.

“Basically the task force is moving too quickly and there’s kind of a double standard,” a senior congressional aide told FOXNews.com. “We’ll do anything to bail out the banks, but we’re saying to the automobile industry you can fail. … The people who are on (the task force) are financial guys. These aren’t car guys.”

No, they’re not. And it appears that some of them have ties to Obama’s campaign fund-raisers.

No doubt there are plenty of others banging the drum on this story, but the detailed collecting of information being done by Jim at Gateway Pundit, by Doug Ross at Director Blue, and by World Net Daily are outstanding examples of websites that have done yeoman’s work on what has been dubbed – yeah, what else? – Dealergate.

Each of these websites have information on the questions being raised:

  • which dealerships are being targeted for closing?
  • who is actually making the choices for closures – Chrysler? The Task Force?
  • are the closings based on party affiliations of the dealers?
  • are closings based on campaign contributions (or lack thereof) by the dealers?
  • is this another Chicago-type “pay-to-play” operation?

Read the stories on those websites. Look at the maps and lists. A lot of research has gone into making this story quite plain. We’ll see how long it takes for the MSM to pick up the ball.

Meanwhile, Doug Ross has this juicy bit (I haven’t supplied the links in the snip but you can follow them in his post):

White House car czar Steven Rattner is married to Maureen White, the former national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And before Rattner became a major player on Wall Street, he was a New York Times reporter. Rattner is a key decision-maker on the Obama-slash-General-Motors-slash-Chrysler management team. And Rattner’s wife would presumably be an expert on political fundraising and could, if so inclined, advise her husband on who to protect and who to punish.

“Car czar” is a clever title for the head of this motley crew that comprises the Auto Task Force. But the sleazy connection here – the head of the Task Force being married to the big money raiser for the Democrats -belies the “ethics and transparency” our current President claimed for his administration. Google that quote and you can find his many broken promises.

The best overview of the whole Dealergate issue and Obama’s tactics comes from Canada. The essay is by Daniel Greenfield:
- – - - – - – - -

Word that the Obama Administration may have used its power over Chrysler’s restructuring process to shut down dealerships whose owners donated to Republican candidates, while leaving open dealerships that donated to Obama is spreading across conservative blogs. But while this kind of abuse of government power is shocking, it really shouldn’t be.

Government is an engine of wealth redistribution, and when it gains control of businesses, it redistributes wealth in a way that benefits its supporters. That is what government always does, no matter how it disguises it.

That is why despite all the leftist wishful thinking in the world, centrally planned economies are corrupt, inept and inefficient.

Oh, but that’s just because no one has done it correctly yet. Obama thinks he’s going to show us how central management will cure all the ineptitude of individual choices. And we’d better learn to like it.

Mr. Greenfield continues:

No doubt there is a long list of industries that Obama will be happy to “bail out”, and by bail out, we mean of course spend billions in taxpayer owned debt to take over, carve up and hand out to their supporters.

The rape of the American auto industry by Obama and his henchmen was a classic case of a gang of politicians robbing the country blind in order to provide patronage to their backers, both at the union and the dealership level. But that is par for the course.

Obama promised to fix the capitalist arrogance of the free market with some wealth redistribution, which is a lot like a mugger telling you that he can cure your credit card debt by taking all your money. Now we’re seeing just how far that mugging went and how many victims it’s leaving behind. And we’re not done yet.

If the initial phase was the mugging, the next phase is that the beating the mugger dished out transmitted a disease which is now in the veins of his victim. When government takes control of an industry, it immediately promotes rent seeking behavior in order to increase its own wealth and power. This naturally drives up the cost of everything, produces inferior products and adds layers on bureaucracy on top of everything.

CAFE and a big package of regulations will insure that Chrysler and GM produce cars that meet the standards of the left, and that no one will actually want to buy or drive. The government naturally will buy the cars, both for itself, and subsidize their purchase for the “disadvantaged.” Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac will have an auto buddy who exists to insure the “right” of everyone to own a car, with loans to people who can’t pay them, for cars they can’t afford.

If Obama gets his way, the US auto industry will wind up looking like its Soviet counterpart, a government subsidized white elephant that will benefit no one but politicians and their supporters. And it will once again serve as a textbook example of what’s wrong with wealth redistribution, and how absolute government power over the free market, corrupts it absolutely into patronage.

Patronage. Now there is a concept that Obama understands thoroughly. And he plans to teach the rest of us, whether we want to learn or not.

After all, it’s his game. He won.



Hat tip for nudging me on this story: no2liberals

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/29/2009Good news: the lawsuit by the Thomas More Law Center over the use of AIG bailout funds for Islamic purposes has passed its first hurdle: the judge has refused the Obama administration’s request to dismiss it.

In other news, the Indian government has officially protested the violence against Indian students in Australia. My sources in Australia report that the assailants are alleged to be Africans, most likely Sudanese or Somalis.

Thanks to ACT for America, Andy Bostom, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, Nilk, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

Financial Crisis
France: Many Looking to Morocco to Escape Crisis
Merrill Lynch Urges Turkey to Come to Terms With IMF
Merrill Accused of Insider Trading
Trouble Brewing for AIG and Federal Government
 
Europe and the EU
Britons Increasingly Eurosceptic: Poll
Brussels a Riot With Spy vs Spy
France: Security, Sarkozy to Tackle Crime Without Concession
France: Schools to be Allowed to Search Pupils’ Bags for Weapons
France Acquits Djibouti Officials
Italy: First Veiled Italian Muslim Woman Runs for Local Elections
Italy: Security: La Russa, More Soldiers in Cities for 12 Months
Netherlands: Raped Journalist Furious With Wilders and Taliban
Sarkozy Cancels Sweden Visit Over Turkey
Spain: Campaign to Protect Local Production of Milk
UK: BBC Offers £30,000 and an Apology for Question Time ‘Slur’ on Islamic Leaders Over Anti-War Protest
UK: Teacher Sacked After ‘Making Pupils Kneel and Pray to Allah’ During Re Lesson
UK: Woman Who Treated Daughters- in-Law Like ‘slaves and Dogs’ is Jailed for Seven Years
Will France Really be a Muslim Country?
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Citizens Get Access to Punto Car Trade-in Program
 
North Africa
Banks: Populaire Maroc Opens First Agency in Italy in Milan
Egypt Pigs Meet Cruel Fate in Swine Flu Cull
Libyan Interior Minister Meets With US Ambassador
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Andrew Bostom: The “Moderate” Palestinian Faction’s Vision
Israel Refuses to Freeze All Settlements
Israel: Heated Debate on Two-State Solution
Threat of the ‘Thought Police’ Alarms Israel’s Arab Minority
UK: Director Hands Back Award in Protest at Loach
West Bank: Israelis Kill Hamas Official
 
Middle East
Iran Official Accuses US Over Mosque Bomb
National Geographic Blames Israel for Christianity’s Decline in Middle East
Turkey Joins EU Information, Communication Program
 
Russia
Russia: Village Accidentally Shelled; No Injuries
 
South Asia
Bangladesh: Village Woman Mercilessly Whipped After Fatwa is Issued Against Her
Islamic Extremism on the Rise Again in Central Asia
Sri Lanka: UN Rejects War Crimes Inquiry
 
Far East
China: Police and Army Used to Solve the Problem of Chinese Farmers
N. Korea Vows Response if UN Imposes Sanctions
 
Australia — Pacific
Alleged People Smuggler Arrested in Western Australia
Australia Considers Taking Guantanamo Detainees
Family Court Forces Mum to Stay in Isolated Town After Split
India Summons Australia Envoy Over Attacks, PMs Speak
 
Latin America
Bolivia Confirms Plans to Explore for Uranium
Mexican Trains, Trucks Hijacked in New Crime Wave
 
Immigration
Amnesty International Slams Italy
Italy-Malta Quarrel Resolved
Italy: Maroni, Illegal Immigration Has Been Halted
Roma Camps: Turin and Venice Prefects Named Commissioners
 
Culture Wars
UK: Government Fights for Numbers Secrecy on Abortions
 
General
UN Expert: US Failing to Properly Probe War Crimes

Financial Crisis


France: Many Looking to Morocco to Escape Crisis

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — More and more French pensioners as well as young people are planning to build a new life on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, in Morocco — in Tangiers, Agadir, and Essaouira. The trend was confirmed by the large number of visitors to the Moroccan Property Expo, which drew to its end yesterday in Paris. The event’s organisers reported an increase in requests for first homes, apart from the usual demand for holiday homes in Marrakech or the ancient Mogador. People have begun considering a move to the south in order to escape from the economic crisis, enabling them to live the rest of their lives more comfortably. There are many advantages to this radical choice, such as the presence of quality French schools for people with school-age children. Moreover, house prices in some regions — such as Al Hoceima, 200 km east of Tetouan — are very affordable compared with their French counterparts: a new, 100-square-metre villa costs around 130,000 euros. Moreover, with average salaries in Morocco standing at 300 euros, French pensioners have more purchasing power in the country. According to Chama Haddioui, a young notary in Casablanca, the number of Frenchmen who have lost their jobs and are planning to leave France to look for work in Morocco is on the rise. The country offers tax advantages for those investing in property: no tax has to be paid on the surplus value when selling a house after living there for at least eight years. In addition, pensioners who receive their pension on a Moroccan account get a tax cut of up to 80%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Merrill Lynch Urges Turkey to Come to Terms With IMF

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 28 — Turkey must change its attitude and sign a new standby deal with the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, because of its urgent need for outside financing, said Merrill Lynch, a global financial services firm owned by Bank of America, as reportede today by Hurriyet. The Turkish government has been dragging its feet since the last standby expired in May 2008. The government is “trying to write history by helping Turkey to pull out of the IMF yoke,” the Anatolia news agency cited Merrill Lynch’s weekly analysis of developing markets. But the timing is not quite right due to the global crisis, Merrill added. The analysis also said Turkey was right in postponing IMF talks due to imposed restrictions by the Fund and the local elections last March. Turkey should sign a loan deal with the IMF, otherwise growth would slow down significantly as the declining foreign capital inflow would be added on top of a widening funding deficit, Merrill said. That would cause the Turkish Lira to lose significant value and generate higher real interest rates. The private sector would also be negatively affected by such developments, according to Merrill. By keeping investors waiting longer, their risk perception could be heightened and the possibility of them pulling out of the market could be reinforced, said the bank. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Merrill Accused of Insider Trading

MERRILL LYNCH and its subsidiary Berndale Securities face allegations from the Sydney businessman David Waterhouse that they engaged in what would be the biggest case of insider trading in this country’s corporate history.

The allegations relate to the short-selling of $55 million of blue-chip Australian stocks in January last year — deals allegedly done while some Merrill Lynch and Berndale executives in Australia knew that the company’s head office in New York would announce “awful” news to the market within days.

Merrill Lynch is accused of using Mr Waterhouse’s accounts to short-sell shares in Australia’s big four banks and the mining giant BHP Billiton in the days before that announcement was made, in order to reap tens of millions of dollars in a falling market.

It is expected that Merrill Lynch will object to any of Mr Waterhouse’s untested insider trading allegations being read in court.

On January 14 last year, Berndale seized control of the account of How Trading, an account Mr Waterhouse held with Berndale to trade options, because it had breached its agreed margin call levels.

After gaining control of How Trading, Berndale used it to short-sell $51,634,606.22 of blue-chip Australian shares — primarily in the major banks and BHP Billiton.

On January 17 last year, Berndale used How Trading to short-sell a further $4,260,850.63 of Commonwealth Bank shares.

On January 18 — or January 17 in New York — Merrill Lynch announced a $US9.83 billion fourth-quarter loss, including a $US16.7 billion write-down associated with subprime mortgage losses.

Sharemarkets and bank stocks around the world tumbled on the news. In the three trading days after the Merrill Lynch announcement, the ASX200 index fell 609.3 points, or more than 10.5 per cent, to 5186.8 points.

A witness statement has been provided by Mr Waterhouse as part of a legal dispute between Berndale and How Trading before the Supreme Court of Victoria. Berndale is suing How Trading for $9.2 million it says it is owed. How Trading has made a $4 million counter-claim for unjust enrichment and damages for breach of contract.

According to the witness statement provided by Mr Waterhouse, which the Herald has seen, Merrill Lynch and Berndale employees in both Australia and Asia were aware that head office in New York was about to release “awful” news.

In his statement, Mr Waterhouse says he was told this at a meeting at Merrill’s Sydney office on Monday, January 14 — three days before the New York announcement was made.

At that meeting, at Governor Macquarie Tower, Mr Waterhouse says, he was told the “market has gone against you” and he would lose control of How Trading’s account.

In the statement, Mr Waterhouse says he was told: “The market is expecting Merrill Lynch in New York to come out with a bad result on Thursday night. It’s not going to be bad, it’s going to be awful, and this market is going to plummet on Friday and may fall leading up to the result, as it will start to leak out. I know you have other accounts with other brokers, do yourself a favour; do not write any puts whatsoever this week. We’ve known a little bit about this before you got into trouble and the market is starting to wake up that the financial world is in for a lot of pain and trouble. We will close out your risky positions as quickly as possible.”

Mr Waterhouse claims that a Merrill Lynch employee at the meeting told him: “We wanted you done and dusted before our head office reported their results this week. That time has come and gone. Now we have to do some heavy things straight away today. We will short the hell out of stocks in the market that you have option positions on, maybe up to $100 million, which will more than match your option positions, it’s a great opportunity for you, that we know what is coming this week. With this huge short sale, we will then close the option positions and at the same time buy back the short sale stock, which will support the price on the options.”

Mr Waterhouse says he was told at the meeting that How Trading’s losses would be contained at $5 million and that, if the short-selling plan worked, “we maybe give you money back”.

Counsel for Mr Waterhouse, Donald Grieve, QC, said his client had no comment to make about the allegations made in his witness statement.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Trouble Brewing for AIG and Federal Government

Challenge of AIG Bailout Allowed to Proceed

ANN ARBOR, MI — Proclaiming that times of crisis do not justify departure from the Constitution, Federal District Court Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff allowed the lawsuit against Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the Federal Reserve Board challenging the AIG bailout to proceed. The lawsuit was filed last December by the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attorney David Yerushalmi, an expert in security transactions and Shariah-compliant financing.

In his well-written and detailed analysis issued yesterday, Judge Zatkoff denied the request by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice to dismiss the lawsuit. The request was filed on behalf of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the Federal Reserve Board — the named defendants in the case. In his ruling, the judge held that the lawsuit sufficiently alleged a federal constitutional challenge to the use of taxpayer money to fund AIG’s Islamic religious activities.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “It is outrageous that AIG has been using taxpayer money to promote Islam and Shariah law, which potentially provides support for terrorist activities aimed at killing Americans. Shariah law is the same law championed by Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. It is the same law that prompted the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our soil that killed thousands of innocent Americans. We won this skirmish. But the war to stop the federal government from funding Islam and Shariah-compliant financing is far from over.”

In its request to dismiss the lawsuit, the DOJ argued that the plaintiff in the case, Kevin Murray, who is a former Marine and a federal taxpayer, lacked standing to bring the action. And even if he did have standing, DOJ argued that the use of the bailout money to fund AIG’s operations did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The court disagreed, noting, in relevant part, the following:

In this case, the fact that AIG is largely a secular entity is not dispositive: The question in an as-applied challenge is not whether the entity is of a religious character, but how it spends its grant. The circumstances of this case are historic, and the pressure upon the government to navigate this financial crisis is unfathomable.

           — Hat tip: ACT for America [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Britons Increasingly Eurosceptic: Poll

LONDON (AFP) — British voters are increasingly opposed to the European Union, a poll for the Economist weekly revealed Thursday, just days before elections for the European Parliament.

