News Feed 20120605

Financial Crisis
» Europe’s Zombie Parties
» G7 Discussed European Fiscal Union
» CBS News: Scott Walker Wins Wisconsin Recall Election
Europe and the EU
» Greece: Libyans Occupy Embassy in Protest at Hospital Costs
» Italy: Former Vatican Bank Chief’s Home Searched
» Italy: Former Unicredit CEO Profumo Indicted for Alleged Fraud
» Italy: Emilia Quake: Stricken Parmesan on Sale in Bologna
» Skeletons Treated for Vampirism Found in Bulgaria
North Africa
» Algeria: Lawyer Sees Evangelist Plot Behind Adoptions
» Libya in Chaos: Airport Attacked, Elections Postponed
» Libya: Cyrenaica Against Tripoli, Cargo Stop From Tomorrow
» Tunisia: Crusade Against Anti-Islam Intellectual
South Asia
» Drone Strike Kills No. 2 Al Qaeda Leader in Pakistan

Financial Crisis

Europe’s Zombie Parties

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

European political parties are in crisis. And ideological bias aside, they now deal more in special interest groups. These include senior citizens, whose pensions they cheerfully promise to save, when for years they have been eaten away.

Dirk Schümer

The crisis, which has just begun in Europe, is no longer being limited to the currency and its devastating effect on more than one economy. One of the fundamental authorities of modern democracy has been dragged ever deeper into the whirlpool: the political party.

The fact that for over two years governments from Slovakia to Portugal have been kicked out of office in bunches and without regard to political stripe is only the earliest indication of a systemic disease. In truth, the law of democracy — democratic forces competing to offer political alternatives — has been finished off by the dictates of the economy.

That is seen most clearly in the Greece experience. The motherland of democracy is now carrying out a spectral round of voting about nothing. No party has dared to write into their election manifesto their stance on the only real decision remaining — namely, to withdraw from the euro and possibly the EU and to let Greece go bankrupt. Instead, the parties are campaigning as shadows of their erstwhile ideologies — zombies from a time when there was still something to hand out…

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

G7 Discussed European Fiscal Union

The Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers and central bank chiefs discussed Europe’s progress towards a financial and fiscal union in a conference call on Tuesday, a Canadian government spokeswoman said, echoing comments issued earlier by Washington.

“The G7 counterparts reviewed developments in the global economy and financial markets and the policy response under consideration, including the progress towards financial and fiscal union in Europe,” said Mary Ann Dewey-Plante, a spokeswoman for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

“They agreed to monitor developments closely ahead of the G20 summit in Los Cabos,” she added.

The statement was almost identical to one issued by the U.S. Treasury Department earlier on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


CBS News: Scott Walker Wins Wisconsin Recall Election

First-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker will win the Wisconsin recall election, CBS News estimates, beating back a labor-backed effort to unseat and again handing defeat to his Democratic challenger, 58-year-old Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The recall fight, prompted by Walker’s decision to strip Wisconsin public workers of their collective bargaining rights, has doubled as a proxy fight over whether Republicans can push through spending cuts and confront organized labor — and live to tell about it.

“Wisconsin has given their stamp of approval to Gov. Walker’s successful reforms that balanced the budget, put people back to work, and put government back on the side of the people,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Tuesday night.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, candidates and outside groups spent in excess of $63 million on the recall election — an enormous figure that easily breaks the previous record of $37.4 million (set in the 2010 gubernatorial contest) for spending in a Wisconsin election. According to the New York Times, Walker and his Republican allies spent $45.6 million on the race as of May 21, while Barrett and his allies have spent $17.9 million.

Turnout had been expected to exceed 2010 total, with an estimated 2.8 people expected to cast ballots. Reports emerged from Wisconsin Tuesday of robocalls informing voters, falsely, they don’t have to vote if they signed the recall petition, among other attempts to depress turnout among Barrett voters using false information. The Walker campaign said in response to the reports that “any accusation that our campaign is making those calls is categorically false and unfounded.”

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Greece: Libyans Occupy Embassy in Protest at Hospital Costs

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 5 — A group of around 30 Libyan nationals late on Sunday occupied the premises of the Libyan embassy in Athens, taking hostage a mission employee, in protest at the suspension of the healthcare they had been receiving from Greek private hospitals in recent months. The protesters, believed to be Libyan freedom fighters injured in their country last year before being transferred to Greece for treatment, withdrew from the embassy after police negotiators won them round and secured the safe release of the employee. According to police, as daily Kathimerini reports, the protesters were demanding the embassy’s intervention to cover their costs. Last month the Greek hospitals stopped treating them due to a mounting unpaid bill. The problem began last November, when the new Libyan government took over paying the hospital bills, previously covered by Qatar.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Former Vatican Bank Chief’s Home Searched

Gotti Tedeschi not under investigation, probe not related to IOR

(ANSA) — Rome, June 5 — The home of the former President of the Vatican bank Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was searched by police on Tuesday.

