News Feed 20110406

Financial Crisis
» Debt on Track to Hit 800 Percent of GDP; ‘CBO Can’t Conceive of Any Way’ Economy Can Continue Past 2037
» How to Find a Job: Just be Willing to Flip Burgers and Work for Minimum Wage
» Ireland: Household Charge May Replace TV Licence Fee to Cover All Media Receiving Devices!
» Many of Our ‘Green Jobs” Go to China
» Uncovered: New $2 Billion Bailout in Obamacare
» Fermilab Physicists May Have Discovered ‘God’s Particle’
» Hawaii Senator Wonders What Obama’s Concealing
» Obama Grabs More Land With Conservation Corps
» Obama Meeting Fails to End Stalemate Over Federal Budget
» Second Grade Boy Pepper Sprayed by Colorado Police in Class
» The Kingdom of God According to Karl Marx
» UAE Officer at War College Facing Fraud Charges
» Virginia: Health Officials Discuss Radiation Monitoring
» Will Koran-Burning be Banned in the United States?
Europe and the EU
» EU Secretly Ups Cesium Safety Level in Food 20-Fold
» EU: Van Rompuy: Europe is ‘Fatherland of Peace’
» French [Plan to] Link Two Rivers With £3.9bn Supercanal So Boats Will be Able to Sail From Dunkirk to Paris
» Germany: Meet Luna: The Jumping Cow
» Germany: We Could Have Killed More Jews, Says Adolf Eichmann in Newly Declassified Tapes
» Italy: Camorra ‘Garbage King’ Assets Seized
» Italy: Berlusconi Sex Trial Starts Without Premier
» Italy: Children Among ‘Dozens’ Of Victims After Migrant Boat Sinks
» Italy: Former Clinton Lawyer Joins Battle Against Knox Film
» Italy: Conservative Senators Aim to Lift Ban on Fascist Party
» Legalis Interruptus: Berlusconi’s Prostitution Trial Adjourned After Seven Minutes
» Netherlands: Police Leadership Furious as CBS Presents Dramatic Crime Statistics
» Swedish Sex Offenders to Get Internet Access
» Swedish Couple Have Honeymoon From Hell
» UK: £20,000, Eight Police, One Helicopter, Two Dog Units and Three Patrol Cars to Trap Pair Who Stole 47p of Scrap
» UK: 25 Firemen and Five Engines Sent to Rescue One Cat Stranded on Roof
» UK: Britain’s Former Spy Chief: MI6 Kept Secrets From Israel, Hamas Iran’s Puppet
» UK: Bus Advertising Campaign Tackles Islamophobia
» UK: Briton Wanted for Kidnap and Murder of Girl, 6, In Philippines is Freed by Police in UK
» UK: Doctors From EU Twice as Likely to Blunder as Those Trained in Britain
» UK: Fury of James Bulger’s Mother Over Unsupervised Lads’ Trip Abroad for Second Killer
» UK: Good Steam-Work! Rail Enthusiasts Who Spent £700k Restoring Old Engine Finally Unveil Their Masterpiece… After 20 Years Work
» UK: Grandmother Killed by Muslim Driver Would be Horrified That EDL Thugs Used Her Picture in Hate Protest, Say Family
» UK: Save the Planet by Having Fewer Babies, Says BBC Presenter
» UK: Woman is Left Brain Damaged After Waiting Two Hours for an Ambulance… That Was Sitting Only 100 Yards Away
» UK: We May Have a Tory PM — But Lefties and Luvvies Still Run Britain
» EU-Croatia: Brussels: No Deadline Yet to Complete Talks
» Kosovo: Ex-Prosecutor Says UN Should Open Organ-Trafficking Probe
» Serbia-Croatia: Days of Serbian Culture in Istria
North Africa
» Al Qaeda Ready to Use Suicide Attacks in Libya
» Egypt: Former Construction Minister Arrested for Embezzlement
» Gadhafi’s Ukrainian Nurses: ‘Papa is Used to the Heat’
» Libya: Rebels: Light Weapons From Western Allies Not Enough
» Libya: Gaddafi Forces Raze Zawiya Rebel Mosque to the Ground
» Libya: Rebels Accuse NATO of Abandoning Misrata
» Libya: Juppe: We Risk Getting Bogged Down There
» Libya: NATO: Precision Strikes to Avoid Hitting Human Shields
» Libyan Crisis: EU in Trouble
» Libya: NATO: 30% of Gaddafi’s Military Power Destroyed
» Muslim Gang Leader Terrorizing Christians in Egyptian Village
» Three Highly Esteemed Constitutional Experts Declare Obama’s Military Attack on Libya Unconstitutional
Middle East
» A Revolting Middle East Policy
» King Abdullah Shows Support to Palestinans in Jordan
» Lebanon: 2 Dead and 13 Wounded in Beirut Jail Break
» Stakelbeck on Terror Show Featuring Israeli Vice PM Moshe Yaalon
» Syria: Regime Seeks Dialogue With Intellectuals
» Syria: Teachers With Niqab Reinstated, Casino Closed
» ‘The Imam’s Army’: Arrested Journalist’s Book Claims Turkish Police Infiltrated by Islamic Movement
» Turkey: Some Things Change: Some Never Change in Brussels
South Asia
» Al-Qaeda ‘Setting Up Training Centres in Afghanistan’
» Two More US Soldiers Killed by Another “Lone” Afghan “Ally”
Far East
» Japan Faces Another Dilemma: Radiation-Contaminated Bodies
» U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Ivory Coast Rogue President Laurent Gbagbo ‘Negotiating Surrender’ As UN Launches Air Assault on Palace Where He’s Holed Up
» Ivory Coast: Tens of Thousands of Refugees Trapped at Christian Compound After Mass Slaughter in Duékoué
» Italy-Tunisia Accord to Prevent Fresh Departures
» Italy: Immigrants’ Boat Sinks Off Lampedusa, 130 Missing
» Italy: Regions and Municipalities Focusing on Minors
» Le Figaro: Rome ‘Gives’ France to Tunisians
» Malmstrom: Refugee Allocation Plan Needed
» Migrant Boat Sinks Off Italy, Up to 250 Missing
» Paris Examines Legality of Temporary Permits
» Police Closer to Home
» Sweden: New Action Against Deportations to Iraq
» Tunisia Immigration Agreement Falters
» UK: Sham Marriage Officials Swoop on Bride and Groom Before They Exchange Vows… Only to Find Wedding is Above Board
Culture Wars
» Gender-Neutral Bible Drawing Harsh Criticism
» Interpol Chief Calls for Global Electronic Identity Card System

Financial Crisis

Debt on Track to Hit 800 Percent of GDP; ‘CBO Can’t Conceive of Any Way’ Economy Can Continue Past 2037

House Budget Chairman Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said President Barack Obama’s budget strategy is to “do nothing, punt, duck, kick the can down the road” while the debt remains on track to eventually hit 800 percent of GDP. Ryan added that the CBO is saying it “can’t conceive of any way” that the economy can continue past 2037 given its current trajectory.

Ryan also said that the House Republicans’ FY2012 budget, which he unveiled yesterday, would save Medicare and help the United States avoid a debt crisis.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

How to Find a Job: Just be Willing to Flip Burgers and Work for Minimum Wage

Do you want to know how to find a job in America today? It’s easy. Just be willing to flip burgers, wait tables or welcome people to Wal-Mart. You must also be willing to work for close to minimum wage with no health benefits. It’s not that complicated. On April 19th, McDonald’s is going to be holding its first “national hiring day” and it will be attempting to fill 50,000 positions. Hundreds of thousands of applicants are expected, so if you are going to apply be ready for some stiff competition. McDonald’s held a similar event last year in its western region and 60,000 people applied for just 13,000 jobs. But if you are one of the lucky ones, you too may soon be flipping burgers for minimum wage. Who said that finding a job was hard and that the U.S. economy doesn’t work anymore? All of us just need to be “flexible” and we all need to be willing to adapt to the “new economic reality”.

Oh, you say that you can’t pay the mortgage and feed your family on what they would pay you at McDonald’s?

You say that you are looking for a “good job”?

Well, that is just too bad.

Good jobs are becoming increasingly scarce. In fact, there are 10% fewer “middle class jobs” in the United States today than there were a decade ago.


Things were not always like this in America, you say?

Once upon a time there were actually lots and lots of great jobs?

Well, this is part of the sacrifice that we must make for the emerging global economy. We must allow thousands of our factories to close and millions of our good paying jobs to be shipped overseas. Our politicians have all promised us that globalism will be incredibly good for us in the long run.

So don’t be alarmed when naysayers warn that the United States has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs per month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.


According to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project, higher wage industries accounted for 40 percent of the job losses over the past 12 months but only 14 percent of the job growth. Lower wage industries accounted for just 23 percent of the job losses over the past 12 months and a whopping 49 percent of the job growth.

So yes, it has become extremely difficult to find a job that pays a decent wage.

In fact, half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.

Could your family survive on $505 a week?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Household Charge May Replace TV Licence Fee to Cover All Media Receiving Devices!

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT may consider the introduction of a universal household charge to replace the TV licence (which currently costs: 160 Euro [$232] per annum) and take account of those using computers and mobile phones for television viewing.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte told the Dáil that “young people in particular are not necessarily at all accessing television through their television screen”.

He added that “not very far down the road” the “notion of some kind of universal household charge might well be worth considering”.

Mr Rabbitte said he had an “open mind” on the issue and it would be included in the review of funding of public and independent broadcasters, promised in the programme for government.

He was responding to Michael McGrath (FF, Cork South Central), who asked when the review of funding would take place, who would conduct it and its terms of reference.

Mr McGrath said independent broadcasters were asking that any new broadcasting charge to replace the licence fee should also fund radio stations. He asked if the charge would be used to fund independent broadcasting entities and if so would the Minister extend public service obligations to commercial broadcasters.

Mr Rabbitte, during his first Dáil question time as Minister for Communications, said there was a separate review ongoing in the department of the effectiveness of the licence collection system.

The Minister said the department was attempting to “measure the extent of evasion” and “to get a handle on the new ‘platforms’ that are there” for television viewing.

Mr Rabbitte said the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland would carry out a review of public funding of broadcasting along with a separate review of the funding scheme, available to independent producers and all free-to-air broadcasters and resourced through 7 per cent of licence fee receipts.

He said that authority’s two reports would be completed by the end of the year, as required by the Broadcasting Act.

Meanwhile, the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) called yesterday for RTÉ Radio 1 to become an entirely publicly funded station without advertising revenue.

IBI chairman Scott Williams said replacing the licence fee with a new public broadcasting charge as set out in the programme for government was an opportunity to “level the playing pitch” in terms of public funding for broadcasters.

Mr Williams told the annual IBI conference that they will be seeking an early meeting with Mr Rabbitte to discuss the proposed charge.

Mr Williams said RTÉ Radio 1 should be entirely a speech radio station with high-end public service programming similar to BBC Radio 4.

DJ-led programmes would “have no place” in such a schedule, he added.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]

Many of Our ‘Green Jobs” Go to China

“Clean tech has seen a boost as the US pours government funding into renewable energy, and China looks to reap much of the benefits. Latest example is a Chinese wind-turbine company which is the exclusive supplier for one of the largest wind-farm developments in the US,” reports Jeremy Hsu. He adds, “This comes as the US has increasingly out-sourced much of its wind turbine development. Less than a quarter of wind turbine components installed in the US came from domestic production.” Just 15 percent of the 2,800 new jobs from wind turbine development will take the form of US jobs. (1)

We are helping to subsidize jobs in China with American taxpayer-supplied stimulus money and going into further debt to the Chinese at the same time. (2)

Evergreen Solar was at one time all the rage in Massachusetts. It was making the breakthrough technology that would supposedly transform the energy economy. State officials provided over $60 million in taxpayer funds to build a plant in Devens, Massachusetts. But the plan, and the plant failed because Evergreen’s operating costs in the state were simply too high, even with the $60 million hand-out. Evergreen Solar has shuttered the plant, has fired 800 workers, and is now moving the operation to China. (3)

Sinovel, a state-owned company based in Beijing that is China’s largest wind-turbine manufacturer, has signed a contract with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to provide a 1.5 megawatt wind turbine. The machine will provide electricity for a wastewater pumping station in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. The turbine accounts for about half of the $4.7 million cost of the project, which is in development and is being financed with money from the federal economic stimulus package. (4)

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Uncovered: New $2 Billion Bailout in Obamacare

Investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee have discovered that a little-known provision in the national health care law has allowed the federal government to pay nearly $2 billion to unions, state public employee systems, and big corporations to subsidize health coverage costs for early retirees. At the current rate of payment, the $5 billion appropriated for the program could be exhausted well before it is set to expire.

The discovery came on the eve of an oversight hearing focused on the workings of an obscure agency known as CCIO — the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. CCIO, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, oversees the implementation of Section 1102 of the Affordable Care Act, which created something called the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program. The legislation called for the program to spend a total of $5 billion, beginning in June 2010 — shortly after Obamacare was passed — and ending on January 1, 2014, as the system of national health care exchanges was scheduled to go into effect.


Where is the money going? According to the new report, the biggest single recipient of an early-retiree bailout is the United Auto Workers, which has so far received $206,798,086. Other big recipients include AT&T, which received $140,022,949, and Verizon, which received $91,702,538. General Electric, in the news recently for not paying any U.S. taxes last year, received $36,607,818. General Motors, recipient of a massive government bailout, received $19,002,669.

The program also paid large sums of money to state governments. The Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio received $70,557,764; the Teacher Retirement System of Texas received $68,074,118; the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS, received $57,834,267; the Georgia Department of Community Health received $57,936,127; and the state of New York received $47,869,044. Other states received lesser but still substantial sums.

But payments to individual states were dwarfed by the payout to the auto workers union, which received more than the states of New York, California, and Texas combined. Other unions also received government funds, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, the United Mine Workers, and the Teamsters.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Fermilab Physicists May Have Discovered ‘God’s Particle’

(AGI) Washington — Fermilab physicists, who work in America’s largest high energy physics laboratory, may have discovered a new elementary particle or a potentially new force of nature. A spokesperson for the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which runs the most powerful American particle accelerator, the Tevatron, told the New York times that data will be announced much later today, without providing any further details .

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

Hawaii Senator Wonders What Obama’s Concealing

‘Why would anyone spend millions not to make that information public?’

The lone Republican in the Hawaii State Senate was interviewed on the radio this morning, explaining that while he believes Barack Obama was born in the Aloha State, he questions what might be on the original, long-form birth certificate that would prompt the president to go to such lengths to conceal it.

“I’m not a ‘birther,’“ Hawaii State Sen. Sam Slom told Jeff Katz of WXKS Radio in Boston, “and I followed this from the very beginning. At first I followed it with amusement, and then I got really concerned about it, because the question was if it was not just the birth certificate, but other records as well — school records, academic records, work records — why would anyone spend millions of dollars in legal fees, particularly someone in public office, particularly someone in the highest public office, to not make that information public?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Grabs More Land With Conservation Corps

While the nation wrestles with an unfathomable deficit, the Obama administration announced the formation of a new entity designed to instruct young people about “climate change” and empowering Native American reservations.

