News Feed 20120424

Financial Crisis
» European Finances Still in Bad Shape, Statistics Show
» Greece: Finance Ministry Site Hacked in Protest
» Italy Registers Biggest Real-Income Drop in 17 Years
» Spain: Treasury Auction Below Targets, But Greater Interest
» April 25: “Rumors of War III” Debuts on Glenn Beck TV
» Asteroid Mining Venture Backed by James Cameron, Google CEO Larry Page
» Golden Apple; Silver Frame
» Media Protect Elizabeth Warren in Senate Race
» Mining Asteroids Could Boost Space Exploration
» Soros or Alec: Whom Would the Founders Support?
» Stakelbeck: New GBTV Documentary “Rumors of War 3” Premieres Tomorrow Night
» Video: Romney Obama the Same?
» Why Asteroid Mining Makes Huge Dollars and Sense
Europe and the EU
» 2012 — The Hollande Revolution
» AI Slams European Countries for Anti-Muslim Discrimination
» Amnesty International Denounces Catalonia’s ‘War on Mosques’
» Europe: New Amnesty Report Reveals Muslims Discriminated Against for Demonstrating Their Faith
» Europe: A Crisis of the Centre
» France’s Centre-Left is on the March, But So Are Darker Forces From the Far-Right National Front
» France: Boy, 14, Held in Cellar for €150 Ransom
» Germany: Scientists Unveil ‘Self-Changing Tyres’
» Italy: Bossi Wants an End to Hate and Disputes Within Lega Nord
» Italy: Belsito Diamonds Seized as Part of LNP Embezzlement Probe
» Italy: Finmeccanica Denies ‘Kickbacks to Northern League’
» Italy Introduces Ferrari on Rails
» Italy: Tax Decree Passed Into Law
» Muslims Discriminated Against for Demonstrating Their Faith
» Muslims Are Discriminated Against in Holland: Amnesty International
» Norway: Witness Relates Trauma in Anders Behring Breivik Trial
» Norway: One Dead After Blast in Fredrikstad
» Norway: Breivik Says Insanity Claims ‘Racist’
» Norway: Witnesses Describe ‘War Zone’ After Oslo Bomb
» Spain: Bilbao’s Guggenheim Continues to Divide
» Sweden: Stockholm Airport Bars Israeli Airline Over Security Inspection Methods
» Sweden Shows off Garbo, Bergman Banknotes
» Sweden: Teen Boys Arrested After Filming Alleged Gang Rape
» Switzerland: Prosecutor Pursues SVP Chiefs Over ‘Racist’ Ad
» The Missionary Zeal of Germany’s Salafists
» UK: Five Terror Suspects Held in Britain
» UK: Five Men Arrested in Luton on Terrorism Charges
» UK: In Breivik’s “War Zone” Luton, Fear — And Scorn
» UK: Islamic School Will be ‘The Best’ Insists Head as Parents Rush to Apply for Places
» UK: Mosque Health Clinics Could Stop Dozens of Stroke Deaths
» UK: Secret Life of Shoe Bomber Saajid Muhammad Badat Funded by the Taxpayer
» UK: Tower Hamlets: Dead and Incarcerated People Vote
» Croatia: ‘Islam in Europe’ Conference Held in Zagreb
North Africa
» Chaos Ahead of Egypt’s Presidential Elections
» Egypt’s Search for a Leader Plunges Into Chaos
» Egypt: Election Law Changes, Mubarak’s Last PM Out
» Egypt: Cinema Star’s Sentence Upheld, Insulting Islam
» Tunisia: Corruption and Nepotism Like in the Past, Blogger
Israel and the Palestinians
» Hamas Leadership Shifts to Haniyeh, Press
» Israel Ready to Strike Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, Says Israeli Armed Forces Chief of Staff
» Netanyahu Renews Alarm, Far West in Sinai
Middle East
» Lebanon: Tyre Bombing Connected to Sale of Liquor, Not UNIFIL
» Turkish Airline Courts Israelis With Cheap Flights
» On the Way Out, Medvedev Vows Reforms
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Soldier’s Kit Stops Taliban Bullets Dead
» Afghanistan: UK Troops Expose Bomb-Making Mosque
» Female Circumcision Anger Aired in India
» Pakistan: Grand Ulema Convention Demands End to Vulgarity
» Pakistan and Iran Are Accused of Exerting Influence on the Afghan Media
Far East
» Report Says China Policy is Stirring South China Sea Dispute
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Armed Groups in Northern Mali Raping Women
» Mali: Al Qaeda: Algerian Diplomats Soon to be Freed
» South Sudan Leader Says Khartoum Has Declared War
» Sudan: Muslims Burn Down Catholic Church in Sudan
Latin America
» Panama Denies Lavitola Corruption Allegations
» Migrants: Council of Europe, Report on Mediterranean Deaths
» Senate Dems Pushing Bill to Block Arizona Immigration Law if Supreme Court Upholds It
» Spain: Health Cuts for Non-Regular Immigrants
» Switzerland: Monasteries Should Take in Asylum Seekers: Priest

Financial Crisis

European Finances Still in Bad Shape, Statistics Show

EU countries in 2011 managed to reduce their deficits, but they accumulated more debt compared to the previous year, the bloc’s statistics office said Monday (23 April). Overall government deficit in the EU stood at 4.5 percent of the gross domestic product, down from 6.5 percent in 2010, while in the eurozone the drop was from 6.2 to 4.1 percent in 2011.

The worst figures continued to be registered in Ireland (13.1%) and Greece (9.1%), two bailed-out countries, followed by Spain (8.5%), the UK (8.3%) and Slovenia (6.4%), well above the three-percent deficit threshold set out under EU rules. At the other end of the spectrum, Germany’s deficit shrank to one percent of GDP in 2011, while Estonia and Sweden recorded a surplus.

Hungary also has a surplus (4.3%). But the EU commission deemed that the surplus was not due to a sustainable budget policy as it resulted from the nationalisation of a pension fund. Budapest is the first country to face sanctions under the strengthened economic surveillance rules if it does not pass “sustainable” budget cuts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece: Finance Ministry Site Hacked in Protest

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 24 — Hackers broke into the servers of Greek finance ministry, police officials said on Tuesday, in protest at government plans to fight tax evasion by tapping into citizens’ bank data. The incident — as Athens News daily reports — marks the third attack by hackers on government websites since February as anger grows over spending cuts the country has pledged to implement as part of its troika bailout. The police said the group was associated with the Anonymous activist group responsible for similar hacking attacks in the past. The hacking was prompted by a government decision last month to fight endemic tax evasion by tapping into households’ bank, telephone and credit card data to detect people that spend more money than justified by the income they declare. The General Accounting Office (GLK) — a finance ministry arm overseeing spending — was checking to gauge the extent of the breach, which at the moment seems minor, a finance ministry official said. Three university websites were also attacked, according to a police official. The incident comes after 1.5 million fake prescriptions were entered on Friday into a new data system of the health ministry, a key instrument to contain the country’s burgeoning health costs, causing it to crash.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Registers Biggest Real-Income Drop in 17 Years

Salaries up 1.2% in March, inflation 3.3%

(ANSA) — Rome, April 24 — Real incomes in recession-hit Italy in March suffered their biggest drop since August 1995, Istat said on Tuesday.

Last month hourly wages were 1.2% higher than in March 2011, while the annual inflation rate was 3.3%, the national statistics agency said.

That means that Italian households’ spending power fell by almost 2.1% in March compared to the same month in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Treasury Auction Below Targets, But Greater Interest

Compared with previous auction

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — The Spanish Treasury has today placed 1.93 billion euros in 3 and 6-month bonds, some way below the fixed target of 2 billion, though there was significant demand and a greater rate of interest than during the previous auction. some 729 million euros in 3-month bonds were issued, with demand 7.6 times the amount and interest of 0.63% compared to 0.381% at the previous auction. A total of 1.21 billion euros in 6-month ‘bonos’ were also issued, with profitability of 1.5% compared to the 0.836% figure at the previous auction. Today’s auction took place in a climate of great market pressure on Spanish public debt, a day on from a black Monday, which saw the Ibex market index go below 7,000 points and a spread between the 10-year Spanish bono and the reference German bund at 430 base points at the opening of the day’s trading.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


April 25: “Rumors of War III” Debuts on Glenn Beck TV

by Diana West

On Wednesday evening, I will be on live with Glenn Beck to discuss “Rumors of War III,” a new documentary Glenn’s documentary unit, Mercury Radio Arts, has produced, and which I had the pleasure of appearing on along with such luminaries as my Team B II colleagues Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, Andrew C. McCarthy, John Guandolo, Frank Gaffney, and also CBN’s esteemed Erick Stackelbeck. Gen Boykin, Andy and I will all be be on the post-documentary show, along with Buck Sexton, National Security Editor of The Blaze.

The show starts at 7pm EST.

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Asteroid Mining Venture Backed by James Cameron, Google CEO Larry Page

A group of high-tech tycoons wants to mine nearby asteroids, hoping to turn science fiction into real profits.

The mega-million dollar plan is to use commercially built robotic ships to squeeze rocket fuel and valuable minerals like platinum and gold out of the lifeless rocks that routinely whiz by Earth. One of the company founders predicts they could have their version of a space-based gas station up and running by 2020.

The inaugural step, to be achieved in the next 18 to 24 months, would be launching the first in a series of private telescopes that would search for rich asteroid targets.

Several scientists not involved in the project said they were simultaneously thrilled and skeptical, calling the plan daring, difficult — and highly expensive. They struggle to see how it could be cost-effective, even with platinum and gold worth nearly $1,600 an ounce. An upcoming NASA mission to return just 2 ounces (60 grams) of an asteroid to Earth will cost about $1 billion.

But the entrepreneurs announcing the project Tuesday in Seattle have a track record of making big money off ventures into space. Company founders Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis pioneered the idea of selling rides into space to tourists and, Diamandis’ company offers “weightless” airplane flights.

Investors and advisers to the new company, Planetary Resources Inc. of Seattle, include Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and explorer and filmmaker James Cameron.

The mining, fuel processing and later refueling would all be done without humans, Anderson said.

“It is the stuff of science fiction, but like in so many other areas of science fiction, it’s possible to begin the process of making them reality,” said former astronaut Thomas Jones, an adviser to the company.

The target-hunting telescopes would be tubes only a couple of feet long, weighing only a few dozen pounds and small enough to be held in your hand. They should cost less than $10 million, company officials said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Golden Apple; Silver Frame

The US Constitution is much more important, and in much greater danger than most people realize. I will discuss both issues in this article, and I hope that those who are unfamiliar with our founding documents, or who may feel a bit rusty in their knowledge, will take a few minutes and familiarize/re-familiarize themselves with them.

I aim to make this experience as helpful, short and pain-free as possible, so I will limit myself to what I consider to be the most important elements in the Constitution.

In the interest of keeping things “short and sweet” I will cut to the chase and tell you that some people believe, and I am one of them, that there is one short passage in our founding documents that encapsulates, enshrines, and defines what is so unique and important about the US Constitution, and the United States of America. Oddly enough it is not to be found in the Constitution at all—it is in “The Declaration of Independence.”

I am talking about the preamble to the Declaration—specifically the first sentence. You cannot get much simpler than that—boiling things down to one sentence. Yet there it is—the heart and soul of the American experience. Without that one sentence the US Constitution loses most, if not all of its moral authority, and the United States becomes a shadow of itself.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Media Protect Elizabeth Warren in Senate Race

Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has picked up the endorsement and fundraising support of entertainer Harry Belafonte, whose reputation as a calypso singer has been superseded by his service to international Marxism. During the Cold War, Belafonte sang at a “Concert for Peace” in communist East Germany, where he attacked President Reagan’s anti-communist foreign policy.

