Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/3/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/3/2009The financial crisis has generated a bizarre news item: Sweden has just instituted a negative rate on bank deposits. That is, the bank charges you a percentage on any money you deposit.

I suppose this is a logical corollary to declining interest rates on loans, so that eventually banks will be paying people to borrow money. Weird.

In other financial news, the Netherlands is considering bank help for prostitutes, and a Latvian banker is demanding that customers sign over their immortal souls as collateral on loans.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CJHS, CSP, Diana West, Gaia, Insubria, JD, KGS, Nilk, Steen, TB, the Lurker from Tulsa, TK, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Italy: Everything Suggests That the American Bonds Seized at Chiasso Are Real
Latvian Banker Taking Souls as Collateral
New Evidence on the Foreclosure Crisis
Sweden: A Negative Deposit Rate
 
USA
A Survey of Civic Knowledge Among Arizona High School Students
Actor Jon Voight Rebuts ‘Hate Speech’ Tag
Are We Still Free on This 4th of July?
Communism Morphed to Socialism and Still Targets America
Congress’s Travel Tab Swells
Exxon-Mobil Funds Climate-Change Sceptics
None Dare Call it Marxism
NYC Forced to Honor Islam Sept. 11?
Obamadinejad — Will You Still Dance With Me?
Oklahoma State Lawmakers Urge an End to Nation’s ‘Moral Crisis’
Palin Resigning as Alaska Governor on July 26
Powell Airs Doubts on Obama Agenda
Rick Warren Does It, Again
Should Linking be Illegal?
Texas Trying to Save ‘NAFTA Superhighway’?
The EPA Silences a Climate Skeptic
US Respects Muslims: Farah
Was America Sold?
 
Europe and the EU
Agriculture: Spain’s Rich Yield Curbs Turkey’s Cherry Exports
Austria and China. The Bishops With the Lowest Grades
Church ‘Risks New Galileo Mistake’
Cyprus Tax Burden Increase Highest in EU
Islamist Radicalization — A Swedish Problem Denied
Italy: People of Freedom Wins Back Province of Milan as Democratic Party Retains Mayorships of Bologna and Florence
Italy: The Last Days of the Court of King Silvio
Netherlands: Amsterdam Considering Bank Help for Prostitutes
Pope Benedict Clears Way for Cardinal John Newman to Become First English Saint in 40 Years
The Frankfurt School: Conspiracy to Corrupt
UK: Giant Compost Heaps Could Raise Risk of Skin and Lung Conditions
UK: Man Who Left Girlfriend to Burn to Death After Car Crash is Jailed for Six Years
UK: Pigeons Are Trained as Fussy Art Critics in Bizarre Study
Video: Controversial Taser Shotgun Weapon Launched
 
Mediterranean Union
Food: Oil, Italy Caught Off-Guard by Med Competition
Gaza Water Project Priority for Elysee
 
North Africa
Algeria Passes Cybercrime Law
Egypt: Christian Copts Appeal to Mubarak for Protection Amid Renewed Sectarian Violence
Islam: Tension With the West Tackled by Al-Azhar Graduates
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Amnesty Report Also Criticized by Hamas
Hugh Fitzgerald: Stop This Naive Talk About “Two Peoples” And About a “Solution”
Israeli Navy Performs “Unusual” Drill in Suez
UNRWA Launches Appeal for Palestinian Rights
 
Middle East
Algeria: OIC Condemns ‘Foreign Interference’ In Iran
Diana West: Iraq is Victorious… Over the ‘Foreign’ U.S.?
Former Jordanian PM Calls Israel ‘A Cancer’
Iran: Richman Rafsanjani Using Street Protests Against Powerful Pasdarans
Iraq: U.S. General Hails Turkey as Major Strategic Partner
Jordan: Canned Foods With Forbidden Ingredients ‘Invade’ Kingdom
Syria-USA: Asma Al-Assad ‘Would be Happy to Host the Obamas’
Tehran Cleric Detains British Embassy Staff Over Election Unrest
Turkey: Controversy Over, ‘Saison’ Opens in France
 
Russia
Obama Not Fully Informed on Russia: Putin Spokesman
 
South Asia
Pakistan: Taliban Buying Children for Suicide Bombers
 
Far East
China’s Green Dam Internet Filtering System Will Go Ahead, Official Says
 
Latin America
Hands Off Honduras!
Honduras Rejects OAS Appeal to Restore President
Luis Fleischman in the Americas Report: Time to Reject Dictatorship in Latin America
Oliver North: “Obama: Wrong Again”
SC Senator Defends Ouster of Honduran President
 
Immigration
Finland: Egyptian Grandmother Faces Deportation
Hospital Lures Mexican Moms
Italy: Crackdown on Illegal Immigration
Netherlands VVD: Widespread Use of Fake Human Trafficking Reports
Press: Med Agencies, On Immigration No Xenophobic Terms
 
Culture Wars
Holder: ‘Gays’ Protected, Ministers Not
Homosexual ‘Weddings’ Should be Celebrated in Church, Says Chris Bryant
Separate Water Fountains
 
General
WHO Warns Swine Flu ‘Unstoppable’

Financial Crisis


Italy: Everything Suggests That the American Bonds Seized at Chiasso Are Real

Official U.S. sources continue to say they are fakes, but there is no news that American experts have inspected them in person. Arrested for another matter, the director of a U.S. radio who says the bonds are real and Japan was trying to sell in Switzerland, not trusting the ability of the United States to honour its debt.

Milan (AsiaNews) — Four weeks have passed since American bonds were confiscated from two Japanese who were travelling on a direct train to Chiasso, Switzerland, and while there has been clarification of some points, very few, Italian authorities have remained silent on the rest of the episode.

In addition, a strange coincidence in the timing of the arrest of a director of an internet radio who had made revelations regarding the incident increases the already strong oddities surrounding the case. This added to the revaluation of the fact that among the evidence seized there were “Kennedy Bond” all points toward the authenticity of the items seized by the Guardia di Finanza (GdF) in early June.

The major English-speaking newspapers ignored the story for a couple of weeks. They only started to report on it after the Bloomberg agency carried a story on 18 / 6, in which a spokesman for the Treasury, Meyerhardt, declared that the bonds, based on photos available on the Internet, were “clearly false.” The same day, the Financial Times (FT) published an article whose title laid the blame for the (alleged) infringement at the feet of the Italian Mafia, despite the fact that the article failed to make even one possible connection with the episode in Chiasso. Nevertheless, the version of events as reported in FT was taken up by others as being “appropriate” (given that it is a very common cliché about Italy and it is a sequester that took place in Italy) and in the end “colourful.” It’s a pity that it goes against all logic: that the Mafia tried to pass unnoticed in its attempt to dump fake bonds amounting to 134.5 billion dollars and moreover were to “stung” a mere step from their gaol, is not very credible.

Most recently last week, 25 / 6, the New York Times reported on the story in particular, the allegations of CIA spokesman, Darrin Blackford: the U.S. Secret Service carried out inspections, as required by the Italian judiciary, and found that they were fictitious financial instruments, never issued by the “U.S. government”. It is not clear, however, how the checks mentioned Blackford were carried out and whether they were also are carried out via internet. According to official Italian sources, in fact, the Commission of American experts, expected in Italy, have yet to arrive. Furthermore, the bonds were accompanied by a recent and original bank record. It is therefore unclear how the U.S. authorities can declare fake documentation that does not originate from the Fed or the U.S. Department of Treasury.

On the contrary, claims in support of the bond’s authenticity were made 20 / 6 on the Turner Radio Network (TRN), an independent radio station broadcast via Internet. On that date in a massive exposure, TRN stated that the two Japanese arrested by the Guardia di Finanza (GdF) and then released in Ponte Chiasso were employees of the Japanese Ministry for Treasury. AsiaNews had also received similar reports: one of the two Japanese arrested in Chiasso and then released is Tuneo Yamauchi, brother of Toshiro Muto, until recently vice governor of the Bank of Japan. On its website, the creator and presenter of Radio, Hal Turner, had also claimed that his sources had revealed that the Italian authorities believe the evidence to be authentic and that the two Japanese officials are from the Japanese Ministry for Finance. They were supposed to bring the bonds to Switzerland because the Japanese government had apparently lost confidence in U.S. ability to repay its debt. Japanese financial authorities therefore were trying to sell a part of the securities in their possession through parallel channels ahead of an imminent financial disaster, thanks to the anonymity which, Turner said, is guaranteed by the laws of Switzerland.

AsiaNews does not know to what extent Turner’s revelations can be held as credible, given that in this case too, it is difficult to believe that $ 134.5 billion would pass unnoticed anywhere in the world. It seems far more logical to assume that the bonds, if authentic, were directed to the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, BIS, the central bank of central banks ahead of the issuance of securities in a new supranational currency. Turner had in any event added that as evidence of his support of his revelations he would have provided the serial numbers of the seized bonds. Before it could do so, however, was imprisoned. Hal Turner is the journalist who long ago first broke the news of a secret plan to replace the dollar, after a severe financial crisis, with a common North American currency, the Amero. In a dramatic phone call from inside the prison in which he is detained pending trial, relayed via internet, Hal Turner claims that his arrest is political and it is in relation to securities seized in Chiasso, because the authorities are terrorized by his revelations regarding the bonds’ authenticity. Of course, the allegations made against him have to nothing to do with the story and thus an already intricate story becomes increasingly complex. Turner maintains that he did not personally formulate the disclosure for which he has been imprisoned. Although it was clearly his responsibility to remain vigilant, it is also true that blogs from around the world and the U.S. themselves are full of threats and provocations. The coincidental timing, the unusual diligence and the details of his arrest arouse suspicions about the true motives of the American federal police. Indeed, this very arrest suggests that the evidence seized from GdF are truly authentic.

One more element in favour of the bond’s authenticity is found in the securities, which in the June 4 statement, the GdF termed “Kennedy Bonds” with photos provided. These photos reveal that the securities under discussion are not bonds but Treasury Notes, because they are securities that can be immediately exchanged for their worth in goods or services and because they are devoid of interest coupons. One side carries a reproduction of the image of the American president, the reverse side that of a spaceship. From confidential, usually well-informed sources, AsiaNews has learned that this type of paper money was issued less than ten years ago (in 1998), although it is difficult to know whether those seized in Chiasso are authentic. But the fact that the release of this particular State Treasury was not completely in the public domain tends to exclude the possibility of counterfeiting. It highly unreasonable to suppose that a forger would reproduce a State Treasury not commonly in circulation and of which there is no public knowledge. For this reason, it can be concluded that the 124.5 billion dollars divided in 249 bonds of 500 million each are authentic. These titles, although referred to as “Federal Reserve Notes” are actually bonds, because they accrue interest and are redeemable at maturity. But one question remains unsolved regarding them. It is somewhat hard to understand why the securities, which were from the outset indistinguishable from the original to the GdF, all have their coupons. Any ordinary investor, even a state, would have cashed in the interest coupon every year, so as not to lose purchasing power.

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



Latvian Banker Taking Souls as Collateral

Ready to give your soul for a loan in these difficult economic times? In Latvia, where the crisis has raged more than in the rest of the European Union, you can.

Such a deal is being offered by the Kontora loan company, whose public face is Viktor Mirosiichenko, 34.

Clients have to sign a contract, with the words “Agreement” in bold letters at the top. The client agrees to the collateral, “that is, my immortal soul”.

Mirosiichenko said his company would not employ debt collectors to get its money back if people refused to repay, and promised no physical violence.

Signatories only have to give their first name and do not show any documents.

“If they don’t give it back, what can you do? They won’t have a soul, that’s all,” he told Reuters in a basement office, with one desk, a computer and three chairs.

Wearing sunglasses, a black suit and a white shirt with the words “Kontora” (office) emblazoned on it, he reaches into his pocket and lays out a sheaf of notes on the table to show that the business is serious and not a joke…

[Return to headlines]



New Evidence on the Foreclosure Crisis

Zero money down, not subprime loans, led to the mortgage meltdown.

[…]

Many policy makers and ordinary people blame the rise of foreclosures squarely on subprime mortgage lenders who presumably misled borrowers into taking out complex loans at low initial interest rates. Those hapless individuals were then supposedly unable to make the higher monthly payments when their mortgage rates reset upwards.

But the focus on subprimes ignores the widely available industry facts (reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association) that 51% of all foreclosed homes had prime loans, not subprime, and that the foreclosure rate for prime loans grew by 488% compared to a growth rate of 200% for subprime foreclosures.

[Return to headlines]



Sweden: A Negative Deposit Rate

There has been a lot of ludicrous recommendations recently to combat deflation by making deposit rates negative. I did not think any central bank would be dumb enough to try it. I thought wrong.

Today, Riksbank, Sweeden’s central bank cut the deposit rate to -0.25% effectively charging savers interest on deposited money.

[Return to headlines]

USA


A Survey of Civic Knowledge Among Arizona High School Students

by Matthew Ladner

To determine students’ level of basic civic knowledge, we surveyed Arizona high school students with questions drawn from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) item bank, which consists of 100 questions given to candidates for United States citizenship. The longstanding practice has been for candidates to take a test on 10 of these items. A minimum of six correct answers is required to pass. The service recently reported a first-try passing rate of 92.4 percent.

The Goldwater Institute survey, conducted by a private survey firm, gave each student 10 items from the USCIS item bank. We grouped results according to the type of school students attend-public, charter, or private. Questions included (1) Who was the first president of the United States? (2) Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? and (3) What ocean is located on the East Coast of the United States?

All three groups of Arizona high school students scored alarmingly low on the test. Only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students attending public schools passed the citizenship test. The passing rate for charter school students was about twice as high as for public school students. Private school students passed at a rate almost four times higher than public school students.

This study details the results of the civic knowledge survey and sounds an alarm. Our recommendation is to require public school students to pass the same test required for applicants for citizenship as a condition for receiving a diploma. Further, we recommend that Arizona’s public universities require proof of passing such an exam as a condition of admission.

[Return to headlines]



Actor Jon Voight Rebuts ‘Hate Speech’ Tag

Dissent, he says, isn’t ‘hate’

Free speech got a loud boost from Hollywood on Wednesday. Jon Voight has responded to accusations from a critic sympathetic to the American Communist Party, who said the actor had used hate speech and threatened the well-being of President Obama during a recent appearance before Republicans in Washington.

Mr. Voight denied both charges, saying that those who speak out against the Obama administration are “demonized” and “attacked,” often with hate speech.

[…]

Toward the end of his speech, Mr. Voight lauded a list of 23 high-profile Republicans, saying “Let’s give thanks to them for staying on course to bring an end to this false prophet, Obama.”

[…]

Ms. Albano said in response that, “It sounds like Mr. Voight is standing by what he said. And I am standing by what I said,”

Mr. Voight also cited the magazine’s history.

“Ms. Albano is the editor of the People’s Weekly World, a paper published by the Communist Party USA. Originally, it was called the ‘Daily Worker,’ and it adhered to the Stalinist party line, from the time of Josef Stalin’s rise to power in the Soviet Union,” he said.