The program is called the 21st Century Conservation Corps, which would be implemented through Obama’s Youth in the Great Outdoors initiative.

If you’ve never heard of Youth in the Great Outdoors, it’s a federal outfit within the Department of the Interior that was allocated nearly $40 million last year alone and is seeking $47 million for 2012.

In a recent Web telecast, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar argued that the conservation corps was an “absolute key component” in the “engagement of young people.” He added that the Obama administration’s emphasis is on the youth because, without them, “we will not succeed” in the “conservation agenda.”


Meanwhile, Myron Ebell, who directs the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, unloaded on Interior Department’s green agenda as nothing more than a brainwashing boot camp and land power-grab.

“The Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is another attempt to expand public land ownership, waste taxpayer dollars, and indoctrinate young people in the belief that more government ownership and control is better for our environment,” Ebell told HUMAN EVENTS.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Meeting Fails to End Stalemate Over Federal Budget

President Obama met at the White House on Wednesday night with House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, but they failed to reach an agreement to end a budget stalemate that has threatened to shut down the government.

After the meeting ended, Mr. Obama warned that a shutdown must be avoided. “A shutdown will have real effects on everyday lives,” he said at a White House press conference.

The nighttime meeting, called Wednesday afternoon by Mr. Obama, underscored the drama in the nation’s capital as the White House and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill spent the day pointing fingers at each other in advance of a possible government shutdown on Saturday. The government’s authority to spend money runs out at midnight on Friday night.

[Return to headlines]

Second Grade Boy Pepper Sprayed by Colorado Police in Class

Colorado police and school officials are defending a decision to pepper spray a second grade boy who threatened to kill his teachers.

Aidan Elliot seems like a typical video game loving 8 year old, but what happened in his Glennon Heights Elementary School on Feb. 28 was hardly typical.

Aidan is in a class for kids with behavior problems. He became enraged, spitting and throwing chairs and even threatening teachers and students with a sharp piece of wood he held like a knife.

Teachers were so worried for their safety, they reportedly barricaded themselves in an adjacent office.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Kingdom of God According to Karl Marx

Initially, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ (FCC) in America was an organization consisting of twenty-five Protestant denominations. These denominations claimed to represent 142,354 local congregations with membership of twenty-seven million Christian men, women and youth. About 450 delegates from the constituent denominations governed the organization. However, the actual directing body was an executive committee of eighty members. A number of prominent names in the FCC executive positions were affiliated with Communist-front organizations. They saw in Russia the great experiment in socialism so they wanted to try it in the U.S.

These powerful FCC 80-member executives issued periodicals, pamphlets, books and booklets and sent out preachers to preach the “social gospel” that pastor Jeremiah Wright preached for the 20 years that Barack Obama was in attendance until it was revealed Wright was a Liberation Theology (Marxism) preacher and then Obama had to throw his long-time friend and preacher under the bus. These FCC 80-member executives were by all odds the most powerful apparatus in existence for propaganda among the Christian laity of America without the consent of the folks in the pews who were unknowingly throwing their tightly folded $1 bills in the Sunday offering.

FCC “missionaries” were going from church to church preaching the social gospel according to Karl Marx. One of the prize exhorters of the FCC was Dr. E. Stanley Jones. John Flynn says Dr. Jones spent thirty years of his life in India and then returned to tell American audience how much he knew about America. He called upon them to follow Christ as the founder and leader of the Socialist movement — though he did not put it quite that baldly. He was sent out periodically by the FCC from city to city to preach the glory of Red Christianity. This is why we have heard that Jesus was the first socialist.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UAE Officer at War College Facing Fraud Charges

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A United Arab Emirates naval officer who attends the Newport-based Naval War College was charged Tuesday with luring a foreign servant to the United States, then failing to pay her and keeping her confined in his house.

During an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Providence, Col. Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali pleaded not guilty to visa fraud and lying to a government official. A federal magistrate judge released him on personal recognizance.

In July, the officer and his family brought a woman from the Philippines to live with them in an off-campus two-story colonial when Al-Ali began his studies at the college, said Mary Rogers, an assistant U.S. attorney. The Naval War College provides graduate-level military education to U.S. and foreign militaries.

Al-Ali and the Filipino woman, who has not been identified, signed a contract to employ her as a housemaid, working 40 hours a week for $10 per hour.

Instead, Al-Ali didn’t pay her, took away her passport, forced her to work seven days a week — often until midnight — and refused to let her leave the family’s East Greenwich house alone or talk to anybody outside his family, Rogers said. She said the woman ultimately escaped and now is in hiding.

Al-Ali brought his wife and five children with him from the United Arab Emirates, and the Filipino woman was a nanny who took care of Al-Ali’s 4-year-old child, said defense attorney Victoria Walton.

When approached by agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in February, Al-Ali showed them a document signed by the woman that showed he had paid her $19,000 in cash for a year’s worth of work, Rogers said. The prosecutor said a subsequent investigation found no evidence that Al-Ali had paid the woman, and the woman told federal officials that she had been forced to sign the document.

Walton said misunderstandings and a language barrier may have affected Al-Ali’s interaction with federal officials. She called Al-Ali a respected member of his country’s navy with no prior criminal record in the U.S. or abroad.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond denied prosecutors’ request to secure $10,000 bail. He did, however, restrict Al-Ali’s travel to Rhode Island, with exceptions for trips taken in connection with his classes at the war college, which Walton said will end June 10.

Almond also ordered that the officer not be given his passport, which defense attorneys said is being held by officials at the United Arab Emirates’ embassy in Washington. He scheduled a hearing to discuss what will happen once Al-Ali’s courses end and his visa expires.

Benjamin Caldwell, another attorney for Al-Ali, declined to comment on the decision after the arraignment.

Al-Ali will continue his studies at the college, said Cmdr. Carla McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the college.

           — Hat tip: HD [Return to headlines]

Virginia: Health Officials Discuss Radiation Monitoring

“As a result of the incident with the nuclear power plant in Japan, several EPA air monitors have detected very low levels of radioactive material in the U.S.,” says State Health Commissioner Karen Remley, MD, MBA, FAAP. “To date, none of Virginia’s multiple monitoring systems has detected a level of radioactive material that would pose a public-health concern.”

“Recent reports of elevated levels of radioactive material in rainwater in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have been expected, since radiation is known to travel in the atmosphere,” adds Dr. Remley, “however, we are not seeing that in any of the monitoring data for the state.”

VDH is advising residents that the state’s drinking water supplies remain safe, but reminds Virginians out of an abundance of caution they should avoid using rainwater collected in cisterns as drinking water.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Will Koran-Burning be Banned in the United States?

Why does Petraeus condemn the burning of one Koran? The U.S. Army has confiscated and burned Bibles in Afghanistan. Where was the outcry over that?

As if all this weren’t quite bad enough, several members of Congress have implied they might do something about the Koran burning. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat) promised to look into it. Even worse, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had this chilling threat for citizens who don’t get in line:

“I wish we could find a way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war,”

This reminds me of why we have a First Amendment. Contrary to popular opinion, the First Amendment was not written to give us freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. Read what the First Amendment actually says:

“ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Did you notice that? The First Amendment was specifically written to prevent Congress from taking away our rights! And when you have senators like Reid and Graham, you can see why!

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU Secretly Ups Cesium Safety Level in Food 20-Fold

Kopp Online, Xander News and other non-English news agencies are reporting that the EU implemented a secret “emergency” order without informing the public which increases the amount of radiation in food by up to 20 times previous food standards.

According to EU by-laws, radiation limits may be raised during a nuclear emergency to prevent food shortages.

But there is anger across Europe because this emergency order was issued while officials say there is no threat to the food.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

EU: Van Rompuy: Europe is ‘Fatherland of Peace’

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy has issued a robust defence of the European Union in the face of growing “suspicion and fear”, arguing that the bloc must not be seen as a new “Moscow”, but instead, the “Fatherland of peace.”

“Sometimes, in the heat of the debate, the image of ‘Brussels’ is linked to the role of ‘Moscow’ in the Cold War. One should not accept this comparison,” he declared in a speech to students at the University of Warsaw.

“We have together to fight the danger of a new Euro-skepticism,” he said at the time. “Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war … It is a feeling all over Europe, not of a majority, but everywhere present.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

French [Plan to] Link Two Rivers With £3.9bn Supercanal So Boats Will be Able to Sail From Dunkirk to Paris

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced the creation of a multi-billion pound canal, in one of the biggest European engineering project in decades.

The route will link Paris to Northern France, joining a network which connects France to Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, including the commercially vital port of Rotterdam.

Once completed by 2016, the £3.9billion (4.5bn Euro) Seine-Nord Europe canal will take 500,000 lorries off the roads and will also be open to leisure traffic, according to the Independent, allowing sailors on large motor launches to travel from London to Paris.

But planners have had to reassure the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that First World War graves will not be disturbed, as the proposed route goes through the Cambrai battlefields.

The route will miss the Somme battlefields of 1916, but not those of 1917-18.

The organisation told the newspaper they had been given ‘written assurances’ no cemeteries would be threatened.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Germany: Meet Luna: The Jumping Cow

Regina Mayer’s parents refused to buy her a horse. So the Bavarian farmer’s daughter turned to the next best thing: Luna the cow. Now, the two are inseparable, and Mayer has even taught her bovine friend to jump.

What to do if your parents refuse to buy you a horse? You make one, of course. Out of a cow.

That, at least, is the rather unusual route taken by Regina Mayer, a 15-year-old from the Bavarian town of Laufen. After months of training Luna, a cow Mayer found in the paddock of her family’s dairy farm, Mayer can ride the bovine with little trouble. What’s more, Luna has also proven adept at clearing makeshift jumps her rider builds for her. “She thinks she’s a horse,” Mayer told the Associated Press.

The cow believes that she is a horse, which is comparable to how Sarkozy, Merkel, Camreron and George W. Bush believe that they are “conservatives.” Mooooh!

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: We Could Have Killed More Jews, Says Adolf Eichmann in Newly Declassified Tapes

One of the chief organisers of the Holocaust regretted that it did not kill more Jews newly declassified recordings have revealed.

Adolf Eichmann, who was tasked with managing the logistics of transporting Jews to concentration camps, said the biggest ‘mistake’ he made was not murdering all of them.

‘We didn’t do our job properly,’ he said to a reporter who interviewed him following the end of the War. ‘We could have done more.’


The tapes were recently discovered by the German news magazine Der Spiegel after the country’s intelligence service released 4,500 files on Eichmann.

The files are now located in the German Federal Archie in Koblenz.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Italy: Camorra ‘Garbage King’ Assets Seized

‘Extraordinary success’ says justice minister

(ANSA) — Naples, April 6 — Italian police on Wednesday seized some 13 million euros in assets from the suspected ‘garbage king’ of the notorious Casalesi clan in the Neapolitan Camorra mafia and a businessman who acted as a front for him with waste company offices in New York, Brazil, Australia and Turkey.

Cipriano Chianese, 57, from a town near Caserta, is alleged to have led the waste-disposal operations of the Casalesi, exposed in the bestselling book Gomorrah, for decades.

Franco Caccaro, 49, a businessman from Padua, is accused of being the legitimate cover and outlet for the trade.

His TPA company has over the last few years become a world leader in making machines to handle waste.

Among the assets seized were luxury villas at the exclusive resort of Sperlonga between Rome and Naples, mansions near Caserta and industrial warehouses around Padua.

Justice Minister Angelino Alfano hailed the operation as an “extraordinary success” and said it had “inflicted a hard blow to the finances of the Casalesi clan and, in particular, to the interests of an entrepreneur believed to be a protagonist of the largest Camorra penetration in the waste sector and the ecomafia system in Campania”.

Environmental group Legambiente said the assets “represent the real strongbox of Waste Incorporated, a trove accumulated since the start of the 1990s thanks to a perverse link-up between white collar crime, Freemason businesses and crime groups which managed illegal waste trafficking”.

It said Chianese was “the real eminence grise of the long history of the Garbage Connection, with his double role: a lawyer for the clan and a specialist in waste disposal for the Casalesi”.

The group said it was partly thanks to its reports of the multi-million-euro business that the police had moved against Chianese and his associates in a waste-disposal triangle north of Naples.

The criminal empire of the Casalesi was described in Roberto Saviano’s book Gomorrah, later turned into an award-winning film of the same name.

The writer is under round-the-clock police protection because of death treats from the clan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Sex Trial Starts Without Premier

Proceedings adjourned till May 31

(ANSA) — Milan, April 6 — A Milan trial into allegations Premier Silvio Berlusconi used an underage prostitute opened on Wednesday, but the premier did not attend and proceedings were quickly adjourned to May 31 because of technical issues.

A member of the defence team for Berlusconi, who denies any wrongdoing, presented the court with a letter in which the premier said he would have liked to have participated but was unable to because of “institutional commitments”.

“Berlusconi intends to follow all the hearings of this trial,” said the lawyer, Giorgio Perroni. “But obviously, institutional engagements may arise and so sometimes he will not be able to be present”. Berlusconi denies paying to have sex with a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer called Ruby before she was 18 and also rejects charges he allegedly abused his position to get her out of jail after an unrelated accusation of theft last May.

He says left-leaning prosecutors have trumped up the accusations and those in three separate corruption trials he faces to oust him from power.

Ruby has also denied ever having sex with Berlusconi and said money he gave her was a gift.

Prosecutors, however, say they have evidence showing the premier paid for intercourse with 33 alleged prostitutes after so-called ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties, including Ruby, who they say he slept with 13 times when she was 17 after she was allegedly recruited at a beauty contest at the age of 16.

Ruby and officials at the police station Berlusconi called in May to enquire about her detainment did take up the opportunity to present themselves as civil plaintiffs in the trial.

“The (most) significant element of the hearing is that no one, not any police officials nor Ruby, have presented themselves as civil plaintiffs,” said Perroni.

“We are convinced that it will emerge from this trial that Berlusconi has nothing to do with either of the charges against him”.

Berlusconi’s cause was boosted on Tuesday when the government won a House vote on asking Italy’s Constitutional Court to transfer jurisdiction in the trial to a special court for ministers.

A key argument in the government’s claim that the case should have been handled by the ministers’ court is that Berlusconi was carrying out his official duties when he telephoned the police station to ask about Ruby in May, before she was released into the care of an official from his People of Freedom party.

Berlusconi has said he was trying to avoid a diplomatic incident because Ruby was, as he wrongly believed at the time, a relative of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The run-up to Wednesday’s trial was inflamed by the publication of wiretaps of conversations involving the premier, including one in which he talks about Ruby.