A long-time supporter of the Castro dictatorship, he has more recently been singing the praises of Venezuelan Marxist ruler Hugo Chavez.

The April 19 Warren fundraiser, which included Belafonte’s name on the letterhead, was held at the Manhattan penthouse of HBO executive Michael Fuchs, another indication of how Warren has the support of the media in her critical race. HBO recently ran the Sarah Palin-bashing film “Game Change.”

A radical in her own right, Warren proudly claims to be the intellectual author of the Occupy Wall Street movement and is running as a “consumer advocate.” But she had previously benefitted from a fundraiser hosted by George Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund operator linked to the 2008 housing-market collapse.


Belafonte claims he never joined the Communist Party USA but acknowledges in his book My Song: A Memoir that he used to attend lectures in 1947 at the Jefferson School in New York City, “which openly billed itself as an institute of Marxist thought affiliated with the American Communist party.” He says he heard such speakers as I.F. Stone, the so-called “independent journalist” later unmasked as a Soviet intelligence agent.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mining Asteroids Could Boost Space Exploration

Talk of mining asteroids was once the preserve of corduroy-flare-clad, optimists of the Apollo era. Now the idea is making a comeback thanks to enterprising tech billionaires and a nascent commercial space industry.

The company Planetary Resources is due to outline today in Seattle, Washington, its aims to mine near-Earth asteroids for precious metals. “The resources of Earth pale in comparison to the wealth of the solar system,” company founder Eric Anderson, also of Space Adventures, told Wired Science.

Anderson’s co-founder is Peter Diamandis of the X Prize foundation, which runs competitions to stimulate privately funded space technology. The pair are backed by billionaires from Google, Microsoft and Dell and are advised by film director James Cameron and ex-NASA employees.

Planetary Resources says its first step is to launch a small fleet of space telescopes within the next few years to identify potentially valuable near-Earth asteroids. While asteroids are known to be rich in platinum, nickel and other precious metals that are steadily rising in value, it’s still the start of a daunting task.

First off, there’s the question of how to get there. Just returning a few grains of dust from an asteroid almost defeated the Japanese space agency. Their Hayabusa probe was hit by a violent solar storm on the way to the asteroid Itokawa and lost contact during landing. On top of that, the sampling device did not work correctly. Nevertheless, the spacecraft limped home and delivered its precious cargo of asteroid dust in June, 2010.

A better idea might be to go to an asteroid that has become temporarily trapped in Earth’s orbit. A recent New Scientist feature story details investigations into how to reach such mini-Moons.

Even so, drilling, mining, refining in zero gravity has never been tried. Without gravity to help keep rocks on conveyor belts, for example, ore will have to be transported in whole new ways.

There’s also the tricky question of who owns an asteroid. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty appears to make asteroid mining a difficult proposition.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Soros or Alec: Whom Would the Founders Support?

Who would the Founding Fathers have trusted with the future of the nation they created, George Soros or ALEC? And just who (or what), you may be asking yourself, is ALEC? Well, I’m glad you asked. And don’t feel ill informed, because until a few months ago, ALEC was not on my radar screen, either.

ALEC is an acronym for “American Legislative Exchange Council.” It was started by conservative activist and icon Paul Weyrich in 1973 and now bills itself as “the nation’s largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators, with over 2,000 state legislators across the nation and more than 100 alumni members in Congress.” ALEC’s leadership says its mission promotes “free markets, limited government and federalism throughout the states.”

Sounds good to me, but I can certainly see why they are so vilified by the loony left.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: New GBTV Documentary “Rumors of War 3” Premieres Tomorrow Night

A few weeks ago, I told everyone to be on the lookout for a hot upcoming project that I was honored to be a part of: GBTV’s groundbreaking new documentary, “Rumors of War III: Target U.S.” Well, the moment of truth is finally here. “ROW3” debuts tomorrow night, April 25th, at 7 pm EST live on The hour-long expose of jihad on America will be followed by a post-show at 8 pm featuring Glenn Beck and a distinguished panel of experts, including General Jerry Boykin and former Department of Justice prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who will answer your questions.

In Rumors of War III, you’ll see how:

  • Members of Muslim Brotherhood front groups that are sworn to the destruction of America have assumed influential positions in the U.S. government. Incredibly, these same radical Islamists are helping to direct the Obama administration’s counterterrorism and Muslim outreach policies.
  • Hezbollah operatives are attempting to link up with Mexican drug cartels along America’s porous southern border in order to infiltrate and attack the U.S. homeland.
  • Iran is linking up with anti-American, Marxist regimes throughout Latin America in an effort to establish a forward base to strike at the United States.
  • Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons and its rapidly advancing long and medium-range missile programs pose an existential threat not just to Israel but to the U.S. as well.
  • The coming Middle East War will spark worldwide chaos, quite possibly by the end of 2012.

If you haven’t already done so, I strongly urge you to sign up for a free, 14-day trial subscription to and tune in tomorrow night.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

Video: Romney Obama the Same?

Same old choice: Anyone but Obama.

But, what happens when the machine does everything to shove an Obama clone down your throat as the GOP nominee?

Comparing side by side the words and political stances of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Why Asteroid Mining Makes Huge Dollars and Sense

Science fiction dreams of mining riches from asteroids only make sense if humans can make it worth their time and effort. The new Planetary Resources group backed by Silicon Valley billionaires and Hollywood moguls is now betting on the fact that there is big money in mining space rocks.

Nobody knows exactly how much asteroid wealth exists, but early estimates point to riches beyond Earth’s wildest dreams. Just the mineral wealth of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter could be equivalent to about $100 billion for every person on Earth, according to “Mining the Sky: Untold Riches from the Asteroid, Comets, and Planets” (Addison-Wesley, 1996) — perhaps slightly less now after accounting for the Earth’s population growth over the past 15 years.

“The near-Earth asteroid population could easily support 10 to 40 times the population of Earth, with all the necessary resources to do that,” said John Lewis, a professor emeritus at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona and author of “Mining the Sky.”

Even smaller space rocks can have mineral prizes worth tens of trillions of dollars. The smallest known metallic asteroid that is an accessible near-Earth object has 40 times as much metal as all the metal in Earth’s history, Lewis pointed out. He has joined Planetary Resources as perhaps the most recognized expert on asteroid wealth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

2012 — The Hollande Revolution

El País Madrid

He is dull, pragmatic, consensual. And yet, if elected president of France, the Socialist candidate may be able to change the course of politics in Europe, a Spanish columnist believes.

Javier Valenzuela

If someone had said not so long ago that a character like François Hollande might embody the hopes of millions of Europeans for the beginning of a rebellion against the suffocating status quo, he would have been thought mad.

Nothing in Hollande’s bearing — an upright official or businessman — in his pragmatic and consensual character, or in his lukewarm centre-left political vision makes him a genius with panache like Cyrano de Bergerac, a historical giant like De Gaulle, or a Florentine artist of politics like Mitterrand.

And yet, as a sign of these sad and mediocre times, Hollande is now perceived across the depth and breadth of the Old World as the only Asterix possible that, from the ever indomitable village in Gaul, can rise up against the Germanic imperium of austerity and cutbacks and propose to stimulate growth and employment as the primary collective economic goal.

No French presidential election in recent memory has been on such a continental scale as this one. Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris, London, Rome, Madrid and all the other European capitals, the so-called “markets” as well and not a few ordinary people know that what’s at stake in this election is whether the Merkozy duo, with its dogma of a balanced budget at all costs, will stay in charge, or whether the first serious attempt will be made to push the goal of expanding or reactivating job creation to the top of the European Union’s agenda…

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

AI Slams European Countries for Anti-Muslim Discrimination

A new Amnesty International report criticizes some European countries for their treatment of Muslims. It singles out bans on headscarves and minarets as particularly damaging. Several European countries have made policy decisions in recent years discriminating against their Muslim citizens, according to a report from the human rights organization Amnesty International released Tuesday.

The report, titled “Choice and Prejudice: Discrimination Against Muslims in Europe,” singles out Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland for particular criticism. It cites bans on face-covering veils or other religious symbols in schools as being among the most damaging measures. “Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes,” Marco Perolini, Amnesty’s expert on discrimination said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Amnesty International Denounces Catalonia’s ‘War on Mosques’

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — Human rights organization Amnesty International has spoken out against the discrimination of Muslims in Europe and in Catalonia, where the followers of Islam are forced to worship in the street, exposed to the elements due to a lack of mosques. According to a report presented by Amnesty simultaneously in Brussels and in Barcelona and quoted in today’s media, in the Catalan region there were 40 legal disputes between 1990 and 2008 between Muslim associations and citizens’ associations or municipal councils. All requests to open mosques have run up against “technical obstacles, rejection by the public and even opposition by political parties openly stating that the construction of temples dedicated to the Islamic religion is incompatible with respect for Catalan culture and traditions”.

In the eyes of Amnesty International, all of this is “contrary to the freedom of religion, which includes the right to community worship in adequate places”. The human rights organization also spoke out against the ban on the burqa introduced by a number of Catalan municipalities for reasons of safety and equality, given that there have been “no reports of any woman entirely covered posing a threat to public safety or who has refused to identify herself”. Inside the report named “Elections and Prejudice: Discrimination against Muslims in Europe” the NGO states that the efforts put forward by governments to put a halt to negative stereotypes suffered by Muslims are extremely limited in number and insufficient, especially in countries such as Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Europe: New Amnesty Report Reveals Muslims Discriminated Against for Demonstrating Their Faith

European governments must do more to challenge the negative stereotypes and prejudices against Muslims that are fuelling discrimination across the continent, a new report by Amnesty International reveals today. Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination, said: “Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress, such as the headscarf. Men can be dismissed for wearing beards associated with Islam. Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes. There is a groundswell of opinion in many European countries that Islam is alright and Muslims are ok so long as they are not too visible. This attitude is generating human rights violations and needs to be challenged.”

The report Choice and prejudice: discrimination against Muslims in Europe, exposes the impact of discrimination on the ground of religion or belief on Muslims in several aspects of their lives, including employment and education. It focuses on Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland where Amnesty International has already raised issues such as restrictions on the establishment of places of worship and prohibitions on full-face veils. The report documents numerous individual cases of discrimination across the countries covered.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe: A Crisis of the Centre

Francois Hollande celebrates his victory in the first round of the French presidential election Francois Hollande has declared that the world of finance is his enemy

Last December Europe decided to outlaw expansionary fiscal policy. Twenty-five countries pledged to get their debts below 60% of GDP, and their “structural deficits” down to 0.5% — and keep them there — by 2014.

David Cameron vetoed an attempt to write this into the fundamental treaty of the European Union, so the participants — everybody except Britain and the Czech Republic — signed up to a “Fiscal Stability Treaty”.

Now, long before ratification, it has brought down the government of The Netherlands and looks set itself to be blown out of the water by a Francois Hollande victory in France.

Even though Mr Hollande has rowed back from his pledge to “renegotiate” the Treaty, in favour of “adding growth clauses”, the Germans in the shape of CDU chief whip Peter Altmaier on Newsnight last night, point out this cannot be done without killing the Treaty. For the Irish are set to vote in a referendum on the Treaty as unamended, within six weeks.

I said when the Treaty was designed that it might bring stability, but not growth. Now Europe is probably in the third quarter of a double dip recession. As economist Nouriel Roubini pointed out (13 April):

“Front-loaded fiscal austerity — however necessary — is accelerating the contraction, as higher taxes and lower government spending and transfer payments reduce disposable income and aggregate demand. Moreover, as the recession deepens, resulting in even wider fiscal deficits, another round of austerity will be needed. And now, thanks to the fiscal compact, even the eurozone’s core will be forced into front-loaded recessionary austerity.”