The publication’s editorials “constantly criticized any and all opponents of Stalinist socialism, including other communists, such as Leon Trotsky,” Mr. Voight said. “In 1945, Louis Budenz — who was managing editor and a self-admitted recruiter of agents for the Soviet NKVD, a forerunner of the KGB — was part of a spy ring in the U.S.”

The publication’s heritage had given Mr. Voight great pause.

“I find it very troubling that people like Teresa Albano, with her background, are backing President Obama’s policies and trying to defame my name,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Are We Still Free on This 4th of July?

For those who have forgotten the dangers of communism (called globalism, socialism, environmentalism and internationalism now) here is a list of communist goals: Recognize anything?

  • Capture one or both of the political parties in the US.
  • Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions, by claiming their activities violate civil rights.
  • Infiltrate the press.
  • Gain control of key positions in radio, TV and motion pictures.
  • Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed, religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity, which does not need a “religious crutch.”
  • Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in schools on the grounds that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”
  • Discredit the American founding fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”
  • Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of “the big picture.”
  • Promote the UN as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government, with its own independent armed forces.

The above are just a few of the dozens of goals in communism that is now socialism taking over our country as we speak.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Communism Morphed to Socialism and Still Targets America

[Comments from JD: From 2004, yet even more pertinent today than then.]

The world thought communism had heard its death knell in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan exhorted “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Communism as the world knew it then did begin its downfall.

But, slyly, the evil of communism did not fully die.

It exists today in the form of socialism. The 45 communist goals read into the Congressional Record in 1963 clearly show its relationship to socialism, and reveal its continuing goal to take over America. (Google “45 communist goals”)

[…]

Communism is antithetical to capitalism. In Marxian theory, socialism is the stage between the two.

Socialism happens in America when government veers from its constitutionally granted powers, and decides it can “redistribute.” It shifts the tax burden, designates some as “more equal” than others, manipulates media, denies some rights, and relinquishes other rights. These things have been happening incrementally for decades in America.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Congress’s Travel Tab Swells

Spending on Taxpayer-Funded Trips Rises Tenfold; From Italy to the Galápagos

Spending by lawmakers on taxpayer-financed trips abroad has risen sharply in recent years, a Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records shows, involving everything from war-zone visits to trips to exotic spots such as the Galápagos Islands.

The spending on overseas travel is up almost tenfold since 1995, and has nearly tripled since 2001, according to the Journal analysis of 60,000 travel records. Hundreds of lawmakers traveled overseas in 2008 at a cost of about $13 million. That’s a 50% jump since Democrats took control of Congress two years ago.

The cost of so-called congressional delegations, known among lawmakers as “codels,” has risen nearly 70% since 2005, when an influence-peddling scandal led to a ban on travel funded by lobbyists, according to the data.

[…]

The Journal analysis, based on information published in the Congressional Record, also shows that taxpayer-funded travel is a big and growing perk for lawmakers and their families. Some members of Congress have complained in recent months about chief executives of bailed-out banks, insurance companies and car makers who sponsored corporate trips to resorts or used corporate jets for their own travel.

Although complete travel records aren’t yet available for 2009, it appears that such costs continue to rise. The Journal analysis shows that the government has picked up the tab for travel to destinations such as Jamaica, the Virgin Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Lawmakers frequently bring along spouses on congressional trips. If they take commercial flights, they have to buy tickets for spouses. If they fly on government planes — as they usually do — their spouses can fly free.

In mid-June, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii) led a group of a half-dozen senators and their spouses on a four-day trip to France for the biennial Paris Air Show. An itinerary for the event shows that lawmakers flew on the Air Force’s version of the Boeing 737, which costs $5,700 an hour to operate. They stayed at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand Hotel, which advertises rooms from $460 a night.

The lawmakers were invited to a dinner party at the U.S. Embassy and had cocktails at a private party at the Eiffel Tower. Mr. Inouye attended a dinner sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association, a U.S. trade group. Another senator on the trip, Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, took a cruise on the River Seine with defense-industry executives and elected officials from Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Mr. Inouye and Mr. Shelby declined to comment.

[…]

The congressional trips are possible thanks in part to an unlimited fund created by a three-decade old law. Nearly two dozen government officials work full-time organizing the trips. Much of the costs are not made public, including the cost of flying on government jets. The Air Force maintains a fleet of 16 passenger planes for use by lawmakers.

Documents obtained by the Journal show that the cost of flying a small group of lawmakers to the Middle East is about $150,000. Larger trips on the Air Force’s version of the Boeing 757 cost about $12,000 an hour. Two federal agencies pay for most of the travel — the Defense Department and the State Department.

In October, Rep. Bud Cramer (R., Ala.) spent two weeks in Europe on government business. Reports show that Mr. Cramer spent $5,700 on hotels, meals and incidentals. Mr. Cramer wasn’t running for re-election and left office just two months later.

“Knowing that I was leaving with my 18 years of seniority, I wanted to conclude some issues that I was working on,” Mr. Cramer said. He now works for a lobbying firm in Washington.

[…]

[Return to headlines]



Exxon-Mobil Funds Climate-Change Sceptics

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, is continuing to fund researchers who cast doubt on global warming, despite public promises to cut support for climate-change sceptics.

Company records for 2008 show that ExxonMobil gave $75,000 (£45,500) to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas and $50,000 (£30,551) to the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

It also gave $245,000 (£149,702) to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington.

The list of donations in the company’s 2008 Worldwide Contributions and Community investments is likely to trigger further anger from environmental activists, who have accused ExxonMobil of giving tens of millions to climate change sceptics in the past decade.

All three groups have raised questions about global warming.

The Heritage Foundation published note last year that said: “Growing scientific evidence casts doubt on whether global warming constitutes a threat, including the fact that 2008 is about to go into the books as a cooler year than 2007”.

ExxonMobil promised in 2006 to stop funding climate change sceptics after it was criticised by the Royal Society for giving money to researchers who were “misinforming the public about the science of climate change”.

In its 2008 corporate citizenship report, published last year, ExxonMobil repeated that it would cut funds to several groups that “divert attention” from the need to find new sources of clean energy.

The company has cut funding to several of the more controversial groups, including Frontiers for Freedom, who said in 2007: “The truth is, there is no conclusive or reliable scientific proof that the sky is falling or that Earth’s climate is experiencing cataclysmic warming caused by man’s activities.” The George C Marshall Institute also did not receive any Exxon money last year.

The oil giant also funded a range of environmental groups last year, giving $110,000 (£67,222) to the Alliance to Save Energy, $105,000 (£64,166) to the Annapolis Center for Science-based Public Policy, $100,000 (£61,113) to the Energy research centre at Columbia University and $35,000 (£21,389) to the Center for Clean Air Policy.

A spokesman for ExxonMobil said the company reviews its contributions annually and that it had “the same concerns as people everywhere, and that is how to provide the world with the energy it needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We take the issue of climate change seriously and the risks warrant action.”

ExxonMobil donated a total of $9 million (£5.5million) to environment-related groups in 2008, and a total of $225million (£137million) to charity, 1/200th of its $45.2billion (£27.6billion) profits for the year.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



None Dare Call it Marxism

All right already. I won’t call Obama a Marxist in this column. Instead, I’ll point to some signs that indicate that Barack and Karl might well be soul mates. At least, they have similar attitudes about capital, labor and profits, er, surplus value.

Liberals, even those of the Marxist variety, take umbrage when you point out their ideological kinship with Marxism.

I suppose this dates back to the days when being a communist was tantamount to being an enemy of the United States, in that there was a global communist movement intent on — and coming darn close to — world domination. Though global communism has been defeated, there remains a strong contingent among us, whose nerve center is the Democratic Party leadership under President Obama, committed to obliterating America’s free market.

Without getting into the intricacies of Marxist theory, suffice it to say that at the core of this political and economic philosophy is a belief in the historical class struggle. The capitalist (bourgeois) exploits the industrial worker (proletarian) by underpaying him and adding on unnecessary charges to the prices of goods and services, driving up costs to the consumer, and pocketing the profits.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



NYC Forced to Honor Islam Sept. 11?

Resolution backed by CAIR urges closing schools on Muslim holidays

Will the New York City school system be compelled to commemorate Islam on Sept. 11?

It has been widely reported the New York City Council passed a resolution Tuesday recommending the school system shut down to commemorate two of the most important Muslim holidays, however the reports did not note the holidays fall on Sept. 11 in some years.

The council vote, which was non-binding, is at odds with the opinion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has said he is opposed to adding any more days off to the school calendar. Bloomberg, however, recently relinquished control of the school system to a newly appointed board of education, which could approve the holiday plan.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obamadinejad — Will You Still Dance With Me?

With all the fuss over President Barack Obama’s middle name, perhaps he should simply have been called Barack “Obamadinejad” instead. It seems Obama has much in common with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

[Disclaimer: It is abundantly clear that Obama is no Ahmadinejad, has not called for genocide on his sworn enemies abroad, has not brutally tortured (at least as we used to understand the word) his enemies at home and does not share the particular traits that have made Ahmadinejad vilified in some parts of the world and at home. Inferences here are for metaphorical, literary, and exploratory purposes only.]

Both ran successful presidential campaigns promising great economic revivals only to embark on policies destined to destroy the fundamentals of their respective commercial underpinnings. While Ahmadinejad has directed the people’s oil money to build up his Revolutionary Guards and nuclear assets, Obama has taken his people’s money and embarked upon taking control of private industries.

Both have shown great flair for spending with abandon whatever they can get their hands on, despite claiming the need for frugality. Both enjoy printing currency: dollars or rials. Ahmadinejad buys allegiance from the rural populace while Obama repays unions. And both are criticized for leading their countries toward hyper-inflation and greater unemployment while both defend themselves as merely pursuing social “justice” — one for Allah and the other for liberalism. Both promised to spread the wealth around to poor families but have nothing to show for it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Oklahoma State Lawmakers Urge an End to Nation’s ‘Moral Crisis’

OKLAHOMA CITY — Supporters and opponents of the Oklahoma Citizens Proclamation for Morality competed for space and attention at the state Capitol Thursday.

Rep. Sally Kern said the purpose of the proclamation is to remind Oklahomans of the political and religious principles of the nation’s founders.

“That’s the value system that says we should not lie, steal, murder, commit adultery or covet,” Kern told the crowd in the first floor rotunda. “This nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse and many forms of debauchery.”

Kern received cheers from her supporters, many of whom signed the Proclamation.

Opponents were vocal too. They will hold their own news conference later at the Capitol.

“I believe that she is one of the most hateful and divisive persons in America,” Rev. Loyce Newton-Edwards with the Church of the Open Arms said.

The proclamation denounces abortion, pornography, same-sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse “and many other forms of debauchery.” The signers “believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis.”

Kern made national headlines last year after she said homosexuality is a greater threat to the United States than terrorism.

Opponents of the Oklahoma Citizens Proclamation for Morality said the Proclamation backers do not speak for all Oklahomans.

           — Hat tip: the Lurker from Tulsa [Return to headlines]



Palin Resigning as Alaska Governor on July 26

[…]

… “Once I decided not to run for re-election, I also felt that to embrace the conventional Lame Duck status in this particular climate would just be another dose of politics as usual, something I campaigned against and will always oppose,” Palin said in a statement released by her office.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will be inaugurated at the governor’s picnic in Fairbanks at the end of the month, Murrow said.

Palin was first elected in 2006 on a populist platform. But her popularity has waned as she waged in partisan politics following her return from the presidential campaign. Her term would have ended in 2010.

Palin said she planned to make a “positive change outside government,” without elaborating. She also expressed frustration with her current role as governor.

[Return to headlines]



Powell Airs Doubts on Obama Agenda

Colin Powell, one of President Obama’s most prominent Republican supporters, expressed concern Friday that the president’s ambitious blitz of costly initiatives may be enlarging the size of government and the federal debt too much.

“I’m concerned at the number of programs that are being presented, the bills associated with these programs and the additional government that will be needed to execute them,” Mr. Powell said in an excerpt of an interview with CNN’s John King, released by the network Friday morning.

[…]

But, he said, “one of the cautions that has to be given to the president — and I’ve talked to some of his people about this — is that you can’t have so many things on the table that you can’t absorb it all.”

“And we can’t pay for it all,” said Mr. Powell…[…]

[Return to headlines]



Rick Warren Does It, Again

While millions of other Americans will be celebrating Independence Day weekend, Rick Warren, often called “America’s Pastor,” will be serving as the keynote speaker for a Saudi-backed Muslim group that promotes a radical strain of Wahhabi Islam in about 80 percent of U.S. mosques.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of Rick Warren’s bad judgments.

This time Warren will be schmoozing with the Islamic Society of North America, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood — just as are al-Qaida, Hamas and most other Muslim terrorist organizations.

ISNA puts on a façade of moderation, yet, according to terrorism expert Steven Emerson, it “convenes annual conferences where Islamist militants have been given a platform to incite violence and promote hatred.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Should Linking be Illegal?

In a misguided attempt to aid newspapers, one of America’s most influential judges is suggesting a new copyright law

Those who wish to keep the internet free and open had best dust off their legal arguments. One of America’s most influential conservative judges, Richard Posner, has proposed a ban on linking to online content without permission. The idea, he said in a blog post last week, is to prevent aggregators and bloggers from linking to newspaper websites without paying:

“Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion.”

Posner’s notion set off an eruption from the likes of Jeff Jarvis, Matt Welch and Erick Schonfeld, among others. And they are right to be furious. Not only would Posner stop online media dead in their tracks, but he would also overturn long-established rules of fair use, which, among others things, allow for the reproduction of short excerpts of copyrighted material for the purposes of commentary, parody and the like — precisely what bloggers and aggregators do all the time.

And Posner, who sits on the seventh circuit court of appeals in Chicago, has a way of getting his way. A brilliant, provocative thinker and a frighteningly prolific writer, he was described in a 2001 New Yorker profile as “the most mercilessly seditious legal theorist of his generation”. And if, at 70, Posner and his generation are not quite so influential as they once were, he is still a formidable presence on the legal scene.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Texas Trying to Save ‘NAFTA Superhighway’?

Gov. Perry calls special legislative session on transportation

Opponents of the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor believe Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry is proceeding with toll road plans under the cover of a special session of the legislature.

Perry’s stated goals include extending the authority of the Texas Department of Transportation, TxDOT, to operate for two more years with an allocation of $2 billion in state funds that could be targeted for building toll roads along Interstate Highways 35 and 69 in what was previously called TTC-35 and TTC-69 under the Trans-Texas Corridor plan.

[…]

Gilbert told WND the Trans-Texas Corridor program in Texas was “alive and well.”

“When Gov. Perry came out and said the Trans-Texas Corridor program was dead, all TxDOT did was to get rid of the name,” he said. “It was all a lie.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The EPA Silences a Climate Skeptic

[…]

…one of President Barack Obama’s first acts was a memo to agencies demanding new transparency in government, and science. The nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, joined in, exclaiming, “As administrator, I will ensure EPA’s efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and program, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency.” In case anyone missed the point, Mr. Obama took another shot at his predecessors in April, vowing that “the days of science taking a backseat to ideology are over.”