Gotti Tedeschi is not under investigation and the search has nothing to do with his work at the Vatican bank, which is officially called the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), ANSA sources said.

The search was conducted as part of an investigation into alleged corruption at Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica. Gotti Tedeschi resigned from the IOR last month after its board passed a vote of no-confidence in him in a controversial move that hit newspaper headlines worldwide.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Former Unicredit CEO Profumo Indicted for Alleged Fraud

Current MPS chairman sent to trial with 19 others

(ANSA) — Milan, June 5 — Alessandro Profumo, the former CEO of Italy’s largest bank UniCredit, was sent to trial with 19 other people by a preliminary hearings judge on Tuesday for an alleged 245-million-euro tax fraud.

Profumo, who is now the chairman of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, another big Italian bank, is accused of defrauding the Treasury using a structured finance operation known as ‘Brontos’ that sheltered money from the tax authorities.

He is accused alongside a number of former and current UniCredit managers plus three employees of the British bank Barclays.

Profumo, who stepped down from the helm of UniCredit in 2010 after losing a power struggle with Chairman Dieter Rampl, allegedly signed off on illegal transactions on three separate occasions in 2007 and 2008 “by putting his initials on applications for investment approval”, according to prosecutors.

The bank then categorized the money as dividends instead of interest, allegedly allowing suspects to pay only 5% tax on the profits instead of 100%.

Profumo denies any wrongdoing.

The trial will open on October 1 in Milan.

Profumo, the architect behind UniCredit’s incorporation in 2007 of Capitalia, a group which included the former Banca di Roma and Banco di Sicilia, was said to have lost the confidence of the key stockholders over his management of the bank after the global financial crisis began in late 2007.

UniCredit was the most exposed Italian bank in the crisis because it had the biggest international profile, including owning Germany’s HVB group, which suffered in the subprime loan crisis that sparked the credit crunch.

Profumo is also said to have been at odds with Rampl over his management style, described by some observers as brash and autocratic, which earned him the media nickname of ‘Mr Arrogance’.

Observers said the final straw came when Profumo did not inform the chairman of Libya’s move to boost its stake in UniCredit to over 7.5%.

The Milan stock market reacted with indifference in early trading on Tuesday to the news that Profumo has been indicted.

UniCredit’s share price gained 0.38% while Monte dei Paschi di Siena’s went up by 4%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Emilia Quake: Stricken Parmesan on Sale in Bologna

Coldiretti scheme tomorrow, controller and in 1 kg cuts

(ANSAmed) — BOLOGNA, JUNE 5 — The Bologna branch of the farming association Coldiretti has organised the sale of “earthquake-stricken” Parmigiano Reggiano in Bologna tomorrow. The cheese is already seasoned and has been checked by monitoring groups, and will be sold in chunks of 1 kilo apiece at a market price fixed by the producing factory, “in order to avoid distortion and speculation”. The scheme, which has been introduced to support the areas hit by the quake, will begin at 15:00 at the Amica country market. Coldiretti points out that the quake hit DOP (protected designation of origin) Parmigiano Reggiano very hard, ruining over 600,000 40 kilogram wheels of the cheese after the collapse of the “scalere”, the large shelves used to season the cheese. Damage to Parmigiano Reggiano alone reached 150 million euros. Meanwhile, solidarity schemes are continuing on the Internet. In 4 days, Coldiretti’s has received 17,000 email requests from people wanting to buy cheese affected by the earthquake.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Skeletons Treated for Vampirism Found in Bulgaria

Bulgarian archaeologists say they have unearthed centuries-old skeletons pinned down through their chests with iron rods — a practice believed to stop the dead from becoming vampires.

According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the National History Museum in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, two skeletons from the Middle Ages were found in such a state last weekend near the Black Sea town of Sozopol.

He said Tuesday that corpses were regularly treated in such a way before being buried in some parts of Bulgaria, even until the beginning of the last century.

Widespread superstition led to iron rods being hammered through the chest bones and hearts of those who did evil during their lifetimes for fear they would return after death to feast on the blood of the living.

