Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/1/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/1/2009Check out the news stories on China about the effects of the financial crisis. The Chinese military is preparing for an outbreak of riots due to hunger, and workers’ protests are intensifying.

In other news about the financial crisis, the euro is dropping against the dollar in the wake of an EU decision not to extend any further loans to the shaky economies of Eastern Europe, some of which are close to default.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Insubria, JCPA, JD, Paul Green, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
China: Shenzhen Workers Deprived of 102 Million Yuan in Wages
Eastern Currency Woes Should Worry Euro Zone: Poland
Euro Slides to One-Week Low as EU Rejects East Europe Aid Call
France: Luxury Yacht Sales Plummet, Sales Down by 50%
 
USA
Carlos the Jackal to Obama: Help Me Find Terrorist Pal
Transcript: Rush’s First Televised Address to the Nation: Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac) Speech
UK: Pentagon Hacker Faces 70 Years in US Jail — Because Cps Won’t Try Him in Britain
 
Europe and the EU
Despair Over Eastern European Provincialism
From Immigrant to Designer, Halabi’s Dream Comes True
Islamists Gain Ground in Sarajevo
Italy: Dear Fini, This is Why You Are Wrong
Italy: Cosenza, Two Men Arrested for Attacking Romanian Woman
Lebanese Designer: A Wish Came True
Spain: Moratinos in USA, to Meet Hillary Clinton on Tuesday
Spain: EU Directive Threatens to Close Fiestas
Spain: Hunting With Garzon, Minister Resigns
UK: Motorway Cameras Let Police and MI5 Track All Car Trips Across the Country
UK: Trade Union Chief Used £399-a-Night Waldorf Suite to Save Himself 35-Minute Journey Home
 
Balkans
Croatia: President Rebukes Slovenia Over EU and NATO Bid
Serbia: Limit on Salaries of Managers of Public Companies
Serbia: Italian Group Probes Depleted Uranium Use in NATO Bombings
 
Mediterranean Union
Mediterranean Union Runs Aground on Gaza, EU Deadlock
 
North Africa
Economy: North African Experts Want Increased UMA Trade
Gaza: UK Convoy in Algiers, Moroccan Border Open
Maghreb: Morocco Wants to Remove Differences With Algeria
Morocco: Rights Group Demands to Know Activist’s Fate
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Cyprus-Israel Ferry Service Rings Alarm Bells
Do the Palestinians Need More Space Than the Belgians?
Gaza: Olmert Says Deal on Shalit to Become More Difficult
Gaza: Hamas; Israel Moved Goalposts, Egypt Must Help US
Vatican: Pope Invited to Gaza
 
Middle East
Averting Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction
Call to Sue Zionists and End Diplomatic Relations With ‘Israel’
Chaldean Intellectual: “the National Museum is the Heritage of All Iraq”
Iraq: US Must Review Kurd Policies, Says Leader
Iraq: Christian Leader Warns Against Security “Vacuum”
Lebanon: UN Launches Inquiry Into Political Killings
Saudi’s Coach Sacked After Winning Top Prize
Syria: Ex-General Criticises Damascus for Blocking Visit by Nuclear Watchdog
 
Caucasus
Chechnya Leader Tells Why ‘Loose’ Women Deserved to Die
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Resurgent Taliban Creates Alarm, Says MP
Former Nepalese King Visits India: Meetings With Hindu Leaders Scheduled
Nepali PM Urges Maoist Guerrillas to “be Honest” in Bringing About Peace
Nepal’s Maoist Government Against Private Schools
 
Far East
China: Workers Clash With Police Over Pensions and Health Insurance
China’s Government is Preparing the Military for an Outbreak of Hunger Riots
 
Australia — Pacific
Local Film About Lebanese Gang Violence Pulled From Cinemas After Brawls
 
Immigration
Libya: Course for Meeting Work Demand-Offer
Libyan Spokesperson, Immigration Also a Problem for Us
 
Culture Wars
Abortion: Spain; Bishops, Major Drama of 20th Century

Financial Crisis


China: Shenzhen Workers Deprived of 102 Million Yuan in Wages

In 2008 local firms fail to pay 39,200 employees. More and more companies shut down without paying wages. Beijing seems unable to cope with growing unemployment, is trying to find ways to manage the inevitable protests.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Just in Shenzhen, 370 firms defaulted in 2008 on paying 102 million yuan (US$ 13 million) in wages to some 39,200 workers. The government for its part seems more interested in teaching public officials how to manage social unrest caused by the default than in protecting workers’ rights.

In the past it was not unusual for companies to shut their doors without paying their workers, but the current global crisis has made it worse.

In Shenzhen between October and December of last year, 48 companies went bust and their bosses absconded without paying wages for a total of 30 million yuan.

An estimated 5.6 migrant workers are in the city. Street protests are very likely if job losses and wage pilfering continue.

The city’s Labour and Social Security Bureau has begun monitoring firms with operational problems that are a month behind in paying workers.

Baoan District Labour Bureau has demanded firms submit detailed payroll records online and pay wages through banks, which notify the bureau two days after funds are transferred. The bureau can then compare the two sets of records to check whether firms have paid workers properly.

Firms that do not pay employees, or delay payments, are then excluded from government tenders. .

At the same time plans are underway in Beijing to train more than 3,000 public security directors by mid-June to improve responses to threats to public security in the provinces.

This is especially pressing since more than 20 million rural migrant workers have lost their jobs and many have few immediate prospects of finding another.

Layoffs have already led workers in some cities to take to the streets in protest at factory shutdowns.

These training sessions are “urgently needed for the heavy and difficult task of maintaining stability this year,” Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu was quoted as saying on the Ministry website.

Public security officials should work proactively to “explore new solutions to solving the people’s grievances [and] be deeply involved with the people,” he added.

Beijing also does not want public protests to be settled summarily by local authorities resorting to police intervention.

Pundits doubt however that warmth and courtesy will do much for people who need a job to earn a living.

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



Eastern Currency Woes Should Worry Euro Zone: Poland

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — Weak currencies in central and eastern Europe should concern the European Union, Poland said on Sunday after an EU summit on the financial crisis.

Neither Poland’s Finance Minister Jacket Rostowski nor Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who both spoke at a briefing after the EU meeting, elaborated as to exactly why this may be the case.

However, economists believe eurozone countries could be at a competitive disadvantage if weak central and eastern European currencies levels are prevalent when these countries come to adopt the euro — in essence their exports will be significantly cheaper than eurozone members.

Rostowski said the current level of exchange rates, which now is a burden for the region, might become a problem for the euro zone in the longer-term.

“We have felt the pain recently, but the current exchange rates will be not only our problem but also one for the euro zone,” Rostowski told a news conference.

Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania have seen their currencies plunge against the euro in recent weeks as investors trimmed exposure to the region on fears it might be hit especially hard by the global financial crisis.

Tusk said he reminded his counterparts from the 27-nation EU that paying attention to currency stability in the bloc was enshrined in EU treaties:

“Foreign exchange stability is in the interest of the whole EU no matter how many countries belong to the euro zone.”

[Return to headlines]



Euro Slides to One-Week Low as EU Rejects East Europe Aid Call

March 2 (Bloomberg) — The euro fell to a one-week low against the dollar after European Union leaders rejected calls to back an aid package for eastern Europe, fueling concern the financial crisis will deepen the 16-nation region’s recession.

Europe’s single currency dropped for a second day versus the greenback as EU leaders vetoed Hungary’s proposals for 180 billion euros ($227 billion) of loans to ex-communist economies in eastern Europe. The dollar and the yen gained as declines in Asian stocks stoked demand for safety. New Zealand’s dollar slid to a 6 1/2-year low after its Treasury Department said the country’s economy may shrink more than expected this year.

“There’s disappointment that nothing really concrete came out of the EU’s weekend meeting and their failure to address eastern Europe’s problems,” said Tsutomu Soma, a bond and currency dealer at Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The bias is for the euro to be sold” to $1.2528 today, he said.

The euro fell to $1.2587 as of 11:59 a.m. in Tokyo from $1.2669 late in New York on Feb. 27. It earlier reached $1.2562, the weakest since Feb. 20. It dropped to 122.83 yen from 123.61 yen. The currency traded at 88.49 British pence from 88.51 pence.

The yen traded at 97.58 per dollar from 97.57 in New York on Feb. 27. It climbed 1.2 percent to 48.29 against New Zealand’s dollar and gained 0.6 percent to 61.95 versus Australia’s dollar.

Japan’s currency rose as high as 16.16443 against South Korea’s won from 15.77687 late in Asia on Feb. 27, near the record high of 16.24257 reached on Feb. 23. The won weakened on concern that sliding exports will starve the nation of foreign exchange banks need to make payments on overseas debt.

‘Very Different Situation’

The euro declined for a second day versus the yen as EU leaders also told automakers such as General Motors Corp.’s European arm to look to national governments for help.