Berlusconi’s supporters say the conversation transcripts should have been destroyed as it is illegal to wiretap an MP without parliament’s permission and have called for the prosecutors who included them in the trial papers to face criminal charges The premier has said the Ruby trial allegations, which carry a combined jail term of 15 years, are absurd, because of his age and because he has a secret girlfriend who would not have allowed such behaviour.

“I’m (almost) 75 years old and although I’m naughty, 33 girls in two months seems a bit much even for a 30-year-old,” Berlusconi recently told Rome-based daily La Repubblica. “It’s too much for anyone.

“And then there’s an extra hurdle… I have always had next to me a girlfriend who I have luckily been able to keep out of all this sleaze. If I had done everything they say, she would have clawed my eyes out. And I assure you, she has very long nails”.

The premier has called witnesses including George Clooney, who has a villa on Lake Como, the Hollywood star’s Italian girlfriend Elsabetta Canalis and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo as witnesses in his defence.

Clooney says he only ever met Berlusconi to appeal for aid for Darfur while Canalis has denied Ruby’s claim she saw the pair at one of the premier’s incriminated parties.

Ruby, who is now 18 and whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, claims she had sex with Real Madrid star Ronaldo after meeting him at a Milan disco in January 2010. The star, currently the highest-paid footballer in the world, has denied meeting Ruby or giving her 4,000 euros for sex.

Television crews and photographers have not been granted access to the trial hearings for security reasons, but reporters with notebooks and sound recorders have been admitted.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Children Among ‘Dozens’ Of Victims After Migrant Boat Sinks

As many as 250 people missing, 51 survivors

(see related story on migrants) (ANSA) — Rome, April 6 — Children were among “dozens” of victims spotted at sea amid searches for as many as 250 missing people after a boat carrying refugees from conflict-hit Libya sank near the southern Italian island of Lampedusa early Wednesday.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said they estimate around 300 were aboard the boat after its staff spoke to the 51 survivors picked up in the Channel of Sicily, although some survivors put the figure as high as 370.

Initial reports said the boat that left Libya two days ago was carrying around 200 refugees, mostly of Eritrean and Somali origin.

It sank in rough seas at about 4am Wednesday around 40 miles from Lampedusa, although the incident took place in Malta’s waters.

Difficult conditions have hampered rescue operations, but an Italian Coast Guard official said that “it’s too soon to consider all hope lost”.

Tax police helicopter pilots assisting the operations coordinated from Palermo said they saw “little bodies of children” among the dozens of victims floating in waves as high as three metres whipped up by winds of 30 knots.

“We hoped to see someone raise their arms, but we didn’t,” one of the pilots said. United Nations refugee agency UNHCR expressed “grief and pain for the victims of this umpteenth human tragedy.

“The survivors spoke to the UNHCR’s officials in Lampedusa with a look of terror,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Laura Boldrini, who said that there were also people from conflict-hit Ivory Coast and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa on the boat.

“Among them is a father who lost his one-and-a-half-year-old daughter in the tragedy.

“This incident shows the need for greater coordination between the naval vessels present in the Mediterranean and NATO forces to save human lives”. The IOM said all the survivors were suffering shock and many were in a state of hypothermia. Five of them have been taken into hospital, including a woman who is eight-months pregnant. Her condition and that of her unborn child are not worrying, health officials said.

Up to 750 people have gone missing in the Channel of Sicily so far this year as migrants keep attempting the hazardous crossing on rickety boats following turmoil in North Africa.

Over 20,000 migrants have landed in Italy, many arriving at Lampedusa, which is nearer to Tunisia than Sicily.

Most of them have come from Tunisia and the Italian government reached an agreement with the Tunisian authorities on Tuesday for them to stiffen controls to stop the flow of migrants and repatriate new arrivals in exchange for aid and assistance.

Italy has been relocating migrants who had been packed on the tiny island of Lampedusa in miserable conditions to camps on Sicily and the mainland over the last week. On Wednesday Italy is set to approve plans to grant six-month visas to Tunisian migrants already on its shores, which would enable them to travel to other parts of Europe with many wanting to be reunited with family members living in other parts of the continent.

This move comes after France blocked Tunisian migrants at the French-Italian border, saying it had the right to stop undocumented migrants without breaking the Schengen Agreement that abolished border controls in much of mainland Europe.

But this probably would no longer be the case if Italy issued the migrants with temporary papers, although the French government is reportedly looking at whether the measure would comply with Schengen regulations.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has repeatedly complained about a lack of solidarity from Italy’s European neighbours in dealing with the migrant crisis, which it has taken the brunt of because of its vicinity to North Africa, singling out France for criticism. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet in Rome on April 26 to discuss the migrant situation, government sources said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Former Clinton Lawyer Joins Battle Against Knox Film

Mark Fabiani hired by American student’s ex-boyfriend Sollecito

(ANSA) — Rome, April 5 — Bill Clinton’s former lawyer Mark Fabiani has been enlisted to join the legal battle against an American film on the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia. American Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who are respectively appealing 26-year and 25-year sentences for the murder, unsuccessfully sought to halt Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy being screened in February.

Fabiani, part of the team to represent former president Clinton at inquiries into alleged fraud during the Whitewater controversy, has been hired by Sollecito to take fresh legal action against the movie’s producers in the United States.

He is expected to seek damages from America’s Lifetime network, which first aired it, in New York courts.

“Our legal action aims to protect the image of Sollecito, which we feel has been seriously defamed by Lifetime’s film,” said Luca Maori, one of Sollecito’s lawyers.

“Fabiani already knew about the Kercher case because they are following it closely in the United States and they are convinced the pair are innocent”. Knox’s lawyers started legal action in Perugia last month to stop the film being distributed on the Internet.

The movie, with rising star Hayden Panettiere playing Knox, can be downloaded on the Internet and it is possible to see trailers and images of it and order the DVD on the Web too.

Seattle-born Knox, who has many supporters in her homeland who say she and Sollecito are the innocent victims of a miscarriage of justice, said she was “devastated by this invasion into my life” after seeing a trailer for the film.

Knox and Sollecito are in the middle of the first of two appeals granted by the Italian judicial system for the murder of Knox’s former flatmate Kercher, who was found with her throat cut on November 2, 2007.

Prosecutors say she was killed after a sex game involving the pair and a third person convicted of the murder, Ivory Coast native Rudy Guede, went wrong.

Knox and Sollecito’s defence teams say DNA evidence prosecutors used to support these allegations is flawed.

Guede has exhausted the appeals process after opting for a separate fast-track procedure and is serving a 16-year term.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Conservative Senators Aim to Lift Ban on Fascist Party

Senate Speaker ‘aghast’

(ANSA) — Rome, April 5 — A group of conservative Senators have presented a bill aiming to lift the Italian Constitution’s ban on reforming the Fascist Party of Benito Mussolini.

The bill was presented by five members of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party and a Senator from a breakaway centre-right group, the FLI. Senate Speaker Renato Schifani, of the PdL, was said to be “aghast” at the initiative. The largest centre-left opposition group, the Democratic Party, called the bill “unacceptable” while the Italian Communists’ party said it was “disgraceful”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Legalis Interruptus: Berlusconi’s Prostitution Trial Adjourned After Seven Minutes

It is the legal event of the year, but the Milan prostitution trial against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi adjourned shortly after it began on Wednesday. Public interest is unlikely to subside, but the delay could be just the respite that the premier’s fragile right-wing coalition needs for survival.

A fresh coat of paint, the lamps dusted and polished, the wiring refurbished: The courtroom in the Tribunale di Milano was all ready for the trial of the year. At 9:30 a.m., the prosecution of Silvio Berlusconi — the 74-year-old media czar, billionaire and Italian prime minister — got under way. And just seven minutes later, the courtroom encounter was over — for now. The trial was adjourned until May 31.

The delay is not likely to reduce the intense interest in the case. Berlusconi stands accused of having paid for multiple sexual encounters with Karima el-Mahroug, who was 17 years old at the time. In addition, he has been charged with misusing his public office in attempts to cover up the affair.

Television vans belonging to camera teams from around the world began lining up on the Corso di Porta Vittoria in Milan’s city center on Tuesday afternoon. Photographers, radio journalists and print reporters likewise descended on the Milan palace of justice.

But the audience was disappointed on Wednesday. As expected, Berlusconi did not make an appearance at the proceedings and el-Mahroug — alias “Ruby Rubacuori,” or simply “Ruby” — was also absent.

Still, the onlookers are almost sure to be back in late May. The trial, after all, promises to include a parade of prominent witnesses — from George Clooney to Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo. The court has yet to make a final decision on the invite list.

Berlusconi’s Political End?

But for Berlusconi, the hype is secondary. The trial could mark the beginning of the end of his political career — even if he ultimately manages to avoid a guilty verdict.

It is far from the first trial against the controversial Italian prime minister. He has survived more than a dozen legal proceedings in recent years: some with a “not guilty” verdict, others due to the statute of limitations or dismissal. The Italian daily La Repubblica has counted 33 occasions when Berlusconi has used his parliamentary majority to change laws, allowing him to dodge the judiciary.

This time too, his political allies are working on a legislative back door for Berlusconi. Just on Tuesday, they managed to push through an act of parliament that seeks to deny the Milan court jurisdiction and move the hearing to a special ministerial tribunal. The vote was not initially binding on the Ruby case, and the trial could begin as planned. But the act is now under examination by the Italian high court.

Still, in comparison to Berlusconi’s previous legal difficulties, the current case is of a different caliber. Earlier cases — some of which are ongoing — involved accusations of accounting irregularities, tax evasion and bribery, complicated proceedings that were difficult for many in Italy to follow. Convoluted legalese and opaque evidence made it almost impossible for outsiders to say with any degree of certainty whether or not the defendant was guilty. Many in Italy quickly lost interest.

But this trial is different. Prime Minister Berlusconi is to make a rare court appearance, famous stars will take the stand and dozens of attractive young women are also scheduled to appear, from beauty queens to showgirls to television anchors. At its core, the trial is about sex — high-end prostitution worth several thousand euros — not to mention expensive jewelry and free apartments.

‘Nice Dinners’ or ‘Orgies’?

And it is beginning to look as though Berlusconi’s erstwhile supporters among the Italian population are finally growing tired of — and embarrassed by — their rambunctious regent. His public opinion survey numbers have recently cratered.

In the past, Italian voters had proven much more forgiving. When a former mafia hit-man mentioned Berlusconi’s name in connection with a bomb attack, the Italians opted for disbelief. An alleged liaison with a schoolgirl from Naples dominated headlines for a time in 2009. But the accusations seemed to bother no one except for Berlusconi’s wife, who divorced him as a result.

But the world-famous “bunga bunga” parties in Berlusconi’s spacious Milan villa would seem to have drastically reduced Italians’ capacity for forgiveness. Berlusconi’s defense team has said the parties merely involved “nice dinners” followed by movies and karaoke. Prosecutors say they were orgies.

Italian women are particularly outraged by the case. They were long among the most loyal supporters of Berlusconi, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman and nightclub singer before he became a self-made billionaire and three-time prime minister. Now, they see him as a misogynist, his escapades shameful and degrading. In February, hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets of several Italian cities in protest. For weeks, petitions have been circulating in the country in an effort to force new elections.

Berlusconi was granted temporary relief in recent weeks as news from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Japan dominated the headlines, and the premier’s private life receded to the back pages. Now, however, with the trial having seen its first day in court, Berlusconi’s profligate lifestyle is once again on page one.

Likely to Take a Beating

His defense team plans to play for time, as it has done in the past. His attorneys have called 78 witnesses, in an effort to extend the proceedings and perhaps turn the trial into a farce. First and foremost, they hope to call into question Ruby’s credibility: The charges against Berlusconi are primarily based on her telephone calls which were tapped by the authorities.

The strategy, though, seems unlikely to find success. On almost every day of the trial, new and embarrassing details will enter the public realm — easy to understand, accessible to all, and plastered across the front pages of Italian tabloids. Wednesday’s delay, though, might help Berlusconi avoid immediate political repercussions: Municipal elections in over 1,300 Italian cities are scheduled for mid-May, before the trial really gets going.

And there isn’t a complete dearth of optimism in the Berlusconi camp. Italy’s left-wing opposition, after all, is hardly in better shape than the premier’s fragile right-wing coalition: The left is hopelessly divided by incessant bickering and is seemingly unable to set aside their differences to form any kind of alliance. Indeed, Italian voters may ultimately slink back to Berlusconi’s right-wing camp — and choose the degenerate they know over the ineptness they don’t.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Police Leadership Furious as CBS Presents Dramatic Crime Statistics

THE HAGUE, 07/04/11 — The police leadership is accusing the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) of “amateurism” and misleading numbers. The CBS reported yesterday morning that only 2 percent of cases solved by the police involves actual crime.

In a strongly-worded statement, the Council of Corps Chiefs yesterday afternoon took “strong exception to the misleading picture that has been given by the CBS”. The publication (‘More spending on investigation, fewer crimes solved’) “is botched work and the pictures that are called up by it are damaging to the sector. Particularly the observation that 98 percent of the police effort consists of detecting (non-criminal) violations is absolutely incorrect.”

In 2009, the police forces spent over 2.4 billion euros on their investigatory function, according to the CBS. Corrected for inflation, this was 12 percent more than in 2005.

But 5 percent fewer crimes were solved in 2009 than in 2005 (264,000 compared with 279,000). In 2006 and 2007, the number of crimes solved increased slightly, but in 2008, a decline set in which continued in 2009, the CBS noted.

Crimes which come under criminal law form only 2 percent of the cases solved by the police. Violations, which come under administrative law, form the other 98 percent. These are mostly traffic violations, such as speeding. The Lower House wants an explanation of the figures.

In 2009, the police detected 12.2 million violations. “Over three-quarters of the violations are speeding offences. Some 10 percent are parking offences, or driving through a red light,” said the CBS. “With this sort of offence, detecting is the same as solving”.

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

Swedish Sex Offenders to Get Internet Access

Convicted paedophiles and sex offenders at a secure clinic in Växsjö in southern Sweden will regain internet access after a ban instigated in 2008 has been deemed illegitimate.

Swedish man charged after flashing girls (15 Jan 11)

Swedish military staff surf porn daily: report (14 Jan 11)

A collective ban against computer and mobile phone use, which was instigated in 2008, has been deemed illegitimate by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

According to Anita Åkesson, head of the Forensic Psychiatry Centre (Rättspsykiatriska regionkliniken) in Växsjö it was impossible for them to maintain the ban pending another report to be filed against them.

“Now we will just have to see how this goes,” she told news agency TT.

In 2008 the centre banned inmates from having mobile phones, laptops and other personal electronic equipment. The reason behind the ban was to stop inmates from committing further crimes while at the centre, which has happened in the past.

But according to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) collective bans of this kind are not permitted under existing legislation.

The board has now solved the issues by giving each of the wards a computer with an internet connection placed in communal areas.