Except, that is, when it comes to Mr. Carlin, a senior analyst in the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics and a 35-year veteran of the agency. In March, the Obama EPA prepared to engage the global-warming debate in an astounding new way, by issuing an “endangerment” finding on carbon. It establishes that carbon is a pollutant, and thereby gives the EPA the authority to regulate it — even if Congress doesn’t act.

Around this time, Mr. Carlin and a colleague presented a 98-page analysis arguing the agency should take another look, as the science behind man-made global warming is inconclusive at best. The analysis noted that global temperatures were on a downward trend. It pointed out problems with climate models. It highlighted new research that contradicts apocalyptic scenarios. “We believe our concerns and reservations are sufficiently important to warrant a serious review of the science by EPA,” the report read.

The response to Mr. Carlin was an email from his boss, Al McGartland, forbidding him from “any direct communication” with anyone outside of his office with regard to his analysis. When Mr. Carlin tried again to disseminate his analysis, Mr. McGartland decreed: “The administrator and the administration havehave decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. . . . I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office.” (Emphasis added.)

Mr. McGartland blasted yet another email: “With the endangerment finding nearly final, you need to move on to other issues and subjects. I don’t want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change. No papers, no research etc, at least until we see what EPA is going to do with Climate.” Ideology? Nope, not here. Just us science folk. Honest.

[Return to headlines]



US Respects Muslims: Farah

WASHINGTON: The United States is “meaningfully” and “respectfully” interested to know what Muslim communities in the world are saying, thinking, dreaming and believing. This is what can be inferred from remarks by newly-appointed State Department Special Representative for Muslim Communities, Farah Pundith, made here while summing up her new role.

“It’s really listening. It’s really understanding what’s taking place on the ground. It’s finding opportunities through our embassies to get to know them,” She made her point. “We may be acting as a facilitator, a convener and an intellectual partner when we can.” “I think the might of the United States Government is not only one-way. It’s two-way, it’s how do you approach, how do you bring ideas together, how do you find initiatives that make sense,” she continued.

During her special first appearance at State Department after assuming her new office, she elaborated: “This new role is a historic role, and it’s the Secretary Clinton’s vision for engagement through our embassies overseas. She is somebody who has been doing engagement for a very long time. After all, when she was First Lady, she created the Iftar at the White House.”

So the Office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities is a way for us at the State Department to execute Clinton’s vision who wants to make it “out of the box”, “innovative” and “dynamic”, states Farah. “And certainly on the heels of Cairo, when we heard the President talk about the need and his commitment to engage with Muslims, this is our effort to work on that important agenda.”

When a questioner asked how did she plan to engage the Muslims in South Asia? Was that going to be different in different countries, or it’s one approach to entire South Asia? Farah replied “If we do our job right, of course, it is. And it’s not even just a country; it’s understanding the different regions within a country. You understand even within cities, within generations and within ethnicities, so that you’re beginning to build dialogue in different ways and not just use a one-phase approach to everything.”

A reporter touched on the core issue in his observation that “the problem is not about opening dialogue with the Muslim world or the Arab world in particular, but it is about American foreign policy; unless you fundamentally change this, you’re not going to win hearts and minds.” Farah’s response was: “what I do know is that through the opportunity to facilitate a strategic and nuanced and multifaceted approach to engagement, there are going to be a wide range of questions that come up. And certainly, foreign policy does come up, but the vast majority of young Muslims that I met were very interested in thinking about their futures and thinking about how to participate in their communities and thinking about what they need to do to engage in building a communication with other countries and with themselves and with the United States.”

When asked to sketch out how she hoped to reach out to Muslims around the world — what concrete kinds of things she hoped to, she told “I’m an American Muslim, and that’s part of the way in which I look at things, that’s the lens with which I look at things.” “And if you look at the diversity of Islam in America, it is multifaceted and nuanced. Our mosques are in every state of our nation. Muslim Americans are from more than 80 different ethnic backgrounds. There is no one bullet that’s going to fix everything. There’s not one program that is going to be the magic program to engage with Muslims,” she concluded.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Was America Sold?

In 1992, George H.W. Bush signed Executive Order 12803, which gave D.C. the authority to sell America’s infrastructure. They called this authority “Infrastructure Privatization.” E.O. 12803 tells us this power cleared the way for the “disposition or transfer of an infrastructure “asset” such as by sale or by long-term lease from a State or local government to a private party.”

E.O. 12803 also lists examples of America’s saleable and/or lease-able infrastructure:

  • Roads
  • Tunnels
  • Bridges
  • Electricity supply facilities
  • Mass transit
  • Rail transportation
  • Airports
  • Ports
  • Waterways
  • Recycling/wastewater treatment facilities
  • Solid waste disposal facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Prisons
  • Schools
  • Housing

E.O. 12803 tells us that this list represents infrastructure “examples.” Let us, therefore, assume that this is not the complete list of America’s saleable infrastructure. However, this list is a stunning confession.

Notice that all items listed in 12803 are the very same infrastructure items listed in all Martial Law Executive Orders (see here). Martial Law kicks in to power during declared states of emergency and with the single signature of the president.

[…]

It would seem that we are preparing for the Big Transfer — the transfer of our nation to and beneath a new authority or several new authorities. It now makes a great deal of sense why foreign troops have been cross-training with our new paramilitary systems, and yes, there are foreign troops on American soil, which I fear may not be American soil at all.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Agriculture: Spain’s Rich Yield Curbs Turkey’s Cherry Exports

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 3 — Turkey was able to sell only 9,000 tons of cherry to the European markets in May and June, the peak of the cherry season, as Spain enjoyed the richest pickings of high quality cherries in its history. What makes the situation more complicated for the Turkish exporters is that the producers from Germany, Poland, Belgium, Britain and the US will also enter the competition in July with their late bloomer products. Kerim Taner, the CEO of Alara Agriculture, one of the leading exporters of fruits and grocery in Turkey, said the cherries cultivated in Turkey this year saw no problem in the amount but that their size was much smaller than the yields of the previous years. Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, Taner addressed Spain’s advantageous situation this year, which caused Turkish exports to Europe to drop by more than 50% from 20 tons to 9 tons in the two months. Turkey sells circa 60 tons of cherry to its customers all around the world in a year. Much more troublesome for Turkish producers are cherries that will be exported to Europe by Washington farmers, which, according to current estimates, have reached a record level of around 145,000 tons, he noted. Despite all the hurdles, however, Turkish farmers are hopeful that the total cherry exports this year will reach 40 tons. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Austria and China. The Bishops With the Lowest Grades

The heads of the Austrian dioceses have been called to report to the pope, who is upset over how they have allowed rebellions and abuses to run free. While in China, there are bishops who obey the communist government more than Rome. But Vatican diplomacy is at fault as well, says Cardinal Zen

by Sandro Magister

ROME, June 19, 2009 — At the end of the month, the bishops of the Fraternity of St. Pius X will ordain new priests, and the Holy See has confirmed that these ordinations as well will be considered illegitimate.

But the Lefebvrist schismatics are not the only bishops who are causing concern for the Roman Church. In recent days, the spotlight has also been shone on two episcopacies that, for different reasons, are also gumming up the works: Austria’s, and China’s.

On June 15 and 16, all of the bishops of Austria came to Rome, called in for a debriefing with Benedict XVI.

They met behind closed doors with the pope and five heads of the curia: the cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, of the congregation for bishops, William J. Levada, of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Claudío Hummes, of the congregation for the clergy, Zenon Grocholewski, of the congregation for Catholic education, Stanislaw Rylko, of the pontifical council for the laity. There was also the apostolic nuncio to Vienna, Peter Stephan Zurbriggen.

The statement released at the end of the meeting didn’t say so, but for two days in a row the Austrian bishops faced severe criticism.

Pope Joseph Ratzinger is very familiar with Austria. At the beginning of his pontificate, the Austrian bishops were among the first to have an audience with him. And on November 5, 2005, at the end of their “ad limina” visit, the pope really let them have it. He accused them of remaining silent on important points of Christian teaching and morality, out of fear of protest and ridicule. He urged them to finally take the catechism in hand and to teach it from start to finish. He ordered them, literally, to “change course.”

Evidently, after more than three years Benedict XVI’s impression is that the Austrian bishops have made little or no progress.

More evidence of this comes from what has happened in recent months in the diocese of Linz. On January 31, the pope had appointed Gerhard Maria Wagner, 54, a local priest with a reputation as a conservative, as auxiliary bishop of this diocese. There was an immediate explosion of protest from progressive Catholic opinion, which criticized the bishop-elect for statements made years ago equating the tsunami in Asia and the hurricane in New Orleans with “divine punishments,” and the Harry Potter saga with a diabolical plot. These laughable accusations rapidly led to demands for the withdrawal of his appointment.

The worst thing, in Rome’s view, was that the Austrian bishops were careful to avoid defending Wagner’s appointment, and so were many of the clergy. The archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, also went along with the crowd. The pressure was so strong that Rome gave in. On March 2, a terse Vatican statement let it be known that the pope had “excused” Wagner “from accepting the office of auxiliary bishop of Linz.” The final blow: one of the leaders of the anti-Roman revolt, Josef Friedl, a prominent priest in the diocese of Linz, in declaring victory also revealed that he was living with a woman and paid no attention to the obligation of celibacy, with the approval of his parishioners and of other Austrian priests who also have lovers, and with the tolerance of the bishops.

But the Wagner case was only the culmination of a more general malaise. The final statement of the meeting on June 15-16 listed an extensive series of critical points concerning doctrine, pastoral action, the teaching of the catechism, the clergy, the seminaries, the theological faculties.

Against this backdrop, there is an even clearer contrast between the timidity with which the Austrian bishops govern their respective dioceses and, at the same time, their skillful adherence to the arrogant claim that it is the role of public opinion to designate new bishops or veto the ones appointed by Rome.

Another glaring contrast concerns the highest ranking Austrian bishop, Cardinal Schönborn. He passes for one of pope Ratzinger’s trusted friends, but at home he gives the anti-Roman forces free rein. Between February and March, at the height of the controversy over the revocation of the excommunication of the Lefebvrist bishops, the Austrian bishops were among those who made the least effort to defend the pope. The bishop of Salzburg, Alois Kothgasser, opined that with Benedict XVI, the Church “is being reduced to a sect.”

At the meeting on June 15-16, the pope tried to bring the Austrian bishops back into line, as can be intuited from this passage in the final statement:

“The Holy Father recalled the urgency of the strengthening of faith and of complete fidelity to Vatican Council II and to the postconciliar magisterium of the Church, and of the renewal of catechesis in the light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

As for the cohabiting clergy, Austria falls under the more strict general norms established by the pope last January 30. When a priest lives with a woman and continues to carry out his ministry, the Vatican congregation for the clergy has the authority to remove him from the clerical state.

***

The case of the Chinese bishops is more complicated. There, the hierarchy is divided between an official branch recognized by the government of Beijing, and a clandestine branch that does not have this recognition.

This second branch is extremely loyal to the pope. While the official one, with its bishops designated according to politics, was created by the communist authorities with the express intention of separating it from obedience to Rome.

In recent years, many of the official bishops have reconciled with the pope, with the tacit approval of the government. In 2007, Benedict XVI, with an open letter to the Chinese Catholics, told all of them how to proceed in order to heal the split completely and bring the entire Chinese Church into full communion with Rome.

But more recently, the Chinese authorities have revived the politics of separation. And various official bishops have given in to the pressure.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, paints this picture of the current phase in an extensive interview published on June 16 by “Asia News”:

“The shift toward clarity has not taken place. On the contrary, it seems to me that there is an alarming slide along the slope of compromise. The most alarming episode of this constant compromise, which goes against the pope’s guidelines, is the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the first illegitimate episcopal consecrations. This celebration is scheduled to take place in 2009, and if, as I fear, it were to succeed in obtaining significant participation from bishops and priests, that would be the end. It would be the complete waste of all of the efforts made in previous years, and an insult to the Holy Father. Yes, it would be just like slapping him in the face, because it would be like completely ignoring his letter to the Chinese Catholics.”

But in the same interview, Cardinal Zen also said:

“Of course, in China they did everything they could to downplay the pope’s letter. But I think that the Holy See should also have given more support to the letter. The Holy See should have followed the pope further along the line of clarity. It seems to me that this did not take place.”

Last March 30, there was a two-day meeting at the Vatican of the commission that Benedict XVI set up in 2007 to study the issues relating to the life of the Catholic Church in China. The commission is composed of the heads of the dicasteries in the Roman curia with responsibilities in this area, and some representatives of the Chinese episcopacy and religious congregations.

Cardinal Zen, who took part in this meeting and also in a previous one on March 10-12, 2008, maintains that the Vatican secretariat of state gives in to compromises with the Chinese authorities because it is aiming above all at reestablishing diplomatic relations:

“Diplomatic relations do not fix everything by themselves. On the contrary, they can be deceptive, because they can give the false impression that religious freedom exists. The most important thing is religious freedom, and certainly this can be facilitated by diplomatic relations. But it is not always true that having one necessarily means having the other. All else aside, at this moment the possibility that China would establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican seems less likely because relations between Beijing and Taiwan have significantly improved.”

So just as there is division among the Chinese bishops in their relationship with Rome, so also Vatican policy appears to be divided. On the one side there is the approach of Cardinal Zen, on the other that of the secretariat of state.

This second division is also reflected in the specialized Catholic magazines. The agency “Asia News” of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions is with Cardinal Zen. The international monthly “30 Days,” directed by former Italian head of state and foreign minister Giulio Andreotti is with the secretariat of state.

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Church ‘Risks New Galileo Mistake’

Vatican official warns of ‘preconceptions’ towards science

(ANSA) — Vatican City, July 2 — The Catholic Church risks approaching modern science with the same prejudices that resulted in it rejecting the theories of Galileo, a Vatican official warned Thursday.

Presenting a new edition of documents relating to the trial of the 17th-century Italian astronomer found guilty of heresy for saying the earth orbits around the sun, Vatican Secret Archive Prefect Sergio Pagano said the Church risks the “same preconceptions” against stem-cell and genetic research and modern scientific discoveries.

“The Galileo case teaches science not to presume to teach the Church about faith and Holy Scripture, and teaches the Church at the same time to approach scientific problems — even those linked to the most modern research on stem cells, for example — with great humility and circumspection,” Pagano said.

The Catholic Church is against stem call research, which currently results in the destruction of the embryo, because it considers foetuses human beings from the moment of conception.

Galileo (1564-1642) was among the most famous victims of the Roman Inquisition.

He was found guilty of heresy by the Catholic Church in 1633 for claiming the earth orbits the sun and was forced by the Inquisition to publicly recant.

The astronomer was formally rehabilitated by Pope John Paul II in 1992.