[Return to headlines]



France: Luxury Yacht Sales Plummet, Sales Down by 50%

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 17 — The crisis has struck the luxury market with Rodriguez, the world leader in luxury yachts, suffering a collapse in sales in the first fiscal quarter of 2008-2009 from last October until December, with sales down almost 50% compared to the previous year, from 84.6 million euros to 41.7 million euros. The company explained “Many clients who are feeling the effects of the crisis both financially and psychologically have preferred to postpone buying new boats”. Future forecasts look just as dark, with orders down 41% between February 2008 and 2009 and share values plummeting down over 90%, from 50 euros in 2006 to 3 euros today. Rodriguez, which lost 47 million euros in 2007-2008, announced in December that it will no longer be able to pay the banks, with whom they have been discussing the possibility of restructuring their 150 million euros of debt for two months. The empire founded 50 years ago by Gerard Rodriguez, who arrived from Spain with 300 pesetas in his pocket, and until yesterday was among the top 500 richest people in France according to Challenges magazine, is experiencing serious difficulties, including their prices: more than 20 million euros for a Mangusta 165 or a Leopard 56 (56 metres, able to hold a helicopter). According to the company, they have 103 thousand potential clients worldwide, but the crisis has also hit Russian oligarchs, and rich oil tycoons in the gulf. On the other hand, the entire pleasure boating market has been affected by the crisis. A few days ago, Beneteau, world leader in the sector, collapsed on the stock market after having announced that without an improvement in the spring, the market could decline another 40%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA


Carlos the Jackal to Obama: Help Me Find Terrorist Pal

Letter: ‘As your grandfather would have said, Mr. President, Allahu akbar — God is great!’

Emboldened by President Barack Obama’s announcement he will close the Guantanamo facility housing suspected terrorists, one of the most notorious leftist terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s has written the president, asking him for help in finding a “former comrade-in-arms” missing for 14 years, and closing his letter with “Allahu akbar! … yours in revolution.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Transcript: Rush’s First Televised Address to the Nation: Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac) Speech

Now, I have someone in back taking phone numbers. In fact, I would like to introduce to you my security chief, a man who runs all of my security. His name is Joseph Stalin. Joseph, would you please — [Laughter ] I am safe from any liberal attack, in public, because they would be afraid of offending Stalin. [Laughter] Now the opportunity here to address the nation, a serious one, it really is. And I want to take it seriously…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Pentagon Hacker Faces 70 Years in US Jail — Because Cps Won’t Try Him in Britain

Gary McKinnon, the UFO-obsessed computer geek who hacked into the Pentagon networks, has received a massive setback in his fight against extradition to America.

Mr McKinnon, an unemployed 42-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome, faces up to 70 years in an American prison as a terrorist under a controversial extradition treaty.

He had hoped to avoid extradition to the US by being tried in the UK — but was dealt a huge blow last week when the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would not bring charges against him.

[…]

He has always maintained he hacked in to find evidence of UFOs. He also told police that the US systems had been accessed by other hackers, many of Chinese origin.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Despair Over Eastern European Provincialism

Nepszabadsag 14.02.2009 (Hungary)

Nepszabadsag publishes a conversation between the polish journalist and diplomat Bogdan Goralczyk and the Hungarian Laszlo Lengyel. The two intellectuals look back over the two decades since the collapse of the Iron Curtain which, both agree, is a long way off being a success. For Bogdan Goralczyk the most striking thing is the ideological, political, mental and material polarisation of post-Communist society. “The worst thing is the we still prefer to look backwards rather than forwards. Instead of clearly drawing out our image of the future and formulating a programme in a common Europe, we retreat into our own provincialism and tailor everything to our own horizons. This is the reason why the Central European cooperation is not functioning. […] Do I see a way out of this predicament? In spite of appearances, I have a very simple solution: More Europe, more empathy with the neighbours, more calm dialogue with one another. But I fear that we won’t even be able to get this minimal programme off the ground. If only I were a bad prophet…!”

Laszlo Lengyel is even more pessimistic: “Just remember, dear Bogdan, how many ‘political generations’ and how many different political cultures and styles have come out of the USA since 1989, in comparison with Hungary and Poland! The Polish elite has cut off its own supply lines, blocked the way for new faces, ideas, and institutions. Parliamentary democracy is an illusion. Complete dependency on the leaders, on party head quarters, on the prime minister and feudal favouritism has been reinstated. What we remember most from the world of Gomulka and Gierek and in your case, the world of Kadar, is the utterly undemocratic political selection procedure. While the system change and the Europeanisation of the top positions in business and culture, as well as at employee level, called for genuine hard work and adaptability, the Polish and Hungarian political elites demanded just the opposite: provincialism. Our leaders are not international politicians. They talk their own national election speak — even when translating it directly from English.

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



From Immigrant to Designer, Halabi’s Dream Comes True

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, February 27 — In a country which appeared to have lost all propulsive power and where young people are often discarded for being still “inexperienced”, there are yet some people who succeed in having their dreams come true: to open a shop of fashion accessories in the very heart of the Italian capital. He isn’t yet well known, except amid Rome’s upper middle class, but as he says, he might soon set up a “small empire”. His name is Gilbert El Halaby, he is Lebanese and just 29 years old. “I arrived in Rome when I was 24”, the designer explained, “and I did all kinds of things to remain here. Here I found out who I am and what I really wanted to do with my life, create”. He was born in Dhour el-Choueir, a small village 30 kilometres away from Lebanon’s capital. After studying archaeology at Beirut University, and having worked as a tourist guide, in the catering sector and in the fashion world, Halaby tried and succeeded in setting up his own business in Rome. “Before setting up house in Rome I lived in Dubai”, a place where, he says, one who loves antiquity and the past times, suffers an awful lot. “I learned Italian in three months, living all the time around on the street. I bought the Porta Portese newspaper at six òclock every Tuesday and Friday and I was the first to call for premises offered to rent. Finally I made it”. Being a foreigner wasn’t a drawback at all, he says. On the contrary. “Rather they welcomed me very warmly. They kind of adopted me”. Even if he never attended a design school, Halaby designs jewels and bags and he’s trying his hands at clothing. “In the beginning it wasn’t easy to find a workshop willing to take the risk of producing the works of a young designer”. A safe job order is better than a meteoric customer. “After Florence I tried in the South, in Naples, where they believed in me”. Yet, he says, the craftsman working for him works also for Fendi, Furla, Marc Jacobs and Valentino. With sales totalling some 16,000 euro a month as an average, one can say business is booming for this young Lebanese designer. Now his products featuring an “Eastern Mediterranean and European” style — as he likes to describe it — are starting to gain appeal in Lebanon as well, a country where the fashion sector is on the move. “A new trend is spreading among people — he says — that of looking for articles by emergent designers. Many have got tired with the big brands, they no longer look for a name, but for a design.” Even shopping centres are starting to make room for little known artists. “The two most important malls in Beirut — Abc Dbayeh and Achrafieh — have set apart premises where young Lebanese designers can sell their creations. This might be a good start to make my name known”, Halaby says. What about going back and settle in Lebanon? “I left Lebanon when was 19. No doubt, everything has changed since then. But if I had stayed there, I would have become at the most a restaurant owner”. “I wouldn’t leave freedom in Italy for the world. By living here you can understand you can stage a university protest without having police shooting at you with a water cannon”. Then there is the mentality of his Lebanese contemporaries which holds him back, superficiality, ebullience, the love for luxury. “All this is not the true thing. There are those who pay their disco bills with IOUs, just to be able to say, I was there, too. You can see girls dressed like the characters on Sex and the City in the heart of the Middle East. There is an awful cultural vacuum”. The war is to be blamed. “It makes you think every day may be the last one and living every day as if it were the last one has become a true lifestyle”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islamists Gain Ground in Sarajevo

Radical Muslim imams and nationalist politicians from all camps are threatening Sarajevo’s multicultural legacy. With the help of Arab benefactors, the deeply devout are acquiring new recruits. In the “Jerusalem of the Balkans,” Islamists are on the rise.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy: Dear Fini, This is Why You Are Wrong

by Khalid Chaouki

In most Italian mosques the sermon is already translated into Italian. For this reason too, the proposal presented by Gianfranco Fini for all sermons to be preached in Italian in mosques is above all based on the false and dangerous assumption that sermons and preaching in mosques contain references and incitement to hatred, if not even pre-recruiting for terrorism of Islamic origin. Should this assumption be true, I would expect from the third most important representative of the state, not an appeal to Muslims, but one first of all to security forces. Do Muslims still have the right to pray freely, as sanctioned by the Constitution? Is Arabic a language authorised in our country or should it be banned?…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Cosenza, Two Men Arrested for Attacking Romanian Woman

(AGI) — Cosenza, 26 Feb. — Italian Carabinieri arrested two men in Cosenza yesterday evening, a Moroccan and a Romanian national, who are accused of sexually aggressing a Romanian woman, beating her and kidnapping her. The woman herself, aged 44, went to the main police station in Cosenza to report the attacks. The woman was working for a family in San Benedetto Ullano (Cosenza), but on February 5 near to the bus station in Cosenza, she was approached by the Moroccan man, who was drunk, who threatened her with a knife to follow him to where he lived in a run-down warehouse in the city centre. Here he abused her and held her captive for several days. Later, the woman and the Moroccan were threatened by the Romanian national, who was subject to an official order to leave the country, who demanded to take the woman with him, then holding her hostage under a bridge in the middle of the old part of the city centre, alongside the river Crati, where the man slept with his brother, in conditions of extreme squalor. The Romanian then abused the woman for several days. Then yesterday afternoon the woman was able to escape and went straight to the Carabinieri.