“We are not taking this all the way. Our patients will still not have access to private computers,” Åkesson told the Dagen Nyheter (DN) daily.

Among the inmates there are two men convicted of child pornography crimes. One has a history of downloading child pornography while being treated at the centre.

Per Anders Sunesson at the National Board of health and Welfare confirmed to DN that bans must be decided on an individual basis.

“But if someone has been convicted for possessing child pornography it is my opinion that such a person should not have access to the internet,” he told DN.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Swedish Couple Have Honeymoon From Hell

A newly-wed couple on a four-month honeymoon were hit by six natural disasters, including the Australian floods, Christchurch earthquake and Japanese tsunami.

Stefan and Erika Svanstrom left Stockholm, Sweden, on December 6 and were immediately stranded in Munich, Germany, due to one of Europe’s worst snowstorms.

Travelling with their baby daughter, they flew on to Cairns in Australia which was then struck by one of the most ferocious cyclones in the nation’s history.

From there, the couple, in their 20s, were forced to shelter for 24 hours on the cement floor of a shopping centre with 2500 others.

“Trees were being knocked over and big branches were scattered across the streets,” Mr Svanstrom told Sweden’s Expressen newspaper. “We escaped by the skin of our teeth.”

They then headed south to Brisbane but the city was experiencing massive flooding, so they crossed the country to Perth where they narrowly escaped raging bush fires.

The couple then flew to Christchurch, New Zealand, arriving just after a massive magnitude 6.3 earthquake devastated the city on February 22.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: £20,000, Eight Police, One Helicopter, Two Dog Units and Three Patrol Cars to Trap Pair Who Stole 47p of Scrap

It claims to have been hit hard by spending cuts, but one constabulary spared no expense in tackling the pilfering of scrap… worth 47p.

Alerted to two salvagers rummaging through a recycling centre, Gloucester Police sent a helicopter, two vans, three patrol cars and two dog units.

The crack squad managed to apprehend Owen Gray and Angela Cubitt, who had helped themselves to a games console and a power drill — with a combined scrap value of 47p.

The pair said they were told the operation, which involved eight officers, had cost £20,000.

Mr Gray, 50, said: ‘I am unemployed, so cannot go out and buy this stuff. I pick up whatever catches my eye and try to fix it. All they do with the stuff at the tip is crush it and burn the plastic.

‘I go around to the tip about once a month looking for things to salvage and fix up. ‘I have recovered television monitors and computers from there before. I know they have to catch criminals and what I did was wrong — but to send eight officers seemed a very over-the-top response.

‘It’s crazy that they sent out so many resources when they’re shouting about how much they need to save. When they let us out, a copper told me it had cost £20,000 to get us nicked and that the items cost only 47p scrap.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: 25 Firemen and Five Engines Sent to Rescue One Cat Stranded on Roof

A fire service has been criticised after health and safety rules meant 25 firefighters were sent to rescue a cat stuck on a roof.

The cat was perched about 40ft up on a two-storey house in Leiston, Suffolk, yesterday when five crews were dispatched to save it.

The crews — two of which came from 30 miles away — scrambled to comply with national ‘working at height’ regulations to ensure the health and safety of firefighters, but union leaders have branded the response ‘crazy and overkill’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Britain’s Former Spy Chief: MI6 Kept Secrets From Israel, Hamas Iran’s Puppet

One of Britain’s top spies has described the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood as “at heart a terrorist organisation” and labelled Hamas and Hizbollah as surrogates of the Iranian state.

In a rare — and extraordinarily candid — public appearance, Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time of the 9/11 attacks, told an audience at foreign affairs think tank Chatham House to be wary of the Brotherhood’s influence in Egypt.

Speaking at a conference on Wednesday marking the 60th anniversary of British-Israeli diplomatic relations, Sir Richard said: “I, for one, have absolutely no illusions about what the Muslim Brotherhood is, or can be. It can be a social organisation. It can be a political organisation. But it is at heart, in my view, a terrorist organisation.”

He said it was not clear in what direction events in Egypt might lead. “What is the medium to long-term threat from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? I worry greatly about what may or may not happen in a semi-democratic Egypt which is trying to change its constitution very fast, at speed faster than it is possible to create new political organisations.” He added that the Muslim Brotherhood was by far the most organised political movement in Egypt.

The former head of MI6 made clear that co-operation between the UK and Israel on Iran was “immensely important”. He added: “Of course it does overflow into the role of Hamas and Hizbollah, both of which are largely, in terms of the way they behave towards Israel, Iranian surrogates.” He was also worried about Islamist influence in Libya, adding that the rebel stronghold of Benghazi was “rather fundamentalist in character”. Sir Richard was also frank about British-Israeli relations. He said there were common security interests against a background of significant policy differences. “The relationship with Israel is difficult. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important and that it’s not given close attention professionally and politically”.

Expanding on the distinction between “professionals” (intelligence officers) and politicians, he added: “On a day-to-day level there are a lot of hot potatoes being dropped in the direction of ministers, so that the professionals can ensure they have political cover for whatever they are doing.” He revealed that there remained a significant level of suspicion from British spies towards their Israeli counterparts. “There is no doubt that Israel plays by a different set of rules than the rules that we observe in the UK. I’m not going to expand on that, but I will just have to leave it to the imagination.”

He also noted that UK politicians and MI6 were not always certain they could share intelligence with the Israelis. “I was quite frequently in discussion with Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary about what should or shouldn’t be passed to our Israeli colleagues — and there are obvious reasons for that, because we could never guarantee how the intelligence might or would be used by the state of Israel.”

Speaking on the same panel, Uzi Arad, former chairman of the Israeli National Security Council, used the occasion to criticise the UK’s anti-terror strategy and its concern with addressing the grievances of the Muslim community. “This gives me an uneasy feeling,” he said, especially when it was linked with the Middle East peace process.

Israeli President Shimon Peres used the conference to pledge his support for the “revolutionaries” of the Arab Spring. “It is a great moment and I pray for their success,” he said. “The Arab world is entering the 21st century. I feel they can win. What can we [Israel] contribute to help?…To use the short time of the open window to bring an end to the conflict with the Palestinians. We have to take away this excuse that they [the Arab rulers] fight for the Palestinian people.” Foreign Secretary William Hague, who gave the closing keynote speech at Chatham House, restated the government’s support for Israel and its right to defend itself. However, he added: “This does not mean that we will agree on every expression of that right or on every one of Israel’s actions.”

He restated the UK government’s feelings of increasing frustration with the stalled peace process and urged Israel to reconsider over settlement building. “Time is working against the interests of all those who want peace. The British government has made clear our concern about ongoing settlement expansion. We believe it is illegal, an obstacle to peace and a threat to a two-state solution.”

More provocatively, he called on Israel to learn lessons from the uprisings across the Middle East. “One of the most important lessons from the Arab Spring is that legitimate aspirations cannot be ignored and must be addressed. It cannot be in anyone’s interests if the new order of the region is determined at a time of minimum hope in the peace process.”

In a separate intervention at the conference, outgoing Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor delivered a stinging attack on British universities for tolerating extremism on campus, becoming the focus of the boycott movement against Israel and even educating members of the autocratic elites of the Middle East. The ambassador, who is due to become Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, said there had “never been so much hostility, hatred and hypocrisy towards the state of Israel in British universities.” He taunted UK higher education institutions for their connection to Middle East dictatorships. He joked acidly that he blamed the British for the unrest in the Middle East as they had been responsible for educating Saif al Islam, the son of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad of Syria. He added that although government relations were good between the two countries, he was worried that relations between the two societies were less positive.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Bus Advertising Campaign Tackles Islamophobia

An advertising campaign to tackle Islamophobia has been unveiled on buses across the UK.

Vehicles in several cities will carry the message “Muslims for loyalty, peace and freedom” in an attempt to challenge negative stereotypes of the faith.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, the group behind the campaign, said it hoped it would educate people about Islam and remove misconceptions.

But some Muslim groups have criticised the campaign as “unrealistic”.

The campaign, which began on 26 March, will see almost 100 buses in London and 60 in Glasgow display the poster for four to eight weeks.

It will then be rolled out to other cities including Leicester, Birmingham, Leeds and Bradford over the next six months.

Volunteers will also distribute leaflets door-to-door throughout the UK explaining the peaceful and positive principles of the faith.

‘‘Through this campaign we are trying to clarify the true teachings of Islam, to speak out against injustices, suicide bombings and terrorism,” said Rafiq Hayat, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association’s national president.

Islamophobia has been seen by some to be an increasing problem in the UK.

Ahmadiyya Muslim AssociationLast year, an online YouGov poll of 2,152 adults commissioned by the the Exploring Islam Foundation, found that 58% of those questioned linked Islam with extremism, while 69% believed it encouraged the repression of women.

In a recent speech, Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative party, said anti-Muslim prejudice had passed the “dinner table test” to become uncontroversial and socially acceptable by Britons.

Rafiq Hayat said Islam was a religion of peace and should not be hijacked by a minority of extremists.

“As Muslims it pains us when our religion is tarnished by the actions of a minority of people who promote violence and hatred,” he said.

‘‘Terror offences committed by a small number of Muslims should not be used to condemn all who follow Islam.

‘‘Islam means peace and we want to convey the real message of the religion to the people of this country,’’ he said.

The adverts will be visible on buses across the UKBut there was scepticism within the Muslim community of the campaign’s effectiveness.

Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which monitors Islamophobia, said it had a great deal of evidence showing it was increasing.

He said he was doubtful whether the campaign would change negative perceptions.

‘‘There is nothing wrong with doing something like this, but the reality is that you can’t just make people think differently,” he said.

‘‘No-one on the street is going to look at the message on the buses and say ‘oh is that right, from now on I’m not going to stereotype Muslims’. This is very unrealistic.”

But the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association remained confident it would be a small but positive step forwards.

“Shouting slogans is never going to be enough in itself,” said Naseer Dean, president of the association’s London branch.

‘‘But what it will do is start a debate, a conversation, that perhaps is not being had at the moment, and it is right for the Muslim community to instigate this, because they are the ones primarily being affected.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

UK: Briton Wanted for Kidnap and Murder of Girl, 6, In Philippines is Freed by Police in UK

[Warning: Disturbing content.]

A British man wanted for the kidnap and murder of a six-year-old girl in the Philippines is back in the UK and has been freed by police.

Ian Charles Griffiths, 50, from south west London, was arrested in London and taken into custody but later awarded bail.

He has been asked to return to the police station next week pending further inquiries into the death of Ellah Joy Pique.

The UK has no official extradition treaty with the Philippines but it is possible the country could ask for his return as a one-off.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Doctors From EU Twice as Likely to Blunder as Those Trained in Britain

Doctors from the EU are twice as likely to be struck off as those who trained in Britain.

They stand a much higher chance of being disciplined by the General Medical Council over serious concerns that they are putting patients’ lives at risk.

Doctors who qualified outside Europe are also more likely to be struck off or suspended.

The findings are further evidence that patient safety is being put in the hands of overseas doctors whose training is not up to scratch.

Last week it emerged that a Nigerian doctor who qualified in Italy had been allowed to work in 14 English hospitals although he could not perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and did not understand basic medical terms.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Fury of James Bulger’s Mother Over Unsupervised Lads’ Trip Abroad for Second Killer

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

The mother of murdered toddler James Bulger has spoken of her anger after it emerged that one of his freed killers was allowed on an unsupervised ‘lads’ trip’ abroad.

Robert Thompson is reported to have used his new identity to enjoy the jaunt to Europe even though he is supposed to be strictly monitored.

The revelation comes after it was discovered that Thompson’s accomplice Jon Venables was allowed on a similar holiday to Norway following his release.

Thompson and Venables were both convicted of murdering the toddler in 1993 but freed in 2001.

James Bulger’s mother Denise Fergus said she was ‘disgusted’ following the reports that convicted murderer Robert Thompson was allowed to go on the jaunt to Europe while on parole.

Venables, who is now back behind bars for child porn offences, was given permission to travel abroad by then Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2004, but it was not for another three years that he asked to be allowed out of the country.

The trip was in October 2007 when he had been freed from prison, six years after being released for the murder of the two-year-old.

Mrs Fergus, 43, told The Sun: ‘I was told I would be informed if the terms of their life licence were varied — and I should have been.

‘I could at least have had the peace of mind of being able to ensure that I was not abroad at the same time as them.

‘Criminals get all the attention and support and the victims are largely ignored.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Good Steam-Work! Rail Enthusiasts Who Spent £700k Restoring Old Engine Finally Unveil Their Masterpiece… After 20 Years Work

A team of rail enthusiasts who spent £700,000 restoring a steam engine to its former glory have unveiled the finished product after 20 years hard graft.

The King Edward II, a Great Western Railway express locomotive, went on public show for the first time at Didcot Railway Centre, Oxon.

It was saved from a scrapyard almost 30 years ago and required a legion of volunteers to work 50,000 hours to piece together its 65,000 parts.

They took it on as a rusting hulk in 1990 since when it has slowly been restored, having regularly run on lines from London Paddington to the west for over four decades.

Hundreds of train buffs had their chance to see the engine steam in on the centre’s demonstration line at the unveiling, next to the mainline Didcot Parkway station.

The King Edward II was built in 1930 and withdrawn by British Railways in 1962. The Brunel Trust bought it in 1982 from a scrapyard at Barry, South Wales.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Grandmother Killed by Muslim Driver Would be Horrified That EDL Thugs Used Her Picture in Hate Protest, Say Family

The family of a grandmother killed in a hit-and-run has slammed the English Defence League for using her image during a protest.

The face of Freda Holt was one of several that appeared on placards carried by 2,000 EDL protesters in Blackburn on Saturday.

The 70-year-old died in November after she was struck by a car driven by unlicensed and uninsured Salim Chand.

Chand, 25, who fled the scene, was jailed for nine years in March after he admitted causing death by dangerous driving.

But Mrs Holt’s family are angry that the EDL used her picture without their permission — claiming it was highlighting hit-and-runs by Muslims.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Save the Planet by Having Fewer Babies, Says BBC Presenter

BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham has warned the only way to protect the future of the planet is to curb population growth.

The Springwatch presenter suggested offering Britons tax breaks to encourage them to have smaller families.

He effectively endorsed China’s controversial one-child policy, which sees couples who adhere to the rule given a lump sum on retirement.

But he stopped short of suggesting people should be penalised for having too many children.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Woman is Left Brain Damaged After Waiting Two Hours for an Ambulance… That Was Sitting Only 100 Yards Away

A woman suffered serious brain injuries and a heart attack after she was forced to wait two hours for an ambulance — which was sitting 100 yards away.

Caren Paterson, 33, collapsed in her flat in Islington, North London, before her boyfriend made three frantic 999 calls pleading for an ambulance to arrive.

Her brain was starved of oxygen and she suffered a cardiac arrest almost two hours after she first fell ill.