The poll commissioned by YouGov shows that over the past 25 years, the proportion of people who think that Britain’s membership of the EU is a good thing has fallen from 43 percent to 31 percent.

The share of respondents who think the EU is a “bad thing” has risen from 30 percent to 37 percent.

And while the bloc has expanded eastwards to boost its membership to 27 states, British voters have become more and more reluctant to support greater integration. Just one in five backs the idea now compared to one in three in 1995.

The poll shows 33 percent want a less integrated Europe “with the EU amounting to little more than a free trade area”.

And the number of people who want Britain to pull out of the EU has almost doubled, from 12 percent to 21 percent.

A total of 2,322 adults in Britain were questioned between May 22 and May 26.

Many observers believe Britons will opt for fringe parties in the elections to lodge a protest vote against the main parties, whose lawmakers have been embarrassed by damaging revelations about their expenses.

In the June 4-7 elections, an estimated 375 million voters across the EU will elect 736 deputies for a five-year term at the parliament, which is the only directly-elected EU institution.

The parliament, which has an important role passing pan-European legislation drafted by the EU Commission and passes the commission’s annual budget, is expected to remain under centre-right control after the elections.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Brussels a Riot With Spy vs Spy

El Periodico de Catalunya

Europe’s political and administrative capital is also a hotbed of international espionage where secret services vie for economic, technological, geopolitical and military supremacy.

Brussels is a nest of spies. In the aftermath of the Cold War, foreign secret services did not downsize activities in the Belgian capital: on the contrary, they redoubled their efforts and the range of their objectives. Brussels-based espionage is now so widespread that the European Commission recently circulated an internal memo to its directors to take precautions against recurrent attempts to “obtain confidential and sensitive documents” concerning Commission activity.

The memo said “some countries, lobbyists, journalists and private organisations are trying to obtain classified information”, adding that “people linked to secret services” are operating undercover as “interns, journalists, EU countries’ attache’s to the European Commission and computer technicians”.

“Along with Washington DC and Geneva, Brussels is one of the three key cities for secret services the world over,” explains Kristof Clerix, author of the book Vrij spel. Buitenlandse geheine diensten in Belgie (“Foreign Secret Services in Belgium: Beyond the Law?”) “The methods remain the same as during the Cold War: to gain people’s trust and then exploit it. What has changed is the use of new technologies and the ever-increasing importance of economic issues,” notes Clerix, a staffer for the Belgian journal of international politics MO.

“In political and military terms, Brussels is now even more interesting for spies than it was during the Cold War,” Clerix points out, especially since Brussels-based NATO no longer confines itself to allied defence, but has launched military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan and extended its influence into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. The EU, moreover, now has foreign and defence policymaking powers, and is even developing large-scale military and political operations (in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, the Congo, Somalia).

Besides these garden-variety political and military interests, there are three other factors adding to Brussels’ appeal for foreign intelligence agencies: aerospace and military technology centres located in Belgium; the country’s role as a rearguard of international terrorism; and its sizeable Turkish, Moroccan and central African immigrant communities, which are very active politically — and closely monitored by the governments in their native countries. “Over the past 20 years, Belgium has been a linchpin of international terrorism. It’s a small country, easy to escape from, with a large Muslim immigrant community,” notes Clerix. Furthermore, China is among the most active new players in the Belgian intelligence arena, with a keen interest in procuring scientific and technological know-how, but also in keeping close tabs on the Tibetan question, its political opponents and the Falun Gong religious cult.

Apart from the US monitoring of global banking transactions through the Swift Code database — still ongoing despite widespread uproar —, the most serious recent case of espionage took place at the EU Council of Ministers and went on continuously for eight years, until its detection in 2003. A set of five boxes were installed during the building’s construction to tap the telephone calls of the delegations from Spain, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and Austria. Diplomatic sources impugned Israel, but nobody dared to make an official accusation and the Belgian investigators were instructed not to dig too deeply, according to sources close to the case.

With some 56,000 diplomats, 15,000 lobbyists, 1,200 journalists and thousands of foreign interpreters and students, Brussels is the perfect spot for the world’s second-oldest profession — and the place where you’re most likely to be rubbing shoulders with a spy without knowing it.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



France: Security, Sarkozy to Tackle Crime Without Concession

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MAY 28 — French president Nicholas Sarkozy has today said that he wants to put an end to the “dictatorship of conciliatory attitude”, in a speech held in Paris on the issue of spreading criminality. In speaking from government buildings, Sarkozy promised to fight “without hesitating and without granting any concession” against crime, speaking out against the “conciliatory attitude” which have taken the upper hand over the past few decades. Sarkozy, in commenting on the rise in violent acts in schools, said that May’s figures on this alarming phenomenon would surely be worse than those of April and March. The president gave his backing to the proposals made by Education Minister Xavier Darcos to provide for searches and checks on students at the entrances to schools. “Headmasters and didactic staff,” said Sarkozy, will have the right to open students’ bags, and “mobile police teams” will be set up at local education superintendencies, as previously suggested by Darcos. The head of state also expressed the hope that “the possibility of opening up the civilian reserves of national police” (pensioners and volunteers) would be looked into, for their use in missions to “maintain security in schools and their surrounding areas”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



France: Schools to be Allowed to Search Pupils’ Bags for Weapons

[Note: There is a video at the link. — io’p]

AFP — President Nicolas Sarkozy announced plans Thursday to let school staff search pupils for weapons and for special teams to be set up to intervene in schools where discipline was breaking down.

He unveiled the plans in a major speech on law and order reform aimed at fighting drugs and weapons trafficking and tackling crime in areas such as the suburban ghettos that ring Paris.

“There is no question of tolerating the presence of weapons in schools,” Sarkozy said in the speech at the Elysee palace in which he said school staff will soon be allowed to search students’ bags for arms.

“I say this with solemnity: let us never forget the deaths in Winnenden in Germany,” he said, referring to an incident in which a 17-year-old shot dead 15 people at his old school.

France has been rocked in recent months by several incidents in which gangs of youths entered schools to attack pupils or teachers..

“I want the head of each regional education authority to have at his disposal a mobile team of specially trained officials who can come and help out on the pedagogical front heads of schools who are facing discipline difficulties,” Sarkozy said.

He also said retired police officers or other volunteers could be asked to carry out missions aimed at “securing schools and their surroundinag areas.”

The president vowed to stamp out crime in the high-immigrant suburbs of Paris.

“The priority today is the recovery of the difficult areas. I want a complete mobilisation of security forces for this necessity,” he said.

“We must concentrate on the 25 areas, 21 of them in the Paris region and four in the provinces,” which are “ravaged by delinquency, by drug and weapons trafficking,” he said.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



France Acquits Djibouti Officials

A French court has overturned jail sentences handed out in absentia to two Djibouti officials convicted of halting a probe into a French judge’s death.

The court also ordered the cancellation of international arrest warrants for public prosecutor Djama Souleiman and the secret service chief, Hassan Said.

Judge Bernard Borrel’s corpse was found in 1995 in Djibouti and local officials initially said he had killed himself.

But his widow said he was murdered on the orders of high-ranking officials.

At the time of his death, Borrel was acting as a consultant to the Djibouti justice ministry and reportedly investigating arms smuggling.

Mr Souleiman and Mr Said were both accused of having put pressure on key witnesses in the Borrel case with the aim of discrediting testimony that potentially linked Djibouti’s President, Ismael Omar Guelleh, to the death. He has denied any involvement.

Mohamed Saleh Alhoumekani, a former member of the Djiboutian presidential guard, told a French court last year that he had heard five men discuss the elimination of the “nosy judge” with Mr Guelleh, who was head of the former president’s private office at the time.

The court of appeal did not give a reason for Thursday’s acquittal.

Correspondents say relations between France and its former colony have been strained over the Borrel affair, especially since President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to help his widow, Elisabeth, find the truth.

She maintains that Paris co-operated with efforts to obstruct the inquiry because of fears of losing its major military base in Djibouti.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Italy: First Veiled Italian Muslim Woman Runs for Local Elections

Perugia, 28 May (AKI) — An Italian Muslim woman wearing the veil, or hijab, in the central city of Perugia will for the first time run for local elections, on 6 and 7 June. Maymouna Abdel Qader, an Italian of Palestinian descent, is a political science graduate of the University of Perugia.

She is running for Perugia’s communal council for the Sinistra e Liberta coalition, which is made up of mainly socialist, anti-war and secular parties.

“Though being the first veiled Muslim woman that has ever run for elections in Italy, until now I have received a positive response from the people, who have also appreciated my choice, and look at me as a novelty of the local political scene,” said Abdel Qader in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

Abdel Qader — who is the daughter of the imam of Perugia Mohammed Abdel Qader and is also one of the founders of the Young Italian Muslims association — said she is personally campaigning and distributing fliers to promote her candidacy.

“These days I am personally distributing fliers for my candidacy in order to ask the citzens of Perugia for their vote. Many have wished me well, after they see that I am Italian and not a foreigner,” she told AKI.

Abdel Qader also said her objective is to represent Italy’s second generation of Muslim immigrants in Italy, that are now what she calls “The new Italians”.

Among the things she wants to promote if elected, is that Perugia’s public pool can be reserved solely for women, at least once a week.

“It is a battle that it not just limited to Muslim women. The pool will be open to all women, and I count with the support of many women about this.”

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



Italy: Security: La Russa, More Soldiers in Cities for 12 Months

(AGI) — Rome, 28 May — The government could pass a decree to continue the deployment of soldiers in the city with a possible increase of up to 4,000 soldiers, announced Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa after a cabinet meeting in which “the lengthening and renewal of the decree for the use of the armed forces to provide protection in cities” was discussed. “Since the soldiers have been well received in the cities where they were deployed, the Defence Ministry’s proposal is to extend the decree for another 12 months,” said Minister La Russa. “We want to assure that there is no overlap and the Interior Ministry will continue to coordinate the project. We have heavily considered the caution that the head of state advised yesterday during the supreme defence council.” The increased soldiers, said La Russa, should be used in evening patrols and patrols on foot, but the total cost of the operation should remain the same, at 30 million euros per 6 months. “The discussion,” announced Minister La Russa, “will conclude in the next cabinet meeting”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Raped Journalist Furious With Wilders and Taliban

THE HAGUE, 30/05/09 — Journalist Joanie de Rijcke stressed Friday she does feel angry with the Taliban fighter who raped her in Afghanistan. She was reacting to Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders, who in the Lower House called her alleged Stockholm syndrome symbolic of the leftwing elite in the Netherlands.

The PVV leader succeeded for the umpteenth time in attracting all the media attention for a debate to himself during Accountability Day — the cabinet defending its policy of the past year — by appropriating the rape of De Rijke and her reaction to this as a metaphor for the way in which many Dutch politicians and journalists look at Islam. “This entire elite suffers from the Stockholm syndrome” — developing sympathy for one’s kidnappers — according to the MP. “They are blinded by their own ideology of multiculturalism.”

De Rijcke, 43, was kidnapped in November in the town of Sarubi, some 50 kilometres from Kabul. She was kept prisoner for six days and raped repeatedly by a Taliban leader, Ghazi Gul. But she wrote in a book; “I do not want to portray the Taliban as monsters, nor am I angry with Ghazi Gul. After all, he allowed me to live.”

De Rijcke now sounds a different note. “I am indeed very angry with the perpetrators. I am furious with my abductors and rapists. All the things Wilders is saying are completely wrong,” said De Rijcke in Algemeen Dagblad Friday. “It is very, very painful. I am trying to recover from my trauma.”

Wilders on Thursday had termed the journalist’s reaction a typical example of the moral decline of the elite in the Netherlands. Virtually all parties and particularly leftwing Green leader (GroenLinks) Femke Halsema furiously rejected Wilders’ metaphor. Premier Jan Peter Balkenende also called the comparison “extremely painful and tasteless.”

De Rijcke’s employers are the Belgian men’s magazine P-Magazine and publisher Think Media Magazines. They paid a ransom of 100,000 euros for her release.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Sarkozy Cancels Sweden Visit Over Turkey

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has cancelled a visit to Sweden scheduled for next Tuesday (2 June) in order to avoid a clash on the question of Turkey’s EU membership just days before the European elections and a month before Stockholm takes over the EU’s rotating presidency.

Officially, Mr Sarkozy’s office said the trip was cancelled “for agenda reasons.”

But the French president, who is an outspoken opponent of Turkey’s entry to the European Union, did not want to highlight the strong divergence of views on this topic with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Le Monde reported on Thursday (28 May).

Sweden favours further EU enlargement, including to Turkey. On Monday this week, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told Le Figaro newspaper that the EU had “a strategic interest” in Turkey’s EU integration and warned against “closing the door” to Ankara.

“If we judge Cyprus to be in Europe, although it is as in island along Syria’s shores, it is hard not to consider that Turkey is in Europe,” Mr Bildt said, referring to Mr Sarkozy’s repeated statements that Turkey is not a European country and does not belong to Europe.

Additionally, Mr Sarkozy probably did not appreciate that Mr Bildt expressed views different from his on the economy, French newspapers comment.

In the Figaro interview, Mr Bildt said: “My vision of Europe is not as defensive as I observe it with other people.”

In a reference to aid plans for the car industry — very much promoted by Mr Sarkozy — the Swedish top diplomat said that for him, “spending taxpayers’ money to subsidise existing structures is a very good way of wasting money.”

The French president’s trip to Sweden was cancelled the day after the interview was published.

“Nicolas Sarkozy cancelled his visit because of the Carl Bildt interview,” one minister told Le Monde.

“The president wanted to avoid a clash on Turkey and did not want that his visit to Sweden interferes with the elections [five days later]. There are [also] too many dossiers that are too important to prepare with the Swedish EU presidency to spoil that visit,” another official told the paper.

The upcoming Swedish EU presidency is the real reason behind the cancellation, rather than the context of the European elections, according to Le Figaro journalist Pierre Rousseiln.

“Nicolas Sarkozy does not fear confrontation,” he wrote in his blog, adding that defending his position in Sweden could even have been beneficial for Mr Sarkozy ahead of next Sunday’s vote.

If he refused to go to Stockholm, he did it to avoid a clash just a month before the Swedish EU presidency starts and it is a sign that Mr Sarkozy is expecting a number of difficulties during Sweden’s six-month term at the head of the bloc, Mr Rousselin wrote.

The French president’s office is currently working on rescheduling the visit for another date before the end of June.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Spain: Campaign to Protect Local Production of Milk

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 25 — Spanish farming organisations have started a campaign to protect the consumption of locally produced milk against imported milk sold under Spanish trademarks. El Pais writes today that the organisations urge consumers to verify the origin of the product before buying it. The initiative is part of a campaign by Spanish milk producers against large-scale retail trade, which the Spanish producers accuse of charging lower prices on the Spanish markets than in other EU countries, marketing surplus milk in the country with serious consequences for local producers. The organisations want milk bottles to indicate the origin, the processing and the bottling of milk produced in Spain. At present milk can be imported and bottled in Spain, putting the letters ES (for Spain) next to the code of the producer. Falling prices in the past months have led to a number of protests by Spanish farmers, first in Galicia and later also in Madrid. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: BBC Offers £30,000 and an Apology for Question Time ‘Slur’ on Islamic Leaders Over Anti-War Protest

The BBC has offered to pay £30,000 and apologise to the Muslim Council of Britain after airing claims that it encourages the killing of British troops.