And so it has come to pass that French growth has ground to a halt, French official unemployment has passed 10%, and the French people have voted in large numbers against the Merkel-Sarkozy strategy of upfront austerity. Indeed six million of them voted against the euro.

Of course countries with a fiscal Luger held to their head have rushed to ratify the Treaty: Greece, Portugal, the Slovenian parliament voted it through with just two abstentions. For them, signing the Treaty was easy because they had no choice.

Treaty revision

What is emerging now though is a concerted attempt to re-look at the Treaty’s terms. Two weeks ago, in a little noticed move, the Socialist Party in Portugal, who voted for ratification, proposed the addition of “growth clauses” similar to those advocated by Mr Hollande. These were rejected, but will no doubt come back on a European level if Ireland votes the Treaty down.

But what could a “growth clause” mean? Europe’s problem is that it has to rely on upfront austerity because the euro’s design has limited the power of the central bank to use monetary policy to promote growth.

Though its impact is now flagging across the globe, monetary expansion has proven the effective lifeline in the first four years of the Great Recession. Printing money allows you to save the banks, keep stock markets buoyant and — surreptitiously — export the crisis to your trade rivals by tanking your own exchange rate.

It does not actually boost demand much directly, but if combined with fiscal expansion — as in the US — it can produce a weak recovery even in a country with a massive debt overhang.

Poor Europe, however, cannot even get to first base. It cannot do proper monetary expansion; its banks are “saved” but lending is contracting; its new fiscal rules tell it to keep budget deficits to a minimum, even as GDP contracts. And crucially it cannot get the unofficial benefits of monetary expansion, which is a lower exchange rate…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

France’s Centre-Left is on the March, But So Are Darker Forces From the Far-Right National Front

by Mary Riddell

Ed Miliband should not celebrate yet — Marine Le Pen may well be mightier than Mr Milk Pudding, Francois Hollande.

The job of French president is grim, but someone has to do it. Such was the view of Charles de Gaulle. “My mission seemed clear and terrible,” he once said. “At this moment, the worst in her history, it was for me to assume the burden of France.” François Hollande, the first-round victor in the race for the presidency, is more upbeat. The Socialist leader, nicknamed “Monsieur Flanby”, after a milk pudding, senses triumph against Nicolas Sarkozy. Adieu, Mr Bling; enter the human blancmange. “Change is afoot,” Mr Hollande tweeted. “Nothing will stop it now.” We shall see. Mr Sarkozy, who will fight to the end to prove him wrong, may yet prevail.

If, however, France elects its first Socialist president since 1988, Mr Hollande will shoulder not only internal problems but also the dreams of those leaders, Ed Miliband included, who hope the centre-Right’s grip on Europe is weakening. Angela Merkel, who has campaigned for Mr Sarkozy, faces possible ejection in the forthcoming German elections. David Cameron, on a media charm offensive to shore up his floundering government, may wish that he had been less dismissive of Mr Hollande, whom he declined to meet either in Paris or in London. Mr Miliband, while not yet waving a tricolore or sporting strings of onions, is cautiously delighted. Though he and Mr Hollande had not met until a few weeks ago, the Labour leader has become so close to his French counterpart that Lord [Stewart] Wood, a key Miliband adviser, has been invited to spend election night at the Paris headquarters of Mr Hollande, who recently attended a roast beef lunch with Team Miliband in Westminster.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

France: Boy, 14, Held in Cellar for €150 Ransom

A 14-year-old boy was kidnapped overnight the Pontoise area of Ile de France, North West of Paris — for a €150 ransom. The 14-year-old had been locked in a cellar in the area without light, food or a toilet for a night on Monday last week. His kidnappers threatened him with burgling his family’s house if he didn’t give them €150.

Scared that his kidnappers would carry out their threats, the boy didn’t return home until Wednesday, staying at a friend’s house on Tuesday night. The kidnappers’ motive is still unknown, but the boy’s mother claims the kidnapping is linked to an incident at Pontoise train station last Sunday, during which a group of boys took her son’s phone.

“They promised him they would give it back when they met up the next day, then they took the phone,” the boy’s mother told Le Parisien. “This time they didn’t beat him up, but what happens next time?”

The boy is currently staying away from the family home to avoid a repeat. Police have confirmed they have launched an investigation to find out who the kidnappers are.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Scientists Unveil ‘Self-Changing Tyres’

Are you fed up of having to change your summer tyres for winter tyres at the first sign of snow? A group of German researchers have developed a tyre that “changes itself.” The researchers at Leipzig university are developing the world’s first-ever “intelligent” tyre which automatically adapts itself to the prevailing weather conditions even while you are driving.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Bossi Wants an End to Hate and Disputes Within Lega Nord

(AGI) Milan — Bossi said he doesn’t want to see any more disputes within his party, as love for the Lega Nord must prevail. “I don’t want to see any more disputes or hate: it’s time for love for the Lega Nord and brotherhood to prevail.

Now, we must stay united for Padania!”, Umberto Bossi said in a statement circulated by the party. Bossi also denied that he would take part in an event, called ‘Bossi Day’, to be held in the province of Brescia on Sunday.

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

Italy: Belsito Diamonds Seized as Part of LNP Embezzlement Probe

(AGI) Milan — Eleven diamonds returned to the LNP party’s coffers by former treasurer Belsito have been seized as evidence. Probed on embezzlement allegations as part of broader investigations into the LNP’s handling of public party funding, Francesco Belsito delivered the diamonds just days ago. The seizure was triggered by LNP legal advisors’ denial that the diamonds were purchased with the party’s funds. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the initial batch of diamonds comprised 12 items.

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

Italy: Finmeccanica Denies ‘Kickbacks to Northern League’

‘No irregularities’ by ‘copter unit Augusta-Westland

(ANSA) — Rome, April 24 — Italian defence giant Finmeccanica on Tuesday denied press reports that it paid kickbacks to the populist Northern League party.

In a statement, it stressed that its helicopter subsidiary Augusta Westland had “never committed any type of irregularity” in the sale of ‘copters to India.

This had been “confirmed” by a recent Indian defence ministry probe, Finmeccanica said, threatening legal action against anyone who repeated the allegations. Finmeccanica has been hit by an investigation into allegations that its managers were involved in issuing false invoices and the creation of slush funds to bribe politicians.

Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, who had been Finmeccanica’s chairman and chief executive since 2002, was forced to resign in December after being named as one of the managers being probed.

The Northern League denied the kickback reports earlier Tuesday and also threatened legal action to protect its reputation.

The formerly secessionist party is at the centre of a separate probe into alleged fraud by former treasurer Francesco Belsito that led to Umberto Bossi quitting as leader at the start of this month and other party heavyweights resigning from their posts.

Tuesday’s media reports claimed that “other parties” also received Finmeccanica kickbacks but the League was the main beneficiary.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Introduces Ferrari on Rails

Italy’s burgundy red Ferrari on rails is finally going into service. Starting on April 28, the “Italo” will travel at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour between Milan, Rome and Naples. The new high-speed train is more environmentally friendly and also cheaper than its competitors — on both the rails and roads.

The burgundy red Italo train departs Naples Central Station punctually at 2 p.m., with rain pouring down from the sky. Within a few minutes, it is trundling past backyards at 160 kilometers per hour, then gathers speed. By 2:14 p.m., the train is whizzing along at 200 km/h and reaches 260 just a few minutes later.

The ride is quiet and smooth, and the only indication of the high speeds at which we are traveling are the large LED signs in the cars. By 2:16 p.m., we’re up to 300 km/h (186 miles per hour). The train has no locomotive and the motors are equally distributed throughout each car, making for a quieter ride. The train is also capable of traveling at speeds of 360 km/h — the only problem is that Italian tracks aren’t built to support such high speeds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Tax Decree Passed Into Law

TV frequency auction part of package

(ANSA) — Rome, April 24 — A tax decree ordering the auction of six new digital frequencies was passed into law by the Italian parliament on Thursday.

The airwaves, which were designated by the former Silvio Berlusconi government to be assigned through a so-called beauty contest free of charge, could bring in an estimated 1.2 billion euros for the government, say experts.

The plan is part of an effort to boost competitiveness in the Italian TV sector.

Berlusconi’s Mediaset group has challenged the cancellation of the beauty contest in an Italian court.

Also included in the bill are new property taxes, tourist fees, airport taxes and cuts to ministry spending.

The decree was approved by a confidence vote with 228 ayes, 29 nays and two abstentions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Muslims Discriminated Against for Demonstrating Their Faith

“Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress, such as the headscarf” Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination.

European governments must do more to challenge the negative stereotypes and prejudices against Muslims fuelling discrimination especially in education and employment, a new report by Amnesty International reveals today.

“Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress, such as the headscarf. Men can be dismissed for wearing beards associated with Islam,” said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination.

“Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes.”

The report Choice and prejudice: discrimination against Muslims in Europe, exposes the impact of discrimination on the ground of religion or belief on Muslims in several aspects of their lives, including employment and education.

It focuses on Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland where Amnesty International has already raised issues such as restrictions on the establishment of places of worship and prohibitions on full-face veils. The report documents numerous individual cases of discrimination across the countries covered.

“Wearing religious and cultural symbols and dress is part of the right of freedom of expression. It is part of the right to freedom of religion or belief — and these rights must be enjoyed by all faiths equally.” said Marco Perolini.

“While everyone has the right to express their cultural, traditional or religious background by wearing a specific form of dress no one should be pressurized or coerced to do so. General bans on particular forms of dress that violate the rights of those freely choosing to dress in a particular way are not the way to do this.”

The report highlights that legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment has not been appropriately implemented in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Employers have been allowed to discriminate on the grounds that religious or cultural symbols will jar with clients or colleagues or that a clash exists with a company’s corporate image or its ‘neutrality’.

This is in direct conflict with European Union (EU) anti-discrimination legislation which allows variations of treatment in employment only if specifically required by the nature of the occupation.

“EU legislation prohibiting discrimination on the ground of religion or belief in the area of employment seems to be toothless across Europe, as we observe a higher rate of unemployment among Muslims, and especially Muslim women of foreign origin,” said Marco Perolini.

In the last decade, pupils have been forbidden to wear the headscarf or other religious and traditional dress at school in many countries including Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

“Any restriction on the wearing of religious and cultural symbols and dress in schools must be based on assessment of the needs in each individual case. General bans risk adversely Muslims girls’ access to education and violating their rights to freedom of expression and to manifest their beliefs.” Marco Perolini said.

The right to establish places of worship is a key component of the right to freedom of religion or belief which is being restricted in some European countries, despite state obligations to protect, respect and fulfil this right.

Since 2010, the Swiss Constitution has specifically targeted Muslims with the prohibition of the construction of minarets, embedding anti-Islam stereotypes and violating international obligations that Switzerland is bound to respect.

In Catalonia (Spain), Muslims have to pray in outdoor spaces because existing prayer rooms are too small to accommodate all the worshippers and requests to build mosques are being disputed as incompatible with the respect of Catalan traditions and culture. This goes against freedom of religion which includes the right to worship collectively in adequate places.

“There is a groundswell of opinion in many European countries that Islam is alright and Muslims are ok so long as they are not too visible. This attitude is generating human rights violations and needs to be challenged,” said Marco Perolini.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

Muslims Are Discriminated Against in Holland: Amnesty International

Muslims face discrimination in the Netherlands and other European countries which breaches their human rights, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

The report, which focuses on the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and France, states the conclusions should not be taken to imply only Muslims are subject to religious discrimination.

And it stresses that criticism of Islam in line with freedom of speech principles is not the same as ‘specific discriminatory patterns’ against Muslims.

Nevertheless, Muslims do face discrimination, particularly in education and on the jobs market, the report said, adding that governments should do more to dispel misconceptions about their Muslim populations.