According to Dimitrov, over 100 corpses stabbed to prevent them from becoming vampires have been discovered across Bulgaria over the years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Lawyer Sees Evangelist Plot Behind Adoptions

Muslim children vulnerable to organ traffickers

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JUNE 5 — ‘As in many other Arab countries, there exists in Algeria an international evangelical network whose aim is to inculcate children through the method of adoption and which has been known to stoop to trafficking in humans and in body parts.’ If it were not for the fact that it comes from a legal professional, this detailed accusation might have appeared paradoxical. But it fits perfectly into the background of controversy that surrounds the activities of certain Christian churches in Algeria as in other Muslim countries, whose aggressive style of evangelism leads to a clash between religions, and which are often countered with measures whose legality appears questionable.

The above reprimand has come from Fatima Zohra Ben Brahem, a lawyer at the Court of Algiers, who chose a symbolic place to make it: the national conference on “Kafala and the Adoption of the Judicial and Religious point of View”. Kafala is the practice of adoption in the Muslim world, by which the adopted child is not given the same rights as a natural one. The subject is complex, but for Ms Ben Brahem its complexity fades in comparison to the offensive launched by Christian churches in their drive to convert as many Algerian children as they can, using the method of adoption and taking them abroad. As long, that is, Ms Ben Brahem indicated, they are not simply being used for organ trafficking.

One of the matters touched upon by the legal expert was that of the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights, which, she said: “has enabled foreigners to adopt Arab children without having to take their religion into account”.

The issue is therefore one with a multitude of aspects: it does not just concern safeguarding children and the cultural heritage of their family of origin, but also the existence of an international “project” aiming at the enforced evangelisation of vulnerable persons in no position to defend themselves.

Arab nations have long adopted a stance of dogged defence of their own characteristics in their relations with the world’s other religions, but the words of Ms Ben Brahem go beyond this: she speaks of an “international network” with a definite mission and against which the national authorities are powerless to act, being deprived of the necessary instruments.

What raises the most concern among defenders of Muslim traditions is the fact that it is children who have no registered parents that are most liable to be adopted, having been abandoned at birth. The size of the problem can be appreciated from the fact that the number of adoptable children registered each year a being born “nes sous x” (i.e. with an ‘x’ where the parents’ names should be inserted) is three thousand. The figure appears to be a default one.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya in Chaos: Airport Attacked, Elections Postponed

Panic in Tripoli. Passengers get off planes, Italians safe

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 4 — There have been scenes of panic at Tripoli airport today, as armed militias attacked the building, forcing the authorities to divert arriving aircraft to the nearby military airport, while planes on the runway awaiting take-off were surrounded and passengers forced to disembark or leave the waiting room. There is also great uncertainty over the date of elections in the country, which were scheduled for June 19, though Al Jazeera and sources contacted by ANSA say that they are now expected to take place in the first week of July.

The militiamen, travelling in armoured pick-up trucks, attacked the airport this morning, firing a number of shots and lightly injuring one official.

One Alitalia flight was due to leave from the airport at the time, but the company has said that no passengers boarded the aircraft. After receiving the order to disembark, the captain secured the aircraft. Carabinieri from the Tuscania Regiment subsequently escorted the captain and four flight assistants to a hotel. The armed group, known as the Al-Awfea Brigade, and hailing from Tarhuna, a town 80 kilometres south-east of Tripoli, is demanding the release of one of its leaders, who “disappeared” last night. The Tarhuna rebels are viewed with suspicion by other armed brigades — the tribe had a prominent role in Libya under Gaddafi and many of its members occupied key positions in the former leader’s regime.

Calm was restored after a few hours, with the spokesperson for Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), Mohamed al-Harizi, hastily announcing the opening of an investigation into what he called the “kidnapping” of Colonel Abouajila al-Habchi, the leader of the Tarhuna militia. The man was seized last night by unknown forces. The military council in the capital has said that it has nothing to do with his disappearance. The situation was extremely tense last night, with tanks surrounding the area.

Attempts at mediation by the NTC’s deputy Foreign Minister, Abdul Karim Ahmed Bazama, who vainly tried to appease the militiamen, were ultimately futile.

Today’s incident is just the latest in a series of episodes in a country that appears to be drawing closer to chaos and is incapable of building a solid post-Gaddafi period.

The keenly awaited election of the country’s Constituent Assembly “will be postponed at least until the first week of July,” government sources told the Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera, which pointedly quotes the deputy chair of the central electoral commission, who resigned a few weeks ago.