The Corporation caved in after a panellist on the Question Time TV programme accused the country’s most influential Muslim organisation of failing to condemn attacks on soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The broadcaster was threatened with legal action over comments by former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore during a debate about Islamic protests which marred a soldiers’ homecoming parade in Luton.

Mr Moore blamed the MCB’s leadership for its apparent reluctance to condemn the killing and kidnapping of British soldiers overseas. He went on to claim that it thought it was a ‘good thing’ to kill troops.

Faced with the threat of a writ, the BBC made an offer of ‘amends’ and an apology on the Question Time website. But this has been rejected and the MCB is demanding an apology on air.

The Corporation’s decision to pay out will raise eyebrows in Whitehall, where ministers have refused to settle a similar defamation claim over a letter written by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.

A BBC insider said the move has also angered Mr Moore, who was not consulted over the legal response to the complaint or even informed that an offer to settle had been made.

Question Time is recorded an hour before broadcast specifically so that legal advisers can check its content for possible libels.

No legal worries were expressed over Mr Moore’s remarks, which were seen as provocative but not defamatory.

Apology for one and not the other: Charles Moore’s words compared to Hazel Blears’s letter

The row dates back to March 12 when Mr Moore appeared on the BBC1 show.

The panel was debating protests by a group of Islamic extremists during a homecoming parade by the Royal Anglian Regiment in Luton two days earlier.

Muslim extremists heckled the troops and waved placards which read ‘Butchers of Basra’ and ‘British Government: Terrorist Government’.

All the panellists condemned the protesters, but political biographer Mr Moore took the opportunity to attack the MCB.

How the Mail reported the protest

He said: ‘The Muslim Council of Britain, which is the umbrella organisation for all Muslim groups in this country, I’ve gone to them many times, and I said will you condemn the killing and kidnapping of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they won’t.

‘But there is a bigger, another step that they take, they say it is actually a good thing, even an Islamic thing, to kill or kidnap British soldiers.’

The MCB’s leadership described Mr Moore’s claims as a ‘total lie’.

Last night secretary general Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari said: ‘These kinds of statements are very damaging, and we received many complaints from our Muslim supporters who said they were extremely offended by the comments.

‘In fact when a British man called Ken Bigley was kidnapped in Iraq, we sent envoys there to plead for his release. This is accusing us of encouraging terrorism abroad.’

The MCB engaged costly libel lawyers Carter-Ruck, who wrote a formal letter of complaint.

Question Time, chaired by David Dimbleby (above), is recorded an hour before broadcast so that legal advisers can check its content for possible libels

Last night it emerged that the BBC decided to offer to settle amid fears that the Corporation had libelled Dr Abdul Bari even though he was not mentioned by name.

A BBC spokesman said: ‘Question Time always has lively and wide-ranging debate. On occasion this results in unfairness to individuals who aren’t there to put their point of view and this is one of those occasions.’

The separate row between the MCB’s deputy secretary general Dr Daud Abdullah and Miss Blears centres on a document relating to the recent conflict in Gaza which was signed by Dr Abdullah.

In March, Miss Blears interpreted the document as justifying attacks on the Royal Navy and wrote to The Guardian to explain her concerns.

A solicitor’s letter was sent on behalf of Dr Daud Abdullah demanding she pay £75,000 by last month or face full legal proceedings. But she refused to do so and no further correspondence has been received.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Teacher Sacked After ‘Making Pupils Kneel and Pray to Allah’ During Re Lesson

A teacher has been sacked after parents claimed that their children were forced to pray to Allah during a religious education lesson.

Alison Phillips was accused of giving two pupils detention after they refused to kneel down and ‘pray to Allah’ during the class.

However, an investigation by the school concluded that there was no truth in the allegation.

Investigation: Alison Phillips was sacked after parents claimed their children were made to pray to Allah during an RE lesson

Parents were outraged after stories emerged that the two boys, aged 11, were allegedly punished for not wanting to take part in a practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.

They said children should not be forced to take part in the exercise, which included wearing Muslim headgear, was a breach of their human rights.

But governors at Alsager High School, near Stoke-on-Trent, denied Mrs Phillips made pupils pray or that two boys were put into detention for refusing to do so.

The school suspended the teacher last July after receiving complaints and a lengthy disciplinary process was carried out.

A statement released on behalf of the school by Cheshire East Council said: ‘It can be confirmed that following a long and rigorous disciplinary process, a member of staff at Alsager School has been dismissed from her post.

‘The member of staff was suspended in July 2008 following parental complaints and newspaper reports relating to an RE lesson.

‘In reaching this decision, the governing body wish to make very clear that they were completely satisfied that at no point did that member of staff make children pray to Allah or put boys in detention for refusing to do so.

‘The RE lesson in question contains an element of role play which complies with acceptable practice.’

At the time of the alleged incident, one parent — Sharon Luinen, said: ‘This isn’t right, it’s taking things too far.

‘Being asked to pray to Allah, who isn’t who they worship, is wrong and what got me is that came away thinking they were being disrespectful.’

Another parent, Karen Williams, said: ‘I am absolutely furious and I don’t find it acceptable.

‘I haven’t got a problem with them teaching my child other religions and a small amount of information doesn’t do any harm.

‘But not only did they have to pray, the teacher had gone into the class and asked them watch a short film and then said “we are now going out to pray to Allah”.’

The grandfather of one of the pupils in the class added: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting, there’s no other way of putting it.’

Parents had claimed that their children were made to bend down on their knees on prayer mats which the teacher had got out of her cupboard.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Woman Who Treated Daughters- in-Law Like ‘slaves and Dogs’ is Jailed for Seven Years

A woman was jailed for seven years today for falsely imprisoning her three daughters-in-law who she treated as ‘slaves and dogs’.

Naseebah Bibi, 63, would not let the women leave the family home in Blackburn, Lancashire, without her permission.

One of her victims told detectives she was forced to work on an industrial sewing machine day and night for 13 years.

Bibi, of Pringle Street, was convicted by a jury at Preston Crown Court last month of falsely imprisoning Nagina Akhtar between 1993 and 2006, Tazeem Akhtar from 2001 to 2003 and Nisbah Akhtar between 2005 and 2007.

All three women were brought to the UK following arranged marriages to Bibi’s three sons but were subjected to beatings and abuse from her after they arrived.

Sentencing her, Judge Robert Brown said it was evident that her victims were ‘traumatised by you both physically and psychologically and spent long periods living in fear’.

He ordered that Bibi serve three and a half years of her sentence in prison before she would be allowed out on licence and would then need to be monitored for up to nine years from the start of her custodial sentence.

He said: ‘It seems to be necessary in the public interest that you should be subject to a long period of supervision after you are released from prison so that your situation and that in your household can be monitored.

‘At the same time because of your poor health and in particular your mental health I shall keep the custodial element of sentence as short as I can, consistent with my duty to punish you, to deter you from further offences and to protect the public.’

The court heard that a fourth woman had been betrothed to one of her sons and that she had been destined to live in the Bibi household but Judge Brown said he would pass on the information to the immigration authorities.

Prosecutors said Bibi ruled the household with a regime of beatings and threats as she totally dominated the three women who were treated as unpaid servants.

The daughters-in-law had high expectations of a happy family life in England when they married their first cousins in Pakistan but instead they were cruelly abused and allowed no contact with the outside world.

One of the victims, Nagina, told the police that she was ordered to spend her time sewing as soon as she arrived in Blackburn in 1993 following her marriage to Bibi’s son Fahim and was also told she could not have a higher education.

She carried on sewing up to a fortnight before the caesarean birth of one of her three children and was back on the machine within a month.

When the sewing work ran out she was made to do household chores, cooking and cleaning.

She said Bibi struck her with a brush handle and slapped her across the face whenever she disobeyed her.

Sisters Nisbah and Tazeem also gave evidence to the jury that their lives were ‘made hell’. They too were slapped across the face, hit with a brush handle and struck with shoes when they answered back to Bibi.

Judge Brown said that he had taken into account the ‘cultural element’ of the case.

‘You had a dominant position over your daughters-in-law. I take into account that in arranging the marriages in the first place you felt obliged to follow the wishes of your own parents concerning arranged marriages,’ he said.

‘But none of these facts can be an excuse for the degree of cruelty and imprisonment to which the three victims were subjected.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Will France Really be a Muslim Country?

There’s a 16-page discussion at a Muslim forum called Mejliss el kalam, linked by Francois Desouche. To translate the entire discussion is out of the question. But here is the first page somewhat simplified…

The initial question, dated April 11, 2009, comes from ShamsTabrizi, from Somalia:

- Salam. In a city of 22 thousand inhabitants a few miles from Paris, more than 6 thousand persons participated in the Friday prayer at 2:00 p.m., including a significant number of converted Frenchmen and Frenchwomen. At the end of the prayer, seeing these people, I began to wonder in how many years France will be a mostly Muslim country.

- (Abelatif from Belgium responds): You must not have any illusions, my brother. France as a Muslim country will be several generations form now, or more. But it’s true that it’s beautiful to see Muslims of all origins at the mosque… Praise be to Allah

- (ShamsTabrizi): I don’t agree. considering the evolution of the situation I have been witnessing, I do not give it more than 30 years before we will see mayors giving sermons on Friday to the faithful.

- (Abdel93600 from The Netherlands): Salam. The French are no longer having many children. Let’s do France a favor and ensure the renewal of generations. It’s a problem for many European countries! The birth rate in France recently reached a record, the highest in Europe, due in great part, to immigrant women.

- (Prince.Hakim from Belgium): I think we’re heading for a Franco-Creole-Maghrebin civilization with massive intermarriage under the aegis of Islam.

- (Maléikite from Belgium): Brussels will be majority Muslim in less than 20 years (these are non-Muslim statistics). Inch’Allah.

- (MonSpeudo2 from France): Stop dreaming up tales about our country. It will never belong to you

- (ShamsTabrizi to Prince.Hakim): Then you agree with me. France will surely be a Muslim land for our grandchildren, maybe our children. So we must begin to construct a good basis to avoid unpleasant surprises for them in the future.

- (Maléikite to MonSpeudo2): Don’t worry, we’ll protect your rights, you will have the status of dhimmi.

- (ShamsTabrizi to MonSpeudo2): Ask your father if he ever imagined so many mosques and Muslims when he was your age. Then you’ll have the answer as to whom France will belong. I like France, and I will like it even more when it’s Muslim. Don’t worry, we will be lenient on Christian minorities.

[…]

Like the discussion at Mejliss, this goes on and on. It’s very interesting, but the main question still remains: What will really happen when the tipping point has been reached? Will the French wait until that happens, then rebel in violence? Violence can be prevented by sane immigration policies, a refusal to build mosques and an affirmation of nationalism, if not Christianity. If violence does erupt it will be chaotic and directed at the “collaborators” as much (possibly more?) as towards the Muslims.

One recurring theme is that despite outward passiveness, the French, in general, know that violence will come. This seems to indicate a higher level of awareness on the part of the population than is generally acknowledged. Notice that the Muslims calmly plot the takeover without any thought of a rebellion from the natives.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Bosnia: Citizens Get Access to Punto Car Trade-in Program

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 28 — The Serbian government’s subsidized loan programs will also apply in Republika Srpska RS (Serbian entity in Bosnia) including a car trade-in arrangement, representatives of Serbia and RS agreed on. “Citizens of RS will be able to purchase Punto cars manufactured by ‘Fiat automobili Srbija’ in Kragujevac as of September 1 for 5,999 euro for the basic model, via a seven year loan with an interest rate of only 4.5% per year,” Deputy Prime Minister Mladjan Dinkic said at a meeting with RS Premier Milorad Dodik in Banjaluka — Tnjug news agency informed. Dinkic said the conditions will be the same as those that apply in Serbia. The signing of a contract on the program is expected by mid-June. Dinkic confirmed reports that the same offer will be made to the Muslim-Croat Federation in a bid to extend the initiative to all Bosnia. ((ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Banks: Populaire Maroc Opens First Agency in Italy in Milan

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MAY 26 — The Groupe Banque Populaire du Maroc, through its European branch Banque Chaabi, has opened its first agency in Italy to strengthen collaboration with Italian banks and financial institutions and to serve companies active in both Italy and Morocco. GBP President Mohamed Benchaaboun participated in the inauguration ceremony, as well as Moroccan Ambassador to Italy Nabil-Benabdallah and Moroccan Industry and Trade Minister Ahmed Reda Chami. “GBP’s objective,” said Benchaaboun, “is to offer banking services to the Moroccan community residing in Italy, to create incentives for remittances to Morocco through the bank, and to offer consultation and financial products to Italian companies with interests in Morocco”. The Moroccan banking group, which already has cooperation agreements with Banca Popolare di Sondrio, Banca Popolare di Milano, Gruppo Banco Popolare, Banca Popolare di Bergamo, Unicredit, and Poste Italiane, intends to have a total of 40 branch offices throughout Europe this year. In Italy, new agencies are expected to be opened in Turin, Bologna, and Verona. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt Pigs Meet Cruel Fate in Swine Flu Cull

Pigs squeal loudly as they are thrown into the scoop of a bulldozer and dropped onto a mass of squirming animals which already half fill the back of a lorry.

After three hours on the highway they are offloaded in the desert, apparently to be buried alive in quicklime and other chemicals.

“We leave them for 30 to 40 minutes until they stop breathing and die,” says an official at the disposal site in Qaluybia governorate, outside Cairo.

The video shot by the al-Masry al-Youm newspaper has renewed controversy about Egypt’s cull of over 300,000 pigs — which is now more than half complete.

It is being carried out because of fears about swine flu — even though there has not been a single case in the country.

“I was shocked. It’s horrible,” says Ahmed al-Sherbiny of the Egyptian Federation for Animal Welfare which is suing the government for cruelty.

“These methods and practices are totally unacceptable. Everybody must speak out against them.”

Religious objection

Other footage shows pigs being beaten with an iron bar and piglets being stabbed with a bloody knife.

The film has been viewed tens of thousands of times on the YouTube website and has attracted hundreds of angry comments.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Libyan Interior Minister Meets With US Ambassador

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MAY 28 — Libyan Interior Minister Abdel Fatah Yunis Al-Obaidi has recently met in Tripoli with Gene Cretz, the US Ambassador to Libya. Cretz said he was willing to promote relations between the two countries and highlighted recent developments in bilateral agreements signed by Libya and the U.S. Cretz also said that the US is ready to exchange technical experience with Libya, specifically in sectors involving combating crime, controlling drug trafficking and terrorist activities, and said that he is ready to organise specific training courses in these fields. The US Ambassador then underlined the importance of facilitating procedures in order for Libyan and American citizens to enter and leave the country and to allow for visas to be granted faster, as mutually agreed upon. Minister Al-Obaidi stressed the developments in relations between the two countries.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Andrew Bostom: The “Moderate” Palestinian Faction’s Vision

Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas: The face of “moderate” Palestinian irredentism

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum [1] offered this accurate assessment of today’s (Thursday, May 28, 2009) scheduled meeting [2] between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and President Obama, “…President Abbas is too weak to achieve any accomplishments for the Palestinians…particularly as the president’s term has ended, he no longer represents the Palestinians.” Barhoum then noted that, at any rate “We [Hamas] will not abide by any agreement with any party in the world.”

Having written at some length recently about the Hamas Covenant [3]—a document redolent with jihad and Muslim eschatology-inspired annihilationist Jew-hatred, it is worth re-visiting the PLO Covenant of the erstwhile “moderate” Fatah/PLO faction of Palestinian leaders represented by President Abbas, as seen through the prism of a brilliant analysis by Yehoshafat Harkabi, originally published in 1979. As a fitting preface, Benny Morris in the book “One State, Two States [4]” just published by Yale University Press, decries the “mendacious implication” of Palestinian agit-prop, pseudo-academic Rashid Khalidi, and his ilk, that the PLO Covenant was ever “amended in a positive, two-state direction.”