In terms of the Netherlands, the report singles out the case of a Muslim girl banned from wearing a headscarf to a Catholic school. The government should ensure educational establishments based on religious or political principles do not break human rights legislation, the report said.

The report also criticises the pending ban on the burqa, or face-covering Islamic garment, on public safety grounds. In particular, the report said the government has not taken the rights of women who face social exclusion into account when drawing up the ban.

In the Netherlands, some 5.5% of the population is classed as Muslim and this is expected to rise to 8% by 2030, the report says.

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

Norway: Witness Relates Trauma in Anders Behring Breivik Trial

Anders Behring Breivik arrived in court with his lawyers to hear the evidence against him Continue reading the main story

A security guard has described the trauma of seeing last July’s car bomb blast set off by Anders Behring Breivik at Norway’s government headquarters.

Tor Inge Kristoffersen told the Oslo court he watched on CCTV as a car parked and a man wearing what looked like a guard’s uniform got out.

Mr Kristoffersen said he zoomed in on the number plate before the vehicle exploded killing eight people.

Breivik has admitted the bombing and subsequent shootings on Utoeya island.

The police officer who co-ordinated the response to the explosion, Thor Langli, also took the witness stand and described how the bomb squad started to look for further bombs.

Mr Langli said the police were told a witness at the scene had seen a small car leaving the area, but he felt he could not take any officers away from the site to follow this up.

The number plate of the small car was reported at a fairly early stage, he said, but if CCTV footage had been relayed live to the police, this might have saved vital minutes and could have given them the opportunity to pursue it, he added.

Earlier, during his evidence, Mr Kristoffersen gave more details of the moment the bomb exploded: “Half of our screens, the images disappeared. There was a deep rumbling, the entire block shook, the ceiling bent like water.”

Mr Kristoffersen also spoke of one colleague who died in the blast, and of others who were no longer able to work as a result of the psychological effects of the bombing.

Another witness, civil engineer Svein Olav Christensen, spoke about the impact of the explosion.

He showed a picture of a 2m-wide hole created by the bomb that went straight down into the underground parking area.

Breivik emotionless

Breivik watched the witnesses in court without any visible emotion.

He spent the past week giving his own version of events, saying his plan was to kill as many people as possible.

He said he had hoped the car bomb would cause the whole government building to collapse.

After the explosion he went to Utoeya island where he killed a further 69 people at a Labour Party youth camp.

He denies criminal responsibility for the killings, saying he was defending Norway from multiculturalism.

The trial in Oslo will decide whether he is sane. A state psychiatric commission requested further clarification on the second of two psychiatric reports, which concluded he was sane and accountable for his actions.

The first report found him legally insane.

Depending on whether he is found sane or not, he faces either prison or committal to a psychiatric institution.

Breivik said he would do “anything to prevent” committal to a hospital.

Breivik was allocated five days in total to give evidence, with the entire proceedings expected to last 10 weeks.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Norway: One Dead After Blast in Fredrikstad

An explosion ripped through the Mills food products plant in Fredrikstad on Monday, leaving at least one person dead and several injured. Emergency crews were still searching through the rubble Monday night.

Mills officials said they had accounted for their employees, but search and rescue crews using specially trained dogs continued their work in the event others were trapped in the ruins.

Extensive damage

The blast occurred late Monday afternoon and caused extensive damage to the plant, also to nearby buildings and homes on the eastern side of town. The large, sprawling plant of the food producer perhaps best known for its mayonnaise is located over the bridge from downtown Fredrikstad, along the street that turns into Oldtidsveien, an historic two-lane road running southeast that’s dotted by ancient sites featuring rock carvings and stone circles that resemble miniature Stonehenges.

The cause of the blast was unclear and Fredrikstad police were getting assistance from a bomb squad from Oslo. Even though the danger of further explosions was believed to be over, police set up a security zone around the plant as a precaution.

“We view the situation as under control, but we’re evaluating it constantly,” Sven Roger Gundersen of the Østfold Police District told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Blast linked to maintenance work

A Mills executive told NRK that a gas truck had been in the area to empty a gas tank and carry out some maintenance. The person confirmed to have been killed was involved in the maintenance work.

“When the gas tank was empty, something happened that we think set off the explosion,” factory chief Hilde Fløkstad told NRK. Police said a technical crew would determine the cause of the blast.

The dead person was identified as Dan Vigbjørn Larsen, age 62 and from Lunner in Hadeland. He worked for the company carrying out the maintenance work.

Three persons were sent to the local hospital in Fredrikstad. One had also been working on the maintenance project, while the two others were passersby. Their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Norway: Breivik Says Insanity Claims ‘Racist’

CONFESSED mass killer Anders Behring Breivik has vehemently defended his sanity after a forensic panel found flaws in a psychiatric report that declared him sane in the eyes of the law.

As the trial for Breivik’s bomb-and-shooting rampage that killed 77 people entered its second week, the far-right fanatic told a court that he was the victim of a “racist” plot to discredit his ideology. He said no one would have questioned his sanity if he were a “bearded jihadist”.

“I know I’m at risk of ending up at an insane asylum, and I’m going to do what I can to avoid that,” Breivik said.

Two psychiatric examinations conducted before the trial reached opposite conclusions on whether Breivik is psychotic — the key issue to be resolved during the trial, since the 33-year-old Norwegian had admitted to the deadly attacks.

But the second of those reports, which found him sane, has not yet been approved by the Norwegian Board of Forensic Medicine. On Monday, the panel highlighted several shortcomings in that assessment, and requested additional information from the two psychiatrists who wrote it.

In particular, the forensic board said it could not be established whether Breivik had adjusted his behaviour during the examination as part of a strategy to be declared mentally competent.

Paal Groendahl, a forensic psychologist who is not involved with the case but has followed the trial in court, said the panel’s queries underscore the difficulty in assessing Breivik’s state of mind.

“I don’t think it’s any closer to being resolved,” he said.

If found sane Breivik would face 21 years in prison, though he can be held longer if deemed a danger to society. If sentenced to psychiatric care, in theory he would be released once he’s no longer deemed psychotic and dangerous.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Norway: Witnesses Describe ‘War Zone’ After Oslo Bomb

A security guard and an explosives expert described in court on Tuesday the massive blast that rocked Oslo when Anders Behring Breivik bombed a government building last July, killing eight people.

Tor Inge Kristoffersen, a security guard in the Norwegian capital’s government quarter, told the court that on July 22nd he saw a white van park at the foot of the tower housing the offices of Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. He said he was in the operations centre in the basement of the building and was using surveillance camera images to check whether the van was authorized to be there.

“When I was zooming in on the number plate, the car exploded,” he testified, adding that “half of the images disappeared from our screens because the cameras had been destroyed in the explosion.” “There was a huge roar. We were so close that we did not hear a blast, but a roar, and we noticed the shockwave in the ceiling over us,” he said.

Kristoffersen, a former soldier who served in the Middle East and in the Balkans, continued to work in the government district after the attacks, and likened the area to “a war zone.”

In his testimony, Kristoffersen stressed that long-overdue construction was under way to block off traffic in the street outside the government building, but that in the meantime “illegal parking” was frequent in the area. “We chased cars away from there every day,” he said.

Svein Olav Christensen, a government explosives expert, meanwhile told the court that a reenactment and simulations showed that Breivik’s bomb had the energy equivalent of between 400 and 700 kilos of TNT. “The main charge is easy to make,” he said, adding though that “the detonator is more difficult.”

The 33-year-old confessed killer used fertilizer, diesel and aluminium to make his 950-kilo bomb, which killed eight people working in the building and passers-by and injured dozens more. Stoltenberg, who was working from his official residence that day, was not harmed in the attack.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain: Bilbao’s Guggenheim Continues to Divide

For Bilbao in the Basque Country, 2012 is a year of celebration. The world-famous Guggenheim museum there is now 15 years old. While some deride it as a symbold of gentrification, the “Guggenheim effect” is undeniable.

In the 1920s, the writer Kate O’Brien said that Bilbao was a place where no real tourist ever went. And that might have been true, even as recently as 15 to 20 years ago. But now the city is one of the biggest tourist magnets in Europe, largely because of the extraordinary building.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Stockholm Airport Bars Israeli Airline Over Security Inspection Methods

Swedish port refuses to allow Israeli methods of security inspections dictated by Shin Bet, which inlcude ethnic, personal profiling, extensive questioning.

Arkia has to stop flying to Stockholm because the Swedish capital’s international airport now refuses to allow Israeli methods of security inspections dictated by the Shin Bet security service, TheMarker learned on Wednesday. Thus, Stockholm’s airport joined those in Malmo, Sweden and in Copenhagen in refusing to allow Israeli security inspections, which involve ethnic and personal profiling, extensive questioning and selective inspections based on the perceived degree of risk to security.

Arkia, the only Israeli airline flying to Sweden, had to move its operations to Malmo and Stockholm this year after Denmark refused to permit Israeli security procedures at its airports last summer. Arkia elected to fly passengers to Sweden and take them by land to Denmark. Now this avenue is closed.

The foreign and transport ministries are working with the Shin Bet to resolve the dispute, especially since thousands of Israelis bought tickets to the region for summer.

“It seems from the international media that additional European countries waving the flag of civil rights and equality will refuse the Israeli security demands, which I’ve warned would happen,” said Arkia CEO Gadi Tepper. Arkia and other Israeli airlines would face serious difficulty if much of Europe is blocked to them, he said.

“We are talking with security authorities in Sweden and other countries where problems have surfaced, to understand the meaning of the new restrictions imposed on Israeli flights,” said the Transport Ministry, noting it was working with the Foreign Ministry, the embassy in Stockholm and Israeli security authorities.

“The Transport Ministry intends to continue allowing Israeli companies to fly to all destinations without restrictions, while providing for all aspects of security and safety,” it said…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Sweden Shows off Garbo, Bergman Banknotes

Sweden’s Riksbank on Tuesday released the long-awaited designs of new banknotes featuring the likes of Greta Garbo, Ingmar Bergman, Astrid Lindgren, and other cultural giants of the 20th century. The notes were designed by Göran Österlund, whose colourful “Journey of Culture” (Kulturresan) design was selected from among eight finalists.

Thursday’s presentation of the new designs by the Riksbank comes a year after the bank first announced the six 20th century Swedish icons whose profiles would grace the new bills.

The face of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman will adorn the new 200 kronor note, while children’s author Astrid Lindgren will be the new face on the 20 kronor note, replacing the popular Selma Lagerlöf.

Former United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld will feature on the 1,000 kronor note, opera singer Birgit Nilsson on the 500 kronor, film star Greta Garbo on the 100 kronor, and musician Evert Taube on the 50 kronor note.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Teen Boys Arrested After Filming Alleged Gang Rape

Stockholm police have arrested several teenage boys suspected of gang raping an underage girl and filming the act. The boys were arrested on Monday and taken in for questioning over the incident. “A preliminary investigation into aggravated child rape has been launched,” prosecutor Mikael Karlsson told the Expressen newspaper.

Karlsson refused to confirm how many boys were suspected for taking part in the rape, which is believed to have occured in a Stockholm suburb in late February or early March. He also refrained from divulging the ages of the suspects beyond saying that several were younger than 15-years-old, the age of criminal responsibility in Sweden. “I can’t say how many people have been questioned. All who have asked for legal representation are younger than 15,” Karlsson told the paper.

According to Expressen, the boys are believed to have filmed the incident. The recording has since been obtained by police and constitutes the bulk of the evidence gathered against the boys. Because the matter involves a sex crime with both suspects and a victim under the age of 15, few details have yet to emerge about the case.