Marshall Cosimo Saponangelo, assisted by Lieutenant Cosimo Portulano, immediately carried out a search operation in the city, and arrested the two men in the evening. The two, who have made partial admissions, are being held in jail in Cosenza. (AGI).

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



Lebanese Designer: A Wish Came True

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 24 — In Arabic her name means “wish”. And Lebanese Mona Mohanna, 38, a naturalised Italian (living in Milan), has made her professional wishes comes true: she has become a designer. Mona’s story, now the owner of her own brand of women’s clothing and accessories, is one of fifty in the Ethonoland Foundation’s report on businesses owned by immigrants. Stories of success and optimism. Mona came to Italy when she was 19, she completed a Masters in Fashion Design at the Domus Academy in Milan with money loaned to her from an aunt (25 million lira). Her entry into the world of work was not at all easy: “wearing the hijab, the Islamic veil, did not help me,’ ona recounted, but she did not give up. Her first collection came out in 1999. Today the designer has a turnover of around 200 thousand euros. Around twenty craftspeople work with her in Lebanon and Syria, and there are also a few craftswomen in Italy. Her collection is inspired by the Eastern world, but with western cuts: and, as she says proudly, “many of my clients are Italian women.” The majority of her lines are sold in Italy in a national network of 120 shops. But she also has contacts with other European countries, including mainly France, Spain and Germany. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Moratinos in USA, to Meet Hillary Clinton on Tuesday

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 18 — As a sign of the improving relation between Washington and Madrid, Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos will have a meeting on February 24 with the new Secretary of State of the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton. The two will make a programme for the coming months. It is the first meeting, sources in the ministry say, of a representative of the Zapatero government with a member of the American administration after the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, which five years ago froze diplomatic relations between the two countries. The meeting is the start of the normalisation of dialogue between Washington and Madrid, after four years of the Bush administration. The situation in the Middle East and Spain’s on-duty EU presidency in the first half year of 2010 will be some points on the agenda of Clinton and Moratinos. Moratinos will arrive tomorrow in the United States for the visit of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to Florida, for the 450th anniversary of Spanish education in Pensacola. Last Friday, in a telephone conversation with King Juan Carlos, President Omaba said he hopes for an improvement of the “close friendship” between the United States and Spain. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: EU Directive Threatens to Close Fiestas

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 20 — The European directive on pyrotechnics risks shutting down the traditional Fallas in Valencia, which is celebrated every year from March 14-19, as well as influencing the fireworks that are a central ingredient to all Spanish fiestas. The EU directive, approved on 23 May 2007, regulating the sale of pyrotechnic material, will have to be observed by national legislation by next January. It contains, among other measures, precepts which directly threaten the traditional festivals on the Mediterranean coast, from Catalonia to Andalusia, but also those on the other side, in Sicily and Naples, even those of the island of Malta. The directive, quoted today in El Pais, raises minimum age for the use of light fireworks to 12, and imposes a distance of 15 metres for category 3 pyrotechnic products, those used by the Catalonian correfocs’, with the famous devils and demons animated by the public with Bengal lights and towers of fire followed by children. The same Fallas in Valencia, preceded by the mascletas’, the firecracker and firework shows in Plaza Ayuntamiento, with the Cabalgada del fuegò or correfuegò in the streets of the historic centre and the ninots’ thrown into the flames, all would be impossible with the new 15 metre regulation. ‘All of the Mediterranean has been united in the use of fire to celebrate legendary and historic scenes since Marco Polo’s arrival with gun powder and with the fire lighting at night in San Giovanni”, explains Joan Font, founder of the Comediants theatrical company who has spread the Mediterranean’s culture of fire for street festivities throughout Europe. Festivals that have centuries old roots, like that of Patum, in the town of Berga near Barcelona, which has been documented back to 1454 and considered a cultural patrimony by UNESCO since 2005; without the children who are the primary actors it would not be the same, say the defenders of the event, 10,000 of which gathered in Berga to protect the festival. According to the European Commission, the directive does not attack any tradition because it leaves the margins to the individual nations for the exceptions they deem necessary. The Spanish Minister of Industry, Miguel Sam Sebastian, has already responded to Brussels that he defence of the cultural patrimony is a government priority and that no cultural festival involving fire will be compromised. Yesterday the socialist group in Congress presented a motion for the adoption of the measure without ‘damaging the fundamental elements of our festivals, traditions and culture that, in different parts of our territory enrich and transmit a cultural patrimony that belongs to everyone’’. Among the few to celebrate the limits imposed by the EU were doctors, who hope to limit the number of injuries and burns, of the fingers and limbs that have to be amputated due to the explosions. Juan Pedro Barret, head of the Burn Unit at the hospital of Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona emphasised that only since the 1990’s with the introduction of stricter safety regulations approved by the European Community has the number of victims gone down and prevention increased. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Hunting With Garzon, Minister Resigns

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 23 — The Spanish Justice Minister, Mariano Fernandez Bermejo, announced his resignation today, after the controversy caused by his participation in a hunting party with the judge Baltazar Garzon, who is researching the network of corruption inside the Popular Party. During a press conference with no question time, Bermejo stated his decision, affirming that his resignation “was the best he could do”. Without directly making reference to the controversy surrounding the hunting expedition with the magistrate, object of criticism from the PP to the opposition, the Minister chose an indirect approach: “‘I cannot tolerate the use of facts noted by everyone against the ideals of the PSOE’’, Bermejo said. Last week the minister was the target of the first magistrates’ strike in the history of Spanish democracy, in which about half of the magistrates participated on Wednesday. In spite of having received public support from Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who responded negatively to the request for resignation put forward by the PP in Congress, Bermejo’s position became unsustainable by the PSOE, just seven days from the regional elections in Basque Country and Galicia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Motorway Cameras Let Police and MI5 Track All Car Trips Across the Country

The police and MI5 have been given access to a network of infrared cameras that can track millions of car journeys across Britain.

The 1,090 cameras read numberplates of cars on all motorways and major trunk roads, recording the time, date and location of the vehicle and storing the data for five years.

The Highways Agency installed the bright green cameras to calculate journey times. But last week a senior agency official confirmed they are being linked to a police database.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Trade Union Chief Used £399-a-Night Waldorf Suite to Save Himself 35-Minute Journey Home

One of the leaders of Britain’s largest trade union has enjoyed the use of a £399-a-night hotel suite within yards of his office — to save a 35-minute journey to his £800,000 grace-and-favour home.

Derek Simpson, 64, the joint leader of Unite and a leading critic of ‘fat-cat’ banking bosses, has spent nights at the five-star Waldorf Hilton hotel in London, just 600 yards from his office.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Croatia: President Rebukes Slovenia Over EU and NATO Bid

Zagreb, 20 Feb. (AKI) — Croatian president Stjepan Mesic has expressed concern over Slovenia’s moves to block his country’s entry into the European Union and NATO over an unresolved border dispute.

Slovenia is the only country of the former Yugoslavia that has joined the EU and NATO and Croatia is an official candidate for both organisations.

It has vowed to block Croatia’s integration into the two blocs unless a long-running border dispute is resolved.

“We have been put in an unfavourable position but it doesn’t mean that we should dramatise or give vent to negative emotions,” Mesic told Croatian television.

Croatia and Albania were invited to join NATO at a summit in Bucharest last year and were expected to join the alliance at a summit in Strasbourg in April.

But Mesic said Croatia might end up like Macedonia whose entry has been blocked by neighbouring Greece in a dispute over Macedonia’s state name.

Slovenia supported Croatia’s invitation at Bucharest but changed its mind as the border dispute worsened.

The Slovenian People’s Party leadership has initiated a drive for a public referendum which would block Croatia’s entry into NATO, after the Slovenian parliament refused to take a stand on the issue.

The party has to collect 40,000 signatures by 26 March.

Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader and his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor are to meet next Tuesday in the border town of Mokrice in an effort to break the deadlock, Croatian media said.

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



Serbia: Limit on Salaries of Managers of Public Companies

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 27 — The Serbian government adopted a conclusion on measures for setting the upper limit of salaries of top managers of public enterprises, public agencies and other organizations founded by the Republic of Serbia, the corresponding state organ or the organ of management, reports Tanjug news agency. The conclusion also contains recommendations for limiting expense accounts and the distribution of profits in public companies, the Serbian government said in a statement issued after session. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia: Italian Group Probes Depleted Uranium Use in NATO Bombings

Belgrade, 18 Feb. (AKI) — An Italian non-governmental organisation is investigating consequences of NATO’s 1999 bombings of Serbia and the effects of the use of depleted uranium on the civilian population.

The ‘Un ponte per…’ NGO investigators Alessandro di Meo and Samantha Mengarelli arrived in Belgrade on Wednesday for talks with Serbian officials, eyewitnesses and victims of the NATO airstrikes.

They will tour several Serbian cities that were hardest hit during the bombings before submitting a report to the Rome-based NGO.

NATO has admitted the use of depleted uranium in the bombing campaign and Italian media has reported that 45 Italian soldiers who served in the international forces in Kosovo (KFOR) died after the bombing and 515 became ill with cancer.

Di Meo told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the international community was turning a deaf ear to the problem, because the use of depleted uranium is prohibited by international conventions.

“But ten years after the bombing, the world has the right to know what really happened and what the consequences are,” he said.