Ms Paterson’s family have now started legal proceedings against the London Ambulance Service after it emerged that staff were told not to enter the flat.

Paramedics were required to have a police escort, which was not available at the time, because officers had previously attended the address and deemed it ‘high risk’.

But the Paterson’s legal team believe the grading might have related to a different flat or was placed on the property several years before Ms Paterson, a medical researcher at King’s College Hospital, moved in.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: We May Have a Tory PM — But Lefties and Luvvies Still Run Britain

Over at Ofcom it is shrug-your-shoulders time. The broadcasting regulator had shown leniency to ‘edgy’ comedian Frankie Boyle after he made jibes about a disabled child — letting him off with no more than a rap on the knuckles.

Boyle’s remarks were made on Channel 4, another public body. Chairman David Abraham and the channel’s liberal supremos were similarly disinclined to take the matter too gravely.

In the House of Commons the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was asked about the soppingly wet commission which will consider a Bill of Rights. It includes Leftist lawyers Anthony Lester, Helena Kennedy and Philippe Sands. Mr Clegg wafted aside concerns from Tory MP Esther McVey that the commission might not ‘reflect the will of the British public’.

Over on Twitter, meanwhile, millionaire actor and Labour supporter Eddie Izzard was regaling his faithful munchkins with his latest political apercus, attacking the Government’s cuts. What a tangled web!

This is not about Frankie Boyle, horrible though he sounds. Nor is it a beef about Ofcom, Channel 4 or Nick Clegg, richly though they may all deserve criticism.

I hope simply to draw attention to a lesson from these unrelated events. They all show the way that our politics is increasingly being influenced by unelected voices from the Left.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


EU-Croatia: Brussels: No Deadline Yet to Complete Talks

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 6 — “There is no date” set for the deadline of Croatia’s EU accession negotiations. So said Natasha Butler, the spokesperson for EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, responding to questions today in Brussels about a possible delay in the timetable for Zagreb’s EU membership.

Tomorrow a visit by Commissioner Fule and EU Commission President Manuel Barroso to the Western Balkans will begin in Zabreb. Speaking about EU enlargement, Butler added, “the credibility of the EU is not in the speed of the process, but in its quality, which is based on implementing reforms and concrete results”, which are up to the Croatian government. When a country becomes an EU member, they do so “as a member-state that is fully prepared to enforce EU rules and standards”, said Fule’s spokesperson.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Ex-Prosecutor Says UN Should Open Organ-Trafficking Probe

Belgrade, 6 April (AKI) — Former chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Carle del Ponte, said on Wednesday the UN Security Council should open an investigation of alleged organs trafficking in Kosovo during and after the 1999 war.

Del Ponte, who first accised members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of involvement in alleged human organs trafficking in her book “The Hunt” in April 2008, told Serbian daily Vesti, there was no will in the international community to investigate the matter.

“I have seen that nothing has been done about it,” Del Ponte said. “I think I talked about it publicly as early as 2004, but there was no reaction,” she added.

The reports on organs trafficking were backed up by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty in January. He claimed that KLA had transported at least 300 Serb prisoners from Kosovo to northern Albania where their organs were harvested to be sold at international market.

In reaction to Marty’s report, the European Union has assigned its police and judiciary mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to carry out an investigation. But Del Ponte said EULEX was not capable to do the job.

“As far as I know, EULEX is not capable of carrying out an investigation because, first of all, it can’t provide efficient protection of witnesses,” Del Ponte said. Furthermore, it has no competences in Albania, which is indispensable for getting any results, she said.

“For an independent investigation, it should be decided by the UN Security Council,” Del Ponte said.

Albanian and Kosovo authorities have dismissed the claims on organs trafficking as “Serbian propaganda”.

“Albania didn’t want to cooperate with us and we also had problems in Kosovo,” Del Ponte said, referring to her own investigation of alleged organs trafficking.

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

Serbia-Croatia: Days of Serbian Culture in Istria

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, APRIL 6 — The Days of Serbian Culture dubbed ‘In the Honor of Ivo Andric’ will be held in Istria (Croatia) from April 7 to April 12, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary since the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Ivo Andric, and the hosts will be Istria cities of Rovinj, Umag, Labin, Rasi and Pula, reports Tanjug news agency.

State Secretary at the Serbian Ministry of Religion and Diaspora Miodrag Jaksic, Serbian president’s advisor Mladjan Djordjevic, President of the Serb National Council in Zagreb Milorad Pupovac, Pula Mayor Boris Miletic, and Istria County Prefect Ivan Jakovcic will address the attendees at the opening.

The event, which will last six days, will organize the performance of the opera ensemble of the National Theatre in Belgrade, as well as rock ‘n’ roll evenings, concerts, speeches by Serbian authors, sports meetings, gastronomic evenings with Serbia’s ethno food, etc.

The event is organized by the Coordination of Serb national minorities and institutions in Istria, under the auspices of the Ministry of Religion and Diaspora, Ministry of Culture, Communications and Information Society, Serbian National Council in Zagreb, Istria County and the city of Pula.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Al Qaeda Ready to Use Suicide Attacks in Libya

(AGI) Algiers — Algerian security forces have told the daily newspaper ‘Ennahar’ that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is trying to take advantage of the situation in Libya to increase its range of action, exploiting the immense quantity of weapons circulating in the area, and sending its members to carry out suicide attacks against Gaddafi’s troops. These statement have come after the army killed a young Algerian al Qaeda terrorist wearing a belt filled with explosive in an exchange of fire.

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

Egypt: Former Construction Minister Arrested for Embezzlement

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 6 — Egypt’s former construction minister, Mohamed Ibrahim Soleiman, was arrested today and charged with misappropriation of public funds, according to security sources.

Soleiman, a strong man of the Mubarak era and minister from 1993 to 2005, has been accused of exempting from concession payments one of the companies led by the father in law of Alaa Mubarak, the first son of the former rais.

Dozens of reports were submitted over the years against the former minister for misuse of public funds and for giving granted land to businessmen close to the former regime.

Soleiman is the second minister of construction to be charged for embezzlement. A trial is already being held against Ahmed el Maghrabi, a minister during the last government before the revolt that ousted Mubarak.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gadhafi’s Ukrainian Nurses: ‘Papa is Used to the Heat’

Moammar Gadhafi may be viewed as a despot by the West, but his Eastern European nurses call him “papa.” Now, one nurse has taken her story public and revealed that the Libyan dictator isn’t a bad boss to have. And that he has a weakness for camel meat and couscous.

In the end, it was the crummy wages in Kiev that drove Oksana Balinskaya, a trained nurse with shoulder-length, brown hair, to get in touch with an employment agency three years ago. She wanted more than the 800 to 1,100 hryvnia (around €70 to €100) average monthly wage she could in the Ukrainian capital and the agency, with its lucrative job offerings abroad, had no problem obliging.

The headhunters served as mediators between Ukrainians and a particularly deep-pocketed client in the Middle East whose weakness for nurses from Eastern Europe is well-known: Moammar Gadhafi. A Western alliance is currently seeking to force Gadhafi to his knees with air strikes because the dictator has turned his weapons on his opponents and described his own people as “rats.” Balinskaya, though, has kind words for her former employer, a man she calls “Papa.”

Once in Tripoli, the Ukrainian was led together with other young women to Gadhafi’s tent. There, the dictator himself took care of the casting, “eyeing them steadfastly” and asking about the womens’ individual areas of specialization as nurses. Then he made his decision — Balinskaya was hired at a much more generous salary than she might have gotten back in Ukraine.

A ‘Voluptuous Blonde’

Gadhafi and the women who surround him are the stuff of legend. He is provided with protection, for example, by an “Amazonian Guard” of stunningly attractive women. And, of course, there are his Ukrainian nurses. In that regard, Balinskaya wasn’t alone — Galyna Kolotnytska, who returned to Ukraine shortly after fighting commenced in Libya, served the “Revolutionary Leader” for eight years. Her close relationship with Gadhafi fueled American diplomats to speculate floridly about intimate relations between Gadhafi and his “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian.

Following the publication of thousands of US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks last year, the US State Department’s suspicions about the dictator’s sex life are well known. The man once disparaged by former US President Ronald Reagan as the “mad dog of the Middle East,” has taken on an almost mythical status for his exploits…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Libya: Rebels: Light Weapons From Western Allies Not Enough

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 6 — In an interview with Dubai-based satellite television network “Al An”, the military commander of the Libyan rebels, Abdulfattah Younis, said that rebel forces have received weapons from the Western coalition. With providing much detail, Younis said that rebels have received light weapons from Western allies. These weapons are not sufficient for their needs, continued the rebel commander. NATO must allow us to attack Gaddafi’s forces with our warplanes, not enforcing the no-fly zone on the rebel forces, continued Younis.

The military commander of the Libyan has criticised NATO actions in the past, saying that their air strikes are very slow.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Forces Raze Zawiya Rebel Mosque to the Ground

(ANSAmed) — ZAWIYA (LIBYA), APRIL 6 — Forces answering to Muammar Gaddafi have razed to the ground a mosque used by the rebels as a command centre and camp hospital in the western city of Zawiya, which the regime re-took control of on March 10 following a fierce battle. The white stone religious building had been knocked down a few days ago, and today the rubble was leveled with bulldozers in order to eliminate any signs of the rebellion. Also leveled was a nearby cemetery where the rebels had buried their dead. Some people express their disappointment, saying that “the people are upset. Why was a mosque removed from a central square? This is a Muslim country,” said Zawiya resident Mohammed, while in the square the green Jamairiya flag was waving and a few dozen of the leader’s supporters were demonstrating.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya: Rebels Accuse NATO of Abandoning Misrata

(AGI) Benghazi — Libyan rebels accuse NATO of abandoning Misrata. The city has been bombed and besieged by loyalists for more than 40 days. “NATO has not given us what we need”, Benghazi’s Army Chief Abdelfatah Younis said, “letting Misrata’s people die under Gaddafi’s fire”.

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

Libya: Juppe: We Risk Getting Bogged Down There

(AGI) Paris — “We risk getting bogged down” in Libya, emphasized French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. Bombardments over Libya entail the highest risks, explained the head of the Quai d’Orsay, because Muammar Gaddafi’s troops keep close to civilians. The rebels have been complaining about the slowing down of military operations during the last few days, since the NATO has taken over the command. “We asked to avoid collateral damage among the civilian population, and this obviously makes the operations more difficult”, underscored Juppe.

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

Libya: NATO: Precision Strikes to Avoid Hitting Human Shields

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, APRIL 6 — “We are carrying out precision attacks to avoid hitting the civilians used as human shields”, said rear admiral Russ Harding, vice commander of NATO Operation Unified Protector in Libya. “It is difficult for aircrafts because visibility is not good from high altitude”, the rear admiral continued. “In this case it is better not to drop bombs”. The priority, he underlined, is to “protect the population”, even though this “is difficult” when these civilians “are surrounded” by tanks. In the past 24 hours they have been “attacked by heavy weapons” in Misrata, Harding added. “Our mandate is to protect the population, not to earn a vote of confidence from the other parties”, he said in response to criticism expressed by the rebels. “Even though they haven’t seen us yet in some areas, we control Libya from west to east and we watch over the entire Libyan coast”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libyan Crisis: EU in Trouble

El País Madrid

The Libyan crisis has brought to light the contradictions that mark the European Union: in industrial policy, international relations and immigration, national interest and its corollary, lack of solidarity, prevail.

Jean-Marie Colombani

Three elements that could damage relations between France and Italy give food for thought on the difficulties the European Union is going through.

Economic discord: Italy is drawing up a decree to ensure that French interests do not take control of what Italy regards as a flagship of the Italian agri-food industry — namely, the milk giant Parmalat.

Conflicting policy over Libya: together with Britain, the French would like to see Gaddafi gone, whereas Italy, because of Berlusconi’s good relations with Gaddafi, is exploring every avenue for a negotiated and honourable exit for the dictator.

Finally, a squabble that touches on immigration: the Italians, whose island of Lampedusa is the entry point for those exploiting the Tunisian revolution to get into Europe, resent the attitude of the French, who at the Franco-Italian border are halting Tunisians trying to get into France to find work.

The first point of friction is totally inconsistent with the rules that make a single market work well. The Italian position is hard to accept, but we must recognise that it is part of a strategy that governments have been increasingly using. That strategy is economic patriotism, erected as a barrier to market forces. Both the Germans, in the Opel affair, and the French as well, gladly made use of the very argument which Italy is today bouncing back against France. These are sterile wars, most often to the detriment of European consumers, even if the trend towards mergers do pose undeniable social problems. But it is for Europe to propose and dispose.

The second problem relates to European defence. Rome’s attitude, which is closer to that of Moscow than to those of Paris and London, is at bottom hard to accept as well. There are special ties between Berlusconi and Gaddafi and between Gaddafi and Putin that, to some extent, explain the benevolence shown to Colonel Gaddafiby these two leaders. Above all, though, the attitude of Italy — and even more so that of Germany — takes us back to 2003. It is as if we are living through a sort of 2003 in reverse. That was the year the war in Iraq split Europe and pitted Rome, London and Madrid, standing with George Bush, against Berlin and Paris, which together with Moscow had formed an axis opposed to the war. The EU, we must recall, had a hard time wiping out the traces of that. And so we are living through a new paradox. The reconciliation, in terms of military operations justified by the duty to intervene — indeed by the values ??we cherish — and organised around a London-Paris axis, is perhaps an indication that Britain can be rallied to the embryonic idea of common European defence. This is made all the more necessary given that American leadership is not what it once was and a distinction will therefore be drawn between those Europeans who will continue to appeal to American leadership and those who, as has happened in France and Britain, believe that the relative decline of US leadership makes possible a different distribution of roles, one that will devolve more initiative to Europe.

In terms of what could be the European objectives, Italy can be criticised for its attitude both to Libya and to migration, and one cannot help but feel shocked by the lack of solidarity that attitude is getting. The situation in Lampedusa illustrates yet again a very serious deficiency in Europe. Everyone knows that migration flows can only be controlled through an increasingly coordinated and coherent approach among European countries. What do we see in reality? The unbearable spectacle of an Italian government letting the situation in Lampedusa drag on, all the better to justify more radical measures in the eyes of the public; and, at the same time, European leaders who all seem to have been modelled after Pontius Pilate. This situation is unacceptable.

These episodes, which all too unusually are bringing Italy and France into conflict, make it clear that each passing day should convince us to get back somehow onto the lost path towards European integration.

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

Libya: NATO: 30% of Gaddafi’s Military Power Destroyed

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 5 — Nato’s attacks destroyed 30% of Gaddafi’s military forces, according to brigadier general Mark van Uhm, who also commented on Saturday’s events in Marsa el Brega, where at least ten Libyan rebels died during a coalition air raid on an oil terminal. He called it an “unfortunate accident” and explained that the rebels were hit in reaction to shots the rebels fired in the air to celebrate the recapture of Marsa el Brega. The Nato attack apparently hit, according to reports by the rebels, four rebel vehicles including an ambulance that resulted in 15 casualties.