“Holding the elections on June 19 is mission impossible,” Sghair Majeri has said earlier, resigning due to his conviction that the elections would not be held in the planned timeframe. Checks, printing of ballot papers and their distribution will take time “at least 4 weeks, so they will not be held before July, perhaps not until the second week,” he added.

The postponement is due to procedural problems. Over 4,000 candidates are running for 200 seats in the Assembly and the authorities “need more time to examine the candidates’ bids”, Al Jazeera reports. Sources contacted by ANSA have confirmed that July 10 could be a possible election date, only 10 days before the start of Ramadan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya: Cyrenaica Against Tripoli, Cargo Stop From Tomorrow

If new allocation of assembly seats is not accepted

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The Cyrenaica “federalists” who months ago proclaimed the semi-autonomy of the region, will prevent the passage of goods towards Tripoli if their request of a new allocation of seats in the Constituent Assembly is not granted, reliable local sources reported to ANSA.

The “federalists”, who ask for the appointing of 60 seats of the constituent assembly out of 200 to Cyrenaica, will undertake the interruption of the goods flow on land near the border with Tripolitania, in an area named “Red river”. They threaten that in a few days they will also block the passage of “any vehicle” between the two regions, the sources have added, according to which the situation of “tension” risk “complicating” the opening of commercial links between the country and foreign businesses.

In this moment Libya has in the country representatives of 40 Italian firms, busy meeting Libyan enterprises who want to work together with European firms.

Right now, in fact, due to the situation being stopped on a national level within the country, there are no “big projects” on the table except only for small private business deals.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Crusade Against Anti-Islam Intellectual

Jelil Brick lives in France, his words spark anger

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JUNE 5 — Jelil Brick has been living in France for over twenty years now after escaping the claws of Ben Ali’s political police and has always remained faithful to his character: irreverent, torrential speaker, enemy of any form of dictatorship (political, economic, religious). Back in Tunisia he is both loved and hated, depending on what he says and it is not uncommon to see people venerate him one day and curse him the next. Also because Jelil Brick is the epitome of coherence, wrapped in cruel and surgical words.

Now Brick can count a few new enemies in his life, adding the Tunisian minister of Religious Affairs, who actually issued an official statement in which he condemns the intellectual for the reason that one of his many videos on the web (he has been posted on YouTube many times, the last one being out on his Facebook page) attacked in the following order, Allah, the Prophet Muhammad and his first wife, Aisha, towards which Islamists have a profound veneration.

The minister spoke heavily against Brick, basically accusing him of blasphemy and asking that all official steps be taken against him, resulting in the removal of his citizenship (he is still Tunisian) and the start of a penal inquiry, which will ask for his arrest and imprisonment into a Tunisian jail, certainly not a joyful pace to be.

No reaction has been made from Brick but there won’t have to be much to wait because he has been one of the first to use the web as a launch pad for his ideas and use videos or audio streams to voice his thoughts against the establishment, always full of an aggressive humour.

Apart from the judgement one can give to the things he says and their value, Brick is a courageous man because he has been coherent all the way, he has never taken a step back. Not even when, last April, while he was seated at a bar on the Champs Elyse’e, he was attacked and knifed in the back by five or six young men sporting the unmistakeable long Salafi beard.

Just strictly the time to go into hospital, get his wounds “stitched up”, take a few pain killers and he was on his way again, attacking and criticising those who are trying to turn Tunisia into a theocratic country. He knows all about violence because when he was still back in Tunisia he felt torture and cruelty on his own skin. Nevertheless he hasn’t stopped and has picked up his road again. A hero, in his own way, celebrated by those who today try and oppose the advancement of “a certain type” of Tunisia. Reason for which hackers who cracked the website of an ultraconservative party or trade union organization, did so by posting a video by Brick, one of the many he recorded in his living room, often smoking his much loved cigarettes. We can sum up the man in one of his own quotes: “I love women, beer, cigs and I can’t stand Ennahdha.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Drone Strike Kills No. 2 Al Qaeda Leader in Pakistan

Abu Yahya Al-Libi, a top Al Qaeda operative was killed in a U.S. drone strike Monday, Fox News confirms. Al-Libi, known as a rock star in the jihadist world with his videos and lectures going viral on the Web, was the intended target of the strike, U.S. officials said.

The strikes have been increasingly unpopular among Pakistanis, but successful in recent years at taking out terrorist leaders. Pakistan has evidence that Al-Libi was in a house hit by the U.S. drone strike, but it was initially unclear whether he was killed.

A U.S. official later confirmed his death.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]