According to Expressen, a similar incident took place in 2010 in which a 14-year-old girl was raped by five young perpetrators who also filmed the attack. The boys were sentenced to youth community service and court ordered care after being convicted of aggravated rape and sexual molestation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Prosecutor Pursues SVP Chiefs Over ‘Racist’ Ad

A Zurich prosecutor has initiated criminal proceedings against some of the top figures in the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) for infringement of anti-racism laws. Last August, an incendiary advertisement claiming that “Kosovars slash the Swiss” was released as part of the SVP’s campaign to “stop mass immigration”. Two Kosovar people made public complaints about the ads on the grounds that they discriminated against an entire ethnic group.

A criminal investigation was then launched in October last year, online news site 20 Minuten reported. The ad described an incident, which took place on August 15th 2011 at Interlaken, a tourist resort in the Bernese Alps. According to news reports, a Kosovar man killed a Swiss Alpine wrestler by cutting his throat with a knife.

Some newspapers refused to publish the ad in its original form but agreed to go to press with a toned down version that read: “A Kosovar slashes a Swiss”. However, the original ad was widely distributed online by the SVP as part of its initiative.

Now Zurich prosecutor Hans Maurer is opening criminal proceedings against some of the SVP’s top politicians for infringement of Switzerland’s anti-racism laws. Those listed in the proceedings include the SVP’s president Toni Brunner, vice president Christoph Blocher and parliamentary leader Adrian Amstutz.

Maurer now wants to find out how the party arrived at the controversial text. It is possible that several of those implicated will seek to rely on parliamentary immunity, which prevents a politician from having to answer charges where he can show a link between his work as a parliamentarian and the issue in question.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Missionary Zeal of Germany’s Salafists

Salafists in Germany have attracted increasing attention in recent weeks with their campaign to hand out millions of free Korans. What, though, is their ultimate goal? Some sell Islamism like it is pop-culture and openly call for holy war, even under the watchful eye of the authorities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Five Terror Suspects Held in Britain

LONDON — British police arrested five men Tuesday on suspicion of terror offences in Luton, in pre-planned raids.

The men, aged 35, 30, 24, 23 and 21, were arrested “on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism,” Scotland Yard police headquarters said.

They were arrested at five residential addresses in Luton, Bedfordshire, and were taken to a central London police station where they remain in custody.

The arrests by officers from the Counter-Terrorism Command were a part of a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation, Scotland Yard said.

The men were arrested at houses in the Bury Park area, which has been home to a large Muslim Pakistani community since the 1970s. It is also home to Luton Central Mosque, one of the first purpose-built mosques in Britain.

The local Bedfordshire Police force said the arrests were made by unarmed officers.

“Full consideration has been given to treating those arrested, and especially their families, with appropriate respect for cultural and religious identity as far as is possible,” a spokeswoman said.

Searches are being carried out at the five houses and are expected to take at least a day. The families of those arrested have been advised to find alternative accommodation.

“There is no danger to other nearby residents,” the spokeswoman said.

In recent years, Luton has emerged as a flashpoint for tensions between radical Islam and the far right.

Around 15 percent of the population of nearly 200,000 are Muslim.

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

UK: Five Men Arrested in Luton on Terrorism Charges

Five men have been arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, Scotland Yard said.

Anti-terror police swooped on a series of different addresses before dawn as part of a ‘pre-planned, intelligence-led’ operation.

The men, aged 21, 23, 24, 25 and 30, were all arrested at separate homes in Luton this morning and have been taken to a central London police station for questioning.

Searches under the Terrorism Act 2000 are taking place at all five of the addresses and inquiries are ongoing, Scotland Yard said.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism command said: ‘Officers from the counter-terrorism command have today, Tuesday April 24, arrested five men on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

‘All five were arrested at separate residential addresses in Luton. They have been taken to a central London police station where they remain in custody.

‘The arrests were a part of a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation.

‘Search warrants were also executed under the Terrorism Act 2000 at five residential addresses in Luton in connection with this inquiry and searches are ongoing.’

Police said that there was no danger to nearby residents after their swoop on five homes in Luton as part of anti-terror raids.

Bedfordshire Police assisted with the early morning operation, which was led by Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command.

‘No roads have been closed and there is no danger to other nearby residents,’ said a spokesman for Bedfordshire Police.

‘Families of those people who have been arrested have been advised to find alternative accommodation while the searches go on to minimise inconvenience to themselves, and if necessary the police will assist them with this.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: In Breivik’s “War Zone” Luton, Fear — And Scorn

(Reuters) — Shouting taunts and trading expletives, a Muslim teenager and the leader of Britain’s most prominent anti-Islam nationalist group are seconds from a fight. “Why are you talking to this racist?” the youth asks a reporter walking with English Defence League leader Stephen Lennon in Luton, the British town cited as “war zone” with Islam by Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik at his trial. As a group of Muslim youngsters surrounds Lennon, another starts a heated discussion with him about Islamic religious law. Onlookers, fearful of trouble, peer out from down-at-heel shops in this small city in rural Bedfordshire, 35 miles (55 km) north of London, where the industries that once drew in large numbers of Asian immigrant workers have seen better days. The goading turns out to be bluster and Lennon leaves, unscathed but with abuse ringing in his ears. “This is what I’ve been telling you about,” he said as he walked off, arguing there were parts of Luton where non-Muslims could no longer venture. Breivik, justifying killing 77 people as part of a war to halt a Muslim takeover in Europe, has cited Luton, which he does not appear to have visited despite travelling to London some years ago, as a place of strife, fear and “Muslim no-go areas”.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Islamic School Will be ‘The Best’ Insists Head as Parents Rush to Apply for Places

IF the Al-Madinah School achieves a percentage of what its principal-in-waiting is predicting, then as an education centre it will be a force to reckon with. Andrew Cutts-McKay, who officially takes up the headship when the school opens in September, is passionate and animated about the new venture, whose culture and ethos “will match his own thinking”. According to Shazia Parveen, one of three trust board members behind the project, despite being a non-Muslim, Mr Cutts-McKay was “the best person for the job”. She said: “He came through a very rigorous process from an initial application pool of 15 candidates, including one from Saudi Arabia and another from Moscow. “But Andrew stood out because he was confident and clearly cared about the school, as well as wanting to achieve what we want to achieve here.”

Clearly, Mr Cutts-McKay is going to be the driving force behind the school’s day-to-day organisation and intends to be ready for whatever happens by always being available to parents and children alike. He has consciously chosen not to engage in point-scoring with the two main teaching unions who criticised the school — the National Union of Teachers and National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. Mr Cutts-McKay said: “It would have been easy to respond to their criticisms and get involved in back-biting. But I have been getting on with trying to make this school the best there is and to drive forward its ethos, which is based on Islam. It is an excellent moral code governed by respect, diversity and selflessness.”


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Health Clinics Could Stop Dozens of Stroke Deaths

LIFE-SAVING health checks were given to more than 100 people — on a bus outside Bolton Council of Mosques. They are part of a campaign, organised by NHS Greater Manchester, aimed specifically at South Asian people aged 50 or over to raise awareness of stroke. This group is more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol due to hereditary and dietary factors compared to the rest of the population — all risk factors in strokes. Research has shown South Asian people attend hospital threeand- a-half hours after the onset of symptoms, which is significantly longer than the admission time for white people.

Stroke affects up to 12,000 people annually in the North West, causing £2.3 billion to be spent on long-term disability each year. Janet Ratcliffe, director of the cardiac and stroke network, said: “Reducing the number of deaths and disabilities caused by stroke is a health priority and we’re particularly keen to address the issue amongst South Asian communities. The more people who know about stroke and its signs and symptoms the more people we can save.” Guest speakers included Lesley Jones, acting director of Public Health NHS Bolton and Dr Anis Ahmed, a stroke consultant from Oldham, who provided information about how to spot the signs of stroke and reduce its effects.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Secret Life of Shoe Bomber Saajid Muhammad Badat Funded by the Taxpayer

The British taxpayer has paid for a new home and funded the business interests of a convicted terrorist after he agreed to turn supergrass against al-Qaeda in a secret deal with the authorities, a court heard on Monday.

Saajid Muhammad Badat, 33, has been re-housed using money from the public purse and has been given money towards the cost of office space and education courses to help him find a new job. He even had his mobile phone and internet bills paid for by Scotland Yard. Details of the deal, which have been kept secret by the British government and police, only came to light as he gave evidence of a Bosnian-born US citizen accused of a New York subway suicide bomb plot. The disclosures follow accusations that the Home Office has mishandled the deportation of the extremist preacher Abu Qatada and will add to the row about the government’s plans to expand “secret justice” — where sensitive cases are heard in private.

Badat, who was sentenced to 13 years for an airline bomb plot in 2005, was freed just five years later after a secret court hearing authorised his formal agreement to become a co-operating witness. On Monday he admitted that his links to al-Qaeda were far stronger than previously known. Speaking by video-link from London in testimony filmed on March 29 this year, he told the US Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, that he was involved in another bomb plot involving a group of Malaysian terrorists. He also disclosed that he had planned attacks against Jewish targets in South Africa on behalf of al-Qaeda and travelled to Belgium to meet with potential martyr.

The court heard that Badat was personally instructed by Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, ahead of the “shoe bomb” plot in 2001. He is expected to give evidence at Mohammed’s trial later this year. He was released in March 2010 but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) kept the fact of the plea deal secret until forced to announce it on the eve of Badat’s US testimony. Under questioning from US attorneys, Badat revealed further details of the deal. He said: “Upon release I have been provided accommodation and also funding for courses to assist with my reintegration into society.” Asked about the specifics of the deal Badat agreed that he had been given “job seekers allowance by the Metropolitan Police” and “financial assistance in relation to work space rent, development of your business” and help “obtaining additional qualifications to help your training”. He also agreed that the Metropolitan Police has “financially supported training courses for your chosen employment.” Badat told the court that he had found a new job, but did not elaborate on what it was.

Badat was also asked whether he had received “housing and tax benefits”, “travel costs to visit family” — some of whom are based in Gloucester — and “money to cover the cost of internet and mobile phone costs”. He agreed that all the funding had been given to him by the Metropolitan Police, saying that the US authorities, whom he is currently testifying on behalf of, have contributed nothing.

Disclosure of the deal will increase suspicions that important security cases with potential implications for nationals security are being kept secret from the public. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, said last night: “It is in the public interest that the Home Office should disclose information of this kind will be relevant in our fight against terrorism. I am very disappointed that we had to wait for an American court to discover what is happening to someone in Britain.” The court heard that Badat, who had memorised the Koran by the age of 12, was so trusted by the al-Qaeda hierarchy he was allowed to stay at top secret locations used by bin Laden in Afghanistan. He told the court he was first enticed by Jihad after meeting the suspected terrorist Babar Ahmad and a group of extremists known as the Tooting Circle when he ran away from his Gloucester home to live in London at the age of 17.

In 2005 he was jailed after admitting to plotting to blow up an aeroplane with shoe bomber Richard Reid. Four years later, however, his 13 year sentence was reduced to 11 years after he agreed to turn “supergrass”. Badat is testifying against Adis Medunjanin, a terror suspect who is accused of plotting to blow up the New York subway system in a plot similar to the July 7 bombings in London. Scotland Yard has attempted to have sections of Badat’s evidence redacted and sought to ban publication of any recent images, including artists’ impressions, of him.

Badat told the court that he travelled to Afghanistan in 1999 and stayed until 2001, using the name Abu Isa al Pakistani and becoming heavily involved with al-Qaeda. He said that for two years of his stay he had been paid a salary of 1,000 Pakistani rupees a month (£7) from al-Qaeda and additionally was paid a further 1,000 Pakistani rupees a month by the Taliban for running a magazine on its behalf. Badat was in Afghanistan for three years in total and said he received up to eight months of terror training, injuring himself at one point. He listed several duties he carried out which included taking bomb making classes and transcribing speeches by bin Laden from Arabic into English. Badat said he has instructed up to 15 potential suicide bombers on how to make explosives. He said that he met Osama bin Laden on more than one occasion and also met with Abu Hafs al Masri, bin Laden’s number two. Al Masri had instructed him to carry out an operation which involved naming potential Jewish targets al Qaeda could attack in South Africa.