Menngarelli said the truth about military casualties was slowly sinking in in Italy after a surprising increase in deaths and cancers amongst soldiers who served in KFOR.

“But the civilian victims have been completely ignored and we want to shed light on this problem,” she said.

A Serbian NGO, ironically called ‘Merciful angel’ the name of NATO’s 1999 airstrikes, recently reported that cancer ailments have jumped about 200 percent in some parts of Kosovo and areas of Serbia that were most heavily bombed.

Serbia had decontaminated five areas the most affected by depleted uranium, but there remained 113 such locations in Kosovo, former Serbian minister for ecology, Miodrag Nikcevic, told Di Meo and Mengarelli.

Kosovo majority ethnic Albanians declared independence last year and Serbian authorities have no access to the area.

Nikcevic said even the decontaminated areas weren’t absolutely safe, “because you can’t find every bomb and the bullet”.

NATO’s airstrikes in 1999 drove out Serbian troops from Kosovo amid ethnic fighting and gross human rights abuses during a two-year war with guerrillas. Kosovo was placed under United Nations control the same year and in 2008 declared independence with the support of western powers.

“Ethnic Albanians did get independence, but they may suffer the consequences of the bombing health-wise for years to come,” Di Meo said.

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

Mediterranean Union


Mediterranean Union Runs Aground on Gaza, EU Deadlock

(by Chiara De Felice) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 18 — It had seemed as if the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM) was offering a chance for peace in the Middle East, but the latter has stalled at exactly the same place as its previous partner, the Barcelona Process (established in 1995): soon overwhelmed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was prevented from making any progress. The union of countries which border the Mediterranean, brainchild of Nicolas Sarkozy, has currently ground to a halt in all areas: nominations for Secretary General and assistants have been put on hold, planning for ministerial meetings has been postponed indefinitely, and all EU activities involving cooperation from the sea’s southern shores have momentarily been shelved. Although no official announcements have yet been made, sources in Brussels say that Arab countries are asking that their partners on the northern shores to take part in a political discussion regarding events in Gaza before any normal UPM business can recommence. “We do not intend to discuss common projects with Israel when Gaza is in a state of emergency and people are dying,” a high-ranking Arab diplomat said in Brussels. Arab countries, which have repeatedly asked the EU to condemn Israel for its war in Gaza, seem to want to focus only on the political side of the union, and therefore have tried to bring up the issue whenever and wherever they can in an attempt to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the agenda at every Union meeting. But the union is not pleased with the situation, and has taken a “moment to think.” In any case, Arab representatives have already announced they will be waging a battle within the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA). The president of the Moroccan parliament, Mustapha Mansouri, one of two Arabs holding the presidency office at the EMPA, alongside the Jordanian Abdoul Hadi Al Majali, announced a few weeks ago to his European colleagues during the last meeting with the presidency offices that Arab delegations would be suspending their involvement in EMPA projects until the EU froze its agreements with Israel. And yet only last November, strong-willed mediation by France and Egypt (the two were then holding the presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean had initially managed to overcome this apparent impasse and convince the Arab League and Israel to come to an agreement, when previously the two groups had not even wanted to consider the possibility of working together on the same projects. However, by way of a delicate diplomatic operation, mediation won the day and the UPM was able to get down to work. But today it seems as if Franco-Egyptian diplomacy is no longer bearing fruit. Already several mediation attempts have been made at different levels (high-ranking officials, ambassadors and ministers), but none of these seem as yet to have been able to temper the Arab stance. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Economy: North African Experts Want Increased UMA Trade

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 19 — Trade between the five countries of the Arab Maghreb (Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania), though increasing, accounts for only 7% of the total. In view of this situation, North African sector experts meeting in Tunis for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Union of the African Maghreb (UMA) have stressed that, given the current global financial crisis, “it is imperative that countries of the Maghreb join forces to deal with the challenges of food security, climate change, and ever fewer water and fishery resources, as well as those of flora and fauna, in a context seeing ever greater competition.” An appeal has been made to lift customs and financial barriers, with the strategy for Maghreb economic integration aiming to create a free trade zone, a customs union and a common economic market. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: UK Convoy in Algiers, Moroccan Border Open

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — A British convoy made up of over 100 vehicles loaded with aid for Gaza is crossing Algerian territory after having crossed the Algeria-Morocco border on Saturday. The border had been closed since 1994 and was opened expressly for the occasion. The caravan for solidarity, promoted by the British Parliamentary representative Georges Galloway, reported the APS agency, arrived at the Akid Lotfi border post in Maghnia on Saturday morning in the province of Tlemcen (500 km east of Algiers). Welcoming it was the president of the Algerian committee supporting Gaza, Lakdar Bouragaa, representatives from the Red Crescent, Muslim Scouts and civilian society. Leaving on February 14 from Great Britain, the convoy crossed Spain and, after Morocco and Algeria, will pass through Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in order to reach Gaza through the Rafah border crossing on March 9. The border between Algeria and Morocco were closed in 1994 following an attack against a hotel in Marrakesh. Moroccan authorities accused the Algerian Secret Service for the attack and decided for the institution of visas for Algerians to enter Morocco. Algeria responded by closing the border, adding tension to the problems already caused by the western Sahara issue, the ex-Spanish colony occupied by Morocco in 1975. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Maghreb: Morocco Wants to Remove Differences With Algeria

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 19 — On the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), and as UN emissary for the Western Sahara Christopher Ross arrives in Rabat, Morocco has expressed its willingness to the Algerian authorities to end bilateral differences. Minister for communication and spokesman for the Moroccan Government Khalid Naciri stated in an interview on El Khabar that these differences do not help the interests of the AMU, which must “find a new momentum”. Greeting the Algerian people, whom he “respects and values”, Nacri hoped for a renewal in the fraternal relations between Algerians and Moroccans, confirming that Morocco will do everything possible to dispel the hatred between the two sides. “Here are my hands, I hold them out to the Algerians to turn a new page on the differences which have characterised relations between us” he said. The statements should be interpreted, according to website El Annabi, as an appeal to the Moroccan leaders, including King Mohamed VI, to reopen borders between the two countries, which have been closed since summer 1994 after an attack in Morocco which according to Rabat, was carried out by terrorists from Algeria. The western Sahara is the main obstacle to a total renewal of relations though: Morocco insists on a form of extended autonomy, under Moroccan sovereignty, for the former Spanish colony which Rabat annexed in 1975. Algeria continues to support the Polisario Front, which is demanding a referendum on self-determination. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Morocco: Rights Group Demands to Know Activist’s Fate

Casablanca, 19 Feb. (AKI) — Human Rights Watch has called on Moroccan authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of human rights activist, Chekib el-Khiari who has not been seen since he reported to the judicial police in Casablanca on Tuesday.

Early on Thursday, plainclothes police searched el-Khiari’s home in the city of Nador without a warrant and confiscated his computer and documents, family members said.

El-Khiari, 30, is president of the independent Human Rights Association of the Rif and has spoken out publicly on sensitive issues confronting this coastal region of northern Morocco, including illegal drug-trafficking and migration to Europe by Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans.

He also discussed major issues on a programme on Moroccan TV last month. El-Khiari often spoke publicly about the cultural rights of Morocco’s Amazigh (Berber) population.

“El-Khiari is a well-known and respected human rights activist in a region facing many challenges,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Authorities should comply with Moroccan law and disclose immediately where he is being held. They should also release him quickly unless they charge him with a recognisable offense.”

El-Khiari received the summons from the national bureau of the judicial police on 16 February in Nador but it did not state its purpose or relationship to any charge or investigation, HWR noted.

Morocco’s code of penal procedure allows the police, with the approval of the prosecutor’s office to place a person suspected of non-terrorist offences in detention for up to 72 hours. However, the police are required to inform the suspect’s family immediately.

El-Khiari’s relatives have heard nothing about his whereabouts, said Amine El-Khiari, Chekib’s younger brother.

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

Israel and the Palestinians


Cyprus-Israel Ferry Service Rings Alarm Bells

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, FEBRUARY 20 — The Cyprus government is seeking urgent clarifications from the Israeli embassy in Nicosia after a Turkish Cypriot official announced the introduction of a new ferry service between the occupied areas of the island and Israel. Turkish Cypriot Tourism minister Savas Ugurlu made the revelation to a gathering of journalists in Tel Aviv, as Famagusta Gazette daily reports today. He said the new service would run between Haifa and occupied Famagusta and will be launched as soon as April. Speaking at the 15th Annual International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) which opened earlier this week, Ugurlu, gave few other details. Relations between Nicosia and Jerusalem have recently been frosty, especially in the light of Cyprus’ public support for the recent Gaza ferry aid missions. Last year the government failed to halt a service between Syria and Famagusta, which continues to operate twice a week. The government said that opening such a ferry operation was illegal, as the harbour of Famagusta is a declared “closed access point” to and from the republic of Cyprus. There was speculation in the local press last year that Syria made a deal with the north Cyprus after receiving assurances from Turkey that it would not let Israeli jets fly over Turkish territory to attack Syria. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Do the Palestinians Need More Space Than the Belgians?