However, current pope Benedict XVI has had an uneasy relationship with scientists, who have not forgotten a remark he made while still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger about the trial of Galileo being “reasonable and just”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Cyprus Tax Burden Increase Highest in EU

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, JUNE 26 — Cyprus has registered the highest increase in the overall tax burden on citizens and companies from the 27 countries of the EU, while also recording the highest implicit tax rate on capital and the lowest corporate tax. The latest statistics released by the EU’s Eurostat office reveal that on average, EU workers and companies bear a higher tax burden than their American and Japanese counterparts. According to figures, published today by Cyprus Mail, the overall tax-to-GDP ratio in the EU27 was 39.8%in 2007, a slight increase from 39.7% in 2006. The overall tax ratio in the eurozone (the 16 countries using the Euro) was 40.4% in 2007, rising slightly from 40.3% in 2006. In comparison with the rest of the world, the EU27 tax ratio remains generally high, exceeding those of the US and Japan by some 12 percentage points. However, the tax burden varies significantly between member states, ranging in 2007 from less than 30% in Romania and Slovakia (both 29.4%) and Lithuania (29.9%), to a little less than 50 per cent in Denmark (48.7%) and Sweden (48.3%). Since 2000, significant changes in tax-to-GDP ratios have taken place in several member states, with Cyprus showing the highest increase in tax revenue as a percentage of GDP (from 30% to 41.6%), followed by Malta (from 28.2% to 34.7%). The largest falls were recorded in Slovakia, where the overall tax burden dropped from 34.1% in 2000 to 29.4% in 2007, and Finland (from 47.2% to 43.0%). Labour taxes remain the largest source of tax revenue in the EU, representing close to half of total tax receipts in the EU27. Taxes on capital accounted for approximately 23% of total tax receipts, and consumption taxes were worth 28% of total tax revenue. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islamist Radicalization — A Swedish Problem Denied

Political Week in Visby. The cause and effects of Islamist radicalisation, specifically in Swedish suburbs, as for example Tensta in Stockholm and Rosengård in Malmö, was the main subject of a panel discussion arranged by the Swedish National Defence Collage during the Political Week.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Italy: People of Freedom Wins Back Province of Milan as Democratic Party Retains Mayorships of Bologna and Florence

Cazzola phones to congratulate Delbono. Renzi says it’s time to look to UDC. Province of Venice passes to PDL

MILAN — The Democratic Party (PD) held onto the strongholds of the Left and stays in power at Bologna and Florence, as well as the province of Turin. Nevertheless, the Centre-right secured the province of Venice and, crucially, the province of Milan. The Centre-left candidate, Filippo Penati, made up some ground on the People of Freedom (PDL) in comparison with the first-round results but it was not enough to cling onto the administration wrested from Ombretta Colli five years ago. This means that the new occupant of Palazzo Isimbardi is former Forza Italia MEP Guido Podestà, whose first gesture after the victory was to dedicate the result to Silvio Berlusconi.

PLUMMETING TURNOUT — When the polls closed, a first result was evident: the steep fall in voter turnout, which was just over 45% for the provincial elections and reached 61.3% for the municipal polls (the respective figures for the first round of voting were 70% and 76%). The referendum abstention campaign had clearly had an impact and the quorum of 50% of the electorate was not reached.

PROVINCES — In the province of Milan, voter turnout was 44.95% and, as mentioned earlier, victory went to the Centre-right candidate Guido Podestà. But it was not the only positive result for the PDL. The Venice provincial administration changed sides and the outgoing president, Davide Zoggia, was forced to hand over to the Northern League’s Francesca Zaccariotto. In Turin, the Centre-left’s Antonio Saitta held on to finish ahead of Claudia Porchietto from the Centre-right. At Parma, Vincenzo Bernazzoli of the Centre-left leads Giampaolo Lavagetto. Other significant figures came in from the head-to-head contest for the provincial authority at Prato, where the count has seen the PDL and PD candidates leapfrogging each other. A win for the Centre-right would be considered historic.

MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS — Flavio Delbono, the Centre-left candidate in Bologna, squeezed past the Centre-right challenger, Alfredo Cazzola. Mr Cazzola himself phoned his opponent to concede defeat at about 7 pm. The count was still under way but the gap between the two candidates was more than 20%. Mr Cazzola congratulated Mr Delbono on the result. His view of Bologna’s voters was harsh: “The fact that the quorum for the referendum was exceeded is proof that Bologna is still a city stuck in pre-1989 Bulgaria”. He went on: “There’s just no hope. The majority of Bologna’s voters will always respond blindly and unquestioningly to the party’s orders, even when they have to do pointless things like voting in the electoral referendums”.

In Florence, the Centre-left’s Matteo Renzi came out on top against the Centre-right candidate, Giovanni Galli. “Congratulations to Renzi but from now on I’m going to be his worst nightmare”, said Mr Galli live on Corriere TV as he stood alongside the new mayor of the Tuscan capital. “One phase of Franceschini’s secretaryship is over”, said Mr Renzi in reply to a question from the Corriere della Sera’s editor, Ferruccio de Bortoli, on building a new relationship with the Christian Democrat UDC. “The way things stand, the PD isn’t about to win a general election. What’s needed is the courage to take a new direction. And that’s the theme of the PD congress”.

In Bari, outgoing Centre-left mayor Michele Emiliano defeated the Centre-right challenger, Simeone Di Cagno Abbrescia. In Padua, the Centre-left’s Flavio Zanonato won the contest with Marco Marin. In Ancona, Fiorello Gramillano for the Centre-left saw off the Centre-right’s Giacomo Bugaro. Other significant results include the victory of the Centre-right in the municipal elections at Prato, where Roberto Cenni’s election is all but certain.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: The Last Days of the Court of King Silvio

Berlusconi always seemed immune to scandal, but lurid reports of the sexual carousel of parties, models and money are taking their toll. Now the Catholic Church has turned on him. Peter Popham reports

There is a sudden stench of decay coming off the court of King Silvio.

The faithful retainers who have stood by him for decades, and grown immensely rich as a result, are still at his side: the pianist who tinkled along behind his singing on the cruise ships, the Sicilian lawyer fighting a long sentence for mafia crimes, the lawyer who did time for bribing Roman judges on Mr Berlusconi’s account; none of them has dropped even a hint of dissidence or doubt in their padrone. But on the fringes of the circle, the unstoppable gusher of revelation and innuendo about the dozens of beautiful young women who flocked to his homes for all-night parties is beginning to do him palpable damage.

It is no longer only his political enemies in the media who are drawing attention to the grotesque spectacle of a 72-year-old Prime Minister cavorting with bimbos young enough to be his granddaughters. This week, after a long, pregnant silence, powerful forces in the Catholic Church have begun to speak out against his excesses. First it was L’Avvenire (The Future), the daily paper of the Italian bishops, which asked the Prime Minister to give Italy “clarification” about what had been going on. Then an important Catholic weekly, La Famiglia Cristiana, published stern comments about “moral decadence”. And now three senior churchmen have criticised him publicly. One of them, the Bishop of Mazara del Vallo in Sicily, called on him to consider resigning. And one of the most powerful church figures in the country, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops Conference, warned, without mentioning Mr Berlusconi by name, of “men drunk on a delirium of their own greatness, who touch the illusion of omnipotence and distort moral values”.

Mr Berlusconi’s court has no soothsayers to warn him of the Ides of March, but the sudden emergence of hostile noises from the Catholic Church is the modern Italian equivalent of that — especially as the Catholic Church continues to hold immense sway over public opinion.

So far, Mr Berlusconi has given no indication that the Church’s opprobrium is having any effect on him, let alone that he is minded to heed calls to resign. On the contrary, at a press conference in the city of L’Aquila this week, where world leaders will be his guests for next month’s G8 summit, he was in buoyant, defiant form.

“This is the way I’m made,” he told journalists who asked if he was planning on changing his ways in the face of weeks of bad publicity, “and I don’t change. People take me as they find me. And the Italians want me: I have the support of 61 per cent. They want me because they feel that I am good, generous, sincere, loyal, that I keep my promises.”

Should the Prime Minister not adopt behaviour more becoming to a head of government, another reporter pursued, avoiding “dangerous situations” in future? “But why?” retorted Mr Berlusconi indignantly. “Life is so beautiful …. It’s much better to live life normally, taking things as they come. Besides, at my age change is out of the question…” The campaign against him, he insisted, was nothing but “lies and rubbish”.

It was another bravura performance by a man whose self-confidence is legendary. But the danger signs are accumulating. If the core of intimates around him remain solid, others formerly very close are beginning to peel away. One of the few intellectuals in his circle, an obese, red-bearded former Communist and CIA agent called Giuliano Ferrara who edits a slim but influential daily called Il Foglio, recently drew a dire analogy between Mr Berlusconi’s present situation and that of Mussolini on 24 July 1943, the day before he was dismissed as Duce by the king and slunk up to Lake Garda to run the puppet statelet of Salo.

Mr Ferrara, whose political chat show was for years one of the liveliest and most unpredictable forums of debate on Italian television, was a minister in Mr Berlusconi’s first government, and has remained loyal to his cause through thick and thin ever since. His defection is part of the collateral effect of Veronica Lario’s divorce suit: Il Foglio is partly owned by Mr Berlusconi’s estranged wife. Mr Ferrara admitted he was embarrassed when the rift between the two became open war, and it is now clear that his loyalties are split.

Mr Berlusconi, on the other hand, gives every indication of believing that the best is yet to come: the life force still flowing through him almost luminously, his ambition is still phosphorescent. Left-wing critics may jeer that “the swan has turned out to be a lame duck”, but he has nearly four years of his term left to run, has a

large parliamentary majority, and his coalition allies, massaged by his money and favours, are giving him far less trouble than they did in his last term.

But it is the new sense of estrangement emerging from the Church and its friends which is shaping up to be his real problem. One of his loyalists, Claudio Scajola, a long-serving minister, remarked recently that “more prudence” might be good for him. Relations with the Catholic Church have long been ambivalent. He was unfaithful to his first wife and had three children outside his marriage before divorcing and marrying Veronica Lario in a civil ceremony. Like many other Italians he pays lip service to the Church, taking care not to cross it or defy it; as an arch anti-Communist, he has been regarded by the Church hierarchy as their worst enemy’s enemy, even if not exactly their friend. Earlier this year that rather lukewarm relationship suddenly began heating up. Without warning he embraced a church-backed campaign to prevent a woman called Eulana Englaro, who had been in an irreversible coma for 17 years, from being taken off life support — a first step, the Church protested, towards legalising euthanasia. Mr Berlusconi had shown little interest in the subject before, but now he pulled out all the stops to keep Ms Englaro alive, in defiance of the Supreme Court. In the event she died before the emergency law he tried to rush through could be passed. But his campaign was an indication that he had grasped the vital importance of having the Church on his side as he attempted the boldest move of his extraordinary career: changing the constitution to give the President — today a ceremonial figure — enormous powers. It was an open secret that Mr Berlusconi was looking forward to moving up to the presidency at the end of his current term.

All that seems a long time ago. Mr Berlusconi insists now that nothing could be further from his mind than becoming President. And as the sleazy revelations about the “harem parties” in Sardinia and Rome continue to pour out, the Church is quietly putting him at arm’s length.

Almost since the beginning of what the Italian press have begun to call “Sexgate”, Mr Berlusconi has been claiming that there was a complotto, a conspiracy to bring him down, orchestrated by the usual suspects, the Italian left. We’ve heard it all before: Mr Berlusconi has always been quick to spot reds under the bed, even when disguised as journalists of the Financial Times or The Economist. But the relentless nature of the coverage of “Sexgate”, when nothing of a criminal nature pertaining directly to Mr Berlusconi has yet emerged, suggests one of two things: either Italy’s usually rather staid papers, suffering from steep circulation losses in recent months, have decided that British-style tabloid tales are the way to claw back their readers; or alternatively (or additionally), they really are out to get the Prime Minister, whatever it takes.

Last week the affair shifted up a gear as prosecutors in Bari, capital of the southern region of Puglia, became involved, investigating claims that anti-prostitution laws were violated when girls were allegedly paid to attend the Sardinian parties. As a result the scandal has now entered the realm of the judiciary. All eyes are now fixed on the second week of July, when the leaders of G8, including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, fly to Italy for the summit in the earthquake-hit city of L’Aquila.

It is not inconceivable that the prosecutors of Bari are preparing a nasty surprise for the Prime Minister. In November 1994, a few months into his first term in office, Mr Berlusconi fatally lost face when he was served with notice that he was under investigation for corruption during a summit in Naples. It may be that something equally embarrassing — before the leaders and cameras of the world — will happen in L’Aquila. And given the importance of face in the Italian context, the consequences of that would be unpredictable. Even the most devoted Berlusconi courtiers are now beginning to think the unthinkable.

Friends turned foe: The models, the politicians, the wife and the priest

BARBARA MONTEREALE

She was invited to dinner at Mr Berlusconi’s apartment in Rome with dozens of other women, then went on to join him at his villa in Sardinia, for which a man from Bari in southern Italy, Gianpaolo Tarantini, who is under investigation by anti-prostitution police, paid her €1,000. Montereale, 23, said that Mr Berlusconi gave her “rings and necklaces that he said he designed” and a CD of Neapolitan love songs. At the end of her stay he gave her a bag with “a very generous sum of money”. This week, after her revelations became public, she said her car had been set alight and destroyed outside her home.

PATRIZIA D’ADDARIO

The 42-year-old prostitute from Bari in southern Italy claims the businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini paid her €2,000 to attend a party in Mr Berlusconi’s Rome apartment. “I went down a long corridor that opened into a room where I found there were already many girls … In total we were around 20.” She said that the Prime Minister said: “How lovely you are!” She added: “He wanted me to sit next to him … they put on a really long video of his meetings with international leaders …” Barbara Montereale said she believed that Ms D’Addario spent the night with Berlusconi.

VERONICA LARIO

She was a busty young actress when Berlusconi saw her performing topless on stage and fell for her 30 years ago. The estrangement from her husband has been an open secret for more than a decade. In April she described Berlusconi’s decision to put up showgirls as candidates for the European Parliament as “shameless rubbish”, forcing him to drop the idea. Days later she sued for divorce.

GIULIANO FERRARA

A brilliant journalist and politician who served as the minister for relations with parliament in Berlusconi’s short-lived first government, he has defended his ex-boss through thick and thin ever since. But his closeness to Berlusconi’s estranged wife, a major investor in the paper he edits, now seems to be dragging him away from his original padrone.

ANGELO BAGNASCO

The president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and one of the most important clerics in the country. Attacked recently by a priest in his diocese for “treating Berlusconi too well”, his oblique criticism of the Prime Minister this week may be a sign that he and the Conference are preparing to take a more robust stand.

CLAUDIO SCAJOLA

The Minister for Economic Development has served loyally at his master’s side since throwing in his lot with him in 1995. But Scajola’s roots are in the Christian Democrat party, and this week he became the first close political ally to issue a warning about behaviour and the need for the premier to be “more prudent” about his private life.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Amsterdam Considering Bank Help for Prostitutes

By Ben Berkowitz

Amsterdam city council is turning its attention to a pressing problem for one of the city’s key business sectors — banking and credit for prostitutes who can’t get accounts from mainstream institutions.