What follows are extensive extracts from Harkabi’s sadly timeless 1979 critique, entitled, “The Palestinian Covenant and its Meaning [5]”…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]



Israel Refuses to Freeze All Settlements

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 28 — In what was clearly a reply to the statements made by U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton concerning a total freeze on all expansion plans for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, an Israeli spokesman has today said that the building works would be going ahead in existing settlements to meet the needs of their inhabitants and their natural growth. Israeli government spokesman Mar Regev has said that, in any case, the future of the settlements would have to be decided at the negotiating table and that in the meantime it was necessary to ensure normal living conditions to Israeli settlers. Yesterday Clinton said that President Barack Obama “wants to see settlements stopped: not only some settlements or outposts. He does not even want to see exceptions linked to ‘natural growth’“. According to the daily paper Haaretz, a high-ranking Israeli delegation just back from talks in London with U.S. government representatives has reported that Washington does not seem willing to soften the request for a total stop to settlements. The latter are considered to be “an obstacle to peace” by the United States and illegal by the international community. Meanwhile, a group of well-known rabbis from the religious, Zionist extreme right have urged Israeli soldiers to disobey the orders to evacuate and pull down Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “The Holy Torah,” said the rabbis according to the local press, “prohibits taking part in any removal of Jews from our holy land.” “We are asking all security forces personnel to refuse expulsion orders. A soldier or a police officer who is asked to take part in an expulsion operation is obliged to refuse this order, which violates the values of the Torah,” said the rabbis, who include representatives of such settlements as Kiryat Arba and Bet El.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Heated Debate on Two-State Solution

(by Alessandro Logroscino) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 27 — The debate in Israel on the Palestinian peace process and the two-state solution has burst into the Knesset. Part of the government majority openly opposes this solution and some have already rejected it with the “alternative idea” of a carve-up of the West Bank, despite the fact that both President Shimon Peres and Premier Benyamin Netanyahu (in a lesser measure) have distanced themselves from this possibility. The debate became more heated precisely when the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), arrived in the USA to ask Barack Obama for his full support (and to increase pressure on Israel) for the prospect of a future Palestinian state, as well as the freezing of all Jewish settlements in the territories. The fact that this is not a minor conflict was confirmed by the direct intervention of the president. On public radio he warned that the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be reached without a compromise “with the Palestinians”. His principle aim was to brand the idea of an annexation of a section of the West Bank to Israel with the transfer of the rest to Jordan, whether Amman likes it or not, as “an unfounded hallucination”. The idea, disdainfully thrown out by Peres, was proposed at the Knesset in recent days by Aryeh Eldad, a famous surgeon and MP for the National Union (a far-right party from the settlement movement). The idea explicitly backs the goal of carving up the Palestinian territory and 53 MPs (including the hard core of the traditional rightwing of Netanyahu’s Likud party, and even two Labour party ministers Benyamin Ben Eliezer and Yitzhak Herzog) agreed to discuss it in parliament. Israel’s Foreign Ministry rushed to announce that the proposal does not “represent the country’s official policy” after the Jordanian government had summoned Israel’s ambassador to Amman, Yaakov Rosen, to explain the situation and to point out that the bilateral peace agreement signed in 1994 includes a precise clause that Jordan will lay no claims on the West Bank, in support of the creation of a Palestinian State. Netanyahu stressed today that his cabinet has no intentions of backing out of the agreements signed in the past by previous Israeli governments with the Palestinians and with Arab countries, glossing once again over requests to commit to the two-state solution. Many commentators and analysts close to the right rejected the solution some time ago. One of the most bellicose members of Likud, the former Chief of Staff and Minister for Strategic Affairs, Moshe Yaalon, yesterday called the idea ‘unlikely’, excluding the possibility “in the near future of discussing solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” other than “managing the crisis” from positions of strength.(ANSAmed).

2009-05-27 18:50

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Threat of the ‘Thought Police’ Alarms Israel’s Arab Minority

Freedom to oppose Israel’s right to exist among acts that right-wing politicians are attempting to outlaw

Israeli Arab leaders have called an emergency meeting today to discuss their growing alarm over a series of “racist and fascist” bills being promoted by right-wing members of the country’s parliament. One of the bills has already brought fierce accusations from two prominent Jewish Knesset members that its backers are trying to create a “thought police” and “punish people for talking”.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee — the main umbrella body of Arab political and civic leaders in Israel — cited special concern over another bill which would outlaw the commemoration of the Nakba or catastrophe on Israel’s Independence Day. While Israel’s Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948 is celebrated annually as the foundation of the state, Palestinians in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and in refugee camps abroad mark the expulsion and flight of some 700,000 Arabs during the war of that year.

But the Committee is also protesting at another bill, which was given its first reading in the Knesset this week, that would make it a crime to negate Israel’s right to exist as a “Jewish and democratic state”.

It was during a heated debate on that bill last Wednesday that Haim Oron, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, declared: “Have you lost all faith in Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? This crazy government, what on earth are you doing? A thought police? Have you all lost it?” And Roni Bar-On, who was the centrist Kadima finance minister in the last government, asked the promoters: “You want to punish people for talking? Soon, will you want to punish for thoughts?”

A third bill which is expected to come before the ministerial legislative committee tomorrow would enforce a “loyalty oath” on those seeking Israeli citizenship. The idea of the oath was a centrepiece of the election campaign waged by Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the hardline Yisrael Beiteinu party who is now foreign minister.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which says it represents well over one million Arab citizens in Israel, has declared its outrage, saying that these are “racist and fascist proposals aimed against the Arab public in Israel, and there is no doubt that these proposals must be dealt with”.

The bill effectively outlawing Nakba commemoration was approved by a majority of the legislative committee last weekend after it was proposed by Alex Miller, a Russian-born Yisrael Beiteinu politician who lives in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Mr Miller’s explanatory notes call for “harsh punishment for those who take advantage of the democratic and enlightened nature of the State of Israel to bring it down from within”.

Saying that it would be inconceivable to hold protests against American Independence Day, Mr Miller declared this week: “It’s high time for us to be proud of our country.” The bill would carry penalties of up to three years in prison for violators.

It is far from certain that the bills will pass or that they will survive the scrutiny of Israel’s Supreme Court even if they do.

Bills similar to Mr Miller’s Nakba proposal have been proposed several times before and failed, though the rightward shift in Knesset representation in the last election may give them a better chance this time around.

A majority of Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud ministers on the legislative committee voted in favour of the Knesset debating the Nakba bill, although two ministers — Labour’s Isaac Herzog and Likud’s Michael Eitan — opposed it.

Mr Herzog, the son of a former President of Israel, said he had done so “because I believe that it could impair freedom of expression and freedom of protest and achieve the opposite goal — increasing alienation and strengthening extremists, who are on the margins of Arab society”.

The first Knesset reading of the bill seeking to compel citizens to recognise the existence of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state secured a majority of 47 to 34.

The bill’s promoter, Zevulun Orlev, a Knesset member in the right-wing Jewish Home party, cited the case of Azmi Bishara, a Christian Arab who resigned his Knesset seat in 2007 and fled Israel, where he was facing charges of treason and espionage. Mr Bishara was heavily criticised for trips to Syria and Lebanon, where he reportedly praised Hizbollah.

Mr Orlev claimed during the debate that Mr Bishara’s case showed that what begins with words “very quickly leads to actions”. But Mr Oron said: “It is the right of Israeli citizens to say that they think Judaism and democracy are not the correct formula. I think that they’re wrong, but what does that have to do with criminality? Lay off it.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Director Hands Back Award in Protest at Loach

Gary Sinyor accuses Edinburgh Film Festival of caving in to anti-Israeli views

A Jewish film-maker has handed back a prestigious award from the Edinburgh International Film Festival in an ugly spat with the British director Ken Loach.

Gary Sinyor, who won a Charles Chaplin Award at the EIFF for his Jewish comedy Leon the Pig Farmer, said he wanted nothing more to do with the festival after accusing it of caving in to Mr Loach’s anti-Israeli views.

The row began after the festival accepted a £300 donation from the Israeli embassy to pay for a film studies graduate of Tel Aviv University to attend the premiere of her short movie Surrogate at the festival in Scotland next month. But the sponsorship raised the hackles of Loach, who backed a boycott unless the money was returned forcing the EIFF to find alternative ways to fund Tali Shalom-Ezer’s trip.

Now the row has flared up again. In an article for The Independent, Sinyor brands Loach “an extremist”, a “blackmailer” and a “hypocrite” for raising objections over the source of funding.

He also accuses film festival organisers of “rolling over”, saying: “Why on earth did the EIFF take his (Loach’s) views into account?”

He said: “Today I am writing to the Edinburgh Film Festival and asking for my name to be taken off their records. I am removing Winner, Best British Film, Edinburgh 1992, from my CV. If I could cut the award in half and send it back, I would.”

Sinyor saved his most damning indictment for Loach. “Ken Loach took it upon himself publicly to endorse the boycott of the entire Edinburgh Film Festival to make his views doubly clear… It’s a shame that Ken feels particularly strong about not having anything to do with Israel or Israeli money. It’s a shame because clearly some Israelis obviously like Ken.”

Yesterday, Loach remained intransigent, saying: “I don’t respond to personal attacks. I would urge Gary Sinyor and others to look at the facts of the boycott.”

He also sent The Independent a copy of his open letter, written to Ms Shalom-Ezer, explaining why he objected to her source of funding, which said: “To be crystal clear, as a film-maker, you will receive a warm welcome in Edinburgh. You are not censored or rejected. The opposition was to the festival’s taking money from the Israeli state.”

In a blog, Tali Shalom-Ezer, aged 31, was quoted as saying: “Generalising all citizens of Israel as warmongers and racists is racism and outrageous, and as members of the peace camp we are personally hurt by it.”

Iain Smith, chair of EIFF, said he had launched a review. “I apologise sincerely for the distress. Clearly we didn’t appreciate enough that our festival cannot keep itself entirely detached from serious geopolitical issues,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



West Bank: Israelis Kill Hamas Official

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 28 — A Palestinian sought after for terrorism charges, including murder, was killed today by Israeli security forces in an armed clash that took place near the village of Dura, not far from Hebron (West Bank), reported official sources. The operation, according to the sources, aimed at the suspect’s capture, but it digressed into a shoot-out and the latter was mortally wounded by Border Corps patrol. The raid was jointly conducted by the Border Corps, Shin Bet (internal security) and Army units. The man that was killed, according to the Israeli online agency Ynet, was Abdel Majid Dudin, described as “a front-line member of the military wing in the West Bank” of Hamas, the radical Islamic movement that holds the reigns in the Gaza Strip. Already arrested and imprisoned for some time in the past by Palestinian National Authority (PNA) security forces, Dudin had been followed by Israeli law enforcement since 1995. Considered the leader of an active Hamas cell in Hebron, he was accused, among other things, of having organised two bloody attacks 14 years ago on two Israeli buses: the first in Jerusalem and the second in a Tel Aviv suburb, which cost the lives of 4 and 6 people respectively. According to PNA police forces interviewed by Ynet, Israeli security forces tried to flush him out with a bulldozer from the house that he was hiding in near Dura and then returned fire inside the dwelling. During the operation different residents of the area were arrested for aiding and abetting the suspect. From Gaza, the spokesman Abu Obaida already threatened revenge from the Qassam Brigade (the armed wing of Hamas): “We feel free to retaliate in the West Bank to avenge commander Dudin and we will do it soon,” he proclaimed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Iran Official Accuses US Over Mosque Bomb

A provincial official in Iran has accused the United States of being behind Thursday’s bombing of a mosque that killed at least 19 people.

Jalal Sayah, deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchestan province, said three people had been arrested following the attack..

“According to the information we obtained they were hired by America and the agents of arrogance,” he said.

Some 60 people were hurt in the attack during evening prayers at the mosque in Sistan-Baluchestan’s capital, Zahedan.

The city is mainly Sunni Muslim and the remote province is one of the most deprived in this mostly Shia country.

It comes at a time of heightened political sensitivity nationally, with just over two weeks before the first round of the presidential election.

Zahedan’s Amir al-Mohini mosque — an important Shia mosque in the city — was crowded with worshippers when the attack happened.

They had gathered for prayers on what was a public holiday to mark the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima.

Iranian media said a suicide bomber had carried out the attack, and officials said after the blast that arrests had been made.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



National Geographic Blames Israel for Christianity’s Decline in Middle East

In its June 2009 issue, National Geographic demonstrated just how far it is willing to go to scapegoat Israel for suffering in the Middle East. The magazine also showed how far it is willing to go to downplay the role Islam played in contributing to Christianity’s decline in the region. In an article written by Don Belt, the magazine’s senior editor for foreign affairs, National Geographic portrays the departure of Christians from the Holy Land as largely a consequence of Israeli (and American) policies in the region. The article offers no honest description of the well-documented mistreatment of Christians at the hands of Muslim majority populations in the Middle East.

The Crusades

Belt’s efforts to whitewash the role Islamic conquest played in the decline of Christianity in the Middle East becomes obvious in the third paragraph of the article which states that “it was during the Crusades (1095-1291) that Arab Christians, slaughtered along with Muslims by the crusaders and caught in the cross fire between Islam and the Christian West, began a long, steady retreat into the minority.”

In reality, Arab Christianity began its “long, steady retreat” into minority status hundreds of years before the European crusaders ever set foot in the Holy Land. As Bat Ye’or and other commentators have documented, the process of forced conversion and subjugation of Christians in the Middle East began soon after the death of Mohammed in 632. Ye’or writes that after unifying the Arabian Peninsula under Muslim rule, Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s successor, brought war to non-Muslims, including Christians, outside Arabia. In her book The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (Farleigh Dickinson Press, 1996) Ye’or writes:

Arab idolaters had to choose between death or conversion; as for Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, if they paid tribute and accepted the conditions of conquest, they could buy back their right to live, freedom of worship and security of property.

In 640 the second caliph, Umar Ibn al-Khattab, drove the Jewish and Christian tributaries out of Hijasz by invoking the dhimma (contract) of Khaybar: the land belonged to Allah and his Envoy and the contract could be broken at the discretion of the imam, the religious and political leader of the umma [Muslim religious community] and the interpreter of Allah’s will. Umar also invoked the desire expressed by the Prophet on his deathbed: “Two religions should not co-exist within the Arabian peninsula.” (Page 39)

While Ye’or is careful to explain that the subjugation of peoples and faiths was part and parcel of life in the Middle East at the time and that offering conquered peoples a chance to convert to Islam “curbed the barbarity of war,” she also makes clear that Christianity declined under Muslim conquest in the region conducted under the rubric of jihad, or holy war against non-Muslims.

Instead of acknowledging this history, Belt portrays early Muslim history as a time of tolerance, describing the Levant’s history of “coexistence between Muslims and people of other faiths, which dates from the earliest days of Islam. When the Muslim Caliph Omar conquered Syria from the Byzantine Empire around 636, he protected the Christians under his rule, allowing them to keep their churches and worship as they pleased.”

Here again, Belt ignores an inconvenient truth: that by the eighth century Arab Muslim rulers used indigenous Christian communities as both a source of income and forced labor (slavery) in the Middle East, a policy that contributed to the decline of Christianity in the region. (For a detailed description of this process, consult Bat Ye’or’s The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, pages 100-140.)