The Guardian 14.02.2009 (UK)

Two weeks before the elections in Israel, Aida Edemariam paid a visit to the writer Amos Oz, and talked to him about a two-state solution:”‘My precondition for peace,’ he says, ‘is a comprehensive solution for the Palestinian refugee problem, on the soil of the future Palestine’ — which he sees as being the West Bank and Gaza, linked by a corridor, or underground tunnel, and cleared of almost all Israeli settlements. ‘And I would insist that this is my primary requirement for selfish reasons — for Israeli security reasons. As long as those people are rotting in dehumanising conditions in refugee camps, Israel will have no security, peace contract or no peace contract.’ Palestinians such as the novelist Samir el-Youssef, who grew up in a refugee camp, see things slightly differently. ‘Oz sees Palestinians as a problem which the Israelis ought to get rid of as soon as possible,’ he says. ‘His ridiculous suggestion that all Palestinians could be heaped up in the tiny space of the West Bank and Gaza shows that he sees Palestinians as nothing but old furniture which should be stored away.’ Oz’s answer is short: ‘If every last Palestinian refugee was settled in the West Bank and Gaza, it would still be less crowded than Belgium.’“

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



Gaza: Olmert Says Deal on Shalit to Become More Difficult

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 26 — Outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has urged Hamas to make an agreement for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit as soon as possible, since his designated successor, Benjamin Netanyahu (Right), will be less willing to free Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. “Hamas would like to get its prisoners (being held in Israel) released, and it knows that, if there is the chance to bring in an agreement, it will happen during my term in office,” Olmert said to the second largest private TV channel in Israel. “I am convinced that the next prime minister will do everything he can to secure Shalit’s release, but I also know that it will be more difficult to do what I am prepared to, due to the make-up of his coalition,” added the premier, clearing alluding to Netanyahu’s attempt to form a majority with five extreme right and religious parties. Olmert is willing to release hundreds of Palestinians held in Israel in exchange for the release of Corporal Shalit, taken hostage in 2006 by Palestinian militants near the border with the Gaza Strip. Hamas has demanded the release of 1,400 prisoners. On February 18, the Israeli security cabinet imposed Shalit’s release as a condition for a cease-fire agreement with Hamas and the opening of border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Speaking to journalists in Cairo after the Olmert’s interview was broadcast, Hamas leader Mahmud al Zahar reiterated the position held by the Palestinian Islamic movement. “We will not swerve from our path, and our vision is clear,” he said. Zahar warned that if Hamas were to become part of a national unity government, “it will not negotiate with Israel, nor recognize the state of Israel, nor make the same mistake that Arafat did. He was killed by Israel, which knocked the olive branch from his hand.” Yesterday Zahar took part in several meetings in Cairo between Hamas and Al Fatah in preparation for today’s talks, which are to focus on the reconciliation of all Palestinian groups. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: Hamas; Israel Moved Goalposts, Egypt Must Help US

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, FEBRUARY 18 — The spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, Fawzi Barhum, has repeated his ‘no’ to any direct connection between the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, including the reopening of the border crossings, and the freeing of Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006. Following the official decision today by the Israeli government to make the agreements drawn up in Cairo dependent on the release of Shalit, Barhum spoke to ANSA and accused Israel of moving the goalposts and wanting “to impose new conditions with the sole aim of blocking negotiations which were at the point of conclusion”. The negotiations were mediated by Egypt for a lasting truce in Gaza and the reopening of crossings into the Strip. He also accused Israel of doing this for internal political reasons linked to the laborious formation of the new Israeli government following the February 10 elections. “The Zionist occupier does not want to make commitments to the Palestinians and does not want to let us live like human beings”, thundered the spokesman, accusing Israel of “using the problem of Shalit and the truce as part of its internal political games”. Hamas “remains firm on the point that the Shalit case (which the Islamic radical movement in power in Gaza wants to resolve as part of a prisoner exchange, ed.) must be separate from the question of the truce and the reopening of the crossings. The Arab world, and especially Egypt, must put pressure on Israel for a ceasefire agreement and the reopening of the crossings in the Gaza Strip,” said Barhum, warning that Israel “will have to take complete responsibility for its decisions.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Vatican: Pope Invited to Gaza

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, FEBRUARY 19 — Pope Benedict XVI has been invited to stop off in Gaza during his trip to the Holy Land in May, the parish priest in Gaza City told a Catholic magazine. Gaza’s ruling Hamas group has OK’d the invitation from Gaza’s small Christian community, Father Manuel Mussalam told the Vita Non Profit Magazine. Father Mussalam said he had written to the pope “on behalf of the Christians and Muslims in Gaza”. “I spoke to them, they’d be very happy if the pope came, even if only for a couple of hours and bring a message of peace to the whole population of Gaza, so tested by the war,” he said. Father Mussalam acknowledged there were “many difficulties” that might prevent the pope’s visit and said he already had a ‘Plan B’: a delegation of 300 Christians and Muslims could leave Gaza and attend a papal Mass in Bethlehem or Jerusalem. The schedule for the pope’s trip to the Holy Land has not been made official but unofficial Vatican sources have said it will take place May 8-15, with visits to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jordan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Averting Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction

by Irit Kohn

  • Right at the outset of Israel’s recent operation in Gaza, French pro-Palestinian organizations filed a lawsuit against the Israeli president, foreign minister and defense minister. Turkish prosecutors said in February 2009 that they were investigating whether Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity over Israel’s offensive in Gaza, after Mazlum-Der, an Islamic-oriented human rights organization, filed an official complaint in Turkey. At the same time, a Spanish judge is currently investigating the role of Israeli soldiers and security officials in a bombing in Gaza in 2002 in which a top Hamas suicide bombing planner, Salah Shehada, and 14 other people were killed.
  • Universal jurisdiction refers to the power of a state to legislate, adjudicate, and punish any individual for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide committed outside its borders, even when those crimes were not committed against that country or its citizens, and even if the accused is not its citizen. The idea is that anyone who commits such atrocious, internationally condemned crimes will not be able to find shelter or hide from judgment anywhere on the globe.
  • Human rights organizations all over the world have been instrumental in the implementation of universal jurisdiction. This has contributed to the entry of politics into the universal jurisdiction process, as may be seen in many actions brought by NGOs that are supported financially by special interest groups or even states for the benefit of their own agendas. In 2005, Israeli Brig.-Gen. Doron Almog was warned not to leave his plane at Heathrow Airport in London after a UK court issued a warrant for his detention.
  • It is important to remember that universal jurisdiction and the International Criminal Court are applied when a country does not or cannot act to prosecute. Yet Israel is a democracy with a well-developed judicial system and does not need external intervention to conduct any investigation.
  • In fact, the Israeli military police reported that between 2000 and 2007, Israel’s military judicial system conducted 272 investigations of illegal firing of weapons, with 31 indictments and 17 convictions; 330 investigations of property damage, with 36 indictments and 36 convictions; 475 investigations of violence, with 37 indictments and 34 convictions; and 128 investigations of crimes in the Palestinian areas, with 20 indictments and 18 convictions. The case of Salah Shehada, mentioned above, has already been reviewed thoroughly by Israel’s Supreme Court, which is widely respected in the international legal community. What would a Spanish court have to add?
  • Dr. Henry Kissinger wrote that we are witnessing an unprecedented movement to turn international politics into legal proceedings. International law does not require that the prosecuting country be neutral or politically impartial in order to exercise its jurisdiction in a given case. The purpose for which universal jurisdiction was created may be a worthy and noble one. However, its current execution is problematic, to say the least.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JCPA [Return to headlines]



Call to Sue Zionists and End Diplomatic Relations With ‘Israel’

“The Messenger of Allah Unites Us” Campaign urged the Islamic and Christian World to actively protest against the Zionists, after a tirade of insults were leveled against the Prophets on Tenth Israeli Channel.

The campaign is supported by leaders of Muslim, Christian, Arab and international organizations across the globe. It expressed outrage at all civil, legal, economic and political channels that contributed towards the systematic offense campaign against the Holy Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them). The affront originated from the Zionist Entity State, through its media outlets.

In an urgent meeting called today, the Campaign said that Zionist terrorism did not stop at war crimes committed against the people of Gaza — using weapons that are internationally prohibited, such as white phosphorus “Dim” bombs, killing children, women and old men — but continued with arrogance in denigrating The Christ, Virgin Mary, and Master of Humanity, Muhammad (God’s blessings and peace be upon them).

The “Messenger of Allah Unites Us” Campaign blamed the International Society and International Criminal Court for being negligent regarding the Zionist Entity’s continual violation of international and human rights laws. It was perturbed that these bodies did not pursue the Zionists judicially as war criminals who provoke trouble and hatred between people of the world, especially after the crimes they committed in the Gaza Strip during their last invasion. It demanded the Attorney General of the International Criminal Court execute his responsibilities faithfully, and that he submit an international criminal complaint against the Zionists, and insist on the issuing of an international arrest warrant.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Chaldean Intellectual: “the National Museum is the Heritage of All Iraq”

Today, the first guided tours for tourists are being conducted at the National Museum, inaugurated yesterday in the presence of Prime Minister al Maliki. The opening represents a further step toward “stabilization,” and will favor the “return of foreign tourists.” It is hoped that all traditions will be given due consideration, including that of Christianity. According to UNESCO estimates, 7,000 works of art are still missing.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — The opening of the National Museum in Baghdad is another “step forward” for the stabilization of Iraq, and is a message from the government to foreign tourists: “you are welcome.” These are the comments of a Chaldean Catholic intellectual to AsiaNews, who expresses his “satisfaction” over the reopening of the museum, which was sacked soon after the American invasion in March of 2003, and had remained closed since then.