The city’s red light district is famed the world over for its women in tiny windows and even tinier clothing, but despite the trade being legal, many banks shy away from taking the ladies on as customers.

As part of the city’s “Project 1012” to remake the De Wallen neighborhood, which includes the sex district, the city council has been asked to find a way to help bordello owners and sex workers gain more access to banks.

“Up until now, it’s been very difficult for people in the sex industry to get credit with the banks,” a city council spokesman said on Friday.

“For them it is a hazard that they can not get regular credit or help or mortgages or anything from a regular bank.”

The council is expected to come to some sort of conclusion within the next two months on what it might do to help the industry.

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Pope Benedict Clears Way for Cardinal John Newman to Become First English Saint in 40 Years

Cardinal Newman, the Anglican vicar who shocked Victorian Britain by converting to Roman Catholicism, is a step closer to becoming the first English saint for 40 years.

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday announced the beatification of John Henry Newman, meaning he will be given the title ‘Blessed’.

It follows the recognition by the Vatican of the healing of an American man with a severe spinal condition as a miracle which came about as a result of praying to the Cardinal.

A second miracle is needed to recognise Newman as a saint.

The Pope’s decision to beatify him was welcomed by Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

He said: ‘I am delighted to learn this news, which will be warmly welcomed by Catholics around the world.’

Father Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory, the church that Newman founded, said: ‘The Holy Father’s decision is one of great significance for the whole Church.’

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The Frankfurt School: Conspiracy to Corrupt

By Timothy Matthews

Western civilization at the present day is passing through a crisis which is essentially different from anything that has been previously experienced. Other societies in the past have changed their social institutions or their religious beliefs under the influence of external forces or the slow development of internal growth. But none, like our own, has ever consciously faced the prospect of a fundamental alteration of the beliefs and institutions on which the whole fabric of social life rests … Civilization is being uprooted from its foundations in nature and tradition and is being reconstituted in a new organisation which is as artificial and mechanical as a modern factory.

Most of Satan’s work in the world he takes care to keep hidden. But two small shafts of light have been thrown onto his work for me just recently. The first, a short article in the Association of Catholic Women’s ACW Review; the second, a remark (which at first surprised me) from a priest in Russia who claimed that we now, in the West, live in a Communist society. These shafts of light help, especially, to explain the onslaught of officialdom which in many countries worldwide has so successfully been removing the rights of parents to be the primary educators and protectors of their children.

The ACW Review examined the corrosive work of the ‘Frankfurt School’ — a group of German-American scholars who developed highly provocative and original perspectives on contemporary society and culture, drawing on Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Weber. Not that their idea of a ‘cultural revolution’ was particularly new. ‘Until now’, wrote Joseph, Comte de Maistre (1753-1821) who for fifteen years was a Freemason, ‘nations were killed by conquest, that is by invasion: But here an important question arises; can a nation not die on its own soil, without resettlement or invasion, by allowing the flies of decomposition to corrupt to the very core those original and constituent principles which make it what it is.’

What was the Frankfurt School? Well, in the days following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, it was believed that workers’ revolution would sweep into Europe and, eventually, into the United States. But it did not do so. Towards the end of 1922 the Communist International (Comintern) began to consider what were the reasons. On Lenin’s initiative a meeting was organised at the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow.

The aim of the meeting was to clarify the concept of, and give concrete effect to, a Marxist cultural revolution. Amongst those present were Georg Lukacs (a Hungarian aristocrat, son of a banker, who had become a Communist during World War I ; a good Marxist theoretician he developed the idea of ‘Revolution and Eros’ — sexual instinct used as an instrument of destruction) and Willi Munzenberg (whose proposed solution was to ‘organise the intellectuals and use them to make Western civilisation stink. Only then, after they have corrupted all its values and made life impossible, can we impose the dictatorship of the proletariat’) ‘It was’, said Ralph de Toledano (1916-2007) the conservative author and co-founder of the ‘National Review’, a meeting ‘perhaps more harmful to Western civilization than the Bolshevik Revolution itself.’

Lenin died in 1924. By this time, however, Stalin was beginning to look on Munzenberg, Lukacs and like-thinkers as ‘revisionists’. In June 1940, Münzenberg fled to the south of France where, on Stalin’s orders, a NKVD assassination squad caught up with him and hanged him from a tree.

In the summer of 1924, after being attacked for his writings by the 5th Comintern Congress, Lukacs moved to Germany, where he chaired the first meeting of a group of Communist-oriented sociologists, a gathering that was to lead to the foundation of the Frankfurt School.

This ‘School’ (designed to put flesh on their revolutionary programme) was started at the University of Frankfurt in the Institut für Sozialforschung. To begin with school and institute were indistinguishable. In 1923 the Institute was officially established, and funded by Felix Weil (1898-1975). Weil was born in Argentina and at the age of nine was sent to attend school in Germany. He attended the universities in Tübingen and Frankfurt, where he graduated with a doctoral degree in political science. While at these universities he became increasingly interested in socialism and Marxism. According to the intellectual historian Martin Jay, the topic of his dissertation was ‘the practical problems of implementing socialism.’

Carl Grünberg, the Institute’s director from 1923-1929, was an avowed Marxist, although the Institute did not have any official party affiliations. But in 1930 Max Horkheimer assumed control and he believed that Marx’s theory should be the basis of the Institute’s research. When Hitler came to power, the Institut was closed and its members, by various routes, fled to the United States and migrated to major US universities—Columbia, Princeton, Brandeis, and California at Berkeley.

The School included among its members the 1960s guru of the New Left Herbert Marcuse (denounced by Pope Paul VI for his theory of liberation which ‘opens the way for licence cloaked as liberty’), Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, the popular writer Erich Fromm, Leo Lowenthal, and Jurgen Habermas — possibly the School’s most influential representative.

Basically, the Frankfurt School believed that as long as an individual had the belief — or even the hope of belief — that his divine gift of reason could solve the problems facing society, then that society would never reach the state of hopelessness and alienation that they considered necessary to provoke socialist revolution. Their task, therefore, was as swiftly as possible to undermine the Judaeo-Christian legacy. To do this they called for the most negative destructive criticism possible of every sphere of life which would be designed to de-stabilize society and bring down what they saw as the ‘oppressive’ order. Their policies, they hoped, would spread like a virus—’continuing the work of the Western Marxists by other means’ as one of their members noted.

To further the advance of their ‘quiet’ cultural revolution — but giving us no ideas about their plans for the future — the School recommended (among other things)…

           — Hat tip: TK [Return to headlines]



UK: Giant Compost Heaps Could Raise Risk of Skin and Lung Conditions

Giant compost heaps used to recycle garden waste and leftover food could be harming the health of those living nearby, experts have warned.

Researchers fear the industrial-scale sites increase rates of asthma, respiratory infections and skin complaints among locals unless they are correctly regulated.

There are already nearly a hundred commercial composting facilities in the UK, handling more than 1.7million tons of waste per year.

The number is expected to double as councils scramble to meet Government targets for recycling organic household waste.

But critics warn that the sites lead to increased numbers of rats and flies which help to spread disease.

Compost also contains bacteria, spores and fungi that can become airborne in emissions known as bioaerosols, which are potentially harmful to humans.

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UK: Man Who Left Girlfriend to Burn to Death After Car Crash is Jailed for Six Years

A man whose girlfriend burnt to death in a car after he crashed into a tree while drunk was jailed for six years today.

Waqas Arshad, 24, of Sherd Close, Luton, Beds escaped the Citroen C4 after he ploughed into a tree in November last year but left 17-year-old Emily Brady to perish in the blaze.

Today Arshad was jailed for six years at Luton Crown Court after previously pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving while over the prescribed alcohol limit, and causing death by driving while uninsured.

The court heard Arshad was roughly twice the drink-drive limit at the time of the crash on November 2.

He left the Steppingley Road, Eversholt, Bedfordshire, at a sweeping bend, in wet conditions, ploughing into a tree and ending up in a field.

Natalie Carter, prosecuting, said when emergency services arrived Arshad twice told them there was nobody in the car and said he was a passenger.

She said Emily — Arshad’s girlfriend of six months — was still wearing her seatbelt and her door had not been opened.

But today Judge John Bevan said he could not be satisfied Arshad, who said he did not remember what had happened that night, would have given those answers if he had not been drunk and in shock after the accident.

He sentenced the 24-year-old to six years in prison and disqualified him from driving for eight years.

He said: “I have read the rambling 10-page letter which sets out how sad you are at causing the death of your girlfriend and I have no doubt whatsoever that you are.

“The contrast between that and the deeply moving impact statement from 17-year-old Emily Brady’s mother, a nurse, forms an unbridgeable gulf.

“Her description of the loss she and her family suffered and continue to suffer at your hands cannot be put into words.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Pigeons Are Trained as Fussy Art Critics in Bizarre Study

It may explain why they flock to Trafalgar Square. They’re there to visit the National Gallery.

Pigeons, it seems, can discriminate between art techniques and can even judge their quality.

According to scientists, given the incentive of food, racing pigeons can be trained to study the colour, pattern and texture of paintings and evaluate them like an art critic…

Their experiment was divided into two halves: the first saw four pigeons placed in a chamber with a computer monitor displaying watercolour and pastel paintings by schoolchildren.

The paintings were divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories by 11 adults, including an art teacher, depending on whether the images were clear and precise.

The pigeons were shown some of the paintings from each category and rewarded with food when they pecked at the good pictures, but not the bad ones.

They were then presented with a mixture of new and old paintings from both categories and the researchers noted the birds consistently pecked at the ‘good’ paintings more often.

Their judgment was unaffected when the paintings were reduced in size or partly hidden.

However, when they were presented with monochrome paintings, they were no longer able to distinguish between the paintings, indicating that they use colour to discriminate.

The second experiment looked at eight new pigeons, which were trained to recognise the paintings’ texture — four were trained to peck at watercolours and four at pastels.

As before, when shown a mixture of new and old paintings, pigeons used both colour and shape cues to discriminate between textures accurately.

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Video: Controversial Taser Shotgun Weapon Launched

The controversial Taser range of weapons, used by police forces in the UK to deliver electric shocks via metal barbs fired from a pistol shaped device, has been extended to include a shotgun launched option

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Food: Oil, Italy Caught Off-Guard by Med Competition

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 29 — The competition is hotting up between the countries of the Mediterranean, with Spain and Tunisia at the head of the countries nibbling away at Italy’s share of the olive oil market. Figures for 2007-2008 released by Assitol — the Italian Association for the Oil Industry — show that the industry is under pressure and Italy is being left standing, unable to find its way, with production chains in disagreement. Italy, as the top exporter of bottled olive oil, produces just over a third of its demand (home consumption, exports and direct sales). In 2008 oil producers had to resort to importing 509,000 tonnes compared to 523,000 in 2007, according to the research by the association to which 90% of Italian bottlers and 70% of exporters belong. This is a fall of 2.7% which however does not indicate an increase in the production capacity of Italy, but is a sign of the difficulty in getting hold of the necessary raw materials. “For years now our companies have been scouring the Mediterranean to find the right kind of oil to create the right blend” explained director general of Assitol Claudio Ranzani. “The international crisis has certainly not helped the industry. With a fall in retail prices the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean are now inspired to produce their own oil, putting a lower-priced product on the market compared to the Italian product”. The unfavourable economic climate has also resulted in a surplus of unsold product amounting to 630,000 tonnes (2007-2008), according to estimates by the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC), in addition to the 2008-2009 amounts which have been judged to be of good enough quality. Spain is the top supplier of olive oil, with 61.6% of the total quantity imported into Italy (up from 56.8% in 2007). The remaining 22.1%, says Assitol, comes from third-party countries, with Tunisia the biggest supplier in 2008, with 20% of the total amount imported (20.4% in 2007). “Turkey and Syria are also doing well” remarked Ranzai, adding that the latter country has its own customer base, with Iran and Middle Eastern countries its main customers. Italy is also part of this base, with 11,464 tonnes of virgin olive oil purchased in 2007, while imports fell to 5,930 tonnes in 2008. Another emerging market is Algeria, which has declared unofficial war on Italian oil. In fact the Algerian government plans to put 500,000 hectares into use by 2014, compared to the current 300,000 hectares, and the country’s harvest for 2008-2009 reached a record 56,201 tonnes in 2008-2009. The temptation, as in many of Italy’s other industries, is to delocalise. In Tunisia and Morocco, predicts Assitol’s director general Ranzani, partnership agreements are being closed, while Egypt has also expressed an interest. “Not so much to produce on-site and sell on the international market, but more to carry out joint-ventures which go towards research into the right oil on-site”. Finally, the free-trade zone to be set up in 2010, which will lead to the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean market, is also causing tremors amongst Italian manufacturers. “With the breakdown of barriers and duty between the countries of the southern Mediterranean and the northern shore, including Italy, around 600 thousand tonnes of olive oil could arrive per year” pointed out Rino Forcella, president of Federolio, the Italian National Federation for the olive oil trade. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza Water Project Priority for Elysee

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JUNE 29 — A water treatment project in Gaza which has been on hold since the Israeli December offensive in the Gaza Strip, will be one of the priorities of the Mediterranean Union in the coming months, said the special advisor of the Elysée Palace, Henri Guaino, after the first meeting of Mediterranean Union ministers since January. The meeting focused on water, environment and renewable energy. The Gaza project concerns around 20% of water needs in the Palestinian territories, according to French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo. The minister announced a meeting in the coming weeks to define the programme on behalf of the Union, currently presided over by France and Egypt. Present at the meeting in Paris were also Israeli Environment Minister Gilad Erdan and Palestinian Economy Minister Bassem Khouri. According to Erdan, the project in Gaza is “an important step forward, resolving water, energy and transport problems could pose a real possibility for progress”. A meeting of Environment Ministers is scheduled in mid-October in Dubrovnik. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria Passes Cybercrime Law

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 2 — The National People’s Assembly, the Algerian parliament, has unanimously passed a bill to prevent and fight cybercrime. According to an APS press release, the new bill concentrates on “offences linked to IT and communication technologies” and “will help to guarantee protection for Algeria against this sort of crimes, which are now extremely widespread”. The bill, according to Algerian Minister of Justice Tayeb Belaiz, aims to “strengthen the legal mechanisms to fight new forms of crime, such as cybercrime”. Some twenty deputies, as reported by Algerian press, have raised doubts over the “risk of restricting individual freedom and of an implementation of censorship measurements on the internet”. The balance between freedom and public order was guaranteed by Belaiz although, “should a conflict of interests arise between individual freedom and internal security”, he explained, “priority would be given to general security”. Among the main concerns of the new bill is surveillance of electronic communication but only following authorization by the magistracy, which will be granted in four cases: offences linked to subversive or terrorist acts against the State, attacks against an information system that could pose a threat to state institutions, for national defence or public order and for legal inquiries and needs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt: Christian Copts Appeal to Mubarak for Protection Amid Renewed Sectarian Violence

By Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Violence against Christian Copts erupted again at dawn on Friday, 7/3/09, in the village of Guirgis Bey, Akfahssi, El-Fashn. Coptic priests accused the Egyptian State Security apparatus of masterminding the incident.