The court heard that Badat was personally briefed ahead of the mission by bin Laden. He said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who plotted the 9/11 attacks, also advised him ahead of the shoe bomb plot. He agreed to cooperate with the UK authorities about his own case, but refused to give evidence in other cases until 2008. He told the court that he was initially happy with the 13-year sentence he had been given in exchange for his co-operation. Badat is thought to have testified in the UK against approximately 18 other terrorists and hopes to testify against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed when he faces a US military trial at Guantánamo Bay. On Monday, however it was revealed that after agreeing to co-operate fully with Scotland Yard in 2008, Badat told them he did not ever want to testify against Babar Ahmad. The court later heard he has no choice in who he testifies against and must give evidence against anyone if asked.

Badat was arrested in Britain in 2003 after he backed out of a 2001 plot to blow up a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam in a shoe bomb plot with Richard Reid. Reid has been convicted of the plot in the US. The court heard that Badat was personally briefed ahead of the mission by bin Laden. He told the court that bin Laden had told him: “The American economy is like a chain. If you break one link of the chain, the whole whole economy will be brought down. So after the September 11 attacks the [shoe bomb] operation will ruin the American aviation industry and in turn the whole economy will come down.” He said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 master, had advised him ahead of the shoe bomb plot. Badat revealed that during the preparation for the attacks he met with some Malaysian men plotting a similar attack and he had provided the men with a spare shoe bomb. But upon returning to the UK ahead of the attack Badat pulled out, telling the court he was afraid to carry out a suicide bomb attack. He was arrested two years later, in 2003, and admitted that even by then he had not abandoned the philosophy of al-Qaeda. He agreed to cooperate with the UK authorities in respect to his own case, but refused to help in cases against others until 2008. He told the court that his reasoning for this was that he was happy with the 13-year sentence he had been given in exchange for his co-operation.

But following news of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrests and charge, he offered to testify against the man he referred to as “KSM” — saying he believed he and others had been manipulated by the 9/11 ringleader. He said that he wanted to “make it apparent that I had relinquished my al-Qaeda views….This was the only way I could convince people I had done so.” He told the police that he now believed that al-Qaeda was a “bulls — — cause”. Badat also told the court that one reason he wanted to testify against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was because he believed that the 9/11 hijackers were victims of the atrocities too having been brainwashed by al-Qaeda. Asked whether he believed this, he said: “To a lesser extent, a much lesser extent, but yes.”

Asked whether he was currently testifying out of a “moral imperative” or because of his agreement with the British government, he replied “a bit of both”. Badat has previously told the court that he did not want to travel to the US to testify in person as he feared being arrested on outstanding charges relating to the shoe bomb plot. On Monday, pressed on this, he admitted that he had not been told by the US authorities he would be arrested upon landing in the country, but said that a Scotland Yard officer had told him this is what the US authorities intended to do. Badat is thought to be living in Gloucester or London following his release but is not in the witness protection scheme. He said that following his co-operation he received a “favourable parole hearing”. Badat said his original lawyer who helped negotiate his deal was Imran Khan. Khan no longer deals with the case.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Tower Hamlets: Dead and Incarcerated People Vote

by Andrew Gilligan

On Sunday I brought you news of alleged postal vote harvesting by Ken Livingstone’s backers in Tower Hamlets. Bengali voters in the borough’s Spitalfields ward told me how their postal voting papers were collected by workers for Gulam Robbani, a Ken-supporting candidate in a council byelection in Spitalfields on Thursday. This practice — which allows candidates to fill in their own votes on blank ballot papers, or destroy already-completed ballot papers which do not favour them — is prohibited by the Electoral Commission. Now I learn that a gentleman called Shahidul Islam, of Hanbury Street, visited a Spitalfields polling station in Thursday’s election. There’s only one problem: Shahidul Islam is currently in prison awaiting trial on charges of murder. And no, though remand prisoners can apply to vote, he hasn’t done so.

Another voter from Chicksands House has also voted in person. This voter is said by three sources to be dead — another person says, however, that he is merely seriously ill, which is why I’m not naming him. Whatever his state of health, he is certainly in no condition to get down to the polling station. I’ve spent the day looking at turnout figures in some of Spitalfields’ more postal-vote-heavy blocks and I hope to bring you the results of my inquiries tomorrow. Overall turnout in the ward last Thursday was 31 per cent — suspiciously high for a council byelection. The last time they had a council byelection in Tower Hamlets — also in Spitalfields, as it happens, eighteen months ago — turnout was less than 17 per cent. The postal vote papers have already gone out in Tower Hamlets for next week’s Boris v Ken mayoral election. With the latest poll suggesting a very close race, the implications of what appears to be happening in the borough are frightening.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]


Croatia: ‘Islam in Europe’ Conference Held in Zagreb

Two day International Scientific Symposium ISLAM IN EUROPE — POSITION AND PERSPECTIVE was held in Zagreb on the occasion of the 25 th. anniversary of the opening of the Zagreb Mosque. This Scientific Symposium was sponsored by the President of the Republic of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic. About the importance of the 18 th. International Scientific Symposium is best explained by the fact that more than 30 scientists from 15 countries from the region and the world took participation in two- day session. Beside the Islamic Community in Croatia, one of the organizers is a very active and respected Science Research Institute Ibn Sana who gave great support and contribution to the Symposium.

Among the participants dominates the opinion that meetings like this must have a specific message, which must continue to act even after meetings like this are finished. Good European Muslim is one who is humiliated because of his faith, but he must keep on smiling. Good European Muslim is one who puts up with the fact that his Prophet is humiliated and mocked in movies, cartoons and novels, or his child is being humiliated and mocked at school, or his Koran is being torn and burned, and he admits that he is the citizen of the third order. He even tells a joke against himself so that his European friends would laugh. Hopefully this International Scientific Symposium will send a positive message. People need to understand and get to know each other without any fear and without any prejudice.

[JP note: Gibberish.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Chaos Ahead of Egypt’s Presidential Elections

A month ahead of the vote, the situation remains unclear. After 10 candidates were blocked, tens of thousands, including the Muslim Brotherhood, protested against the ruling military council.

Since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) began governing Egypt over a year ago, the military council seems to have turned most of the population against it. The revolutionary youth are angry because they see the same old elites still determining the country’s future.

But older Egyptians are also dissatisfied. A recent survey shows a quiet majority of the population is looking for a new authoritarian figure as head of state — a response to months of chaos in the country.

Even the Salafists are upset — despite winning a surprising fifth of the votes during parliamentary elections — because their presidential candidate was denied. The Muslim Brotherhood long withheld criticism of the military council but now publicly expresses their dissatisfaction. Last Friday, members of the group stood for the first time in many months together with liberal and young protestors at Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand various political reforms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Search for a Leader Plunges Into Chaos

Despite its victory in parliamentary elections, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has been weakened in the race to elect a successor to former President Hosni Mubarak, after its two most promising candidates were disqualified. Meanwhile ordinary Egyptians, who care more about making a living than about religion, are looking for a strong leader for the country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Election Law Changes, Mubarak’s Last PM Out

New rules for presidential candidates in force today

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 24 — The last prime minister in office under Egyptian Hosni Mubarak, Ahmad Shafik, has been excluded in from the presidential race following the changes in the law taking effect today. The definitive list of candidates will be released this Thursday.

Shafik is the last in a series of well-known candidates excluded from the presidential elections, the first round of which has been set for May 23 and 24.

The Egyptian election committee has already removed the main candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood, Khaiter El-Shater, the Salafi candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail (whose supporters have been occupying Tahrir Square for the past two days to protest the decision) and the former head of Egyptian intelligence and Vice President to Mubarak in the last days of the regime, Omar Suleiman.

The candidates who appear more likely to win are former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, Abdel Monein Abdel Fotouh (moderate Islamist who left the Muslim Brotherhood) and Mohamed Morsi, one of the main members of the Brotherhood whose candidature was presented as the second choice in the event of El Shater being excluded from the race.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Cinema Star’s Sentence Upheld, Insulting Islam

Adel Imam accused by Salaphite lawyer for film ‘Terrorist’

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 24 — A Cairo court has confirmed the three-month prison sentence for Egyptian cinema star Adel Imam for having insulted Islam. The actor was found guilty in the first instance in his absence on an accusation presented by a Salaphite lawyer.

A particular target of the case was the film ‘The Terrorist’, in which Imam has the role of an Islamic fundamentalist who ends by rebelling against his group and is killed by them. Also criticised was the play ‘The Leader’.

Imam also had a role in the filming of the book by Alaa el Aswani, ‘Yacoubian House’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Corruption and Nepotism Like in the Past, Blogger

Parties in power have changed nothing, Leena Ben Mhenni

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — Leena Ben Mhenni arrives at the appointment in front of a Tunisian café in the centrally-located Rue Bourghiba and looks around warily, as if afraid of being followed. The tiny, strong-willed 28-year-old Muslim girl is one of the most well-known faces of the Tunisian uprising in her home country and abroad. She was the blogger who followed the first protests against Ben Ali’s dictatorship first hand and reported on them to the world, speaking out against the regime’s corruption and violence and describing its end. Over a year later, while the Constituent Assembly is trying to draw up a road map for the future, Leena bitterly claims that “in reality nothing has changed. To the contrary: the situation is even worse than when Ben Ali was in power.” She told ANSAmed that “it is true that the people have shed their fear and express their opinions more freely, something that was impossible during the 23 years of the regime. However, the situation in general has not actually changed. When young people took to the streets in December 2010 and January 2011, they called for work, the fight against corruption and nepotism.

With Ennahdha (the moderate Islamic party) and other parties in power, corruption and nepotism have returned and nothing has been done about unemployment.” While the transitional government “cannot even manage to keep Salafi fundamentalists under control”, noted the blogger, “the police have instead resumed using strong-armed tactics on demonstrators calling for transparency and democracy. “Exactly like in the times of Ben Ali. I would never have imagined finding myself once again in this situation,” said Leena.

Scenes from a distant past were repeated a few weeks ago, “when security forces used truncheons and even stones to beat the protestors gathered to celebrate the ‘Martyrs of the Revolution’ on April 9. I was also beaten. Three policemen held onto me while another bludgeoned me on the head and back. They even groped me to humiliate me at the sexual level, touching me all over my body in the middle of Tunis, in front of everyone,” she said. These are tough times for young bloggers. There isn’t censorship any longer, but Leena said that “militants paid by government forces manage sites on which they slander and spread false information”. Those who continue to fight on the media for democracy are often taken to court on “trumped-up charges”, claims the activist. As for herself personally (she was also a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, later given to a Yemeni activist alongside two women from Liberia), she said that she “is not afraid”, despite having been threatened and included on a list of people to eliminate by a number of Muslim extremists. “I have lost my personal life,” she said. “Everything is being watched. I am attacked and insulted, targeted.” Meanwhile a huge man wearing a baseball cap recognises her on the street and begins making fun of her, kissing her hand and insisting that she do the same to him. “If you want equality between men and women, why don’t you kiss my hand?,” he continues to repeat. The blogger is embarassed. “See how it is? In any case, I assure you that I will not stop and I will continue to tell the world that ‘elections’ do not automatically mean ‘democracy’ here.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas Leadership Shifts to Haniyeh, Press

‘Moderates’ out, Meshaal’s ‘reconciliation’ line defeated

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, APRIL 24 — The leadership of the Palestinian Islamic faction in the Gaza Strip may soon become even more radical, with imminent changes in store. Anonymous sources within Hamas have been reported by the online version of the Israeli Haaretz newspaper as saying that a secret vote for the top positions of the group had taken place a few days ago, appointing as the new leader of the movement Ismail Haniyeh (Gaza’s prime minister) in the place of Khaled Meshaal (representative of the diaspora), signalling the defeat of the more pragmatic candidates.