Yesterday Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki cut the ribbon at the official reopening. The prime minister said, “We have ended the black wind (of violence) and have started the reconstruction process.” This morning, the first tourists entered the museum: for now, only guided tours for groups are allowed; it will take time to reopen the museum to private citizens.

“Art,” says the Catholic source, “is a treasure for all of Iraq, which does not simply have oil underground. This should be encouraged, because it will be one of the main attractions for restoring the flow of tourists to the country.” He says that he visited the museum “before the fall of Saddam,” and that it constitutes a “point of pride” for all Iraq, even if Christian history and tradition were “hidden” from the eyes of Arab citizens. “The section dedicated to the Christian community,” says the Chaldean intellectual, “could be visited only by foreign tourists, it was not accessible to Arab Iraqis. The Christian presence is profound, deeply grounded, setting down roots over centuries; although Saddam Hussein protected it, he always concealed it from the eyes of ordinary citizens.”

He talks about a “black hole” corresponding “to the period in which Christianity flourished,” and expresses his hope that the new course of the National Museum “will take into consideration the presence and value of the Christian community, which played a leading role in the historical-cultural tradition of the country.” But the signs coming from the current parliament — still made up of imams and ayatollahs — do not bring hopes of “positive developments over the short term.” “The most striking work,” the Chaldean intellectual concludes, “are the winged bulls of the Assyrian period, dating back to around the first millennium B.C. (in the photo). They are huge and beautiful, a symbol of protection and defense against spies and the impure. They represent a national patrimony.”

The sacking of the National Museum perpetrated by vandals and art traffickers — before the indifferent eyes of the American army — was one of the signs of the failure of the U.S. post-invasion strategy. More than 15,000 works of art were destroyed or stolen by foreign collectors. Efforts by the international community have permitted the recovery of about half of the materials, but UNESCO estimates say that about 7,000 objects are still missing, 50% of which have immense historical and artistic value. But it must be emphasized that the most valuable pieces were stored away in underground hiding places before the United States army entered the country.

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



Iraq: US Must Review Kurd Policies, Says Leader

Mount Qindil, 23 Feb. (AKI) — The administration of US president Barack Obama should review its foreign policies in the Middle East, in particular in relation to the Kurdish separatist movement, a key leader said on Monday. Ramzi Kartal, one of the founders of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) called for the change in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

“The Kurdish issue affects more than 40 million people and it is not possible to achieve security and stability in the region without resolving such a question in a just way,” Kartal told AKI by telephone from his base in Mount Qindil.

“The intention of the new administration of Barack Obama to move closer to Iran and seek a solution to the differences between the two countries should not be at a cost to the Kurdish people,” said Kartal.

“We believe that the decision by America to insert the Kurdish-Iranian opposition party, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) on a list of terror organisations is one of the compromises made by the US to please Iran,” he said.

He urged the White House to review its political and policy positions in the region.

“Without a solution to the Kurdish issue, we cannot have security and stability in the region,” he said.

Kartal and jailed militant leader Abdullah Ocalan were among the founders of the PKK. Ocalan has been the sole inmate on the prison island of Imrali since his capture in 1999.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke of inclusion when he visited the country’s southeastern Kurdish region on Saturday.

Erdogan said Saturday that Turkey’s Kurds — at least a fifth of this country’s population and long repressed by the Turkish state — had equal rights with other citizens and that his party would continue to fight for those rights.

The speech was part of a campaign tour ahead of nationwide elections at the end of March.

The PKK is committed to the creation of an independent Kurdish state in a geographical region comprising parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the European Union, the US and others, the PKK began its campaign for self-rule in Turkey’s southeast in 1984. Around 44,000 people are believed to have died in separatist conflict.

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



Iraq: Christian Leader Warns Against Security “Vacuum”

Rome, 23 Feb. (AKI) — A prominent Iraqi archbishop on Monday warned foreign leaders against creating “a security vacuum” when allied troops withdraw from Iraq. “In Iraq it is important not to create a security vacuum also in regard to the process of reconstruction,” said Jean Benjamin Sleiman, the Latin-rite archbishop of Baghdad.

Sleiman was attending an event entitled, ‘The Value of the Church in the Middle East’, organised by the Italy-based rights group Comunita di Sant’ Egidio, in the Italian capital Rome.

According to Sleiman, the process of reconstruction in Iraq “even though it has begun, is still small”. He stressed it was important that the administration of United States president Barack Obama did not create a “vacuum” in Iraq.

For the Baghdad archbishop, the process of reconstruction is like therapy for the ill. “If they are not cured well and completely, the relapse will be even worse,” he said.

He said radical elements exist in Iraq, but the last elections have rewarded the moderates and secular candidates and this was a positive sign.

Sleiman said the Christian community in Iraq (photo), however, had to rediscover its true identity and not “always be overwhelmed by fear”.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee Iraq since the allied invasion of March 2003 to escape the violence and the economic crisis caused by the war.

Recent provincial polls were considered a key test of Iraq’s stability after years of sectarian strife, as 140,000 US troops are preparing to leave the country by the end of 2011.

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



Lebanon: UN Launches Inquiry Into Political Killings

New York, 27 Feb. (AKI) — The international tribunal established to try those responsible for political killings in Lebanon will begin its inquiries next week, the United Nations said.

“All the necessary measures have been taken for the special tribunal for Lebanon to commence functioning this Sunday,” UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council.

The tribunal is designed to try those accused of recent political murders in Lebanon, particularly the February 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, (photo), who was killed in a massive car bombing in downtown Beirut with 22 others.

The probe into the killings is being carried out by the International Independent Investigation Commission, headed by Daniel Bellemare, a Canadian prosecutor.

According to the report, Bellemare will assume office as prosecutor of the special tribunal on 1 March and continue his investigations from The Hague in the Netherlands, where the court is based.

The judges of the trial and appeals chambers will assume their responsibilities on a date to be fixed and court hearings are expected to begin in early 2010.

UN legal counsel Patricia O’Brien will attend a ceremony in the Netherlands on Sunday to mark the start of the Tribunal.

Ban has pledged to ensure that the court is able to achieve its mandate in the most effective manner.

Hariri, a successful business entrepreneur, was prime minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation in October 2004.

Widely credited with reconstructing the capital, Beirut, after the country’s civil war, Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005 when explosives equal to 1000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove past a hotel in the centre of the city.

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



Saudi’s Coach Sacked After Winning Top Prize

The Romanian head coach of Saudi Arabia’s top soccer team was sacked and ordered to leave the country on Saturday for insulting the Saudi royal family a day after his team won the Crown Prince Cup.

Al-Hilal team announced that Cosmin Olaroiu had been fired, and the Saudi football federation ordered him to leave the country, one day after his team took the match in a 1-0 overtime victory over Al-Shabab.

After the game, Olaroiu threw his shirt picturing Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz onto the ground in front of the prince’s representative at the game, Riyadh Deputy Governor Prince Sattam bin Abdul Aziz.

“ The Saudi federation has decided to suspend Al-Hilal coach the Romanian Cosmin Olaroiu and not allow him to coach inside Saudi Arabia in the future “

Saudi Football FederationOlariou, 39, was reportedly angered that organizers did not invite the entire team up to the podium to celebrate their victory.

“The Saudi federation has decided to suspend Al-Hilal coach the Romanian Cosmin Olaroiu and not allow him to coach inside Saudi Arabia in the future due to his unacceptable behavior after the end of the final match of the Crown Prince Cup yesterday,” the federation said in a statement.

“The decision is based on the throwing of the shirt he was wearing that carried the picture of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, and his refusal to go to the main podium to be honored with greeting the patron of the match,” it said.

Olaroiu led Hilal to win last year’s championship and the Crown Prince Cup before shining again last Friday by winning the cup for the second year in a row.

The club enjoys a strong chance of winning this year’s professional league as it is tied 43 points with rival al-Ittihad but leads in the number of goals scored.

The crown prince is currently recuperating in the United States after undergoing an operation last week in New York for an unspecified ailment.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Syria: Ex-General Criticises Damascus for Blocking Visit by Nuclear Watchdog

Damascus, 25 Feb. (AKI) — A retired Syrian general has criticised a decision by the country’s Atomic Energy Commission to refuse the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog access to inspect the al-Kibar supected nuclear research centre bombed by Israel in September 2007. Musa al-Zaabi, said the decision by Ibrahim Othman, head of the commission, was a “grave error”.

“Western countries and the International Atomic Energy Commission will interpret the Syrian refusal as proof that Syria is hiding something and is working on a banned military programme,” Zaabi told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“It would be right and proper for Syria to invite the IAEA, European countries and also the United States to have serious dialogue about this matter.”

The former general appealed to Syrian leaders in Damascus to “follow what Iran did with its nuclear programme paving the way for lengthy dialogue.”

“Thhere would be nothing bad about Syria asking western countries for technical assistance for a peaceful nuclear programme, if it really wanted to head in this direction,” Zaabi said.

Regarding scientific aspects of the programme, he said there was nothing to discuss. “Laboratories, analyses and scientific instruments exist that confirm or deny every doubt and hypothesis, and you cannot be skeptical about these results,” he stated.