Key passage

In one key passage, Belt lays out his agenda: Obscure the facts about where Christianity is growing in the Middle East (Israel), downplay and minimize the role Muslim extremism plays in marginalizing Christians in Palestinian society, and blame Western Christians for the misdeeds of Muslims in the region. In this passage, Belt writes:

For anyone living in Israel or the Palestinian territories, stress is the norm. But the 196,500 Palestinian and Israeli Arab Christians, who dropped from 13 percent of the population in 1894 to less than 2 percent today, occupy a uniquely oxygen-starved space between traumatized Israeli Jews and traumatized Palestinian Muslims, whose rising militancy is tied to regional Islamist movements that sometimes target Christians. In the past decade, “the situation for Arab Christians has gone rapidly downhill,” says Razek Siriani, a frank and lively man in his 40s who works for the Middle East Council of Churches in Aleppo, Syria. “We’re completely outnumbered and surrounded by angry voices,” he says. Western Christians have made matters worse, he argues, echoing a sentiment expressed by many Arab Christians.. “It’s because of what Christians in the West, led by the U.S., have been doing in the East,” he says, ticking off the wars in Iraq Afghanistan, U.S. support for Israel, and the threats of “regime change” by the Bush Administration. “To many Muslims, especially the fanatics, this looks like the crusades all over again, a war against Islam waged by Christianity. Because we’re Christians, they see us as the enemy too. It’s guilt by association.”

The first problem with this passage is that it obscures the increase of the Christian population in Israel.

Belt is correct when he reports that the overall percentage of Christians in Israeli society has declined from what it was in the 1800s. Christians have become a smaller proportion of the population in Israel — not because they are leaving but because of the growth of Israel’s Jewish population. Israel is after all, the Jewish homeland. Despite this proportional decline, Israel’s Christian population has increased substantially in absolute numbers since its founding, a fact Belt does not acknowledge. As previous CAMERA analysis on this subject reveals, the population of Christians in Israel is currently increasing at a rater faster than that of Jews in Israel. Analyst Tamar Sternthal writes:

As documented in the Central Bureau of Statistics’ Statistical Abstract of Israel 2008 (Chart 2.2), in the last dozen years, Israel’s Christian population grew from 120,600 in 1995 to 151,600 in 2007, representing a growth rate of 25 percent. In fact, the Christian growth rate has outpaced the Jewish growth in Israel in the last 12 years! In 1995, there were 4,522,300 Jews in Israel, and in 2007 there were 5,478,200, representing a growth rate of 21 percent — 4 percent less than the Christian population grew during the same time.

Since 1949, when there were 34,000 Christians in Israel, the population has grown 345 percent.

Clearly, Israel’s population of Christians is growing substantially. Why does Belt omit this fact?

Another problem with Belt’s analysis is that it portrays Christians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as caught between two local parties — traumatized Israeli Jews and traumatized Palestinian Muslims — who are equally responsible for the suffering of Christians in Palestinian society. Numerous sources — which have largely been ignored or dismissed by the human rights and peacemaking communities in the West — have shown that the mistreatment of Christians in Palestinian society is rooted in a religiously-based ideology that calls for the subjugation of non-Muslims in Muslim majority society. For example, in 2005, Justus Reid Weiner invoked the phrase “imperfect citizenship” to describe the precarious position Christians endured in Palestinian society as a result of the Muslim influence on Palestinian governance and law. He writes:

As long as the religious factor influences the Muslim concept of citizenship, it will remain a particular problem for Christians, as Muslim culture only grants the rights and benefits of full citizenship to followers of Islam.

While Weiner reports that Muslim hostility toward Christians has increased since 9/11, the fact remains that the subjugation of Christians in the Middle East has roots much deeper than 9/11, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and U.S. support for Israel. Religious and ethnic minorities are badly treated throughout the Middle East and when it comes to human rights and civil liberties, Arabs, whether Christian or Muslim, enjoy more rights in Israel than they do in Arab-majority states throughout the region.

National Geographic‘s attempt to blame the decline of Christianity in Palestinian society on Israel is also evident in the captions to the photos displayed along with the cover story. Underneath a photo of barbed wired in the West Bank, a caption reads “Christian farmers lost their olive groves when Israelis built a fence around a settlement.” Another caption quotes a Christian in Bethlehem as saying “Under Israel occupation, normal life is impossible.”

Nowhere in the article is there any testimony about the harassment of Christians in Palestinian society. Nor is there any explanation why Israel built the security barrier and instituted checkpoints. The security barrier and the checkpoints were put in place for a reason which Belt cannot be bothered to acknowledge — Palestinian terrorism. At what point will the Christians start holding terrorists responsible for the construction of the security barrier and the checkpoints in the West Bank?

Exaggerating Christian Influence

Belt also exaggerates the role Christianity plays in the Middle East, invoking the quote from a Syrian monk who says

… Muslims are us. This is the lesson the West has yet to learn and that Arab Christians are uniquely qualified to teach. They are the last, vital link between the Christian West and the Arab Muslim world. If Arab Christians were to disappear, the two sides would drift even further apart than they already are. They are the go-betweens.

Here Belt proffers a well-worn trope of Arab Christians serving as “go-betweens” between Muslims in the Middle East and Christians in the West. But Arab Christians have barely any influence among their Muslim brethren. Their main influence is on Christians in the U.S. and Europe.

For example, Bernard Lewis, in Semites And Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (W.W. Norton & Company, 1999), offers a detailed narrative about how Christian churches in the Middle East and the governments of the countries in which they were located worked to dissuade the Vatican from removing the deicide charge (the notion that the Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Christ) from the theology of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s. Fortunately, these negative efforts failed to prevent landmark theological changes that have fostered improved Catholic-Jewish relations in the years since.

Another example of the “influence” of Arab Christians is the work of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. This organization has little, if any ability to constrain suicide attacks against Israel, but does condemn Israel to American audiences at numerous conferences. To be sure, the group’s founder, Anglican Priest Naim Ateek, condemns suicide bombings — in English — to audiences of Western Christians (people who are not likely candidates for perpetrating suicide attacks), but his influence over Hamas is minimal at best.

If Arab Christians are go-betweens, their influence is one way — from the Middle East to the West. Their ability to moderate political life and reduce violence in Muslim-majority countries in the region is miniscule.

Attacks on Palestinian Christians Omitted

While Belt acknowledges the hostility between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon in an extended interview with a Maronite Christian who worries about being outgunned by Shiite Militias, he fails to mention the mistreatment of Christians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by the Muslim majority. There is no lack of information on this subject, just a lack of Palestinian Christians willing to be quoted publicly about it. Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian Muslim journalist who has covered the problem extensively for the Jerusalem Post, recently wrote the following for the Hudson Institute:

Christian families have long been complaining of intimidation and land theft by Muslims, especially those working for the Palestinian Authority.

Many Christians in Bethlehem and the nearby [Christian] towns of Bet Sahour and Beit Jalla have repeatedly complained that Muslims have been seizing their lands either by force or through forged documents. . . .

Moreover, several Christian women living in these areas have complained about verbal and sexual assaults by Muslim men.

Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they could no longer afford to pay “protection” money to local Muslim gangs.

While it is true that the Palestinian Authority does not have an official policy of persecution against Christians, it is also true that this authority has not done enough to provide the Christian population with a sense of security and stability.

In addition, Christians continue to complain about discrimination when it comes to employment in the public sector. Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority 15 years ago, not a single Christian was ever appointed to a senior security post. Although Bethlehem has a Christian mayor, the governor, who is more senior than him, remains a Muslim.

Toameh is not the only source of this type of information. Harry de Quetteville reported the following Sept. 9, 2005 in The Daily Telegraph (London):

Christians in the Holy Land have handed a dossier detailing incidents of violence and intimidation by Muslim extremists to Church leaders in Jerusalem, one of whom said it was time for Christians to “raise our voices” against the sectarian violence.

The dossier includes 93 alleged incidents of abuse by an “Islamic fundamentalist mafia” against Palestinian Christians, who accused the Palestinian Authority of doing nothing to stop the attacks.

The dossier also includes a list of 140 cases of apparent land theft, in which Christians in the West Bank were allegedly forced off their land by gangs backed by corrupt judicial officials. . . .

The alleged attacks on Christians have come despite repeated appeals to the Palestinian Authority to rein in Muslim gangs.

A spokesman for the Apostolic Delegate, the Pope’s envoy to Jerusalem, said nothing had been done to tackle the problem. “The Apostolic Delegate presented a list of all the problems to Mr [Yasser] Arafat before he died,” he said. “He promised a lot but he did very little.”

In the offices of his tiny Christian television station in Bethlehem, Samir Qumsieh said this week that Christian appeals to Mr Arafat’s successor as Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, had also gone unheeded.

“At least Arafat responded,” he said, “Abbas does not answer our letters.”

Nowhere is any of this mentioned in Belt’s article, possibly because no one is willing to be quoted on these issues. Paul Merkley, author of Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001) reports that after the Oslo Accords, Palestinian Christians were very reluctant to publicly criticize the Palestinian Authority. On page 81 Merkley writes:

It is very difficult to get at all the truth about life for Christians under the Palestinian Authority. The official Palestinian press speaks of the unqualified enthusiasm for the new situation, which extends to the whole Christian community. Arab Christian spokesmen insist that relations between Christian and Muslim Palestinians have never been better. But there is a compelling body of evidence indicating that Christians are now facing many more obstacles to the free exercise of their faith than they ever endured under direct Israeli rule. Designated spokesmen for the various Christian communities all insist that they have no concern for the future of Christianity in a Muslim state.

The story is a bit different, Merkley reports, when one speaks to the lay members of the Christian community.

In my own conversations with Palestinian Christians who were not designated spokespersons for their church communities, I was told of abandonment of the ordinary Christians by the political opportunists who are leaders of their congregations. According to [Judith] Sudilosky [an Israeli journalist]: “Privately, Arab Christians will say what they dare not say publically: that most Christians would rather live under Israeli authority than risk living under another Moslem regime.” Yossi Klein Halevi quotes one of the few remaining Christian merchants in the Christian quarter: “Our leaders are liars: They tell the newspapers that everything is OK. But when Christians go to the market, they’re afraid to wear their crosses.” (Page 84).

Dubious Testimony

Belt does include testimony from a pseudonymous couple as they celebrate Easter, who like the leaders of the Palestinian Christian community, apparently say very little about the Muslim majority, but a lot about the hated state of Israel. Belt, who assigns them the names “Mark” and “Lisa,” reports the following:

This is the first Easter, ever, that Mark has been allowed to spend with the family in Jerusalem. He is from Bethlehem, in the West Bank, so his identity papers are from the Palestinian Authority; he needs a permit from Israel to visit. Lisa, whose family lives in the Old City, holds an Israeli ID. So although they’ve been married for five years and rent this apartment in the Jerusalem suburbs, under Israeli law they can’t reside under the same roof. Mark lives with his parents in Bethlehem, which is six miles away but might as well be a hundred, lying on the far side of an Israeli checkpoint and the 24-foot-high concrete barrier known as the Wall.

Yes, it is sad that the couple cannot live together in Jerusalem. But it’s also unreasonable to expect that “Mark” would be given citizenship or residency based on his marriage to Lisa. Israel, like most other countries, including the United States, proffers residency and citizenship to foreigners after an extensive application process. Marriage alone does not guarantee the right to residency or citizenship, as Belt seems to suggest it should. If the couple were interested in living together, it is very likely “Lisa” could move to Bethlehem without any difficulty. Yes, she could very well lose her Israeli identification papers and the fact that she has not made that sacrifice indicates that Israeli residency, even for a Palestinian Christian is valuable enough to endure separation from her husband. Why? One likely reason is that as a Christian in Israel she enjoys rights that she would not enjoy in the Fatah-controlled West Bank. Belt, however, fails to address any of this, but provides the reader with a narrative that portrays Israel as denying a married couple the right to live together.

Belt fails to provide his readers with an important part of the story. Prior to the Second Intifada, passage between Israel and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was much easier than it is today. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians worked legally (and illegally) in Israel, and made up a significant part of the Israeli labor force. The suicide attacks which took place during the Second Intifada had a two-fold impact. First, they prompted Israelis to institute stricter security measures such as the security barrier and the checkpoints. Second, they reduced the numbers of Palestinian workers in Israel. In other words, what Belt is leaving out, is that Palestinian terrorism played a substantial role in making passage between Bethlehem and Jerusalem difficult for the married couple he is describing.

The contempt “Lisa” and her family have for Israel is revealed when Belt describes “Mark’s” washing the family car on Easter.

Right on cue, with a playful flourish, Mark squeezes the nozzle on the hose. Nothing comes out.. He checks the faucet, squeezes again. Still nothing. So there he stands, empty hose in hand, in front of his kids, his neighbors, and a visitor from oversees. “I guess they’ve opened the pipes to the settlements,” he says quietly, gesturing to the hundreds of new Israeli housing units climbing up the hills nearby. “No more [water] for us.” Lisa is still trying to explain this to the kids as the car pulls away from the curb.

I hate the Israelis,” Lisa says one day, out of the blue. “I really hate them. We all hate them.. I think even Nate’s [her son] starting to hate them.”

Given that Belt offers no evidence to suggest that he has confirmed for himself that “Mark” was unable to wash his car because water was being shipped to Israeli settlements, it is entirely possible that the event was staged for his benefit. It would not be the first time. Hamas staged “blackouts” in the Gaza Strip in 2008, and French filmmaker Pierre Rehov has documented in his movie The Road to Jenin how Palestinian officials encouraged sources to fabricate stories about delays at checkpoints for the benefit of Western journalists. And there is ample evidence to indicate that much of the footage broadcast from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is staged to portray Palestinians as suffering under the lash of Israeli oppression. (For more on this issue see Richard Landes’ website, www.seconddraft.org.)

Regardless of what caused the apparent lack of water, Belt fails to report that Israel has been subject to a serious drought in the past few years. In January 2009, the Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli experts predicted a water shortage for the upcoming summer because of a lack of rainfall. Clearly, there is more to this story than Belt reports, but the car-washing episode was apparently too good to check. Belt himself reports the feelings of hate members of the family openly express for Israel, giving him good reason to question their story, but instead of doing his job as a journalist, he passes on their innuendo without challenge.

This highly distorted and deceptive rendition of Christian difficulties in the Middle East is not worthy of National Geographic.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Turkey Joins EU Information, Communication Program

(ANSAmed) — BRUXELLES, MAY 28 — Turkey joined the European Union’s information and communication technologies policies support program, the second component of the compatibility and innovation frame program aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs. As daily Hurriet reports today, the memorandum of understanding for Turkey’s participation in the program was signed between Turkey’s permanent representative to the EU, Volkan Bozkir, and European Commission Information Society and Media Directorate-General head Fabio Colasanti on Tuesday. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


Russia: Village Accidentally Shelled; No Injuries

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — A Russian naval ship carrying out target practice off the Russian Baltic Sea coast accidentally rained shell fragments on a village near St. Petersburg, officials said Friday.

Nobody was injured when the fragments from shells fired by an anti-submarine ship in the Gulf of Finland fell on houses in the village of Zelyonaya Roshcha, close to the border with Finland, regional military prosecutor Igor Lebedev said. An investigation has begun, Lebedev said.

Russia’s NTV television said that the ship fired its six-barrel anti-aircraft gun near the shore, and the exploding shells rained shards of metal on the village. It showed metal fragments several centimeters (inches) long which were spread all over the area.

“Some people thought that a war started,” one villager, Yuri Mikhailov, was quoted as telling the RIA Novosti news agency. “It was like a hail of steel.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Bangladesh: Village Woman Mercilessly Whipped After Fatwa is Issued Against Her

The woman was punished for filing a paternity claim after her son was born out of wedlock. Village judges say they imposed punishment in accordance with Qur’anic tenets. Human rights activists describe the affair as another “example of social discrimination” and call for greater protection for women.