“The village Muslims circulated a ‘rumour’ that the Copts will convert the social services building belonging to the Coptic Diocese of Beba and El-Fashn into a church, resulting in Muslims completely burning down two houses belonging to Christians and attempting to burn down two cars belonging to the church and the priest by pouring kerosene over them,” said Diocese spokesman Reverend Abdul Quddus Hanna to Copts United. “The fire brigade arrived 90 minutes later. The State Security then incited the Muslim villagers against the Copts, leading to clashes between them. Twelve Copts and five Muslims have been arrested and charged with assault.”

The village of Guirgis Bey which is inhabited by nearly 500 Muslims and 2000 Copts has been placed under curfew.

The Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization EUHRO sent an urgent plea to President Mubarak to protect the Coptic inhabitants, in view of the incompetence of the Ministry of Interior. “Who allowed those hooligans to carry out these attacks? The State security failed and was only successful in arresting eleven Christian young men,” said Dr. Naguib Gabraeel, President of EUHRO.

Reverend Hanna commented that the complicity of the State Security in this incident is obvious as the social services building was built some time ago, and the village priest Reverend Samaan Shehata Rizkallah has been residing there.

In an interview with Coptic News Bulletin today, Reverend Samaan said that the nearly 2000 Coptic inhabitants living in the village have been praying in one single room. “The majority of the congregation have been praying in the street, with cattle passing in their midst.” Reverend Samaan also implicated the State Security. “The villagers are usually peaceful, but the State Security incited them to violence as the social services building is adjacent to a mosque.”

The Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization EUHRO sent a plea to President Mubarak to protect the Coptic inhabitants, in view of the ineffectiveness of the Ministry of Interior. “The series of attacks on the Copts is continuous as long as the Government is deliberately not passing the bill on the “unified law for building places of worship,” said Dr. Naguib Gabraeel, President of EUHRO

This sectarian violence comes after a similar incident took place also in El-Fashn, Beni Suef, on 6/21/09 in Ezbet Boushra-East where a Muslim mob and the State Security destroyed the homes and crops of the Coptic inhabitants (AINA 6-24-2009).

In his plea Dr. Gabraeel, asks: “Should the Copts resort to the United Nations, and would they then be blamed?”

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Islam: Tension With the West Tackled by Al-Azhar Graduates

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JUNE 30 — The world forum for al-Azhar alumni, which closed yesterday, discussed on Monday the causes of tension between Islam and the West during a conference under the theme of dialogue between Islam and the West. The forum has also tackled means to heal tense relations, improve Muslim-West ties and it also covered religions’ role to support voluntary work. Grounds for deeper dialogue between the West and Islam should be set and domains of dialogue should be expanded, participants to the forum from different foreign countries demanded. President of Al-Azhar University and head of the Association of al-Azhar graduates, which organized the forum, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, said that the main goal of the gathering was neither political nor partisan but it aimed to benefit from more than 50,000 graduates to spread moderate Islam. A professor from Malaysia said that the reasons behind disagreements between the West and Islam are the West’s double-standard policy and he asked for a quick settling of the Palestinian cause to prepare a favourable climate for dialogue. He also underscored the importance of dialogue and discarding of violence to improve relations between Islam and the West. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Gaza: Amnesty Report Also Criticized by Hamas

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JULY 2 — For once in agreement with Israel, also Hamas — the Islamic movement in power in the Gaza Strip — has today condemned the Amnesty International report on the Israeli attacks against Hamas in Gaza at the beginning of the year. The report accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes. Sami Abu Zuhri said today in a press conference in Gaza City that the Amnesty report “is neither fair nor balanced”, putting forward as it does “false accusations towards Hamas while underestimating the seriousness of the crimes committed by the occupying forces”. “Furthermore,” he added, “it reshuffled all cards to hide the extent of the Israeli crimes”, “putting the torturer and the victim on the same level” and “omitting to mention the extent of damages and destruction” caused by the Israeli armed forces. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Hugh Fitzgerald: Stop This Naive Talk About “Two Peoples” And About a “Solution”

The “two states for two peoples” and the “solution” — should be held up for inspection and ridicule.

Let’s start with the “two peoples.” Who are these “two peoples” of which we hear so much? The “Two Peoples” are supposed to be the Israeli Jews and the “Palestinians.” But the “Palestinians” in question are merely the local Arabs, as anyone will come to realize who stays for a minute to think about the matter and to put aside, for the moment, the incessant Arab propaganda since the Six-Day War that led to the invention of the “Palestinian People” and then to the “project” of their “construction,” the “construction of that ‘Palestinian’ identity” — see Joel Beinin, see Rashid Khalidi, see Joseph Massad. That “construction” is a weapon of war, a weapon of Islamic propaganda. It crumbles, upon inspection, into dust. For those “Palestinians,” or rather, those local Arabs who are now called “Palestinians,” a re identical in every important respect, in language, in culture, in ethnic identity, and above all in the shared Total Belief-System, to other Muslim Arabs. They are proudly Muslim or, for the handful of remaining Christians, “Islamochristians” who have internalized the Muslim worldview. All of them proudly share — see the PLO and Hamas charters — the idea of a single Arab people, whose most important identifying mark after Islam itself (and for the “islamochristians” it can serve as a substitute for Islam) is ‘Uruba, Arabness.

The second is the naive notion of a “Solution.” Americans appear to be particularly susceptible to this idea: everything can be called a “problem,” and every problem has a “solution.” No. This is not true, and never has been. There is no “solution” to what some might call the “problem” of human inequality, for example, but there are ways we manage to deal with this, including the legal equality — which is not the same thing as forced equality of outcome — that the American system attempts to protect, with varying degrees of success. There is no “solution” to political hysteria, or conspiracy theorists — examples of human stupidity — but one tries to keep them within manageable bounds.

And there is no “solution” to what Islam inculcates, about which there is no ambiguity…

           — Hat tip: CJHS [Return to headlines]



Israeli Navy Performs “Unusual” Drill in Suez

Jews and Arabs shouldn’t live side by side: Israeli minister

An Israeli submarine sailed the Suez Canal to the Red Sea as part of a naval drill last month, defense sources said on Friday, as an Israeli minister warned against the expanding population of Arab Israelis that do not “love” Israel.

A defense source said the Israeli navy held an exercise off Eilat last month and that one of Israel’s Dolphin-class submarines took part, having travelled to the Red Sea port though Suez, in the unusual maneuver that was described as a show of strategic reach in the face of Iran.

“This was definitely a departure from policy,” said the source, who declined to give further details on the drill or say whether the Dolphin had undergone Egyptian inspections in the canal, through which the submarine sailed unsubmerged.

It was unclear when last month the vessel left the Mediterranean. One source said the voyage was planned for months and so was not related to unrest after the June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Another Israeli defense source with extensive naval experience said the drill “showed that we can far more easily access the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf, than before.”

But the source added: “If indeed our subs are capable of doing to Iran what they are believed to be capable of doing, then surely this is a capability that can be put into action from the Mediterranean?”

Egyptian officials at Suez said they would neither confirm nor deny reports regarding military movements. One official said that if there was such a passage by Israelis in the canal, it would not be problematic as Egypt and Israel are not at war.

A military spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the voyage, first reported on Friday by the Jerusalem Post.

Israel ready to retaliate

Israel long kept its three Dolphin-class submarines, which are widely assumed to carry nuclear missiles, away from Suez so as not to expose them to the gaze of Egyptian harbormasters.

Sailing to the Gulf without using Suez would oblige the diesel-fueled Israeli submarines, normally based in the Mediterranean, to circumnavigate Africa — a weeks-long voyage. That would have limited use in signaling Israel’s readiness to retaliate should it ever come under an Iranian nuclear attack.

Shorter-term, the submarines’ conventional missiles could also be deployed in any Israeli strikes on Iran’s atomic sites, which Tehran insists have only civilian energy purposes.

Israel has the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal but does not discuss this under an “ambiguity” policy billed as deterring its enemies while avoiding provocations.

Each German-made Dolphin has 10 torpedo tubes, four of them widened at Israel’s request — to accommodate, some independent analysts believe, nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. But there have been questions about whether these would have the 1,500-km (1,000-mile) range needed to hit Iran from the Mediterranean.

Israel plans to acquire two more Dolphins early next decade. Naval analysts say this could allow it to set up a rotation whereby some of the submarines patrol distant shores while others secure the Israeli coast or dock to undergo maintenance.

Arab Israeli don’t “love” Israel

Meanwhile, Israel’s Jerusalem Post quoted its Housing and Construction Minister, Ariel Attias, as saying Jews and Arabs should not live next to each other.

“We can all be bleeding hearts, but I think it is unsuitable to live together,” the minister was quoted as telling the Israel Bar Association in Tel Aviv.

“Arabs don’t have where to live, so they buy apartments in places with a Jewish nature, which causes unwanted friction,” said Attias, of the religious Shas party.

In a reference to Arab Israelis, he also complained about “the expansion of a population that doesn’t love the state of Israel, to say the least.”

The minister also warned Israel was in danger of “losing the Galilee” if the Arab Israeli population continued to “spread” in the North and called a plan to build a haredi community in the area a “mission of national importance” that could help “stop the expansion,” the paper reported.

The English-language newspaper quoted Arab-Israeli MP Ahmed Tibi as chiding Attias.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



UNRWA Launches Appeal for Palestinian Rights

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 30 — “All Palestinian refugees’ human rights are being denied at the moment, from first to last,” Karen Koning AbuZayd, General Commissioner of UNRWA, which looks after 4.7 million Palestinian refugees, said at the start of a speech marking 60 years of activity by the UN agency. “For us the violations become practical questions with an impact on every day life,” she told a conference on the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians being held in Brussels. Leila Shaid, delegate of the Palestinian National Authority to the European Union, for her part said that “two thirds of Palestinians are refugees. And much has been done by UNRWA, despite the Israeli occupation. Our top priority is to acquire self-determination. Unfortunately UNRWA has no mandate on political rights.” Shaid noted that the Palestinian people’s position is unique in the world and “the international community has a great responsibility for the failure to implement the rights of Palestinians for 61 years.” AbuZayd meanwhile said that “I invite everyone to come and see with their own eyes what we are talking about — everyone has done so has been shocked. The Occupied Territories are a place “where a wide spectrum of abuses take place — from the refusal to recognize Palestinian identity, by means of the imprisonment of thousands of people, to traumas and civilian dead and wounded in the armed conflict.” In the West Bank, she added, “the growing number of attacks by Israeli settlers complements tragically the internal violence among Palestinians. And as the Palestinian houses are demolished methodically, creating hundreds of poor homeless people, the Israeli settlements continue to grow, even in East Jerusalem.” UNRWA also has depicted the dramatic plight of Gaza, where the closure of the frontiers “has reached the 24th month, creating a surreal state of siege that recall medieval times.” The arrival of some basic commodities “maintains an illusory veil of normality,” but according to Koning AbuZayd there is no logic to the products allowed to enter Gaza given that “the prohibited list includes books, paper for text books, batteries for hearing aids, light bulbs, candles, matches, musical instruments, clothes, shoes, mattresses, sheets, tea, coffee, chocolate and nuts. Shampoo is allowed only if it does not contain balsam.” With so many bans, “schools, public buildings, mosques and industries can not be repaired and more than 52,000 houses for 250,000 people, remain destroyed or damaged.” UNRWA continues “to renew with dedication its mandate,” said the agency’s commissioner, “but we are aware that while the humanitarian sector is vital and indispensable for the welfare of refueges, our work must be accompanied by credible progress toward reaching wider political goals including Palestinian self-determination.” While waiting for new developments on the path to peace, UNRWA also is in search of funds for 2009 — more than USD 275 million are needed for refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. It is the biggest such appeal the agency has made since its emergency programme started in 2000. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Algeria: OIC Condemns ‘Foreign Interference’ In Iran

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 30 — Member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have condemned in the Declaration of Algiers “foreign interference in the internal affairs of Iran” and expressed concern over “the pressures exerted on Iran to deprive it of its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful means.” The Declaration, the official APS news agency said, was initialled at the end of the 21st session of the OIC executive committee which ended today in the Algerian capital and was attended by the Iranian Parliament speaker, Ali Larijani. Underlining also “its support for the Palestinian Resistance,” the OIC strongly denounced what it said was the policy that allowed Israel to have a nuclear arsenal that “puts in danger the security and stability of the region without any international control”. The OIC said it is determined to “confront Israeli aggression so as to recover the occupied territories, including the Gaza strip, the West Bank and El Qods (Jerusalem).” The Algiers Declaration also voiced its “concern for the false, obscure and dubious accusations made by the International Criminal Court against Sudanese President Omar El Bashir”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Diana West: Iraq is Victorious… Over the ‘Foreign’ U.S.?

I’ve been stewing over something really lousy that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been saying since June 20: that Iraqis have won a “great victory” over the “foreign presence in Iraq.”

That “great victory,” as he calls it, is the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq’s cities. That “foreign presence,” as he calls it, is the United States — the thousands of mainly young American men who have fought a vicious enemy under the harshest conditions for more than six long years, with 4,321 Americans killed, many thousands wounded, often grievously so, and some small, tortured number wrongfully ensnared by the U.S. military justice system in apparent deference to Iraqi political considerations.

“Ingrate” doesn’t begin to describe this al-Maliki creep — or, as all too many conservatives and Bush loyalists persist in thinking of him, our Iraqi “ally.” But let’s skip the labels and stick to the implications of the Iraqi prime minister’s rhetoric: He has transformed long-term American sacrifice on Iraq’s behalf into a residual “foreign presence” over which he now declares Iraqi victory.

The mind reels — both at the import of Maliki’s words and the tepid U.S. non-reaction to them. Asked whether he found Maliki’s “terminology acceptable,” Gen. Raymond Odierno went all political, talking-pointing to Iraqis’ “progression in their capacities” blah, blah. The post-withdrawal “expert” assessments I’ve seen haven’t even mentioned Iraq’s “victory.” Typically, John Nagl, president of Center for a New American Security, a Left-wing defense think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, is still mooning over “the strategic imperative of establishing an enduring relationship” with Iraq. Someone should break it to him that Iraq isn’t going to enter into an “enduring relationship” with a “foreign presence.” Like love, U.S. defense policy is blind…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]



Former Jordanian PM Calls Israel ‘A Cancer’

Former Jordanian prime minister Abd Al-Raouf Al-Rawabdeh delivered a speech recently in which he called Israel “a cancer that must be eradicated.” His comment were aired on Al-Jazeera TV on June 27 and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “Israel is a cancerous body. This is agreed upon,” he stated.