“It would have been better for Syria to provide the IAEA with responses and realistic proof that would not have given rise to doubts or other accusations,”Zaabi said.

Syria has reaffirmed several times that the plant bombed by Israel at al-Kibar in the country’s eastern desert was a traditional plant, and denied that it was a nuclear facility under construction.

Last year, the IAEA said a “significant” number of particles of man-made uranium had been found at Al-Kibar.

And in a report last week, the IAEA said more unexplained man-made uranium had turned up in the samples taken from the site and Syria would need to explain how it got there.

An Israeli intelligence operation penetrated the suspected Syrian nuclear programme, which photographs appeared to show had been undertaken with North Korean assistance delivered by sea.

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

Caucasus


Chechnya Leader Tells Why ‘Loose’ Women Deserved to Die

GROZNY, Russia — The president of Chechnya emerged from afternoon prayers at the mosque and explained why seven young women who had been shot in the head deserved to die.

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s president, is trying to impose Islamic values and strengthen traditional customs in mostly Muslim Chechnya. At right, he danced with a Chechen girl in Grozny, Russia. Ramzan Kadyrov said the women, whose bodies were found dumped by the roadside, had “loose morals” and were rightfully shot by male relatives in honor killings.

“If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed,” Kadyrov told journalists in the capital of this Russian republic.

The 32-year-old former militia leader is trying to impose Islamic values and strengthen traditional customs in predominantly Muslim Chechnya, aiming to blunt the appeal of hardline Islamic separatists and shore up his power.

Some in Russia say Kadyrov’s attempt to create an Islamic society violates the Russian constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women and separation of church and state. But the Kremlin backs him, seeing him as the key to keeping the separatists in check.

Few dare to challenge Kadyrov’s rule in this southern Russian region of more than a million people, which is emerging from the devastation of two wars in the past 15 years. The fighting between Islamic separatists and Russian troops, compounded by atrocities on both sides, claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Kadyrov describes women as the property of their husbands and says their main role is to bear children. He encourages men to take more than one wife, even though polygamy is illegal in Russia. Women and girls must wear headscarves in all schools, universities and government offices.

Federal prosecutors in Moscow have contradicted Kadyrov’s version of the seven killings, saying that the victims’ relatives were not involved. No arrests have been made, and the investigation is continuing. Kadyrov’s office refused to comment on the investigators’ conclusion.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: Resurgent Taliban Creates Alarm, Says MP

Madrid, 27 Feb. (AKI) — NATO is facing “serious difficulties” in Afghanistan because it has too few troops stationed there, according to a prominent Italian MP. Margherita Boniver, former undersecretary for foreign affairs and president of the Schengen Committee, told Adnkronos International (AKI) of her concern during a visit to the Spanish capital, Madrid.

“There is growing alarm, because for many months now there has been an increase in attacks by terrorist groups,” she told AKI. “The Taliban in particular, have begun a really frightening offensive.

“The military strategy of the multinational forces in Afghanistan is in serious trouble.”

Boniver, a former Socialist who later transferred to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative People of Freedom party, served as undersecretary of foreign affairs from 2001 to 2006.

“Afghanistan has always been described as ‘the graveyard for empires’ , it is a country that has never been tamed or conquered by foreign troops,” she said.

Boniver said the international presence in Afghanistan since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001 was important.

“It is not about the conquest of Afghanistan, but an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans, to give that country and those people hope for a less bloody future amid the reality they face,” she said.

However, achieving this objective required a major commitment, she said, underlining that it was no comparison between the NATO military presence in Afghan of 55,000 men and what happened in Iraq in 2002, a region far smaller and more accessible that had 130,000 American troops stationed there.

She said obviously both countries presented very different situations but Afghanistan has been overwhelmed by the deteriorating security situation and now the militants were at the doors of the capital Kabul.

Boniver said the security issue was being addressed by Berlusconi, the minister for foreign affairs, Franco Frattini and the minister for defence, Ignazio La Russa.

“They have recently decided to increase the Italian presence in the country by around 200 to 300 troops and that will lead to the stabilisation and the maintenance of a security framework leading up to the presidential elections.

Boniver said the Italian government has given an assurance to continue its military and civil support in Afghanistan, which continues to be of primary importance among European countries.

She said after Britain, Italy was the most committed in relation to numbers, capacity and responsibility.

Margherita Boniver founded the Italian section of Amnesty International which she led from 1973 to 1980.

A former Socialist MP she served as an Italian senator from 1992 to 1994 and later as a member of the European Parliament from 1987 to 1989.

After joining Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party, Boniver served until 2006 as undersecretary of foreign affairs in Berlusconi’s previous cabinets. She is now sits in the lower house of parliament, representing the prime minister’s People of Freedom party.

The Schengen Agreement is a treaty signed between five of the then ten member states of the European Community in 1985.

It was supplemented by the convention implementing the Schengen Agreement some five years late, and provided for the removal of systematic border controls between participating European countries.

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



Former Nepalese King Visits India: Meetings With Hindu Leaders Scheduled

For the first time since the end of the monarchy, Gyanendra has gone to New Delhi. It is possible that he will meet with Prime Minister Singh and members of the BJP. For the former Nepalese ambassador in India, the former monarch could ask for pressure on the Maoist government.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — The former king of Nepal has been visiting India since Wednesday. It is the first trip of Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (in the photo) since Nepal became a democratic republic in May of 2008.

Accompanied by his wife, some assistants, and his bodyguard, he flew to New Delhi as a private citizen, dressed in plain clothes, to attend a Hindu wedding: the former Nepalese royal house is connected by marriage to the Rajputs, once a family of Indian princes.

Gyanendra is scheduled to be in India for two weeks. Nepalese and Indian media reports that the former king is scheduled to meet with the prime minister of New Delhi, Manmohan Singh, and some political leaders, including representatives of the Hindu opposition parties.

Lokraj Baral, a former Nepalese ambassador to India, says: “We can’t say exactly what will happen after his visit in Nepal. But some sort of pressure regarding secularism may come to Nepal government.” Baral explains that “Nepal has already been declared a republic, so there is no chance to empower king but secularism is the concerned matter for world Hindu and Bharatia Janata Party (BJP).”

Among the issues that the former king of Kathmandu is expected to address in his meetings in India is the affair of the temple of Pashupati, where since the beginning of January the Maoist government has been trying to install monks of Nepalese origin to replace the Indian bhandari in charge of the place of worship since the early 1900’s.

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



Nepali PM Urges Maoist Guerrillas to “be Honest” in Bringing About Peace

PM Prachanda says his party is no longer in control of the People’s Liberation Army, urges its members to be “honest and sincere” in bringing about peace in the country. He confirms ultimate goal is their integration into the Nepali armed forces. But he also warns against the country’s reactionary forces.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda said that the Nepali Communist Party-Maoist is no longer in charge of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which was once its armed wing. He urged its members, which he led in the struggle against the monarchy, to be “honest and sincere” in bringing about peace to the country.

“I call on all members of the People’s Liberation Army and its commanders to be honest and sincere in bringing peace to the country,” the prime minister said.

“The Unified Nepal Communist Party-Maoist no longer exercises authority over the PLA. The responsibility for PLA (guerrillas) integration and rehabilitation falls with the Nepal government,” he reiterated.

His statement came on the 14th anniversary of the start of the “people’s war” and the 8th anniversary of the founding of the revolutionary army, both of which were celebrated yesterday in Nawalparashi, a district in the western part of the country.

The prime minister also mentioned the efforts made to “integrate the Maoist army into the country’s armed forces.” He stressed his desire to “draft a constitution within the expected time-frame” and bring to fruition “the peace process.”

On that same occasion Prachanda told his fellow Maoists to get ready “to fight right-wing forces that want to evict Maoists from the government,” warning that “reactionary forces want to prevent us from achieving our goals.”

Likewise he said “we are ready to sacrifice our lives in Balautar (the seat of government) in the service of the people. We shall never bow.”

Yesterday US Assistant Secretary for Central and Southern Asian Affairs Richard Boucher ended a two-day visit to Nepal in which he pledged to have the terrorist tag dropped from the Maoist party. He did not specify how soon that will happened, but assured his Nepali hosts that Washington was closely following the issue.

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



Nepal’s Maoist Government Against Private Schools

The government imposes a 5 per cent extra tax on private schools. Final exams will not be held unless schools pay up. Private school associations are up in arms against what they consider a “violation of the right to education.” Catholic schools are also affected but will pay the tax to allow students to complete their exams.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — The Maoist government of Nepal is boycotting the country’s private schools, many of which are institutions of excellence dispensing high quality education. The government has imposed a 5 per cent extra tax on such schools, also urging students to transfer to the public system.

The Private and Boarding Schools Organisation of Nepal (PABSON) and the National Private and Boarding Schools Organisation of Nepal (N-PABSON) are against the government’s new tax policy, calling it “unjustifiable and unscientific,” a “burden on the students” that violated their right to an education.

Under the new government policy schools that do not pay the tax will not be allowed to have final exams.

Speaking on the government’s education policy, Nepal’s Finance Minister Baburam Bhattrai said that no private school will be allowed to conduct School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exams until taxes are paid.

Funds raised this way will be re-invested in education in “remote parts of the country,” the minister said.