Answering a question concerning the risk that Libya may turn into a sort of weapons bazaar, the general stated that Nato “does not have detailed information” on the possibility, according to press reports, that al Qaeda received weapons in eastern Libya.

To date, according to Mark van Uhm, Nato’s naval task force reported “no violation” of the UN imposed weapons embargo. The embargo also concerns potential land-based arms trafficking and Nato asked neighbouring countries such as Chad and Somalia to enforce the ban.

The general then stated that Nato’s “number one priority” in terms of military intervention is the city of Misurata, which has been under siege of the past 40 days and which is becoming Libya’s martyr city. He emphasised that “Some tanks are hidden (in the city), some people have been used as human shields. This is what is happening in Misurata”.

Nato spokesperson Oana Lungescy pointed out that Nato itself has had “no contact” with the Libyan provisional national council, which has instead been recognised by certain allies such as France and Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Muslim Gang Leader Terrorizing Christians in Egyptian Village

by Mary Abdelmassih

Cairo (AINA) — Ten human rights organization staged a rally on March 30 in front of the building of the Attorney General to bring to public attention the tragedy of some nine thousand Coptic villagers living in terror since end January in the Upper Egyptian villages of Badraman and Nazlet Badraman in Deir Mawas, Minya. Rights activists and Badraman villagers were joined by attorney activist Peter elNaggar, who filed a complaint with the Attorney General against 34-year-old Muslim police informer Ali Hussein, nicknamed “Holaku” after the ruthless Mongol leader.

Hussein was accused of terrorizing the Copts, raping their wives, kidnapping their children for ransom and extortion. Attorney elNaggar said that I f proven these charges are punishable by the death penalty.

Security forces were informed last January of the incidents in both villages, “but they just turned a blind eye,” said Coptic activist Nader Shoukry, who publicized the story last week after registering all crimes against the Coptic villagers.

The terror started on January 28, when Ali Hussein assaulted Copt Khalil Suweiha and his family. Mr. Suweiha filed a report with the police in Deir Mawas but was forced to drop the charges after being threatened with death by Hussein and his 200-man armed gang.

Hussein then started ?extorting money from Copts and attacking their homes. They all had to withdraw the police reports they filed against him after being threatened.

On January 29, Hussein, broke into the house of another Copt (his name is withheld), raped his wife and mother after being restrained by Hussein’s men. He was too frightened to report the crime to the police after being threatened that his children would be killed, according to activist Mariam Ragy.

Alaa Yusuf Iskandar, 30, was kidnapped and his family paid a ransom of 200,000 Egyptian pounds to Hussein to set him free. Although the family reported the kidnapping to the police, no action was taken.

Hanna Samuel had his 12-year old son kidnapped on March 8; the well to do Coptic family paid a ransom of nearly 500,000 Egyptian pounds to free their child.

According to Shoukry, “Ali Hussein has set himself up as governor of the two villages despite the presence of two village mayors. He is practicing injustice and tyranny only against the Copts in the villages. He walks between Christian homes, carrying a weapon on his shoulder, followed by his brothers and cousins and more than fifty armed thugs from outside the villages.” He added that Hussein and his gang declared that they are the government of the Copts. The incidents of extortion, looting, crop destruction and kidnapping children for ransom have become so prevalent many families have left the villages as they have no more money to give him. “His despotism and tyranny reached the extent of imposing a curfew on the Copts from six o’clock in the evening to seven o’clock in the morning. Any Copt daring to break the curfew is beaten up and terrorized,” Shoukry said.

On Saturday April 2, Ali Hussein forced twenty three Coptic villagers to go with him to Cairo to the offices of the Attorney General to withdraw their complaints against him, which they had filed on March 30. He detained their children to make sure they would follow his orders. When they arrived in Cairo the offices of the Attorney General were closed, so Hussein brought the Copts to several newspapers to say the Copts and Muslims live in harmony on Badraman. Only the semi-official newspaper Al-Ahram published his story.

On Sunday morning police and army forces stormed the village to arrest Hussein and his gang, but he was tipped off and he and most of his gang fled beforehand. Only a few members of his gang were arrested. The police stayed only three hours in the villages before withdrawing, leaving the Coptic villagers again at the mercy of a furious Ali Hussein.

Since Monday Hussein has been assaulting the Copts in the villages to force the army to release the members of his gang that were arrested on Sunday.

Today the villagers appealed to Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi to urgently rescue them from the oppression of Ali Hussein, who is holding them as hostages in the village until the release of his men.

Another rally is to be staged on April 6 by the villagers of Badraman, joined by human rights organizations, in front of the offices of the Attorney General in Cairo. After the rally the villagers will meet with the Attorney General to submit a report about the latest incidents and to demand quick action to save them from the oppression they are presently suffering at the hands of Ali Hussein and his gang.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]

Three Highly Esteemed Constitutional Experts Declare Obama’s Military Attack on Libya Unconstitutional

Regardless of what linguistic shenanigans Barack Obama uses while employing a Three-card Monte with the American people on what constitutes war, and his licentious use of the American military at his reckless discretion, he is in the wrong for myriad reasons. The Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 gives the power to declare war to the Congress, not the President: “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water…”

Barack Obama engaged the United States in a war with Libya, and according to three of the most highly esteemed and knowledgeable scholars of the United States Constitution, this act is unconstitutional.

In descending order of presupposed knowledge in the area of constitutional law, and in accordance with self-proclaimed scholarship of said law beyond the scope and reach of the authors of the Constitution, the three experts weigh-in on the constitutionality of not attacking Libya with a non-war.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Revolting Middle East Policy

In the last three months we played a role in overthrowing nearly every Middle Eastern government we were allied with—that wasn’t supporting terrorism.

We pushed out Ben Ali in Tunisia, but let the Saudis move tanks into Bahrain. Egypt’s Mubarak was a monster who had to go, but Syria’s Assad is a reformer. Now Yemen’s Saleh who let us hunt terrorists in his country is on our hit list, but the Qatari royal family which is linked to Al-Qaeda and finances Al-Jazeera are our best friends. Gaddafi who cut a deal to give up his nukes got bombed, Iran which is pushing hard for a nuclear bomb has clear skies.

Middle Eastern leaders who support and finance terrorists got a pass, but our own allies in the War on Terror got creamed. Iran, Syria and the Gulf Arab states who are responsible for most of the terrorism against us have nothing to worry about. Saleh and Mubarak who aided the War on Terror got shown the door.

Want good relations with the US? Start funding terrorists and building nukes. That’s the only lesson any Middle-Eastern leader can take away from this disaster. The message we have put out there is that the worse they treat us, the better we will treat them. We will tolerate enemies and allies abusing us and plotting to kill us. But allies who actually go out on a limb to support us and act as if they have common interests with us. That we won’t put up with. They have to go.

The tally of stupidity in what fanciful pundits called the ‘Arab Spring’ is almost endless. Not only did we mistake factional protests for democratic change and the will of the people, but we got behind groups and organizations overtly hostile to us and took their side against governments that had actually been friendly to us.

Obama intervened politically in Egypt on behalf of Islamists and Anti-American leftists, bringing down the government of the only major Muslim country in the region that was not actively funding terrorists. A government that not only offered significant help during the War on Terror, but was the only non-Islamist bulwark against Iran. All that is almost certainly gone now.

Bush’s bloodless deal with Gaddafi got him out of the nukes and terror business. That too is gone now. The rebels are losing and Gaddafi isn’t going to be intimidated by us ever again. The US went in like a lion and out like a lamb. Bush’s invasion of Iraq intimidated Gaddafi into giving in. Obama’s botched assault on Libya has reassured every thug from Syria to Iran that they have nothing to fear from us.

On any threat level map, North Africa which was reasonably quiet under Bush has just gone dark red. And it won’t take much for it to go bright red now. From Tunisia to Libya to Egypt—the Islamists have gotten a major shot in the arm on the other side of the Mediterranean. Al-Qaeda fighters are swarming within sight of Italy. In a day, Libyan fighters can travel by boat to Italy’s Pelagie islands. When Eisenhower wanted to invade Italy from North Africa, he began with the islands as a jumping off point. Muslim ‘refugees’ have been doing their own version of ‘Operation Corkscrew’ by using the islands to invade Italy. And once inside Italy they have access to the entire European Union.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

King Abdullah Shows Support to Palestinans in Jordan

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 6 — King Abdullah of Jordan visited today a Palestinian camp in Amman to send a message of support to Jordanians of Palestinian origin following instigation by conservative powers that rang the alarm over possible meltdown in relation between the largest groups in the kingdom.

The rare visit for Abdullah, whose wife Queen Rania of a Palestinian origin, comes following threats against Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who are the majority.

The deterioration comes following street protests that call for political and ecoomic reform that include better representation in vital institutions to Palestinians, who have been marginalized ever since the 1970 civil war.

Opposition parties and civil society groups say the current political system in the kingdom favours the east bank Jordanians over Jordanian of Palestinian origin and called for amendment to the legislation to guarantee fair Parliament representation.

They also call for an end to meddling by security apparatus, which are controlled by east bankers, in the country’s internal affairs. Abdullah toured the camp in a black Mercedes and met with representatives of the camp, according to officials.

Abdullah has repeatedly called for a unity among Jordanians, including Palestinians who are considered the backbone of the country’s private sector.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement this week accused some influential powers of trying to create tension between the Palestinians and Jordanians over reform demands that could put an end to state favouritism to this group.

Protesters camping near a central square in Amman were attacked by thugs and criminals in what has been blamed on the government of former general and east banker Maruf Bakhit.

Jordan has already witnessed a civil war between Palestinians and Jordanians amid reports that the Jordanian army killed thousands of residents in refugee camps in the 1970 September war.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: 2 Dead and 13 Wounded in Beirut Jail Break

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 6 — Two convicts dead, nine civilians and four Lebanese soldiers wounded is the result of this morning’s clashes inside and outside the Rumie jail, located on the hills east of Beirut, where a violent uprising unleashed by a few prisoners has been going on since Sunday. The report was made by local TV network FutureTv, which quoted security sources according to whom two convicts were killed in circumstances that still have to be ascertained during a raid by government security forces in a jail hall where the rebellion broke out. This morning dozens of relatives of Rumie prisoners again blocked the road leading from Beirut to the penitentiary by setting fire to garbage cans and car tyres. Some soldiers and police agents tried to break up the gathering of relatives the prisoners and during the clashes nine of the latter were wounded along with four soldiers. The Rumie jail, which has experienced several prisoner uprisings over the past five years, is Lebanon’s main jail and also the most crowded one. Designed to hold 1,500 prisoners at most, it now holds more than 3,500 prisoners, including members of a small fundamentalist group inspired by al Qaeda.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Terror Show Featuring Israeli Vice PM Moshe Yaalon

The latest episode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show is a special featuring an extended version of my recent, wide-ranging interview with Israel’s Vice Prime Minister, Moshe Yaalon—the second highest ranking member of the Israeli government. Some highlights from our talk, in which Yaalon pulls no punches:

  • On Hezbollah storing rockets in homes in southern Lebanon: “Those who are going to sleep with rockets might wake up with our missiles.” (20:46 in).
  • On the theory of “linkage” between the Iran issue and the Israel/Palestinian conflict: “This is a very dangerous and false conception: this is a misconception. These is not any linkage whatsoever between the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the Iranian revolution.” (6:00 in).
  • On Iran’s ultimate goal: “[Israel is] only the minor Satan. America is the great Satan. What is America? It is the West, led by the United States. Their aim is to wipe Israel off the face of the map on their way to defeating America.” (5:10 in).
  • On the recent murders of the Fogel family in Samaria by Palestinian terrorists (8:52 in).
  • On the radical Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt: “I can’t speak about moderate Muslim Brotherhood elements. No way.” (13:30 in).
  • On the international push, led by the Palestinian Authority, to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state: “ To force such a move on Israel will be a disaster not just for the state of Israel, but for the West as well.” (22:34)
  • Yaalon on what Israel means to him (stirring stuff, 27:00 in)

You can watch the entire interview at the link above.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

Syria: Regime Seeks Dialogue With Intellectuals

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 6 — The Syrian regime, in power for the last 48 years, has given its approval to engage in a dialogue with several intellectuals and dissidents, several of whom have spent time in prison for criticising the government, following over two weeks of unprecedented anti-government protests. “Call to dialogue” is the title of a feature story this morning on the front page of Syrian daily Tishrin, written by Samira Musalima, the editor of one of the three official Syrian dailies. “A contemporary, strong and capable Syria must be built, where the freedom, the future, the will and the dignity to be human are the highest values,” wrote Musalima, who has made many appearances recently at the protests on pan-Arab television networks as the non-official spokesperson of the regime. “This is why I invite all members from the world of politics, culture and society to engage in a dialogue that will join us under the umbrella of the nation with the objective of protecting Syria and within the limits defined by the security of the nation,” wrote Musalima in the article.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria: Teachers With Niqab Reinstated, Casino Closed

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 6 — Under pressure of unprecedented protests against the regime, mostly staged in the regions with a Sunni majority, the Syrian authorities have decided to reinstate school teachers who wear a niqab (a veil that covers the entire body except the eyes) and to close the only casino in the country, which was opened just a few months ago. Official press agency Sana reports that outgoing Education Minister Ali Saad has announced his decision to readmit teachers who were removed in June 2010 to all school levels. The niqab, widespread in the Gulf region and in south-east Asia, is mainly worn by women who follow a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam. The government newspaper Tishrin reported this morning that the ‘Ocean Club’, the only casino, opened in December 30 km south from Damascus, has been temporarily closed. The historic casino in the capital was closed in the early ‘70s, shortly after Hafez al Assad seized power. Assad stayed on as President until 2000 and is the father of the currently leader Bashar. Gambling is considered to be “haram” (illegal) by Islamic law. “The arcade has been closed due to the illegal behaviour of some regular customers”, a short statement at the bottom of page 6 of the government newspaper reads.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘The Imam’s Army’: Arrested Journalist’s Book Claims Turkish Police Infiltrated by Islamic Movement

Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen is one of the most powerful men in Turkey, even though he lives in exile in the US. The recent arrest of prominent Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik shows what can happen to those who cross his Gülen movement. Sik was about to publish a book alleging that Gülen sympathizers have infiltrated Turkey’s police force.

Fikret Ilkiz makes an elegant impression, with his graying hair, slender facial features and his expensive suit jacket. The lawyer speaks succinctly, but with a precision that has an incisive quality.

Ilkiz represents Turkey’s most prominent detainee, the veteran journalist and writer Ahmet Sik. Sik was arrested on March 3, as was his colleague Nedim Sener. Both work at newspapers belonging to the Dogan group. Sik works for the left-liberal Radikal, while Sener writes for Milliyet, traditionally the newspaper of Turkey’s intellectuals. Both journalists became famous through their books.