“Usually, you confront a cancerous body in one of two ways: If you have the power, you use it to eradicate the cancer. But if you don’t have the power, you try to contain the danger, until you obtain the power you need in order to eradicate it,” said Al-Rawabdeh.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Iran: Richman Rafsanjani Using Street Protests Against Powerful Pasdarans

Iran’s opposition is bringing together all those who have become disillusioned with the country’s failed reforms. Demonstrators are perhaps just being used in a war over the country’s economy.

Tehran (AsiaNews) — What is Iran’s future, and that of the opposition which has heroically challenged the establishment in recent weeks?

Ten years ago student unrest was brutally crushed. Today the repressive arm of the state has reached out again but has found a more diversified opposition armed with internet, cellphones and twitter. Even the regime’s traditional use of Islamic-nationalist themes has not found many scapegoats to use. US President Barack Obama is not an easy adversary to criticise or blame.

What is certain is that Iranians have become more disillusioned. They have seen a reform-minded mullah like Khatami fail to reform the regime. They have seen that under Ahmadinejad the Islamic Republic has not been able to reduce corruption or offer more social justice. They have seen instead the regime reinforce its repressive apparatus to keep the system afloat, co-opting those it could not crush, something which it cannot however do forever at the elite level.

As the richest man in Iran Rafsanjani is openly opposed not only to Ahmadinejad but also to Khamenei and the Pasdarans, the regime’s powerful armed revolutionary militia. In this context Mousavi is just a front man like Ahmadinejad. Perhaps the Mullah Republic no longer belongs to the Shia clergy.

The Great Marjas, a small number of ayatollahs, stand at the helm of the Shia clerical hierarchy. Because of their knowledge, scholarship and lives above reproach they are sources to follow or imitate.

But Khamenei is not one of them. When he replaced Khomeini, he was but a hojjatoleslam, not a full ayatollah.

After he was elected to the presidency, Ahmadinejad did not choose a great marja as his spiritual advisor but opted instead for an outsider, a hard-line ayatollah, Mesbah Yazdi.

Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are closely linked to the Revolutionary Guards, the Pasdarans, and their vigilante units, the Basij. The white checkered scarf the supreme leader wears on top of his cassock is the Basij emblem. The Revolutionary Guards hold most power. The time when even a weak Khatami could order the Basij to stay in their barracks seems long gone.

If the Pasdarans are behind Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, Rafsanjani is behind Mousavi and the pro-democracy opposition. The powerful politician and businessman in a mullah outfit has come to realise the importance of the support of all those who have become disillusioned during the Ahmadinejad era.

In 2005 Rafsanjani’s unpopularity handed Ahmadinejad his electoral victory. Today as four years ago, Ahmadinejad is a threat to those who are “corrupt”, a group which Rafsanjani has come to symbolise, but he has failed so far to do anything about them.

Instead Rafsanjani has been able to consolidate his hold on certain institutions of the Iranian state like the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to remove Khamenei from office.

Rumour has it that Rafsanjani is currently in Qom to talk with other mullahs about possible scenarios concerning the current supreme leader. Is it a bluff or a just rumour? Whatever the case may be, it is at least a sign that the regime is divided.

Its brutal crackdown and its attempt to muzzle the media at all cost and the fear its rulers have felt at the popular unrest have left their mark.

Conversely, the opposition has been restrained, able to use the regime’s own symbols. Instead of demanding Western-styled freedoms, protesters have chanted “Allah Akbar!”, wearing green or black, Islamic colours par excellence.

In all this Obama and other Western governments have played it cool and not backed protesters too openly to avoid giving Khamenei a chance to play the nationalist card. Rafsanjani has also learnt the lesson, choosing instead to keep in the background.

The courage and intelligence of the opposition is a source of hope for many Iranians in exile. This grassroots movement, backed and perhaps used by Rafsanjani, might in the end turn into a political force.

But in a country where the Pasdarans are in charge of border controls and have their own ports, where they have important economic interests to protect and can decide on their own the country’s nuclear programme, all backed by their own independent land, sea and air force, can the Islamic Republic be reformed?

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



Iraq: U.S. General Hails Turkey as Major Strategic Partner

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 1 — Chief commander of the U.S. Central Command has lauded Turkey as “an important strategic partner” for the United States, Anatolia news agency reports quoting U.S. Gen. David Howell Petraeus as saying. “Turkey is a very important strategic partner for the U.S. and it plays a major role in regional security and diplomacy,” Petraeus told reporters on Wednesday before departing from Turkish capital. Petraeus was in Ankara within the framework of bilateral strategic discussions between Turkey and the States as U.S. forces began pulling out from major Iraqi cities, leaving formal control of Iraqi troops, six years after US-led coalition forces invaded Iraq. This morning Gen.Petraeus paid a visit to Turkey’s Chief of General Staff, Gen.Ilker Basbug, and discussed military issues and regional security matters concerning the two countries. Petraeus described his talks with Turkish officials as “fruitful,” as Turkish diplomatic sources have said that the U.S. general had made no request from Turkey concerning a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq during a meeting with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu earlier in the day. (ANSAmed).

2009-07-01 18:37

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Canned Foods With Forbidden Ingredients ‘Invade’ Kingdom

Amman — Jordan is being ‘invaded’ by food stuff containing pigs’ intestines, which is forbidden by Islamic law.

There are no effective measures in place or responsible associations in Jordan to check on foodstuff containing forbidden animal products entering the country.

Public awareness campaigns are not available in Jordan. Jordan is flooded with food stuff from unknown sources and countries. Most of these products are smuggled into Jordan by importers and factories specializing in food products.

Sources told Fact International that there is a ‘hotdog made of pork’ available in Jordan. Former workers in a factory packing meat in Lebanon confirmed this information. They said that ‘huge quantities of the hotdog made from pigs’ intestines had been smuggled into Jordan and there is no documentation stating what the ingredients are and where it is coming from. They are being sold in the west of Amman and sold in deluxe tourist restaurants.’

FI ascertained that these ‘hotdogs’ were being sold in the west of Amman and that many citizens were purchasing the product unaware that it contained forbidden ingredients.

FI submitted this information, together with samples of the food product, to the General Foundation for Food and Medicine. FI requested that the food products be tested for forbidden ingredients. This proved to be an obstacle because there are no special testing procedures in Jordan.

The Director of the General Foundation for Food and Medicine, Dr. Mohammad Al Rawashdeh, said that on receiving information from FI “teams from of the Foundation penetrated some of the stores and confiscated the hotdogs cans.”

FI is aware that persons selling these kinds of hotdog had been arrested.

The question is: “Is apprehending these people sufficient to end this phenomenon? Or does the matter need an observation commission to investigate the markets extensively and adopt suitable procedures to protect citizens.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Syria-USA: Asma Al-Assad ‘Would be Happy to Host the Obamas’

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 3 — Syrian President Bashir’s wife, Asma al-Assad, has said on television that she would be delighted to welcome US President Barack Obama to Syria, which the Bush administration labelled as a “rogue” state due to its alleged support of terrorism. In exclusive statements to Sky News, Assad said that she could easily imagine hosting Obama and his wife “in the historical centre of Damascus, meeting people so that they [the Obamas] can understand how we live, who we are and what Syria is.” The Sky News website underlines that Assad’s words “are the most recent in a series of signs that relations between the US and Syria are improving after many years of tension.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tehran Cleric Detains British Embassy Staff Over Election Unrest

French President Nicolas Sarkozy today said Britain can count on total solidarity from France in attempts to pressure Iranian authorities to release embassy staff in Tehran.

Britain wants the European Union to recall its ambassadors from Iran in protest at the detentions.

Sarkozy told reporters in Stockholm that ‘our solidarity with our English friends is total.’

He said France has always wanted to strengthen sanctions against the regime, ‘so that Iranian leaders will really understand that the path that they have chosen will be a dead end.’

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the EU has not yet decided on the British request.

Just hours earlier, European Union states summoned their Iranian envoys after a top cleric said some of the British Embassy staff detained in Tehran are to face trial.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said some of the Iranian staffers who had been detained had ‘confessed’ to their alleged role in post-election unrest.

Jannati, who is close to Iran’s supreme leader, has made the announcement in a prayer sermon today.

Downing Street said it was concerned at the report.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman said urgent clarification was being sought from the Iranian government regarding the claims.

Top Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati made the announcement in a prayer sermon earlier today.

[Return to headlines]



Turkey: Controversy Over, ‘Saison’ Opens in France

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JULY 1 — Evoking the “lengthy common history which began with the alliance between François I and Suleiman the Magnificent”, France’s new minister of culture, Frederic Mitterrand, gave the go-ahead to the ‘Saison de la Turquie en France’. The event will run from July 1 to March 31, nine months of 400 events dedicated to various art forms that will be held in some 40 French cities. The event had been on hold for some weeks because of political issues. In mid-June Turkish authorities hinted that they were prepared to forfeit the Saison in the wake of statements made by French president Nicolas Sarkozy that ran against Turkey’s request to join the European Union. Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on television that “I’m considering whether we should go or not”. Erdogan, an exponent of the Islamic inspired Justice and Development party (AKP), stated that “Sarkozy will regret his actions, sooner or later”. Turkish sponsors were also in doubt up to the very last moment, thinking of focusing all investments on Istanbul as Europe’s cultural capital city in 2010. But hopes of changing hostile attitudes to Turkey’s entrance into Europe in the space of nine months prevailed. Turkey’s minister of Culture, Ertugrul Gunay, stated that “We believe that tensions generated by the actions of politicians can be overcome thanks to the work of culture”. The minister was in Paris for the opening of the Saison, whose first main event is scheduled to take place in Paris’ Trocadero this Saturday: a concert by Sufi band Mercan Dede and dozens of dancing dervishes. Then there will be exhibits, movies, meetings with Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk, Turkish coffee in the Tuileries gardens, and a French/Turkish opera, Musenna, on Ottoman and European celebrations in the 17th century. Plus scientific debates, conferences on the country’s economic power. Nothing has been left out in showing off modern-day Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


Obama Not Fully Informed on Russia: Putin Spokesman

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will use next week’s Moscow talks to relieve President Barack Obama of mistaken impressions he remains mired in Cold War thinking, Putin’s spokesman said on Firday.

The spokesman was reacting to comments Obama made in a pre-trip interview. The U.S. leader told the Associated Press that Putin needed to “understand that the Cold War approach to U.S.-Russian relationship is outdated” and that Putin had “one foot in the old ways of doing business.”

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in mildly-expressed comments, said: “I see that he does not possess full information. After visiting Moscow, President Obama will know the realities better.

“Judging by these statements it is very good that the meeting with Prime Minister Putin is on President Obama’s agenda. I am sure that after the meeting with Putin, President Obama will change his point of view,” Peskov added.

He dismissed Obama’s suggestion that Putin — who once described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century” — needed to understand the Cold War was over.

“Putin understood that a long time ago,” Peskov said.

Putin developed a good personal rapport with Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, which endured despite Russia-U.S. relations hitting their post-Cold War lows. He will meet Obama for the first time for 1 1/2 hours on Tuesday.

“Prime Minister Putin is looking forward to the meeting and plans to make the most out of it despite it being a very short meeting,” Peskov said, adding that Putin will seek to understand Obama’s world view.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia


Pakistan: Taliban Buying Children for Suicide Bombers

Pakistan’s top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, is buying children as young as 7 to serve as suicide bombers in the growing spate of attacks against Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. targets, U.S. Defense Department and Pakistani officials say.

A Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said the going price for child bombers was $7,000 to $14,000 — huge sums in Pakistan, where per-capita income is about $2,600 a year.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Far East


China’s Green Dam Internet Filtering System Will Go Ahead, Official Says

Government claims technology will curb access to pornography, but internet users say it blocks politically sensitive content and monitors behaviour

China’s controversial plan to install Green Dam internet filtering software on all computers will go ahead despite being postponement, a government official told state media today.

The official said it was only “a matter of time” until the software was installed.

The remarks — if they fully reflect official policy — will anger internet users, who mounted a vociferous campaign against the policy this week and hoped they had secured a victory against government censorship.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced a delay in the implementation of the programme late on Tuesday, hours before it had been supposed to come into force.

Officials claim the technology will help to curb access to pornography, particularly by younger users.

Internet users say the image and keyword filter blocks pornographic, violent and politically sensitive content and monitors behaviour and fear it will be used to curb access to information and keep track of users.

Green Dam has also come under fire for exposing users to security breaches, with experts warning it could easily be hacked, and a US-based software firm is threatening to sue the Chinese developers for copyright infringement.

Solid Oak warned computer manufacturers they would become “knowing infringers” if they included Green Dam.

Industry bodies, the US government and others had also called on China to abandon the project.

Some experts believed that countervailing arguments within the government might have prevailed.

But an official, speaking anonymously, told China Daily: “The government will definitely carry on the directive on Green Dam. It’s just a matter of time.

“What will happen is that some PC manufacturers will have it included with their PC packages sooner than the others. But there is no definite deadline at the moment.”

The official said the delay was necessary because some computer manufacturers needed more time to prepare.

“They have already spent around millions of yuan. If they don’t install it, people will ask why they spent so much for nothing, so they have to brazen it out,” Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer who has opposed the software, said.

“At present, there are too many questions and challenges domestically and abroad, so MIIT is in a dilemma.

“I believe they will carry it out after they have technically improved it and clarified the intellectual property rights.

“[But] if they really want to protect young people from porn, they should deal with the source — pornographic websites.”

Ai Weiwei, a leading contemporary artist and outspoken blogger who had proposed an “internet boycott” to mark opposition to the policy, said he was surprised to hear ministry sources say it would definitely go ahead.

“It was stopped just one day before the policy should be carried out — after preparing for such a long time and facing so much opposition from the public as well as manufacturers,” he said.

There has been confusion about whether the policy required the installation of the software, or whether manufacturers simply had to bundle it with computers.

“If it is true that installation has become party of the policy again, officials are limiting citizens’ freedom to choose and freedom of expression,” Ai said. “This is a backward step.”

[Return to headlines]

Latin America


Hands Off Honduras!

Last Saturday, Honduran soldiers marched into the presidential palace, bundled up President Manuel Zelaya and put him on a plane for Costa Rica.

The ouster had been ordered by the Supreme Court and approved by the Congress, as Zelaya was attempting an illegal referendum to change the Honduran constitution so he could run for another term.

Will someone please explain why this bloodless transfer of power to the civilian legislator first in line for the presidency, in a sovereign nation, is any business of the United Nations, the Organization of American States, Hugo Chavez, the Castro brothers or Barack Obama? For all have denounced the “coup” and demanded Zelaya’s immediate return.

The hypocrisy here is astounding.

Chavez was imprisoned for his bloody coup attempt in Venezuela in 1992. And to have Fidel Castro’s dictatorship of half a century denouncing a glitch in the democratic process of a Western Hemisphere republic is beyond parody.

What percentage of the 200 member nations of that septic tank of anti-Americanism, the United Nations, are democracies? How many leaders of its member states came to power through free and fair elections?