Dhaka (Asia News) — Rahima Akter, a woman from Noagon (Daudkandi sub-district, eastern Bangladesh), was mercilessly whipped until she lost consciousness after she dared to file a paternity claim against a married man with children. A fatwa ordering that she be whipped 100 times was issued against her by a local Islamic judge for “false testimony”. For human rights activists, the case is but another example of “social discrimination against women” based on the failure to implement laws that protect them and the overall lack of gender equality. After her public ordeal the single mother was taken to the Dhaka Medical College for medical treatment.

“Arbitration in my daughter’s case began at 8 pm on 22 May. The Mawlana chaired the committee,” Rahina’s mother, Rasheda Begum, told AsiaNews. “She [the daughter] explained that she started an affair with Abdul Karim, who is married and father of three children. As a result of their relation, my grandson Ramzan was born.”

The young mother tried without success to get him to acknowledge paternity and this led to an arbitration hearing, which was held in the village madrassah or Qur’anic school.

“There were 200 to 400 people,” Rasheda Begum said. “My daughter swore on the Qur’an that Karim was the father, but he strongly denied it. He, too, took an oath.”

The arbitration council then ruled that the man was right, based on the Islamic legal principle that the testimony by a man is worth more than that of a woman. Therefore, Rahima was found guilty of perjury and was sentenced to be whipped 100 times.

The sentence was carried out right away, but the young woman lost consciousness after 39 blows. Her parents took her away but the conditions of the young woman were so bad that she had to be hospitalised.

Village leaders also warned the family not to file any complaint with the police, or they would suffer consequences.

Contacted by AsiaNews the doctor that treated Rahina said that when the victim arrived in hospital “she was in a really bad situation. I was shocked at the brutality of the treatment.”

On Tuesday the family too was moved to the hospital where they took DNA tests.

For security reasons, outsiders were not allowed to meet them.

Police said that they were conducting an investigation into case and announced that they already had “three of the six accused in custody after a case was filed by Abdul Matin, the father of the victim.”

The men charged are Mawlana Abul Kashem, 55; Abdul Karim, the alleged 35-year-old father; and Shah Alam, 50.

Police are also trying to apprehend the other three men involved in the case but are facing legal hurdles since the law has no provision about fatwas issued by Islamic judges.

For human rights activists the whole story is shameful. Khushi Kabir, coordinator of a human rights organisation that helps poor families, explained that “there is no specific law regulating fatwas by Islamic courts or concerning paternity.” For this reason the “government should take the proper initiative and introduce a new law.” Rahina’s case is “an example of a gross injustice against a woman.”

For Sarah Hossain, a barrister and human rights activist, the whole affair smacks of “social discrimination against women” based on the failure to implement laws to protect them.

Equality between men and women in Bangladesh remains a pipe dream because of the country’s dominant patriarchal culture which crushes every effort to emancipate women.

Despite government openness in the matter and some social groups in favour of change, Islamic legal scholars and ulemas are steadfastly opposed to gender equality because in their view it is incompatible with the Qur’an and the Sunnah, “the way and the manners of the prophet”.

In Bangladesh many women who dare rebel against their husbands or demand greater social justice have been dealt with sulphuric acid.

The first documented case goes back to 1967. Since then there has been a steady rise in the number of cases: 47 in 1996, 130 in 1997 and 200 in 1998. In 2002 more than 480 women were disfigured. In fact in October 2008 AsiaNews published the story of a young woman who was disfigured with acid by her husband because her family would not pay her dowry.

As a result of local and international awareness raising campaigns, the government adopted in 2002 a law banning throwing acid in the face of young women for economic reasons, jealousy or refusal to submit to forced sex.

So far though, only 190 cases went to trail between 2002 and 2007 out 1,428 cases filed in courts with 254 people found guilty and sentenced.

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



Islamic Extremism on the Rise Again in Central Asia

A blast kills policeman in Andijan. Uzbek-Kyrgyz border is the scene of shoot-out with police. Experts fear government repression and poverty in the Ferghana Valley, a crossroad of three states, might make residents more susceptible to radical Islam.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A police man was killed and others injured in a suicide attack in the city of Andijan yesterday. Unknown gunmen also fired at Uzbek policemen in Khanabad on the border with Kyrgyzstan. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), on offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan accused in the past of various attacks in Central Asia, and have reignited fears of a rise in Islamist militancy in the Ferghana Valley, an area that borders on several countries.

Kyrgyz sources said that four policemen were killed in Khanabad when they tried to stop a car that was trying to drive through a border checkpoint into Kyrgyzstan, something that Uzbek authorities have denied. Uzbekistan said instead that it is in perfect control of its territory and that Uzbek troops are patrolling the border.

Whatever the case may be, such incidents are a sign of widespread instability and violence in the Ferghana, a valley that is divided between the two countries and Tajikistan that has been affected by significant social unrest since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is also one of the poorest areas of Central Asia with high unemployment and limited social assistance from governments.

Making matters worse the circumstances “could make the population susceptible to radical groups who provide a means of channelling this discontent,” said Matthew Clements, Eurasia editor in the Country Risk Department for Jane’s Information Group.

Although unemployment is high in Uzbekistan and millions of Uzbek men and women have left the country for seasonal jobs in Russia, Kazakhstan, and even impoverished Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Uzbek government continues to claim that unemployment is less than 1 per cent.

In May 2005 Uzbek troops fired on peaceful demonstrators, killing hundreds, in Andijan. But instead finding out what really happened, the government has consistently claimed that there was a riot. At the same time though, many eyewitnesses to the “riot” were incarcerated, tortured and sentenced to silence them.

The situation is so uncertain that many doubt that the IJU is really behind the attacks.

Many suspect that organised crime is responsible with the help of rogue officials from both countries.

On each side of the border the local population has been increasingly left without outside help, making it more easily susceptible to appeals by proponents of radical ideologies.

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



Sri Lanka: UN Rejects War Crimes Inquiry

Colombo, 28 May (AKI) — The United Nations human rights council has rejected calls to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by both sides in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s bloody 25-year conflict. The country’s allies on the 47-member council, including China, Cuba and Egypt, on Wednesday forced through a resolution — with 29 votes to 12 against and six abstentions — condemning Tamil Tiger militants for using civilians as human shields.

But it stressed that the war was a “domestic” matter that did not deserve outside interference.

Meanwhile the UN’s humanitarian wing said that the scale of the relief operation in Sri Lanka, where nearly 300,000 people have been displaced, remains “huge”.

An action plan for assistance still needs 60 per cent of the requested funding, it said.

The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs also reported that since UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the country this past week, an interim measure has been agreed whereby aid agency vehicles have greater access to areas such as Menik Farm which need relief.

Menik Farm is among the largest camp sites hosting internally displaced persons resulting from the fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Last week, the Government announced that its military operation against the Tamil separatists had ended.

OCHA also noted that it has been announced that the military will relocate out of the camps, turning over all camp management activities to civilian authorities.

The overall needs in the camps remain “acute,” the office said, with the greatest needs being health posts, doctors and medical personnel, as well as water and sanitation facilities.

Most people arrived in the camps with nothing, so distributions of non-food items like plates, cups and other basic household goods are also priorities when the trucks are re-entering the camps, it noted.

The UN Human Rights Council ended its special session on Sri Lanka, adopting a resolution urging the government to continue strengthening its activities to ensure that there is no discrimination against ethnic minorities.

The 47-member body also welcomed the Sri Lankan authorities’ resolve to start a broader dialogue with all parties, in order to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.

In addition, the Geneva-based council urged the international community to cooperate with the Government in reconstruction efforts, including by increasing financial aid.

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

Far East


China: Police and Army Used to Solve the Problem of Chinese Farmers

Army moves in Rongli (Guangdong) to convince farmers to sell their land at dismally low price. In Yingde (Guangdong) accused of corruption, local authorities use police to prevent residents to present petitions. Row leads to protests; police responds by beating up protesters and arresting everyone.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Residents in Rongli, a village near the city of Foshan (Guangdong), do not want to sell their land for the construction of n expressway. In order to convince them, the authorities have sent in the army. In the meantime police arrested 200 farmers involved in protests in Yingde last Saturday.

Rongli lies in the path of the planned Panyu to Shunde expressway, part of a network of highways being built across the Pearl River Delta economic area, connecting the port with the inland manufacturing centre of Shunde.

Local residents told Radio Free Asia that the price offered for the land is so low that they had could not but refuse the offer.

On Monday night more than 2,000 people went to the Rongli Village Residence Committee to protest.

Eyewitnesses said that the next day 300 soldiers showed up in six buses without licence plates.

Soldiers and local land management bureau officials went house to house “trying to get people to sign an agreement to sell their land, or take responsibility for the outcome. The soldiers were really mean. Some of the older people were so scared they wet themselves,” a resident said. Police and officials stayed until around 9 pm.

Given the rising number of incidents and the growing social unrest China’s national leaders have urged local leaders to solve issued fairly and through dialogue, but local leaders are increasingly resorting to law enforcement and security forces to break any opposition.

In the city of Yingde (Guangdong) police arrested more than 200 people last Saturday for attacking a police station and setting it on fire (rounded up protesters pictured).

Farmers accuse local authorities of corruption and demand to know how public funds were spent.

But police is preventing residents to move freely, stopping them from travelling to the provincial capital to petition higher authorities.

Street protests exploded after the arrest of a number of farmers, who were accused of “plotting to gather several hundred persons to petition at the city government office and creating traffic jams on April 29 and May 11 this year,” an alleged plot that “disrupted government business and hurt social stability”.

In the end hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the police station.

According to the authorities, protesters were wielding hoes, sickles, lime powder, bamboo sticks and other weapons when they faced off against the police.

By contrast, eyewitnesses said that more than a thousand policemen charged the demonstrators, beating anyone and anything on their path, launching trained dogs against people, and arresting anyone who was not able to flee.

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



N. Korea Vows Response if UN Imposes Sanctions

SEOUL (AFP) — North Korea fired another short-range missile on Friday and threatened fresh steps if world powers impose sanctions for its nuclear test, amid signs it may be readying a new long-range launch.

With US and South Korean troops on high alert at the border, Chinese fishing boats were reported to be leaving the area in the Yellow Sea that was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 between the two Koreas.

The communist North, which has warned it could launch an attack on the South, vowed to respond to any fresh sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

“If the UN Security Council provokes us, our additional self-defence measures will be inevitable,” the North’s foreign ministry said in a statement carried by official media.

“The world will soon witness how our army and people stand up against oppression and despotism by the UNSC and uphold their dignity and independence.”

Tensions have been running high since Kim Jong-Il’s regime tested a nuclear bomb on Monday for the second time and renounced the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

In Washington, two US defence officials said that satellite photos suggest that North Korea may be preparing to launch a long-range ballistic missile.

Vehicle movements at a missile site in North Korea resemble work done before North Korea fired a long-range rocket last month, the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The UN Security Council unanimously condemned last month’s missile launch. In response, North Korea stormed out of a US-backed six-nation disarmament deal.

The Council has been discussing a potential resolution — stronger than last month’s statement — to condemn the North’s nuclear test. But it was not yet clear if that would include new sanctions.

“This is quite a complicated discussion,” Britain’s UN ambassador John Sawers said Thursday. “We need some time.”

The Council was holding expert-level talks on Friday on how to move forward.

South Korea and the put their troops on the Korean peninsula on higher alert on Thursday, and Seoul’s defence ministry said forces were keeping a close watch on the land and sea border with the North.

North Korea test-fired another missile off its east coast Friday, the sixth this week, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

There was no immediate confirmation but the agency’s reports of five launches earlier this week were later confirmed by Pyongyang.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, en route to a regional security meeting in Singapore, accused the North of “very provocative, aggressive” actions but tried to play down the threat.

Gates said he was unaware of any unusual troop movements in the North, which has around 1.1 million soldiers, compared with 680,000 South Korean and 28,500 US troops south of the border.

“I don’t think there is a need for us to reinforce our military presence in the South. Should the North Koreans do something extremely provocative militarily, then we have the forces to deal with it,” he added.

The North may take further steps following its latest verbal statement, which aims to send a “strong warning” to the Security Council, said Professor Yang Moo-Jin at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies.

“The North may put its military on a war footing, test-fire a long-range missile and restart the plutonium reprocessing facilities at Yongbyon,” he told AFP.

The North could also stage a third nuclear test but this would come much later than the other steps, Yang said.

In a possible sign of trouble ahead, Chinese fishing boats were leaving the tense border area in the Yellow Sea, with the number of vessels more than halving on Thursday, South Korea’s defence ministry said.

“As this could be a signal foreboding a possible provocation by the North, we are watching the situation closely,” ministry spokesman Won Tae-Jae said.

Pyongyang warned Wednesday that it could not guarantee the safety of US or South Korean ships after Seoul said it was joining a US-led international effort to stop the trade in weapons of mass destruction.

Many experts believe, however, that the North is not yet able to deliver a nuclear weapon by missile.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Alleged People Smuggler Arrested in Western Australia

May 29, 2009, 10:46 pmA 19-year-old Indonesian man has faced court on multiple people smuggling charges after he was arrested in Perth on Friday morning.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said the man was a crew member on a boat intercepted off Ashmore Reef in mid-April.

It’s alleged he helped 47 asylum seekers enter Australia illegally.

“The man was charged with facilitating the bringing of non-citizens into Australia contrary to … the Migration Act,” the AFP said in a statement.

The alleged people smuggler appeared in Perth Magistrates Court on Friday, where police asked for him to be extradited to Darwin.

He’s expected to appear in Darwin Magistrates Court on Monday.

Another alleged people smuggler Hadi Ahmadi appeared in a Perth court on Wednesday.

Ahmadi, 33, a dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen, has been charged with four counts of trafficking people into Australia in 2001.

He also faces at least 17 charges of assisting individuals illegally into Australia.

Ahmadi was extradited to Perth from Indonesia on Tuesday and arrested at the airport.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Australia Considers Taking Guantanamo Detainees

The Federal Government is considering a request by the United States for Australia to resettle detainees from the Guantanamo Bay.

It is the third request by the US but the first to be made by the new President Barack Obama.

The detainees are 17 Uighurs, who are Muslims from north-western China.

They have been held for seven years at the prison camp, despite being cleared of links to terrorism.

A Pentagon report in February called for them to be urgently released, but the US Government fears they will face persecution if they return to China.

A spokesman for Kevin Rudd says the Government will consider the request on a case-by-case basis.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Family Court Forces Mum to Stay in Isolated Town After Split

WIVES who follow their husbands to remote corners of Australia in search of work may find themselves stuck in their new home town, unable to leave with the children.

The Family Court has ruled that new shared-parenting laws, brought in by the Howard government in 2006, mean that the right of a child to have a relationship with both parents trumps the right of a mother to return to her home state, even if she has lived in the new location for less than a year.

In the most recent case, the court ruled that a 34-year-old mother could not leave an “isolated” town in northwest Queensland with her five-year-old daughter after her marriage broke down, because it would rupture the close relationship the girl had with her father.

The case has prompted concern among family law experts that the shared-parenting law is effectively forcing people “back into failed relationships”.

Elspeth McInnes, a researcher in family law at the University of South Australia, cited research by the Family Law Council that suggested the right of women to relocate after divorce had essentially been lost, under the amendments to the Family Law Act.

Previously, judges were prepared to consider the idea that women or mums could go where there is extended family support for them and their children,” Ms McInnes told The Australian.

The mother in the northwest Queensland case, known in court transcripts as Mrs Rosa, got married in 2000 and had her child in 2002.