Their revelations have made the two writers icons of investigative journalism in Turkey and won them many awards at home and abroad. Hence the country was shocked when the two journalists were arrested in their homes at dawn on March 3. The police turned their residences upside down and seized computers, CDs and the journalists’ entire archives.

‘Absurd’ Accusation

But the shock soon turned into indignation, when the charges against the journalists were made public. They are accused of being members of an ultra-nationalist underground organization called Ergenekon. The alleged network, which supposedly includes members of the military and hardcore Kemalists, is said to have attempted to overthrow the Islamic-conservative government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from 2003 onwards using terror and disinformation.

“Everyone knows that this accusation against the two journalists is absurd,” said Ilkiz, speaking on the weekend at a meeting between friends of Sik and Sener and foreign journalists. “Their work speaks for itself.” Indeed, Ahmet Sik was one of the editors of the weekly magazine Nokta who in 2007 were the first to publish an investigative report about the military’s plans to stage a coup. In the story, Nokta published excerpts from the secret diaries of a high-ranking admiral, which included details about the coup plans. The diary is now part of the indictment in the Ergenekon case. Now one of the journalists who made it public, of all people, is accused of being part of the network.

As absurd as the accusations against Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener are, they mark a turning point in the so-called democratization process that has been conducted by the ruling Justice and Freedom (AK) Party government under Erdogan, which has been in power since 2002. The first years of the new government, during which time the administration successfully brought Turkey closer to the EU, were characterized by a permanent confrontation with the military, which had previously been all-powerful.

During this period, journalists such as Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener were also on the side of the AKP. They reported on human rights abuses committed by the military and the country’s intelligence agencies. But after the power of the military had been curbed by a joint effort by democratic forces, and the AKP had secured its power in the country’s institutions, investigative journalism suddenly became a nuisance for the ruling party. Indeed, journalists are even viewed as a threat, particularly at the moment, when the country is just two months away from crucial parliamentary elections.

Explosive Material

While certain sections of the Turkish press have become little more than a mouthpiece for the government, other journalists such as Sik and Sener have stayed true to their cause. Although the special prosecutor who has been conducting the investigation in the Ergenekon case since 2007 emphasized after the March 3 raids that the two writers had not been arrested because of their journalistic work, interrogation records which were made public on the weekend show the exact opposite.

At the time of his arrest, Ahmet Sik had almost completed work on a new book that was supposed to be published in May. The book, titled “Imamin Ordusu” (“The Imam’s Army”), contains explosive material. It describes in detail how followers of the Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen have allegedly infiltrated the Turkish police since the mid-1980s. Gülen’s followers currently comprise by far the most influential Islamic brotherhood in Turkey. The Gülen movement is mainly known outside Turkey because of its schools, which are also present in Germany. Fethullah Gülen has lived in exile in the US since a trial in the 1990s. In interviews, he likes to cultivate the image of an old, wise, tolerant Islamic scholar.

According to Fikret Ilkiz, Ahmet Sik had found out that “80 percent” of the Turkish police force already belongs to the Gülen movement. It is of secondary importance whether the value is really that high. The key thing is that anyone who criticizes the movement is currently at risk in Turkey.

The last author who wrote a book that was critical of the Gülen movement was Hanefi Avci, a former senior police officer who had himself been a Gülen sympathizer. Last autumn, Avci published a spectacular tell-all book about his time with the organization. The book has sold nearly a million copies to date. But Avci is unable to enjoy his success: He has been sitting in jail since November, charged with being a supporter of a radical left-wing terrorist organization.

Nedim Sener also seems to have become a problem for the Gülen movement. Sener’s latest book deals with alleged lies told by Turkey’s security agencies about the background of the assassination of prominent Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007. Sener accuses members of the military, as well as many senior police officers who are Gülen sympathizers, of being involved in the crime…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Some Things Change: Some Never Change in Brussels

I cannot recall how many times I’ve gone to Brussels. There have been times I’ve been at least four times a year, covering an EU or NATO summit, or visits of Turkish leaders. Last week I was in Brussels. I’ve seen that when it comes to Turkey-EU relations, there are things that never change. Still, the only thing that does not change is change itself: Here is my list of things that have changed and things that never change:

-In the past if you would have a round of discussion with EU officials as well as experts monitoring Turkey’s membership bid, you would hear nothing but complaints about the country’s bad human rights record. There would be an outcry about jailed journalists and intellectuals (and especially for the Kurdish ones). We would be reporting about different delegations being established to go for a fact-finding mission to Turkey. Half of my career, I spent writing about initiatives from different EU institutions to exert pressure on Turkish governments to improve its bad democratic record and Turkey’s efforts to rebuff them.

I went to Brussels just few days after the notorious police raid to Radikal daily for an unpublished book. The recent incidents seemed to have ringed the alarm bells, but nothing compared to the past, when similar developments would have created uproar.

-In the past, saying that Turkey can be an asset to the EU due to its geostrategic position and the role it can play in international problems fell on deaf ears. Now, everyone is talking about Turkey’s importance as a key player.

-In the past you would come across Kurdish activists in the corridors of the European Parliament or European Commission. They would be complaining about the flaws in the Turkish democracy. Then you would encounter the Turkish diplomats who would chase Euro officials for “damage control.”

Now the Kurdish activists prefer to demonstrate in the streets for the improvement of jail conditions of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party or the PKK. The Kurdish activists are replaced by quasi-nongovernmental organizations. In contrast to the Kurdish activists, they lobby in favor of the government. My understanding is that Turkish diplomats (who by the way, according to a legal amendment executed under the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, are now representing the government — instead of the state) seem to keep quiet about controversial issues like the Ergenekon. The Foreign Ministry seems to have opted not to instruct its diplomats abroad on a diplomatic campaign on explaining the developments concerning the case, (which I believe is a wise step from Foreign Minister Davutoglu.) But the government can feel confident that friends of AKP are working well in Brussels.

-In the past, European right wing parties and left wing parties would not miss any occasion to criticize Turkey. Right wing parties used democratic flaws as a reason to justify why Turkey should not enter the EU, while left wing parties were genuinely seeking reform, thinking exerting pressure on Turkey would bring about change. Scared by the tremendous pace of the reform process undertaken during the first term of the AKP government, right wings parties preferred to keep quiet. “The slower the pace of reform, the better it is, since it will also slow down the accession process,” they say. Left wing parties are happy to see the end to the rule of the “judicial-military” elite in Turkey that has been in their eyes the main stumbling block in reforming Turkey.

Some Turkish NGOs with active ties in Brussels used to lobby on behalf of Turkey, telling why Turkey’s bid for membership should not be obstructed. But they were equally critical towards the government, calling for reform. Now they seem muted, despite what they see as negative developments in Turkey, lacking the courage to criticize the government.

When it comes to things that never change; here they are:

-The U.K.’s accession process continues to be given as an example to Turkey. “You need to be patient. The U.K. was vetoed twice,” Turks are still told. (No. no. no! Please stop using this argument. It really has no impact.)

-The tendency to hide behind some member countries as an alibi for the problems in relations continues, with a slight difference in that the phrase, “We are regretting so much having accepted Greece as a member,” replaced with, “We are regretting so much having accepted Cyprus as a member.”

-The conditionality and the tendency of a give-take in relations remain intact, with the Cypriot problem taking the relations hostage.

-The dilemma of criticizing Turkey continues. Those who want Turkey to enter the EU want to criticize democratic flaws in the country, yet they know that doing so might also be counterproductive as it gives ammunition to their opponents, those who are against Turkish membership bid.

-The European Commission in general continues to be an ally to Turkey, trying to move the process forward. But their hands are tied up, due to political pressure from member states.

Let me finish by a pleasant surprise: four consecutive sunny days; I believe it is a rarity in Brussels especially in late March. Unfortunately, I can’t say it reflects the mood on Turkish-EU relations.

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

South Asia

Al-Qaeda ‘Setting Up Training Centres in Afghanistan’

Al-Qaeda terrorists are setting up training centres and bases in northeastern Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US military forces from remote valleys and mountains, according to US and Afghan officials.

There are growing fears that despite the addition of 30,000 US troops last year, the terror organisation has exploited vacuums in Kunar and Nuristan created by the decision to pull US troops back to more populated areas in both Afghan provinces and concentrate firepower in the south.

With President Barack Obama determined to begin sending American soldiers home in July, some in the US military are concerned al-Qaeda is making a comeback, nearly a decade after it was driven into Pakistan’s neighbouring tribal areas by the US invasion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Two More US Soldiers Killed by Another “Lone” Afghan “Ally”

by Diana West

These latest slayings took place inside a compound in the northern Afghan province of Faryab where the soldiers were providing security for a meeting between US trainers and Afghan border police.

I can’t find more details, not even the soldiers’ names, but let’s use our imagination. Two presumably young soldiers arrived safely with their traveling team at the Afghan border police compound near the Afghan border with Turkmenistan. There, US trainers were meeting with Afghan border police. Was this to get or pass along information? Complain or praise recent activities? Plan yet another training session? We have no idea. But the soldiers probably believed the first hard part of the day was over, that they were behind a secure perimeter, could have a smoke or a chew or a stick of gum, and wait until they had to mount up and face the booby traps and sniper harassment that would follow them home. It was at that point that their killer, an Afghan police officer, approached. Maybe he was even assigned to them. He greeted them, offered them something to eat, asked them something, maybe told them a joke. While they were eating, smoking, tying their boots, laughing, somehow off guard, he shot them dead. Did he shout Allahu Akbar, or keep it under his breath, or wait until he had gotten clean away for a big loud, “Allah be praised, I got me two infidels”? Because he did get clean away, either over or through the wall, or right past the the presumably guarded gate. Did another Afghan help, not hinder, look the other way? Maybe the shooter was the gate guard. Will we ever know?

This “incident” brings the total of US troops murdered by our Afghan allies since December (by my unofficial and quite possibly incomplete count) to 17. If I add in the two Italian troops killed in January by an Afghan soldier firing an M-16 at close range while the Italians were cleaning their guns, and the three German troops killed by a submachine gun fired at close range while the Germans were working on a vehicle, we get to 22 Allied killed by Afghan allies in four months — over five Western men sacrificed each month for being “infidels” ordered by their dhimmi leaders to curry favor in the umma through an unprecedented campaign of payola and public works. This is an outrage, a scandal, and every civilian representative of these fallen soldiers and their bereaved families is AWOL and isn’t that a crime?

Apparently not. To our unflustered leaders, the six/month in sacrifice is maybe lamentable but perfectly acceptable, the price of the privilege of spending $350 million a day to be in Afghanistan in the first place…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East

Japan Faces Another Dilemma: Radiation-Contaminated Bodies

As if the Japanese government did not have enough on its hands, now it has this dilemma: What to do with as many as 1,000 bodies near the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant that may be contaminated with radiation.

A solution will require decisive action and a high-degree of delicacy.

After losing family members to the tsunami and earthquake, most Japanese would normally go forward with a traditional cremation and place the remains with those of the victims’ kin. But the bodies near the plant have been exposed to radiation, making them potentially dangerous to handle or move. And nearly a month after the disaster, decontaminating them so they can be transported is rapidly becoming impossible.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant

United States government engineers sent to help with the crisis in Japan are warning that the troubled nuclear plant there is facing a wide array of fresh threats that could persist indefinitely, and that in some cases are expected to increase as a result of the very measures being taken to keep the plant stable, according to a confidential assessment prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Among the new threats that were cited in the assessment, dated March 26, are the mounting stresses placed on the containment structures as they fill with radioactive cooling water, making them more vulnerable to rupture in one of the aftershocks rattling the site after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11. The document also cites the possibility of explosions inside the containment structures due to the release of hydrogen and oxygen from seawater pumped into the reactors, and offers new details on how semimolten fuel rods and salt buildup are impeding the flow of fresh water meant to cool the nuclear cores.

In recent days, workers have grappled with several side effects of the emergency measures taken to keep nuclear fuel at the plant from overheating, including leaks of radioactive water at the site and radiation burns to workers who step into the water. The assessment, as well as interviews with officials familiar with it, points to a new panoply of complex challenges that water creates for the safety of workers and the recovery and long-term stability of the reactors.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ivory Coast Rogue President Laurent Gbagbo ‘Negotiating Surrender’ As UN Launches Air Assault on Palace Where He’s Holed Up

Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo is ‘negotiating his surrender’ after United Nations and French forces bombarded military sites, backing Ivorian fighters who are trying to install the elected president.

U.N. and French forces launched a full air assault on the presidential palace and three military garrisons yesterday marking an unprecedented escalation in the international community’s efforts to topple the leader.

Gbagbo was declared the loser of elections in November but refused to cede power to winner Alassane Ouattara even as the world’s largest cocoa producer teetered on the brink of all-out civil war.

David from Lyon, France comments accurately on the situation:

“Its an odd world, the elections were a fraud and Ouattaras carried that out, the north is Muslim and the south Christian/Amist. Now they are butchering the Christians and the French government is assisting them, so what France is saying is that its OK to kill Christians if you have a democratic mandate via a fraudulent vote. Sounds like supporting Nazi Germany to me… But don’t worry, all this and more is coming to Europe under the same leaders who give us this.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Ivory Coast: Tens of Thousands of Refugees Trapped at Christian Compound After Mass Slaughter in Duékoué

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

Hundreds of Christians were reportedly slaughtered last week outside the Salesian Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus mission in Duekou, Ivory Coast by predominantly Muslim troops loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara. Forces loyal to the UN-backed Ouattara made gains against the army loyal to sitting president Gbagbo, seizing swaths of western territory outside of their traditional northern stronghold last week. Rebels allied with Ouattara were also accused of carrying out revenge killings in a predominantly Ebrie village, an ethnic group that voted in large numbers for Gbagbo.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Italy-Tunisia Accord to Prevent Fresh Departures

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 6 — Tunisia has rejected mass repatriations for the 20,000 who have landed on Lampedusa this year, but has made a commitment to step up surveillance to prevent fresh departures and to agree to the rapid re-admittance of those arriving from Italy after the coming into force of a six-month temporary permit of stay, which is to be signed today.

These are the terms of the agreement reached in Tunis between Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and his Tunisian counterpart Habib Essid. The negotiations lasted almost nine hours, during which the Italian delegation tried to push for a mass repatriation of the 20,000 Tunisians who have arrived over the past three months. Over the past few days Rome had already sent a list of a thousand people ready to be sent back to the country from which they had departed. The possibilities discussed were to send back about a hundred per day on planes and ships which have been readied for the operation. It is a commitment, however, that the fragile transitional government in Tunisia did not want to make. No figures or dates for repatriation were decided, therefore, but only the willingness on the part of the North African country to take back directly — via simplified procedures (recognition by consular authorities will be sufficient, without the sending of fingerprint profiles) — those arriving in Italy after the coming into force of the temporary permit of stay.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Immigrants’ Boat Sinks Off Lampedusa, 130 Missing

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Between 130 and 150 people are missing, 20 dead bodies have been sighted and 48 people have been rescued after a boat carrying migrants sank in the Sicilian Channel at dawn. The tragedy was caused by poor weather and sea conditions.