However, if implemented the no exam provision will adversely affect thousands of students across the country, whose studies would thus come to a halt. The SLC is a key element in the country’s school system. This year exams are set to start on 25 March.

The two private schools associations have announced a protest campaign against the tax.

For Laxya Bahadur K.C. of PABSON, “students should not be deprived of their right to an education. The government should be cooperative with private schools and understand our problems.”

N-PABSON President Gita Rana said that the government tax violates children’s right to an education and could jeopardise the psychological state of students preparing for exams.

Catholic schools are among the educational institutions affected by the new tax. Set up under the previous monarchist government these non-profit organisations have excelled in delivering high quality education.

Father James, principal at St Francis Xavier School in Kathmandu, said that “the school will pay the 5 per cent extra tax. More is spent in education than we collect from students,” he added, “but our goal is to deliver the highest quality education for the lowest cost possible.”

“We are able to do so because of our donors whose support goes into projects that ensure the kids’ right to an education,” he explained.

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

Far East


China: Workers Clash With Police Over Pensions and Health Insurance

In Chongqing some 800 workers take over an abandoned plant, slated for redevelopment. In Zigong (Sichuan) police and about a thousand laid-off textile workers clash.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Five workers from a silk factory in Tongliang (Chongqing) were detained for organising a sit-in in the factory. Tang Aimin, Hu Weimin, Li Taiyuan, Ou Hongyong and Wang Yu acted as representatives of about 800 laid-off workers demanding pensions and medical insurance after the plant’s closure.

In order to press their case the workers took over the plant. On 15 February police summoned the five representatives to “discuss the problem of the plant” but were instead detained on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” and threatening public security, charges which could land them in jail for years. Police also warned the other protesters that if they “create problems,” they too would be arrested.

On 16 February, about 2,000 government workers surrounded the silk factory and ordered those workers at the factory to leave. When the protesters refused to budge, the authorities ordered a group to enter the factory, which had to withdraw after they were threatened with explosive oxygen containers

The silk factory went bust in 1996 and was sold in 1998. After losing their jobs workers looked into workers benefits in case of factory bankruptcy and found that they were entitled to pensions, medical insurance, or at least compensation appropriate to the number of years they worked in the factory. With that they petitioned the local government to do something, but got nowhere.

In 2008 all the plant’s machinery was sold and the building was slated for demolition in favour of a highly lucrative real estate deal.

At that point ex-plant workers took over the premises to protest their condition, preventing the demolition from going ahead.

After some months Tongliang city government called on the workers to pick some representatives for negotiations. Talks got no where and the workers representatives were arrested.

Elsewhere, police clashed between 20 and 23 February with about 1,000 workers from a textile factory in Zigong City, Sichuan Province, who have been demonstrating outside of the Zigong City government building. Six protestors were injured.

A rights group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), reported that protests are still underway, noting that article 35 of the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly.

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



China’s Government is Preparing the Military for an Outbreak of Hunger Riots

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.02.2009

China’s government is preparing the military for an outbreak of hunger riots, reports Mark Siemons and explains in depth the desperate situation of the country’s twenty or so million unemployed migrant workers. Part of the problem is the archaic division of the population into rural and urban dwellers. “The law is still in force, that a person who has inherited peasant status is not eligible for a ‘Hukou’ or city pass, meaning they will never gain proper rights to live in the city and access the social insurance there. Despite mounting criticism the Communist Party has failed to revise the law out of fear that a mass exodus from the countryside would overstretch the urban social systems. The combination of tradition, Communism and the modern social method of muddling through, had allowed archaic elements to enter China’s capitalist system. To be a peasant is a blood-related social destiny and there is nothing the individual can do to change it.”

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

Australia — Pacific


Local Film About Lebanese Gang Violence Pulled From Cinemas After Brawls

An Australian film about Lebanese gangs has been pulled from Greater Union cinemas in Sydney after violent outbursts at early screenings.

The Combination is the first Australian film release of the year and has been receiving rave reviews for its gritty portrayal of life in Sydney’s west.

The distributor for the film says they were informed of the decision by Greater Union last night.

Allanah Zitserman from Australian Film Syndicate says Greater Union has decided to stop screening the film after several brawls occurred at western Sydney cinemas after the movie was shown.

“I understand there has been some isolated incidents at the Parramatta Greater Union by a very small minority group that has forced Greater Union to make the unprecedented decision in the third day of its release to pull the film,” he said.

Ms Zitserman says the film’s cast and crew are devastated by the decision but can understand why it has happened.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Libya: Course for Meeting Work Demand-Offer

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 18 — Managing the flow of migrants from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Libya with a new and coherent approach to the development of mechanisms that are able to create a meeting point between the demand and offer for employment from the countries of origin to the destination countries, to train on-site, to create opportunities before departure: theser are the key points of the “Information Workshop on the Development of Migration Policy Connected to Work”, for specialised Libyan and African personnel which will close tomorrow in Tripoli with the conferment of special certificates to participants. The course, organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the Libyan Secretary General of the People for Employment and contribution from the European Union and the Italian government, is the first experiment in Libya for awareness on the development of policies aimed at obtaining a flow of migrants that is more uniform to the employment needs of the destination countries. “This country has a key role in the management of migration because it is going through, unlike Europe, a moment of economic growth which attracts immigrants”, reported Lawrence Hart, head of the IOM mission to Libya, confirming the necessity to develop adequate policies to host them. Fatel Benjred, from the Libyan Ministry of Employment, recognised “the necessity to cooperate with humanitarian organisations and with the European Union to manage the flow of migrants” and reminded of the recent opening in Libya of a new office for cooperation on migration. Ugo Melchionda, from the IOM office in Rome, explained that the workshop is part of projects from the Italian Ministry of Employment and that his organisation is moving forward in other Mediterranean countries, like Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and now Libya, to “train local officials in the Ministries of Employment and create a common standard for all of the participating countries regarding the professional profiles offered and those that are requested”. Research from a recent publication was presented in the workshop by Professor Sofrani, from the Libyan university Al Fatah “International Migration Towards Libya”, and Melchionda brought up the example of Italy supplying data released by Unioncamere on legal migration in 2008, when employers received 168,000 workers in the industrial and service sectors, 4,100 in the agricultural sector and 171,000 seasonal workers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Libyan Spokesperson, Immigration Also a Problem for Us

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 23 — Illegal immigration “is not a problem only for Italy, it is also a problem for Libya”, given the thousands of sub-Saharan African migrants headed to Europe through the Northern African country, which “will do everything possible to resolve the problem as soon as possible”, said Abdul Majeed El-Dursi, director of the Foreign Press Department for Libya (foreign spokesperson for leader Muammar Gheddafi), while speaking to a group of Western journalists in Tripoli. “Libya will do everything possible, everything it is capable of doing”, said El-Dursi responding to questions about how the country intends to slow illegal immigration to Italy, “to resolve this problem. This is not just a problem for Italy, but also for us, since illegal African immigrants illegally pass through and stay in our country”. El-Dursi positively emphasised the signing of the Friendship and Collaboration Treaty on August 30 between Italy and Libya, which will also provide joint patrolling of the Libyan coasts, and recent meetings about the same issue during Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner’s visit to Libya. “I am sure”, concluded El-Dursi, “that this problem will be resolved as soon as possible”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Abortion: Spain; Bishops, Major Drama of 20th Century

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 9 — Society’s acceptance of abortion “is one of the major dramas of the 20th century”, said the Secretary General of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Monsignor José Antonio Martinez Camino in Madrid today. He was speaking the day after the presentation in Congress of a report by the Commission into reforms to the abortion law which decriminalises the voluntary termination of pregnancy. Martinez Camino explained that “the punishment of automatic excommunication” does not affect the legislator, but those who carry out such abortions or who are “necessary collaborators”. The bishops’ spokesman also said that there is no pronouncement by the bishops on the work of the commission which studied the reform, given that “we are not yet at the stage of a draft law”. However, the position of the Catholic Church has not changed, said the prelate: “It is one of the major dramas of the 20th century” he said, pointing out the solidity of the doctrine for the protection of life, from the moment of conception until its end, which has been declared by the Church throughout the world. Asked why Spanish bishops had demonstrated against gay marriage and not on the question of abortion, when life is the primary fundamental right, the assistant Bishop of Madrid said that permissiveness on voluntary termination of pregnancy “has been introduced in many societies worldwide” and the Church, with the support of organisations and societies, has for decades been defending the right to life. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

3 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/1/2009

  1. I’m a little surprised about how disingenuous that daily mail article about the hacker is – comparatively speaking. All the other articles I’ve seen on the subject – including ones from the Guardian – emphasized that he was guilty of hacking into dozens of US military networks right after 9/11 doing millions of dollars of damage – and who knows what else.

    Extradition treaties are in place for a reason. It’s highly unlikely he’d get 70 years or anything close to that.

  2. “The Chinese military is preparing for an outbreak of riots due to hunger, and workers’ protests are intensifying.”

    There is no mention that I saw in the articles to which you link of the involvement of the Chinese military. The Public Security Bureau (PSB), an entirely separate police organization, is referred to, not the PLA. PSB has traditionally handled “crowd control.”

  3. Asiabizblog —

    Thank you; correction duly noted: the Chinese military is not identifiably involved with riot suppression and crowd control in these stories.

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