She lived with her husband in Sydney until 2007, when he got a job as a mining engineer in a remote part of Queensland. The town is not named in the transcript, but is described as “isolated”.

The Rosas moved up as a family, but after eight months, the husband told the wife that the marriage was over, put her possessions in boxes, and put them on the deck.

Mrs Rosa, 34, took their daughter back to her mother’s house in Sydney but the father petitioned the Family Court for their return, saying he wanted to maintain a relationship with his child.

During court proceedings, the mother argued that the father could quit his job and return to Sydney and share custody of their daughter in their home town.

He declined, saying his job had become important and was “interesting”.

The court ruled that the mother could not leave northwest Queensland with the child. She argued that she was isolated and impoverished. She lives in a caravan, because it is the only accommodation she can afford. She appealed to the Full Court of the Family Court, which upheld the decision on May 15.

The federal magistrate said the mother’s plan to move would have a “most serious and detrimental effect upon the very close and important relationship that exists (between the daughter and her Dad)”.

Family law academic Barbara Biggs said: “It’s a dreadful situation, to force a woman to live in a town where she has no family and no work, and to say that’s the only way the child can be raised.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



India Summons Australia Envoy Over Attacks, PMs Speak

INDIA’S prime minister spoke to Kevin Rudd yesterday and expressed concern over a spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne, as New Delhi summoned the Australian ambassador and urged action.

The two leaders spoke by telephone against the backdrop of a media storm in India after four Indian students were attacked with a screwdriver by a gang at a Melbourne party last weekend.

One of the victims remained in hospital with serious injuries.

On Monday, an Indian student was attacked in what appeared to be a robbery, and there were three other attacks in early May, including two on Indian taxi drivers.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also spoken about the attacks when Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith called yesterday to congratulate him on his re-appointment.

“Our concerns at attacks on Indian students were conveyed suitably,” spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

Media reports in India say the attacks were race-based.

“I have not seen the evidence that they were racist, but I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t discount it. Some racism exists in Australia, it’s appalling, we condemn it,” ambassador John McCarthy said after meeting Indian officials.

“The Secretary (East) conveyed India’s concerns very clearly and very much urged that we take steps to ensure that students are better briefed about conditions in Australia and to ensure these sort of incidents do not occur again.”

He said police had made several arrests in the attacks.

Indian TV stations repeatedly showed footage of one of the attacks inside a train in which a group of young men wearing hooded jackets were seen punching and kicking a man.

Australian colleges and universities are popular with Indian students pursuing degrees in business, information technology, engineering and hospitality.

More than 80,000 of them have enrolled in Australian institutions since August last year.

Mr Rudd said: “I am concerned about any act of violence in the streets and suburbs of Australia’s cities and towns and particularly when we are obviously hosts to students from around the world.

“It is appalling in every sense. Any act of violence, any decent human being just responds with horror at the sorts of attack which have occurred recently.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Bolivia Confirms Plans to Explore for Uranium

LA PAZ — The Bolivian government confirmed Thursday that the provincial government of Potosi has a project in the works to explore for uranium at an old mine.

National Mining Director Freddy Beltran told Efe that efforts will be carried out to find uranium at the Cotaje mine; uranite (any of the uranium phosphates) was produced there in 1974, although because it was “of low concentration” the mine was shut down shortly thereafter.

On Tuesday, an official from the Potosi administration told the media that that region plans to invest $300,000 to begin exploring for that mineral, while Beltran said Thursday that the project still is in a “preliminary” phase.

Beltran added that the national government is unaware whether uranium exists in other parts of the country because “regrettably” Bolivia’s geological map covers just 25 percent of its territory.

At the end of March, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, met in La Paz with leftist President Evo Morales and announced that organization’s willingness to cooperate with Bolivia on the exploration and exploitation of uranium mines.

After his meeting with the president, the IAEA chief said there are “several nuclear development projects in Bolivia,” including one to “explore uranium mines.”

Meanwhile, Beltran stressed Thursday that Bolivia is not currently producing or exporting uranium, as the Israel government claimed this week when it accused the Andean country and Venezuela of providing that mineral for Iran’s nuclear program.

“It’s a tall tale, it’s a lie, because Bolivia doesn’t export even one milligram to any part of the world. It doesn’t export because it doesn’t exploit uranium,” he said.

Earlier this week, Morales’ chief of staff, Juan Ramon Quintana, called Israel’s accusations “ridiculous” and said they would “only occur to a clown.”

Quintana said Bolivia’s relations with Iran are “totally transparent” and aimed at “industrialization projects.” EFE

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Mexican Trains, Trucks Hijacked in New Crime Wave

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) — With Mexican law enforcement tied up attacking drug cartels, free-lance crime gangs have become more daring and sophisticated, hijacking trucks and trains and stealing massive loads of steel, coffee and beans..

These gangsters are armed not only with guns but heavy machinery to unload industrial materials and bulk agricultural goods, deftly passing them off to the black market.

Mexico’s third largest steel producer, Altos Hornos de Mexico, or AHMSA, has been victim of nearly 40 robberies since January 2008, mostly along one stretch of deserted road in northern Mexico between the cities of Monterrey and Monclova.

“This wasn’t happening before,” AHMSA spokesman Francisco Orduna said.

“To unload a 30-tonne roll of steel is complicated,” he said. “Not just anyone can do that and to find someone who will buy that amount is not that easy either. You have to be really well organized.”

Mexico’s steel chamber said robberies skyrocketed by 250 percent last year, as 12,500 tons were carted off by thieves, sometimes truck and all. Losses totaled 150 million pesos ($11 million) in 2008 and have continued as a fast clip this year.

The robberies are raising the cost of doing business in Mexico as companies hire guards, expensive security consultants and specialized satellite positioning devices to track cargo.

The United States, worried about violence spilling over the border, has pledged millions of dollars to help Mexico attack drug traffickers and some 2,250 people have been killed this year alone as cartels fight the government and each other.

Analysts say the thefts could come from groups splintering off from drug gangs in the chaos.

“The internecine warfare has caused some of the smaller groups to branch off into other lucrative organized crime activities. It’s a kind of diversification,” University of Miami drug expert Bruce Bagley said.

“Stealing cargo, collecting protection money, kidnapping are all part and parcel. Once you get a taste for this life, it is hard to go back,” he said.

TRAIN HEISTS, FARM EXTORTIONS

Using intelligence gathered from employees either intimidated or paid off to leak transport routes, the well-connected groups can hijack a truck making a pit stop, empty out the cargo and dump the driver on an abandoned road.

Gerardo Bortoni, who heads an association of truck drivers in Monclova, said the thieves hand products over to corrupt businessman while authorities turn the other way.

“They are stealing everything, coffee, cacao, pistachios. Before it was just sporadic now its very common. We’re afraid to haul a lot of products,” he said.

Due to the murky nature of the crimes, it is unclear who the customers are for the stolen goods but Bortoni said in the case of steel, buyers would need the capacity to process raw materials. Wholesalers say stolen food products will show up at the same markets they were taken from, just at a lower price.

Grupo Mexico, which operates Ferromex, one of Mexico’s main railroads, set up a system to pay government security forces to guard their trains after a spike in thefts.

In a series of hijackings late last year, bands of dozens of people, armed sometimes with machetes and rocks, sacked entire trainloads of corn and beans.

Rising unemployment from an economic downturn in Mexico and the United States has left legions of young men out of work, also aggravating the crime problem.

If the goods are not targeted in transit they can be hit before they are even loaded up.

When the lime harvest began last December in the western state of Michoacan, truckers packing produce were greeted by men with guns claiming links to two powerful drug cartels in the region and demanding a fee for each crate.

Luis Armas, who represents a group wholesalers in western Mexico, said the extortionists asked for cash as frequently as three times a week until the season ended in March.

The “tax” on about three-quarters of the national supply during those months raised the price of limes by a peso or two per kilo, Armas estimated.

“We usually don’t carry weapons and don’t have private security. We are easy targets,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Amnesty International Slams Italy

‘Climate of racism and failure to respect migrants’ rights’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 28 — Amnesty International has slammed Italy for racism and its failure to respect the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers in its 2009 global report on the state of human rights.

The report highlighted the plight of Roma gypsies living in Italy, who it said were the victims of racially motivated attacks and forced evictions as well as being unprotected by the authorities Speaking on Wednesday, a day before the report was made public, Amnesty’s Italian branch president, Christine Weise, said the Roma were “in many cases at the centre of contempt” for human rights in “a climate of growing racism”.

Amnesty also criticised Italy for failing to address human rights violations committed in the context of the United States-led programme of renditions with reference to the alleged CIA abduction of a Muslim cleric from Milan in 2003.

Abu Omar says he was snatched by a team of CIA operatives with the help of Italian military intelligence agency SISMI and whisked off to a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany.

From there, he was taken to Egypt to be interrogated, reportedly under duress.

Nasr, who was under investigation in Italy on suspicion of helping terrorists, was released early in 2007 from an Egyptian jail where he says he was beaten, given electric shocks and threatened with rape.

He has demanded millions of euros in compensation from the Italian government.

Italy is currently conducting a landmark trial into the affair but this is being held up by conflicting state-secrecy pleas.

Amnesty’s report also condemns Italy for “failing to include torture as a crime in its criminal code or to introduce an effective police accountability mechanism”.

It claims investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials were “inadequate” and highlighted trials against police accused of brutality at the 2001 Group of Eight summit in Genoa.

FRATTINI PLEDGES TO WORK WITH LIBYA.

The report does not cover Italy’s recent controversial decision to to return migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya back to the north African country.

However, it criticised Italy for “lacking comprehensive legislation for the protection of asylum seekers”.

Weise on Wednesday described the “driving back of refugees who arrive by boat in deep seas” as “an expression of (Italy’s) contempt for human rights and for really desperate people who are looking for help”.

She also said Italy would be “held responsible” for what happens to migrants and asylum seekers brought back to Libya in view of “persistent reports of torture and other mistreatment of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers” there.

Italy has sent back to Libya, which has not signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, nearly 500 would-be migrants since the launch of the policy on May 6. In a chapter on Libya, the Amnesty report says authorities announced in January their intention to expel all illegal immigrants from the country. “They consequently conducted mass expulsions of Ghanaians, Malians, Nigerians and citizens from other countries,” it said. The report said that 700 Eritreans are also “at risk of forced repatriation (from Libya), despite fears that they will be exposed to serious human rights violations in Eritrea”. On Tuesday Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini pledged to put pressure on Libya to grant full diplomatic powers to UN refugee agency UNHCR so that it will be able to vet the asylum claims of would-be migrants. Frattini added that Libya had expressed willingness to work with UNHCR, describing this as “an important step forward”. Last week the UNHCR complained that Libya does not allow its representatives to visit all its migrant holding centres.

The UNHCR’s spokeswoman in Italy, Laura Boldrini, told RAI radio that although the agency has an office in Tripoli with local staff and two foreign representatives, it is there “unofficially”. Italy’s immigration policy has come under criticism from the UN, the Catholic Church and humanitarian organisations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy-Malta Quarrel Resolved

(ANSAmed) — ROME — A summit between Italy, Malta and Libya to face the problem of immigration together, helping the UNHCR to have greater power and recognition in Tripoli as well. But not to solve it, because the problem of immigration is still a “European problem”. In their first meeting since the Pinar incident, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and his Maltese counterpart, Tonio Borg are now speaking about “quarrel between old friends”, confirming that cooperation between the two countries will be the utmost, and they are united in calling Europe in to help: “we refuse to solve this problem bilaterally if Europe is at a standstill”. What Italy and Malta can do, explained Frattini, is to try to “avoid new cases like the Pinar one”, the boat loaded with immigrants which was rescued by Italy in Maltese waters after Valletta turned it away. Through patrols along the Libyan coastline, where 95% of immigrants come from, with bilateral agreements (during Saturday night, Sunday morning, Libyan police arrested 400 people including human traffickers and illegal immigrants), and not just that. The Foreign minister, supported by his Maltese counterpart, relaunched the idea of examining the position of immigrants and asylum requests directly from Tripoli through the UNHCR. And after the harsh criticisms of recent weeks, he confirmed today that the UN office in Tripoli would not be abandoned but would have Italy and Malta’s support. Full “willingness” has come from Tripoli to work with the UNHCR. Libya today launched an appeal to ask the EU to honour agreements made over employment. This was positive news for the UNHCR’s spokesperson in Italy, Laura Boldrini, who remarked however that “the UN agency alone cannot be the solution for protecting those seeking asylum” in a country like Libya which still has no asylum law, and has not signed the Geneva convention of 1951 on the status of refugees. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Maroni, Illegal Immigration Has Been Halted

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The flow of illegal landings on the southern shores of Italy has come to an “almost standstill”. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni stated as much during question time in parliament. He stated that this was achieved “thanks to the effective political fight against illegal immigration carried out by the government, which has implemented operations to accompany immigrants back to where they departed from and turn away illegal immigrants”. As a result the reception centre in Lampedusa was basically empty today because the last 20 illegal immigrants have been transferred to centres that handle requests for political asylum. Minister Maroni then revealed that since the May 6, the day when Italy started directly sending immigrants back to Libya, “the flow of illegal immigrants towards the shores of Sicily, and Lampedusa in particular, has been stopped. This will not make us shut down the Lampedusa centre”. Maroni then announced that he will meet with representatives of the Libyan government in the coming days to “promote” cooperation and commitment to raise awareness in the EU about the battle against illegal immigration. Maroni, boasting results achieved by the government’s policies, emphasised that “Lampedusa has been depicted by the press as a place where a large number of illegal aliens are crammed into a reception centre, all 2,000 of them, and in the past there were even more people, with all sorts of problems”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Roma Camps: Turin and Venice Prefects Named Commissioners

(AGI) — Rome, 28 May — The prefects of Turin and Venice have been appointed extraordinary commissioners to manage the emergency situation of Italy’s Roma camps with an civil protection ordinance, announced Interior Minister Roberto Maroni after a cabinet meeting.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


UK: Government Fights for Numbers Secrecy on Abortions

Data on the number of abortions performed for conditions like club foot and cleft palate must remain secret, government officials will argue today.

An appeal panel will listen to experts who believe the numbers must remain confidential after the Information Commissioner ruled that they must be disclosed.

Such data — involving abortions carried out for reasons like cleft palate, club foot and webbed fingers or toes — was published up until 2002.

But ministers stopped the practice if fewer than 10 cases were involved, saying there was a risk the women or doctors involved could be identified.

The ProLife Alliance challenged this stance in 2005 and requested a release of the figures under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Information Commissioner ordered ministers to publish the data, but the Department of Health refused and appealed against the commissioner’s decision.

Ministers originally called for the hearing to be held in private so the data could be discussed.

An agreement has since been reached with the Information Commissioner’s Office for only part of the hearing to be heard in private.

Abortions can be carried out up until birth under category E, which relates to disability, as long as two doctors agree the procedure should be performed.

There is no list exempting certain conditions such as cleft palate or club foot.

A spokeswoman for the ProLife Alliance said: “We believe there should be absolute transparency and openness about these statistics.

“Abortion is not a right; it can be performed if you fulfil certain conditions under law. Otherwise it remains a criminal act.

“We have been very clear that we have asked for information about all abortions, not just those after 24 weeks.

“This case is about transparency.”

She said it was “nonsense” for the Department of Health to suggest doctors could be at risk of being identified.

People who wished to campaign or pray outside abortion clinics only had to go on the internet to find a clinic rather than looking through Department of Health figures, she said.