The migrants had left from Libya two days ago and were rescued by the Coast Guard 39 miles off Lampedusa after a SOS call was made on a satellite phone to the Maltese authorities. Airplanes and ships of the harbour office are searching the area and have dropped lifejackets and floats into the water, but the mission has been hindered by gale force 6 conditions, with wind gusts from the northwest of up to 29 knots and waves of up to 3 metres.

Meanwhile, the first migrants who were rescued at sea have been brought in. Five migrants, including a woman who is eight months pregnant, were brought to the local health centre on Lampedusa, while the others were brought to the refugee centre on the island. According to initial reports by the survivors to humanitarian workers, there are many women and children among the victims.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Regions and Municipalities Focusing on Minors

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 5 — “Regions and local bodies are already focusing on unaccompanied foreign minors”, according to a statement by Vasco Errani and Sergio Chiamparino, the presidents of the Conference of Regions and Anci (the association of municipalities), and Lorena Rambaudi, coordinator of the Social policies board of the Conference of Regions.

In effects according to Errani, Chiamparino and Rambaudi, both Regions and Municipalities set to work before the agreement signed with minister of the Interior Maroni on March 30, which specified that, with reference to the matter of unaccompanied underage children, the government is committed to identify constant and multiannual resources to help with their placement in reception and education structures through the Municipalities”.

The present situation will be examined together with the government on April 6. Meanwhile a group of Regions and Local Bodies have already stated themselves ready, an availability which according to Errani and Chiamparino is far greater that the current presence of unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy, which today amounts to more than 170,000. The three representatives of the Regions and Municipalities concluded that “The Regions and Local Bodies are capable of managing at best the phenomenon of unaccompanied foreign minors.

The local entities are immediately providing an effective and tangible form of solidarity”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Le Figaro: Rome ‘Gives’ France to Tunisians

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 6 — The headlines today in French daily Le Figaro, known for being very close to the positions taken by government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, opened with a long article entitled, “Rome gives France to Tunisian Immigrants”, on the decision of the Italian authorities to grant temporary stay permits to the hundreds of illegal immigrants who have arrived on the island of Lampedusa.

In the reference on the front page, Le Figaro led with “Italy opens the doors of Europe to Tunisian refugees”. “The latter,” continued the right-wing French daily, “have had the doors opened for them to the Schengen area, a stronghold with extremely fragile walls.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Malmstrom: Refugee Allocation Plan Needed

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 6 — In light of the immigration emergency emerging from Libya and North Africa, European commissioner for internal affairs Cecilia Malmstrom set up an action plan and asked for the solidarity of the 27 member States ahead of the Council of EU ministers of the Interior that will meet on Monday and Tuesday in Luxembourg.

In un letter addressed to the EU Countries, the European commissioner asks for the implementation of a refugee allocation plan, with the potential activation of the directive on temporary permits, and also the implementation, as soon as possible, of a ‘special’ joint EU-Tunisia operational plan to ease the burden on Italy and Malta.

According to the commissioner the EU Countries should try to open reception centres for the refugees “in the spirit of sharing responsibilities and in close cooperation with Unhcr”.

In this context “it is imperative that Council and Parliament make an effort to quickly reach an agreement on the adoption of a proposal for a EU plan for the allocation of the refugees”. The implementation of a ‘special’ joint EU-Tunisia operational plan instead aims to deal with the large scale emergency that to date has brought some 20,000 migrants to Lampedusa and Malta.

On one hand attention is given to the Tunisian authorities, to have them carry out a more effective control of the borders and to ease repatriations. On the other hand, attention is also paid to the local authorities of the EU Countries most affected by the migration flows in order to deal with their impact on the economy and infrastructures. Malmstrom also emphasised the urgent need to extend the field of operations and to boost resources available to Frontex, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, in order to allow it to actively join illegal alien repatriation activities. Additionally, the commissioner stated that Frontex should quickly reach specific operational agreements with the Mediterranean Countries that migrants come from and pass through (Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Migrant Boat Sinks Off Italy, Up to 250 Missing

ROME, April 6 (Reuters) — Between 130 and 250 people were missing and at least 15 appeared to be dead after a boat carrying refugees from Libya capsized south of Sicily early on Wednesday, coast guard officials and aid workers said.

Rescuers picked up 47 people, including a heavily pregnant woman after the overloaded boat, which left Libya two days ago, sank at about 4:00 a.m. (0200 GMT) 40 miles (64 km) south of the island of Lampedusa.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a migrant assistance agency which has officials on Lampedusa, an Italian fishing boat rescued another three people.

Between 15 and 20 bodies were seen in the water, officials said but high winds and rough seas made it difficult for coast guard boats and a police helicopter to operate.

Coast guard officials said the boat had originally been carrying around 200 people but the IOM put the figure as high as 300, of whom it said some 250 were missing.

The incident provided a stark illustration of the dangers run by desperate people who pay about 1,000 euros ($1,427) for a place on one of the overloaded fishing vessels carrying refugees and migrants from Africa.

“The vessel, which was laden beyond capacity, had left the Libyan coast with migrants and asylum seekers from Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad and Sudan,” IOM said in a statement. “Some 40 women and 5 children were on board. Only two women survived the shipwreck.”

On Monday, the United Nations refugee agency said more than 400 people fleeing Libya on two boats were missing.


Thousands have crossed so far this year after the collapse of the former Tunisian regime and fighting in Libya brought down strict border checks that had previously barred the way into Europe.

Most have been young men from Tunisia, seeking to get to France but in recent days there have been growing numbers of arrivals from Libya, underscoring Italian fears the fighting there could set off a new exodus.

IOM said that 2,000 mostly African migrants and asylum seekers had landed in Lampedusa from Libya in the past 10 days.

Lampedusa, roughly midway between Sicily and Tunisia, has been the focal point for the crisis, with some 20,000 illegal migrants arriving this year and overwhelming the infrastructure of the tiny island, which normally lives on fishing and tourism.

Thousands were forced to shelter in makeshift tent camps until Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sought to end the weeks-long emergency by sending ferries to clear the island.

However, that has simply shifted the problem to other areas in Italy and caused arguments among regional governments over where to set up migrant holding centres.

Italy has also been at odds over the issue with France, which has turned back migrants trying to cross the border. Berlusconi is due to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy on April 26 in Rome, when the issue will probably be discussed.

On Tuesday, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni signed an agreement with the Tunisian government to try to halt the flow, pledging aid, increased police cooperation and possible compulsory repatriation for illegal immigrants.

The accord was confirmed on Wednesday by a cabinet meeting in Rome which set up an inter-ministerial contact group to monitor progress.

[Return to headlines]

Paris Examines Legality of Temporary Permits

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 6 — “France wants to examine conformity with the Schengen code” of the temporary residence permit issued by the Italian authorities to Tunisian immigrants that landed in Lampedusa, according to today’s report by Le Monde.

Le Monde stated that “The ministry of the Interior in Paris still does not want to react: ‘We just heard of the Italian decision”‘. However, Le Monde continued, “before making any comments, Paris wants to ascertain the legal validity of the temporary residence permits that the Italian government should grant to Tunisian migrants”.

Le Monde claimed that in Brussels the entourage of Immigration commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom made reference to the Schengen code that regulates the circulation of people through the borders of Member States. In particular, Article 2 provides the possibility for a Country to grant “temporary residence permits” that allow holders to move in the overall Schengen area. Quoting sources in Brussels Le Monde stated that “Before granting these permits Italy will have to anyhow examine on a case-by-case basis the situation of every Tunisian expatriate that landed on its territory. The Italian government will have to make sure that nobody is ‘flagged’ in a police file and has not been interdicted from the territory”. Furthermore “the Tunisians who will be granted these permits must be carrying ‘travel papers’ with them and prove that they have ‘sufficient resources”‘.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Police Closer to Home

Die Presse, 5 April 2011

“The police will have authorisation to enter private homes,” headlines Die Presse. As part of a new hard line on immigration put forward by Austria’s very active interior minister Maria Fekter (ÖVP), the police will no longer require a warrant to search private residences and vehicles if they suspect the presence of undocumented aliens. The measures, which are described in a specific article of the country’s new ‘Aliens Act’ developed both by the ÖVP and its coalition partner the SPÖ, will be subject to approval by a vote in parliament to take place in the month of April.

“Fekter has established the basis for a generalised suspicion that foreigners are either illegal or criminals,” writes Die Presse, which notes that “civil rights are not the sole preserve of Austrian passport holders. If your daughter has a foreign friend, who happens to be African […], then your home can be searched for drugs. Who is to say that the authorisation to conduct searches without warrants will not be extended to target a wider range of unloved Austrians? A day will come when every Austrian who wants to remain above suspicion will have to have a policeman living in his house.”

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

Sweden: New Action Against Deportations to Iraq

A group of activists gathered outside of a Migration Board (Migrationsverket) facility north of Gothenburg on Tuesday night in an attempt to halt another round of Iraqi deportations.

Shortly before 9pm, around 80 demonstrators had gathered outside the facility in Kållered.

According to information from the group Aktion mot deportation (‘Action Against Deportation’), around 25 to 30 Iraqis were set to be transported from the facility to Gothenburg’s Landvetter airport where they were to board a chartered plane destined for Iraq.

“We’re going to try to stand in the way and with active non-violence, attempt to block the deportations and we’re going to stay as long as needed,” the group’s Sara Johansson told the TT news agency.

“This is about minorities who risk both persecution and death.”

Police were on hand with more than a dozen mini-vans and shortly before 9pm an officer used a megaphone to urge the demonstrators to move or risk being detained for disobeying a police order.

When none of the demonstrators showed any signs of moving, police physicaly removed the activists and placed them on the ground nearby.

Shortly thereafter, a bus pulled out of the Migration Board facility and the transport of the Iraqi deportees drove past on its way to the airport.

As of late Tuesday night, it was unclear exactly how many activists had been detained.

“We’re not going to comment at this time,” police spokesperson Ulla Brehm told TT.

“A tally will be made on Wednesday.”

According to Brehm, the police action worked well. Unlike previous encounters with anti-deportation activists, no pepper spray or batons were used.

“On the other hand, a lot of muscle power was used when the demonstrators were carried away,” said Brehm.

“I don’t have any information that anyone was injured.”

The incident is one in a string of actions carried out by activists attempting to stop what they call forced deportations.

Two weeks ago, police used pepper spray and batons when demonstrators tried to stop the deportation of a Roma man to Serbia.

The action resulted in 15 people being suspected of disobeying a police order.

Their trial is scheduled to take place on Wednesday afternoon in Gothenburg District Court and is expected to be preceded by a demonstration in Brunnsparken as well as outside the courthouse.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Tunisia Immigration Agreement Falters

Return of migrants postponed. EU says temporary asylum legitimate

TUNIS — There has been no instant agreement over immigration. The Italian government’s proposals came up against a Tunisian wall that proved more solid that expected. But talks have not broken down. It will merely be necessary to persevere with negotiations that promise to be challenging because the provisional government led by Beji Caid-Essebsi is not satisfied with the “more money, fewer immigrants” formula. Today, interior minister Roberto Maroni will try again on his own as he returns to Tunis to see whether the bilateral technical committee, the only concrete outcome of yesterday’s meeting, has produced a framework for agreement.

The mission led by Silvio Berlusconi, with Mr Maroni and junior foreign minister Stefania Craxi, came away with no results. Veteran host Essebsi, 84, deftly ducked the issue, leaving his guest to do virtually all the talking and releasing a statement in Italian which irritated the many Tunisian and foreign reporters present (an hour later, a sweat-beaded interpreter reported the speech in French and then in Arabic). These are details that count in negotiations which the new Tunisia — you merely have to glance at local television or the Tunis papers — sees as a test of maturity for its international credibility, and also for its national pride as a democratic country at long last. In what little of substance he was able to communicate, Silvio Berlusconi left the door open on this point, assuring his interlocutor that “Italy wants to proceed with repatriations in an absolutely civilised manner”.

But by late evening, positions on the crucial issue of repatriation were still distant. Interior minister Maroni instructed prefect Rodolfo Ronconi to stick to the Italian line at the technical committee meeting: the Tunisian government should take at least 1,000 illegals under a detailed plan, indicating what ships and planes are to be used, and within a reasonable time frame. Italy also wants joint patrols of the Tunisian coastline. In exchange, Rome is said to be willing to raise the aid package to a total of €300 million for materials (radar, patrol boats) and direct or indirect subsidies to businesses and the economy in general. Tunis, however, appears disinclined to take more than 50 or at most 100 immigrants a week, a stance backed by EU commissioner Cecilia Malmström in Brussels, who announced an exceptional procedure to grant temporary asylum to refugees where flows are massive…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

UK: Sham Marriage Officials Swoop on Bride and Groom Before They Exchange Vows… Only to Find Wedding is Above Board

Immigration officers swooped on a suspected sham marriage at a town hall — only to find it was legitimate.

A team lay in wait as a Latvian bride, 30 arrived to marry her Pakistani husband-to-be, 23, yesterday.

Before they could say their vows at Leeds Town Hall, the unsuspecting bride and groom were led away for questioning.

Their guests and official photographer were told to stay put while the couple were quizzed by officers.

They had to go through separate 15-minute long interviews before officials realised their mistake and allowed the ceremony to proceed.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Gender-Neutral Bible Drawing Harsh Criticism

In the old translation of the world’s most popular Bible, John the Evangelist declares: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” Make that “brother or sister” in a new translation that includes more gender-neutral language and is drawing criticism from some conservatives who argue the changes can alter the theological message.

The 2011 translation of the New International Version Bible, or NIV, does not change pronouns referring to God, who remains “He” and “the Father.” But it does aim to avoid using “he” or “him” as the default reference to an unspecified person.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Interpol Chief Calls for Global Electronic Identity Card System

The head of INTERPOL has emphasized the need for a globally verifiable electronic identity card (e-ID) system for migrant workers at an international forum on citizen ID projects, e-passports, and border control management.

Speaking at the fourth Annual EMEA ID WORLD summit, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said that regulating migration levels and managing borders presented security challenges for countries and for the world that INTERPOL was ideally-placed to help address.

“At a time when global migration is reaching record levels, there is a need for governments to put in place systems at the national level that would permit the identity of migrants and their documents to be verified internationally via INTERPOL,” said Secretary General Noble.

“The vast majority of migrants are law-abiding citizens who would like to have their identities verified in more than one country using the same identity document. If countries were to issue work and residence permits in an e-ID format that satisfied common standards internationally, then both the migrant workers and the countries themselves would benefit because efficiencies would improve, security at the national and global level would improve and corruption would be reduced.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]