And what happened to the idea of non-intervention in the internal affairs of Western Hemisphere republics? At this writing, Honduras is not buckling.

“We have established a democratic government, and we will not cede to pressure from anyone. We are a sovereign country,” said Roberto Micheletti, who was named caretaker president to serve out Zelaya’s term, which ends this year.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Honduras Rejects OAS Appeal to Restore President

Honduras’ Supreme Court rebuffed a personal appeal from the Americas’ top international diplomat Friday, refusing to restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya before a Saturday deadline.

Jose Miguel Insulza, who heads the Organization of American States, flew to Honduras in an attempt to persuade the forces that ousted Zelaya to take him back in the face of overwhelming international condemnation and economic sanctions.

He met for two hours with Jorge Rivera, president of the Supreme Court that authorized the military to seize Zelaya on Sunday and fly him into exile.

[…]

“Insulza asked Honduras to reinstate Zelaya, but the president of the court categorically answered that there is an arrest warrant for him,” said court spokesman Danilo Izaguirre. “Now the OAS has to decide what it will do.”

[…]

“We are not going to Honduras to negotiate. We are going to Honduras to ask them to change what they have been doing,” he said.

Micheletti’s foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, said that Insulza “can negotiate all he wants, except for Zelaya’s situation.”

[Return to headlines]



Luis Fleischman in the Americas Report: Time to Reject Dictatorship in Latin America

The June 28 coup d’état in Honduras that deposed President Manuel Zelaya raised international concern. Brazilian President Lula Da Silva stated that he will not recognize any other president except Zelaya. Most countries in Latin America echoed Lula’s sentiment. President Obama also indicated the inadmissibility of deposing an elected president.

Let us face one truth. Coup d’états no doubt look and sound like the opposite of democracy because in fact they depose an elected president or leader by force. The traumas of the 1970’s, particularly after the 1973 coup against Chilean president Salvador Allende and the distress caused by a possible U.S. support for the coup as well as U.S. support for all the South American military dictatorships has generated among us a natural rejection for such actions…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



Oliver North: “Obama: Wrong Again”

WASHINGTON — It took the Obama administration eight days to figure out whether Iranians being gunned down for protesting a fraudulent election and demanding basic civil liberties deserved to be acknowledged by the president of the United States. It took the O-Team less than eight hours to side with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega over the ouster of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.

As we now have come to expect, Mr. Obama got it wrong again, but this time, nobody noticed. The U.S. news media, preoccupied with the sudden demise of Michael Jackson, ignored the event in Central America. For those who care about things more important than the passing of a “pop music legend,” here’s the rest of the story:

Manuel Zelaya, a wealthy rancher and agribusiness executive and a self-described “poor farmer,” won a four-year term as Honduran president in November 2005, with 49.8 percent of the vote. Article 374 of the Honduran Constitution bars the nation’s chief executive from serving consecutive terms. Apparently, one term wasn’t enough for Zelaya, a protégé of Venezuela’s strongman, Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua’s phobic anti-American leader, Daniel Ortega.

Late last year, as the Honduran economy tanked and unemployment grew to nearly 28 percent, Zelaya forced Elvin Santos, the country’s elected vice president, to resign and began holding conversations with Chavez and Ortega on how to hold on to power. In lengthy Chavez-like populist speeches, he denounced the U.S. and wealthy landowners and linked himself with leftists in the Honduran labor movement. On March 23, he issued an executive decree directing a national referendum on a Venezuela-style constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution in time for presidential and legislative elections in November. The Obama-Clinton State Department was mute about all of this.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



SC Senator Defends Ouster of Honduran President

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint is defending the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and says the rule of law is working in Honduras.

Zelaya was ousted in a military coup after he ignored a Supreme Court order to halt a constitutional revamp, which many Hondurans believe was meant to let him stay in power.

A Republican conservative, DeMint called Zelaya “a Chavez-style dictator,” referring to Venezuelan leftist leader Hugo Chavez, an outspoken critic of the United Stat

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Finland: Egyptian Grandmother Faces Deportation

Migration Minister Astrid Thors says she does not plan to issue new rules on family reunification. Controversy on Finland’s family reunification rules erupted after Helsingin Sanomat broke the news of a deportation order handed to an Egyptian grandmother who has been living in Finland with her children.

Under current law, grandparents are not granted residence permits in Finland based on family ties. A foreign elderly relative must be totally dependent on her family to be allowed to stay in Finland.

The woman, an Egyptian national, has been living in Finland for two years. She is now facing deportation as she is not considered to belong to her sons’ nuclear families. The woman’s sons are Finnish citizens.

The woman’s family members in Finland say she is unable to live on her own in Egypt, where she has no relatives. It’s up to the authorities to decide whether the woman is able to care for herself.

Officials have given the woman one month to leave Finland voluntarily.

Several Finnish congregations have offered the woman sanctuary.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



Hospital Lures Mexican Moms

A Tucson hospital’s health-care package promises affluent Mexican women the chance to have their babies in posh surroundings with access to the latest medical equipment.

But the marketing materials leave out a key draw in the arrangement: U.S. citizenship for the newborn.

Tucson Medical Center’s “birth package” gives an official nod to a generations-old practice of wealthy Mexican women coming to U.S. hospitals to give birth. Mexican families do the same thing at all local hospitals, but Tucson Medical Center is the only one actively recruiting their business.

The practice is legal, but offensive to some advocates of tougher U.S. immigration standards.

“What it really amounts to,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, “is buying U.S. citizenship.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy: Crackdown on Illegal Immigration

Crime law also sets up ‘civilian patrols’

(ANSA) — Rome, July 2 — Italy cracked down on illegal immigration and crime with a new law Thursday.

For the first time, illegal immigration becomes a crime and Italians are encouraged to report illegals.

The controversial law, which passed by 157 votes to 124, also enables private citizens — but mainly former officers — to help the police in crime hotspots.

Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government, which came to power on a strong law-and-order ticket stressing links between illegal immigration and crime, said it was “proud” of the law.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said it would discourage migrants from targeting Italy and make the country safer.

But the centre-left opposition claimed it made Italy “less civilised” and announced a campaign of civil disobedience to hinder its application.

It also claimed the law could worsen prison overcrowding.

A group of leftist intellectuals called for widescale protests against what it called a “racist” law.

The Catholic Church again thundered against the law, saying it “criminalised” immigrants and stressing that migration was one of “the fundamental rights of mankind”.

The Vatican criticised the law for “focusing on crime and leaving integration completely out of the picture”.

The European Commission said it would see if the law complies with European Union law.

Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot said it was important that another part of the law, automatic expulsions for people jailed for more than two years, should not be applied to EU citizens such as Romanians. The law covers a wide range of issues, including national registers for the homeless and disco bouncers, tougher jail conditions for mafiosi and making businesses report mafia extortion.

But its main focus is on illegal immigration. As well as the opposition and the Catholic Church, the law has also been criticised by human rights groups and immigrant associations.

Maroni said these strictures were based on misinformation.

The law follows another controversial move, to return migrants rescued at sea to Libya, which critics say jeopardises asylum rights. Under the new immigration crackdown, people caught entering or living in Italy without a permit will not be arrested but they will given immediate expulsion orders and face fines ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 euros. The law also says that Italians — unless they are doctors or school heads who will be exempted — will be obliged to report illegal immigrants. The bill triples the period of time that foreigners can be held in detention centres from two to six months in order to allow sufficient time to process their deportation, should they not be granted asylum. Other aspects of the law include tough fines for landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, no public services for babies born in Italy to parents without legal status and a longer waiting period for foreigners seeking citizenship through marriage. The law also authorises ‘citizen patrols’.

The government has stressed that the patrols will only be tasked with reporting crime but the opposition claims the government is contracting out policing to private individuals.

It also fears the patrols will turn into vigilante gangs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Netherlands VVD: Widespread Use of Fake Human Trafficking Reports

THE HAGUE, 03/07/09 — More and more illegal and rejected asylum-seekers are making fraudulent use of the B9 regulation in order to remain in the Netherlands, conservative (VVD) MP Paul de Krom told Elsevier.nl This means that they say they are victims of human trafficking, after which they receive a temporary residence permit.

“The number of people that are reporting human trafficking is rising very rapidly,” says De Krom. “Rejected asylum-seekers in particular try to get a residence permit via this route. There are suspicions that they are even encouraged by asylum lawyers,” according to De Krom, who says he obtained his information from a ‘reliable source” at the police.

If someone reports being a victim of human trafficking to the police, he or she receives a temporary residence permit during the investigation. The investigation by police and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) generally takes months. If it has not been completed within three years, the alien receives a permanent residence permit.

De Krom, who says Nigerians and Somalis in particular abuse the B9 scheme, does not want to abolish the scheme. “But the state secretary must close off the route of false reports,” he says. “It is often difficult ofr the police to prove that a report is false. The investigation takes a long time and the temporary residence permit runs on.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Press: Med Agencies, On Immigration No Xenophobic Terms

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 23 — Mediterranean press agencies said no to the use of “racist and xenophobic terminology” when covering issues such as illegal immigration and terrorism, as they signed the ‘Algiers Declaration’, to promote a ‘careful and appropriate use of terminology’. In the Declaration, signed today during the 18th meeting of the Alliance of Mediterranean News Agencies (AMAN) in Algiers, 15 press agencies from the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean agreed to cover the issue of immigration “with great care, taking into account all aspects of this human tragedy and respecting human rights”. “Considering the impact of the media on public opinion and in particular the impact of press agencies”, said the director of the Algerian APS, Nacher Mehal, who takes over from Portugal’s José Manuel Barroso (Lusa) as president of AMAN, “it is our duty to choose the appropriate terminology, taking into account the need to respect human rights”. Musette Mohamed Sahid, researcher at the Algerian Economic Development Centre, said yesterday, during a conference on immigration that we must promote “the creation of the concept of irregular immigration, instead of clandestine, illegal or simply ‘sans papier’“. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Holder: ‘Gays’ Protected, Ministers Not

Attorney general’s testimony on ‘hate crimes’

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says a homosexual activist who is attacked following a Christian minister’s sermon about homosexuality would be protected by a proposed new federal law, but a minister attacked by a homosexual wouldn’t be.

The revelations come from Holder’s recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was taking comments on the so-called “hate crimes” proposal. It also was the subject of discussion on talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh’s show today.

“This is the question,” Limbaugh said. “[Sen.] Jeff Sessions [R-Ala.] presents a hypothetical where a minister gives a sermon, quotes the Bible about homosexuality and is thereafter attacked … by a gay activist because of what the minister said about his religious beliefs and what Scripture says about homosexuality. Is the minister protected?”

No, said Holder.

“Well, the statute would not — would not necessarily cover that. We’re talking about crimes that have a historic basis. Groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, that is what this statute tends — is designed to cover.. We don’t have the indication that the attack was motivated by a person’s desire to strike at somebody who was in one of these protected groups. That would not be covered by the statute,” Holder stated.

Continued Limbaugh, “In other words: ministers and whites are not covered by the hate crime statute because we’re talking about crimes that have a historic basis, groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of their skin color, sexual orientation. So hate crimes are reserved exclusively for blacks and homosexuals. Everybody else can get to the back of the bus on this one. “

Holder also fumbled repeatedly in searching for answers to questions from several of the senators. He repeatedly failed to cite cases when asked to by senators that in recent years have been “improperly prosecuted,” a video reveals.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Homosexual ‘Weddings’ Should be Celebrated in Church, Says Chris Bryant

Homosexual “weddings” should be celebrated in churches, a Government minister has said in defiance of religious teaching.

Chris Bryant, who once posed in his underpants on a gay dating website, said he wanted clergy to be “much more open” to the idea of treating civil partnership ceremonies like traditional marriages.

However, his suggestion goes directly against the rules of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, which state that only the union of a man and a woman can be celebrated by a priest in church.

It comes as the Government is pushing through an Equality Bill that religious groups fear will force them to give jobs to homosexual youth workers or secretaries, even if their faith maintains that same-sex relationships are sinful.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Separate Water Fountains

Bruce Fleming has been an English professor at the United States Naval Academy for twenty-two years and has served as a member of USNA’s Admissions Board. He has expressed concerns over the Academy’s admissions process which he strongly believes places too much emphasis on racial diversity at the cost of quality students. He explains these concerns as follows:

Here’s a question: would you rather be defended by the officer with high all-around predictors (including leadership and athletics in addition to grades and test scores), or low ones? I bet you think I’m joking when I say that at the Unites States Naval Academy, we let in the ones with the low scores and reject the ones with the high. As a taxpayer, I object to that.

We do this to ensure that we get students who self-identify as racial minorities. “Diversity is our number one priority” at the Naval Academy, as the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead and the superintendent of the Naval Academy Vice Admiral Jeffrey Fowler have both said. Of course, this is a technical use of “diversity,” having nothing to do with age, with skills, with temperaments, with gender or sexual orientation, but only with skin color. In June of 2009 came the stunning boast that the class of 2013 is the “most diverse ever” at 35% minority. At the same time I’m getting e-mails from the parents of stellar white students who have been rejected to make this possible. We tend to forget the ones who aren’t there: I don’t.

It’s a two-track system: whites have to excel to get in, non-whites don’t have to…

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

General


WHO Warns Swine Flu ‘Unstoppable’

The UN’s top health official has opened a forum in Mexico on combating swine flu by saying that the spread of the virus worldwide is now unstoppable.

World Health Organization head Margaret Chan added that the holding of the meeting in Cancun showed confidence in Mexico, which has been hard hit.

The WHO says most H1N1 cases are mild, with many people recovering unaided.

As the summit opened, the UK alone was projecting more than 100,000 new cases of H1N1 a day by the end of the summer.

As the peak of the flu season approaches in South America, some areas have declared a public health emergency.

El Salvador reported its first death from swine flu, a day after Paraguay reported its first fatality.

[Return to headlines]

One thought on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/3/2009

  1. Quick note regarding the “negative interest rate” story out of Sweden. Although it’s considerably more obvious than most, IIRC the majority of traditional savings accounts verge on negative interest once inflation is taken into account. It’s only really been the recent internet banking savings accounts – ie. ING Direct, etc that offer 3-5+% that are really economical in the long run.

    It’s been a major issue in Japan for example over the last decade as the LDP progressives (led largely by Koizumi during his PM-ship) tried to privatize the garganutan “postal-savings” system which has literally trillions of dollars of savings locked up in virtually null-performing accounts. It’s long been regarded as a social safety net of a sort, but because it’s a public institution rather than a private bank, that money is essentially worthless. It can’t be loaned out or invested in anything…it just sits there drawing practically no interest. No cost, but really quite a bit of a waste as well.

    The LDP progressives were trying to implement an optional privatization plan – similar to the SS privatization options broached here in the US – but they get shot down time after time with very little discussion. Obviously things’ll be even harder now, but if they just applied some common sense lending policies or something to it – Japan did learn a few things from their property boom/bust – it’d free up a LOT more capital.

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