According to these sources, the choice of Haniyeh seals the win for the Gaza nomenklatura, less inclined towards the reconciliation agreements signed by Meshaal over the past few months with the moderate head of the National Palestinian Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas and his recent statements (less aggressive than usual) towards the peace process with Israel.

And with it, that of Hamas’s military wing. Within the leadership are such figures as Mohamed Ali Jabari (head of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigade, the armed faction of Hamas in the Gaza Strip) and other militia heads such as Yehia Sanwar, one of the prime suspects behind the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Ghilad Shalit.

Also part of this new group is Gaza’s ideologist Mahmud Al-Zahar, whose words strongly oppose the reconciliation peace process with Al-Fatah, the more moderate party led by Mahmoud Abbas now present only in the West Bank government after the violent split within the Palestinian front in 2007.

It seems that people have been left out who are generally considered to represent Hamas’ moderate side, such as Razi Hamed, Salah Al-Bardawil (one of the reconciliation negotiators) as well as the English-speaking ‘diplomat’ Ahmed Yusef.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel Ready to Strike Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, Says Israeli Armed Forces Chief of Staff

Lt Gen Binyamin Gantz spoke to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. This will be a crucial year. As Iran’s nuclear threat must be stopped, Israel is preparing for a possible conflict.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Israel is ready, if necessary, to strike Iran, Lebanon and Gaza, Israeli Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt Gen Benny Gantz said in an interview with top Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. For him, the year 2012 will be critical to halt what Israel and much of the international community believe is an Iranian nuclear arms programme. “We think that a nuclear Iran is a very bad thing, which the world needs to stop and which Israel needs to stop-and we are planning accordingly,” Gantz said on the eve of Israel’s 64th anniversary as a state.

An attack against Iran’s nuclear plants has been openly discussed in Israel for years. In the past few months, papers have carried both pro- and anti-attack views.

For the Jewish state and much of the international community, Iran’s nuclear programme has a hidden military component. Conversely, Tehran has always claimed that it is peaceful in nature.

For now, the United States has kept to a diplomatic strategy, coupled with ever tightening sanctions.

“Our intelligence assessment asserts that given the strategic reality and instability in the region, the chance of deteriorating to a war is higher than in the past,” Gen Gantz said in the interview. “There are no indications of war, but the chances of the situation deteriorating into one are higher than in the past.”

In view of a possible wider conflict, Israel’s Defence Forces are preparing to respond to threats from Lebanon and Gaza as well.

“I can’t promise no missiles will be landing here. They will be falling, many of them. It won’t be a simple war, neither on the frontlines nor ion the home front,” he said. “However, I don’t advise anyone to test us on this front.”

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

Netanyahu Renews Alarm, Far West in Sinai

Terrorist traffic with help from Iran, Egyptian concerns

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, APRIL 24 — Israel is viewing the situation in Sinai with increasing alarm against a background of the turbulence in post-Mubarak Egypt. The Israeli government believes that over recent months, the peninsula on Egyptian territory and its borders have been turning into an open and lawless area, roamed by the left-overs of terrorist organisations of every hue. Speaking in an interview on military radio today, Isreal’s Premier Benyamin Netanyahu stressed how the military junta in power in Cairo has been in contact with Israel about the issue and is committed to defusing the time bomb.

“Sinai is turning into a kind of Wild West,” Mr Netanyahu claimed, saying that within the area “terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda are roaming about, and with help from Iran are using the place for arms trafficking, transport and planning attacks on Israel”.

Tensions have risen along this border over recent months, with shootings and attempted raids, which have led, as was the case in 2011, to the killing of eight Israelis north of Eilat.

According to Mr Netanyahu, Israel, which has authorized the deployment of Egyptian battalions into the area in violation of peace accords between the two countries, “is acting” to tackle the threat by strengthening its frontiers. But also by “keeping permanent contacts with the current authorities” in Egypt, who are also “concerned” about what is afoot in Sinai.

This point appears to come as a nod towards Cairo, which just yesterday called for clarification of an opinion attributed by a newspaper to the country’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, according to whom the new Egypt risks turning into a “worse danger than Iran” for Israel.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanon: Tyre Bombing Connected to Sale of Liquor, Not UNIFIL

BEIRUT: The latest bomb explosion to strike a restaurant in Tyre appears to be connected to a spate of attacks against outlets selling alcohol rather than another attempt to strike at the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. The bomb, which according to security sources caused considerable damage, wounded at least five people when it exploded at midnight in an elevator on the fourth floor of a building where the Nocean restaurant is located. UNIFIL has been bracing for another attack given that it has been more than four months since the last bombing to target the peacekeeping force when a bomb exploded beside a jeep carrying French soldiers near Tyre, wounding five of them. The rate of threat warnings received by UNIFIL from various sources remains high, reflecting general security concerns in Lebanon mainly as a result of tensions emanating from the crisis in Syria. One recent warning that was taken seriously was a plan to attack a French UNIFIL convoy between Damour and Beirut. The target was thought to be a bus carrying soldiers on troop rotation at the end of their tour. The perpetrators were suspected to be militants from Ain al-Hilweh.

Prior to Sunday night’s bomb attack in Tyre, the peacekeeping force was warned of a non-specific attack being planned against “officers” which led some to speculate it could refer to an attempt to kill off-duty soldiers in Tyre. However, the bombing of the restaurant appears to be connected to the rash of attacks against shops and restaurants selling alcohol. The last one occurred on Dec. 28. The perpetrators of these alcohol-related bomb attacks remain unknown, although Sunni Islamists have been cited as the chief suspects. The bombings echo a campaign in the late 1990s in the area of Sidon and Iqlim al-Kharroub when members of Osbat al-Ansar, the Salafist jihadist group based in Ain al-Hilweh, bombed several off-licenses.

Tyre, however, has a reputation for a laid-back easy going existence, a reflection of its pluralistic community composed of Shiites, Christians and Sunnis. The laissez faire attitude of Tyre’s residents is one reason why the Amal Movement has retained its popularity against the more austere Hezbollah. But the bombings in Tyre appear to have coincided with the gradual increase in a Salafist presence in the Palestinian refugee camps in the vicinity of the town, particularly Rashidiyeh. One group alleged to have emerged in Rashidiyeh, according to security sources, includes individuals wanted in connection with a bungled bomb attack against UNIFIL at the Qasmiyeh bridge north of Tyre in July 2007. The group is composed of some 10 to 20 members most of whom are thought to have previously belonged to other groups based in Ain al-Hilweh such as Fatah al-Islam, Osbat al-Ansar and Harakat Islamiyya al-Mujahidda. Rashidiyeh is under the control of the Fatah faction and surrounded by villages loyal to Hezbollah making the camp a less than secure base for the emergence of an active cell of Al-Qaeda-inspired militants. Nonetheless, residents of the camp say that there is a small and quiet Salafist presence in the camp based around one of the mosques. It remains to be seen whether this presence is a concerted attempt to establish a militant cell in Rashidiyeh to carry out attacks or is simply an example of proselytizing by peaceful Salafists.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Turkish Airline Courts Israelis With Cheap Flights

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, APRIL 24 — The recent drop in the number of Israeli tourists traveling to Turkey and the ongoing diplomatic rift between the two countries has not stopped Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines from announcing Tel Aviv as its newest destination. As Turkish dailies reported quoting Israel Travel website, the low-cost air carrier is set to launch its Istanbul-Tel Aviv route on June 18. Tickets, which have already gone on sale, are to start at 69.99 USD one way, including taxes and fees. The airline is to operate six weekly flights each way.

Travelers wishing to continue to destinations beyond Istanbul are given the option to purchase the additional flight for a moderate fee. Despite the fact that ties between the two countries reached a historic low following an Israeli army raid on a Turkish Gaza-bound maritime flotilla in May 2010, and the subsequent expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara, Turkey continued to woo Israelis at the annual International Mediterranean Tourism Market in Tel Aviv earlier this year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


On the Way Out, Medvedev Vows Reforms

Dmitry Medvedev hands the Russian presidency next month back to his hawkish mentor, Vladimir Putin. Yet despite giving up his office, he has vowed to push for more liberalization in the economy and politics. Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev summed up his four years in office on Tuesday as he prepares to take over as prime minister, vowing to push for more economic and political liberalization.

Medvedev’s speech to the State Council, televised across the country, comes two weeks ahead of current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. The swap of offices is widely seen as a cynical formality, as Putin has been the dominant figure in Russian politics for more than a decade.

“The development of civil and economic freedoms is my primary objective,” Medvedev told a meeting of Russia’s political elite at the Kremlin. “Everyone needs freedoms — this is an axiom.” Medvedev promised to submit a list of state-owned enterprises that could be privatized, not to raise taxes on businesses and to fulfill “everything that was promised” while he was president. “The state’s intervention in the economy should be minimal and transparent,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Soldier’s Kit Stops Taliban Bullets Dead

A British soldier has spoken of the moment his body armour saved him from a Taliban bullet fired from an AK47 rifle. Trooper Tom Thorne, 20, from the Queen’s Royal Hussars, was shot in the side by an enemy fighter while on operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The 7.62mm bullet struck one of the side plates of his body armour, which stopped the round completely. Trooper Thorne, who was providing overwatch for an IED clearance team, said: “I was lying on the roof of a compound building. We came under fire but obviously cover was pretty limited up on the roof. “I knew instantly that I’d been hit — it felt like a very hard punch in the ribs,” he continued. “The body armour is pretty heavy, especially when combined with all the other kit you are carrying, but it clearly works as it’s supposed to. I just couldn’t believe that the small side plate could stop a 7.62mm bullet at fairly close range — it is very reassuring for all of us.” C Company of the Queen’s Royal Hussars were taking part in Operation Zamary Takhta — an IED clearance operation — in a hostile region of the Lashkar Gah area, when the incident happened.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: UK Troops Expose Bomb-Making Mosque

British troops in Afghanistan have helped uncover 250 kilograms of explosives and bomb-making equipment in Helmand province. Members of 12 Brigade Reconnaissance Force were supporting Afghan soldiers in an operation which also yielded a large number of pressure plates and other bomb making components. The Light Dragoons make up much of the Force along with 12 other British units. As part of an Afghan-led operation intelligence reports prompted a swoop on a Nahj-e-Saraj Mosque being used as an IED bomb making factory. According to Task Force Helmand the raid caught the insurgents off guard with freshly made tea and flip flops left behind as they fled. Explosives and detonators were destroyed at the site while some ready made devices were taken to Camp Bastion for analysis.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Female Circumcision Anger Aired in India

NEW DELHI: Eleven years ago, Farida Bano was circumcised by an aunt on a bunk bed in her family home at the end of her 10th birthday party.