She said it was the department’s job to adopt a neutral position on the issue rather than “taking sides” in the debate.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Data on abortions is considered highly sensitive personal data.

“The Office for National Statistics guidance does not recommend releasing any data with a count of less than 10. Releasing such data could increase the risk of identifying individuals.

“The guidance provides clear boundaries to make as much information about abortions available as possible, whilst protecting the individuals concerned — both patients and doctors.

“When the ProLife Alliance asked the Department to release the full data in 2005, we withheld it to secure individuals’ confidentiality.

“However, following an appeal from the ProLife Alliance, the Information Commissioner ruled that the department should release the full data.

“The tribunal hearing taking place on 29 May — 3 June will decide whether the data should be released.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

General


UN Expert: US Failing to Properly Probe War Crimes

GENEVA — An independent U.N. human rights investigator said Thursday that the United States is failing to properly investigate alleged war crimes committed by its soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although some cases are investigated and lead to prosecutions, others aren’t or result in lenient sentences, said Philip Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.

“There have been chronic and deplorable accountability failures with respect to policies, practices and conduct that resulted in alleged unlawful killings — including possible war crimes — in the United States’ international operations,” Alston said in a report dated May 26 and published on a U.N. Web site.

A spokesman for the U.S. mission in Geneva, Dick Wilbur, said Alston’s conclusions and recommendations would be reviewed closely.

“We support the independence and work of all U.N. special rapporteurs and meet regularly with those who examine issues in the U.S., including Mr. Alston,” he said.

Alston, a New York University law professor, stressed he saw no evidence on a recent trip to Afghanistan that U.S. forces were committing “widespread” abuses or war crimes.

The U.S. military has conducted dozens of investigations into misconduct by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of which have resulted in trials and convictions.

But among numerous cases mentioned in the report, Alston cited that of Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, convicted of negligent homicide in the death of Abed Hamed Mowhoush, an Iraqi general who had turned himself in to military authorities. Mowhoush suffocated after his head was covered with a sleeping bag and an electrical cord wrapped around his neck. Welshofer was fined and ordered reprimanded, without jail time.

The U.N. investigator raised the case with U.S. authorities but said he has yet to receive a response.

Alston also criticized the lack of solid statistics on civilian casualties in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Figures collected by the U.S. military on Iraqi civilians killed at checkpoints because they were mistaken for suicide bombers had resulted in changes to military procedure that saved lives, he said.

Alston, an Australian, also examined alleged instances of illegal executions inside the United States, and recommended a systematic review of the death penalty in those states that apply it.

Like other U.N. human rights investigators, Alston is independent and unpaid, but his expenses are covered by the United Nations. His reports have no legal impact, but serve to highlight what he sees as abuses. He is reporting next week on Brazil, Afghanistan, Kenya and Central African Republic.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

United in Hate

We got an email from one of our tipsters, KGS. He’d read our Bruce Bawer post about the hostile reception his new book received from a Norwegian feminist (of the orthodox Communist denomination). Reading about Bawer’s experience prompted this response from KGS:

You know, that piece about Bruce Bawer by Fjordman reminds of a powerful video at Front Page of Jamie Glazov speaking about the same things concerning the Left. I highly advise watching it… it’s still viewable at the top of the page.

And indeed it was still at the top.

The speech turned out to be in two parts. I’d decided just to look at the first video but his story was so intensely personal that I was hooked into watching the second section also. That is the one I chose for this post, though I recommend both.



The occasion for his talk was Mr. Glazov’s promotion of his new book, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

In the first video, he relates some of his background, of having been born “a slave” in the USSR to parents who were dissidents against Communism. The arrest of his father on trumped-up charges was imminent; most likely he would have been arrested and sent away had there not been “ a tiny window of opportunity” during the détente created by Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. As a result of that thaw, some dissidents were permitted to leave and the Glazov family was among them. Arriving in New York when he was five, Jamie Glazov most vividly recalls being able to “smell the freedom”.
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After watching both parts of his speech, I was intrigued enough to see what other readers were saying about his book. Here is the second comment left on the Amazon site by Steven Clark Bradley, who seems to be an author himself. His remarks closely reflect Glazov’s themes:

[…]…The title says it all and the diabolical linkage that Jaime Glazov reveals between those who kill for god and leftists who kill because they think they are God. I really admire the way Mr. Glazov compared apparent contradictions, bringing out very clear and convincing proof that tyrants and fanatics have a natural affinity for one another.

Glazov…speculates as to why the leftists, who talk of rights for their fellow believers, find it so easy to wrap their arms around Islamic terrorists, the most gay-hating, woman-hating and minority-hating force on earth today. He also pondered why “progressives” heap admiration upon regimes under which they themselves would be eliminated. Why would Liberal women, who have a long history of talking about helping themselves right up to the highest rungs of the social ladder, ignore the suffering of millions of women living under gender-based Islamic oppression?

…United In Hate’ is not just another book written about Islam, nor is it a book that only rehashes histories about Stalin or Lenin. Jamie Glazov has written a book that goes beyond actions or words to expose the motivations of why these two natural enemies, Radical Islam and the Liberal Left, are caressing each other in a warm embrace of death.

[…]

The Left’s hatred and rejection of Western civilization, its freedoms and values, begins with an acute sense of alienation from it, and unable to “fit in” the Left believes radical societal change, regardless of the consequences, is necessary. After all it’s the West’s fault that the Left has no sense of purpose or direction. Although the Left vehemently argues against this premise, its words and actions prove Dr. Glazov’s case.

The ideological descendents of the communist/progressive Left that spent its capital hoping the West would lose the Cold War to the Soviet Union are today’s leftist core. Based on their hatred for the United States, the Left has forged a symbiotic relationship with radical Islam, whose hatred for America equals theirs. Both make it clear that they consider Western civilization evil and unworthy of preservation. Violent revolution is the Left’s path to change; the Jihadists’ follow the path of war and annihilation.

Some might think Dr. Glazov has taken a wrong turn in his analysis of the radical Left’s agenda and beliefs. If so, they should read the scurrilous quotes of Michael Moore extolling the virtues of the “Iraqi freedom fighters,” or Ward Churchill’s and Jeremiah Wright’s crowing after 9/11 that “America’s chickens have come home to roost.” Or, they should examine the genuflexing before the world’s tyrants by the likes of Jimmy Carter, Sean Penn and Tom Hayden. Dr. Glazov’s take on the radical Left is correct and as sharp as a tightly focused laser.

Definitely a book to go on my reading list. Fortunately, our small county library presents both liberal and conservative books for their patrons, unlike the Democrat-controlled library system in the near by university town. Only the politically correct tomes are permitted to appear on their shelves, or at least that used to be the case when I had occasion to visit there. It was kind of like Barnes and Noble, but without Starbucks.

Since things are more polarized than ever, I doubt their Leftist book policies have changed.

Geert Wilders Breaks Out

Geert Wilders is breaking out of the blue-collar ghetto.

Support for the Freedom Party is no longer confined to ignorant bigoted working-class voters. Even fairly well-educated people are now saying that they will vote for Wilders in the next election. In other words, people who should know better.

That’s the not-so-buried subtext of the following MSM article, taken from Radio Netherlands:

Wilders’ party on the brink of acceptance?

“I’m going to vote for Geert Wilders.”

Geert WildersBe careful where you say those words. Geert Wilders has had more media coverage than any other Dutch politician in the past two years. His Freedom Party could be the largest party in the country, at least according to some recent opinion polls. Nevertheless supporting Geert Wilders is not universally accepted.

With elections to the European parliament coming up next week, it is the first chance for the Freedom Party to capitalize on its recent increases in the polls. Is Geert Wilders on the brink of becoming socially acceptable?

Gaining ground

The core of Wilders support comes from working class voters who feel left out of the political system. But his popularity has spread beyond this core group of supporters ever since the United Kingdom barred him from entering the country in February, and the recent decision to prosecute him here in the Netherlands for hate speech.

Even a well-known sports commentator said he would vote for the Freedom Party, and polls have shown increased support for Wilders among those higher up the education scale. Political Scientist Andre Krouwel is not impressed with Wilders’ new emphasis on freedom of expression.

“I think a lot of people see through that. A lot of people see that he is hypocritical when he says, I should be able to enter the UK when I want to, I should be able to travel freely, but then he says, people can’t enter the Netherlands. And he argues that he should be able to say anything, but at the same time you can’t read the Qur’an and you can’t say anything about Islam.”

Freedom of expression

But hypocritical or not, the issue of freedom of expression appeals to many people with a higher education. Sociologist Dick Pels says Wilders has a point.

“Wilders of course successfully claims that he’s a victim of the narrow definition of freedom of speech in the Netherlands. And he’s right in that, I support this notion that freedom of speech is too narrowly drawn in the Dutch constitution. I would never vote for Wilders but there are a number of people who just on this issue are thinking maybe he is the most visible representative of this idea that freedom of speech should be defended.”

“I would never vote for Wilders”.

No, of course he wouldn’t. No one in elite Dutch society would admit doing so, not if he wanted to keep his state-funded job. But the interesting thing is that this guy is admitting that there might be some people, real people, people who aren’t slack-jawed Neanderthals, who are planning to vote for the PVV.

The article continues:
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More acceptable

And that has helped Wilders become somewhat more acceptable. But Andre Krouwel says asking whether Wilders himself will ever become socially acceptable is the wrong question.

“What is more important is not what Wilders does, he doesn’t matter. He will never be important enough, he will never be in government, or if he is, the party will collapse. What is important is what the two other major right wing parties, what they do with him. If they start copying his agenda, then everything changes, because then he is actually taking the other two parties with him to the right, and to a level where they would limit the rights of a certain group of people, namely Moroccans and Muslims.”

This is Wilders acting as a catalyst, getting extreme ideas accepted in mainstream political debate. However far Wilders gets in the future, he’s already succeeded in shifting the contours of the debate.

This article is a sign that the Dutch MSM is whistling past the graveyard.

“He will never be important enough, he will never be in government, or if he is, the party will collapse.”

How does this guy know that?

What happens if the PVV is by far the largest party in parliament after the next election — which is not at all implausible?

Can the existing power structure in the Netherlands rig a constitutionally legal way to nullify the election or suspend the PVV?

Or are they counting on Mr. Wilders getting the Pim Fortuyn treatment?



Hat tip: TB.

Everybody Must Get Stoned

Here’s another brief note from Fjordman:

The great Belgian orientalist Dr. Koenraad Elst, an expert on Islamic atrocities in India, has published a post at The Brussels Journal about stoning in Islam as a response to my essay Why Christians Accepted Greek Natural Philosophy, But Muslims Did Not. Here is what he has to say:

In his article on how the Greco-Roman heritage impacted Christianity but not Islam, Fjordman has mentioned the different treatment of adulterers in the two religions. He correctly relates how Jewish law prescribed death by stoning as punishment for adultery (Deut.22:19-23), how Jesus overruled this law, how the Jews gradually let it lapse, and how Mohammed chose to uphold it, as his more zealous followers do until today. But the contrast is even sharper than this.

In the Hadith collection of Al-Muslim (4211 and 4214), Mohammed’s intervention in a dispute over the punishment of an adulterous couple is described. The Jewish couple was brought before Mohammed, who, though an immigrant, had just established himself as the sole ruler of Medina. He asked Jewish bystanders what punishment the Torah prescribed for this offence. They said: “We blacken their faces and make them ride on a donkey with their faces turned backwards.” Mohammed ordered a copy of the Torah brought, and the prescribed punishment was found to be death by stoning. So he ordered the couple to be stoned. The companion who passed on this story, Abdullah ibn Umar, testifies: “I was one of those who stoned them, and I saw him protecting her with his body.” Wow, that was true passion, until both died under the pious rain of stones.

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That is why even under the onslaught of modernity, Muslims are reluctant to relax this stone-age punishment for adultery. That is why the enlightened Islamic spokesman Tariq Ramadan will only go as far as considering a “moratorium” on stoning but not its abolition. After all, Mohammed not merely prescribed this punishment: he specifically reversed an attempt at relaxing it. Islam is essentially an imitation of Mohammed’s model behaviour. Therefore, a true Muslim must emulate the Prophet’s resistance against any “progressive” tendency towards laxer modes of punishment.

But let us conclude on a lighter note. A jolly Australian lady friend used this topic to explain to me the difference between Iran and Australia: “In Iran, you fornicate and then you get stoned. In Australia, you first get stoned and then you fornicate.”

Flanders Pays Through the Nose for the EU

The wealthier countries of the EU pay to support the poorer countries. It’s well-known that the more mature and healthier economies of northern and western Europe are being tapped to support their poorer neighbors. One dreads to think how much more of their wealth will be transferred once Turkey joins the EU.

The following press release from Vlaams Belang demonstrates that out of all the countries in Europe, Flanders pays the most per capita to support the EU



No one pays more to the EU than a Flemish citizen

A Fleming pays twice as much as a Walloon, triple as much as a Briton and five times more than a Frenchman.

It was already known that, from the 27 EU-member states, 15 are net recipients and 12 are net contributors. Belgium is a large net contributor. The Vlaams Belang group in the European Parliament, led by Frank Vanhecke, has now calculated how much each citizen of Flanders and Wallonia pays each year. The result is surprising: with 1780 million euro net, not a single EU-country pays more per head than Flanders: each Fleming pays 282 euro net per year.

This is more than the 272 euro each Dutchman pays per year. This is almost twice as much as a Walloon pays (164 euro). It is also double the amount of a German’s contribution (114 euro) and almost triple as much as that of a Briton. It is even five times more than the 53 euro a Frenchman pays and the 49 euro an Italian contributes.

The 2007 ‘hit parade’ of the largest EU-contributors looks like this:

1.   Flanders   1780 million euro divided by 6.3 million inhabitants = 282.6 euro/Fleming
2.   The Netherlands   4464.1 million euro divided by 16.4 million inhabitants = 272 euro/Dutchman
3.   Luxembourg   117 million euro divided by 476.187 million inhabitants = 245.7 euro/Luxembourger
4.   Wallonia   690.5 million euro divided by 4.2 million inhabitants = 164.5 euro/Walloon
5.   Denmark   817.4 million euro divided by 5.4 million inhabitants = 151.3 euro/Dane
6.   Sweden   1280.2 million euro divided by 9.1 million inhabitants = 140.6 euro/Swede
7.   Germany   9393.6 million euro divided by 82.3 million inhabitants = 114.1 euro/German
8.   Great Britain   6156.6 million euro divided by 60.8 million inhabitants = 101.2 euro/Briton
9.   Austria   639.7 million euro divided by 8.2 million inhabitants = 78 euro/Austrian
10.   Cyprus   49.2 million euro divided by 778.684 inhabitants = 62 euro/Cypriot
11.   France   3362.3 million euro divided by 63.3 million inhabitants = 53.1 euro/Frenchman
12.   Italy   2938.3 million euro divided by 59.1 million inhabitants = 49.7 euro/Italian
13.   Finland   229.1 million euro divided by 5.2 million inhabitants = 44 euro/Finn

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Vlaams Belang advocates solidarity on a European scale, between rich and poor countries and regions, but thinks that Flanders and the Netherlands contribute far too much. Frank Vanhecke, former chairman and Vlaams Belang MEP, calls therefore on the Dutch parties to form a Flemish-Dutch front for an absolute limitation of the EU-contribution, namely 200 euro per head. Therefore, the European Union needs to save, for example by abolishing the traveling circus of Brussels-Strasbourg (200 million per year) as well as the scandalous severance payment of more than one million euro for European Commissionaires, and by cutting in the large number of redundant ‘agencies’.

Frank Vanhecke
Vlaams Belang Member of the European Parliament