The mutilation occurred not in Africa, where the practice is most prevalent, but in India where a small Muslim sub-sect known as the Dawoodi Bohra continues to believe that the removal of the clitoris is the will of God. “We claim to be modern and different from other Muslim sects. We are different but not modern,” Bano, a 21-year-old law graduate who is angry about what was done to her, told AFP in New Delhi. She vividly remembers the moment in the party when the aunt pounced with a razor blade and a pack of cotton wool. While the sect bars other Muslims from its mosques, it sees itself as more liberal, treating men and women equally in matters of education and marriage. The community’s insistence on “Khatna” (the excision of the clitoris) also sets it apart from others on the subcontinent. “If other Muslims are not doing it then why are we following it?” Bano says. For generations, few women in the tightly-knit community have spoken out in opposition, fearing that to air their grievances would be seen as an act of revolt frowned upon by their elders. But an online campaign is now encouraging them to join hands to bury the custom.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Grand Ulema Convention Demands End to Vulgarity

KARACHI: Jamiat Ittehad-e-Ulema Pakistan (JIUP) Chief Maulana Abdul Malik has said that evil forces had come together against Islam and it was imperative that the entire Muslim Ummah stood united to combat the evil forces bent upon tarnishing the Islamic norms and values by promoting nudity and obscenity. He expressed these views while addressing the Grand Ulema Convention at the Idara Noor-e Haq on Sunday. He further said that evil forces wanted to disparage the Islamic mores, however, the Ulema of the Ummah would never allow this to happen and continue struggle for the prevalence and protection of Islamic values. The entire nation carries responsibility to boycott the promoters of nudity and vulgarism through commercials, billboards and electronic media. It was the sole responsibility of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to ensure complete blockage of such immodest commercials and initiate stern action against those involved in promoting the menace. Malik in his address said that the anti-Islam forces wanted to impose culture of vulgarity and tarnish the modest culture of Islam. The increasing vulgarity in society is a result of the lack of Islamic rule, he added.


[JP note: Some might think that Islam itself was vulgar.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Pakistan and Iran Are Accused of Exerting Influence on the Afghan Media

Iran and Pakistan are accused of pursuing their own interests in Afghanistan by influencing the media. Hamid Karzai’s government has now slammed the practice.

Afghanistan boasts some 170 private radio stations, 60 television channels and 100 newspapers and magazines. But few of them can finance themselves and much of the funding comes from abroad, as was recently revealed by a National Directorate of Security (NDS) report.

At a press conference, NDS spokesman Lutfallah Mashal was unusually concrete in his criticism. “For about a month now, the television channel Tamadon (“Progress”) has been broadcasting reports, which supposedly tell the truth about crimes committed by NATO and US soldiers in Kandahar. But the fact is they have been made available to the channel by Iranian sources for propaganda purposes.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Far East

Report Says China Policy is Stirring South China Sea Dispute

An International Crisis Group report blames Chinese structures for the failure to resolve South China Sea dispute. It adds that regional nationalism is exacerbating the tension.

The territorial dispute over the islands, atolls, shoals, reefs and sandbars of the South China Sea goes back decades. Even though most of the islands are uninhabited, the region, which straddles several key shipping lanes, is thought to be extremely rich in natural resources.

In 2009, tension rose again when Beijing presented a “nine-dotted line” (also known as the “U-shaped line” or “nine-dash map”), to the UN to officially lay claim to the region. Chinese sources say the document dates back to 1947. Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia officially registered their protest.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Armed Groups in Northern Mali Raping Women

NIAMEY , Apr 24, 2012 (IPS) — Increasing numbers of Malian women are being raped by Tuareg rebels and armed groups that have swept across the north of Mali since the beginning of year, expelling all government troops from the region.

According to Corrine Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, who is currently on a mission in Mali, there have been reports of rape and sexual violence taking place in towns and villages across the region. “We’re very concerned about what appears to be a drastic increase in the targeting and sexual abuse of women and girls by armed groups in the north,” Dufka told IPS. “Since rebel groups consolidated their control of the northern territory they call the Azawad, Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of rape and many others cases in which girls and women have been abducted from their homes, towns and villages, and very likely sexually abused.” Dufka reports that most of the abuses have been, “perpetrated by rebels from the MNLA and to a lesser extent Arab militias allied to them.” The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) is an umbrella term given to groups of armed Tuaregs who have come together with the declared goal of administrating an independent state, Azawad.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Mali: Al Qaeda: Algerian Diplomats Soon to be Freed

(AGI) Bamako — The seven Algerian diplomats kidnapped by al Qaeda terrorists in Gao, Mali, will be released soon, A spokesperson for the militants of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) stated “We have agreed to (their) release,” adding “we made an agreement with our brothers from Ansar Dine.” The latter is the Muslim fundamentalist group shares with the Tuareg the control over most of Mali.

Previously, a security official involved with the negotiation had already confirmed that Ansar Dine was fully included in the process.

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

South Sudan Leader Says Khartoum Has Declared War

Khartoum has declared war on South Sudan, according to the South’s leader. His comments came as the violence between the two countries intensified despite international calls for restraint.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir said Tuesday that Sudan had declared war on his country. He made the comments during a visit to China to boost ties between Juba and Beijing. Kiir told his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, that his trip came at “a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan, because our neighbor in Khartoum has declared war on the Republic of South Sudan.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sudan: Muslims Burn Down Catholic Church in Sudan

Hundreds of Muslims incinerated a Catholic church complex in the capital Khartoum amid growing hostilities between the Arab-dominated Muslim government of Sudan and the newly independent, predominantly Christian nation of South Sudan. A mob of several hundred shouting insults at southerners torched the church in Khartoum’s Al-Jiraif district Saturday, The Associated Press reported. The church complex, which included a school and dormitories, was mostly used by southerners. Fire fighters could not put out the fire, according to witnesses.


           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Panama Denies Lavitola Corruption Allegations

Berlusconi aide suspected of illegal prison contracts, bribes

(ANSA) — Rome, April 24 — Panamanian Security Minister Jose’ Raul Mulino on Tuesday denied allegations that his government engaged in corrupt contracts with Berlusconi associate Valter Lavitola.

“There was no corruption,” he said in Rome, “neither with contracts nor with prison construction. And there was not any involvement or criminal intent on the part of our officials”. Lavitola, who returned to Italy last week after living for over six months in South America as a fugitive of Italian justice, is being investigated for alleged corruption with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and his government regarding contracts for the construction of prisons in the Central American country.

“Lavitola was brought to Panama by Silvio Berlusconi,” said Mulino. “This is how things are done in such instances.

President Martinelli treated him with respect given he was the premier’s envoy”. The security minister also denied accusations that Lavitola, acting as an alleged middleman for Italian defense giant Fineccanica, “could have offered bribes or a helicopter, as it’s been said, as a gift to Martinelli”. Lavitola, the former editor of daily newspaper L’Avanti!, is under multiple investigations.

Prosecutors say he bribed a witness to lie about Berlusconi’s alleged ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties.

He is also suspected of criminal association related to the use of Italian public funds for the media along with several other people, including Sergio De Gregorio, a Senator with Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Migrants: Council of Europe, Report on Mediterranean Deaths

Blame for tragedy placed on Italy, other countries and NATO

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, APRIL 24 — The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has approved with 108 in favour out of a total of 151 the report which places blame on Italy and other European countries (such as Spain) as well as NATO for the death of 63 migrants in the Mediterranean in March 2011. In voting on the report, the assembly rejected all of the amendments presented by PPE representatives of the Italian delegation which aimed to eliminate part of the text in which Italy (as the first country to have received the call for help) was to be held responsible for assistance coordination. This is the reason for which 9 of the 13 members of the Italian delegation in the chamber voted against the report by the Dutch parliamentarian Tineke Strik. “With this report a precedent has been set establishing that the first country to receive an SOS has the duty to provide rescue assistance,” underscored Luigi Vitali (PDL), president of the Italian delegation, adding that “in any case this is not a principle contained in any regulation in force”. According to its sponsor, the regulation exists but has no binding value.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Senate Dems Pushing Bill to Block Arizona Immigration Law if Supreme Court Upholds It

Senate Democrats are pushing new legislation aimed at nullifying Arizona’s controversial immigration law — just in case the Supreme Court, which hears the case Wednesday, upholds the policy.

The proposal, announced Tuesday by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would stand virtually no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled House. But it marks the latest preemptive challenge by Democrats to a high-stakes Supreme Court decision.

The immigration case arrives at the high court Wednesday just weeks after the justices heard arguments in the multi-state challenge to the federal health care overhaul. Though the justices are not expected to rule in that case until summer, President Obama had cautioned the “unelected” judges against overturning his landmark domestic policy accomplishment — claiming such a move would be “unprecedented.”

Schumer’s fallback option on the Arizona immigration case holds a similar message. If the high court upholds the law, the congressional proposal would be a direct rebuke to that decision.

“Immigration has not and never has been an area where states are able to exercise independent authority,” Schumer said Tuesday at a Capitol Hill hearing, where he announced he would introduce the proposal should the Supreme Court “ignore” the “plain and unambiguous statements of congressional intent” and uphold the Arizona law.

He said the proposal would only allow states to arrest illegal immigrants if they are operating under an “explicit agreement” with Washington and are being supervised by federal officials. Plus he said the proposal would preempt state governments from enacting their own employment verification laws.

“States like Arizona and Alabama will no longer be able to get away with saying they’re simply helping the federal government … to enforce the law when they are really writing their own laws and knowingly deploying untrained officers with the mission of arresting anyone and everyone who might fit the preconceived profile of an illegal immigrant.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain: Health Cuts for Non-Regular Immigrants

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — Irregular immigrants in Spain have received a hard blow with cuts for them in health expenses.

As written today in the “Boletin Oficial del Estado” (BOE) the official Spanish government journal, these people will remain without their health card from the August 31 should they not be able to prove their contribution to the national insurance. Up until now foreigners only had to sign up at the local registry office to obtain the card which entitles you to a basic medical service. However, government sources claim that any immigrant will continue to have access to Emergency and First Aid, especially minors and pregnant women who will continue having full access to the healthcare system as the law states. According to a survey published today by El Pais it is calculated that 150,000 cards will be terminated should these immigrants be unable to prove their enrolment with the national insurance and the proof of tax payment in the country. The average savings in health are estimated to be around 250 million euros instead of the 500 million initially predicted by PM Mariano Rajoy’s government. At the moment there are 459,946 foreigners registered at the local councils, of which the majority (306,477) are EU residents who are not obliged to sign up at the foreigners’ registry office and who therefore are excluded from the decree. At the same time the decree states that “the administrative bodies dealing with immigration will be able to communicate to the National Insurance Institute the information necessary to prove the status of the immigrant also without the person’s consent.” The new law contains “urgent measures to guarantee the sustainability of the national health system”, with which the government is aiming to reduce by 7 billion euros a year in order to make this year’s mark of 5.3% GDP set by Brussels. It also introduces grants for chemist purchases, that being 10% for pensioners, up to 60% for salaries over 100,000 euros a year — and the payment of prosthesis, dietary products and non urgent health transport which are considered to be added services paid by the user. Autonomous communities will have up to June 30 to change their financial output to the new decree. Protests against these restrictions to healthcare for immigrants in an irregular position have come from associations such as SOS Racismo who calls the decree “unconstitutional” and pose the threat of increasing “Social exclusion and conflict”. The State federation of associations for immigrants and refugees considers the health cuts for foreigners to be “an aggression” and reminded that this minority is the one that makes less use of healthcare and medicine compared to the rest of Spaniards.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Monasteries Should Take in Asylum Seekers: Priest

Monasteries should offer accommodation to asylum seekers, Catholic priest Andreas Rellstab believes, but his proposal has met with resistence from other clerics. “For us as a Christian community, it’s a shame that no one wants to take in the asylum seekers,” Rellstab told the Catholic television programme “Das Wort zum Sonntag” (‘Sunday Word’).

The 46-year-old Swiss priest argued that there were plenty of places and facilities available, with the numbers of people living in monasteries dropping all the time, newspaper Blick reported.

But the proposal has received very little support. “Of course we have the space. But they would not fit into our community,” Franciscan monk Rene Fox told the newspaper. Sister Rut-Maria Buschor of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Andreas in Sarnen, near Luzern, is also against the idea.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

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